In collecting buttons, it’s not uncommon to come across a pinback that’s a total mystery. To the right audience in the right era a simple idea can convey the idea perfectly, but out of context the design may be just weird text and ambiguous graphics with a meaning that’s totally lost.
Even with the ambiguity (and sometimes confusion) these buttons convey, the mystery pinbacks can still be some of our favorites. Take a look at some of the most mystifying, but most fun, designs from the Button Museum‘s collection.
1. Bring it Home Alive
This 3″ button is a favorite of many Button Museum visitors, and it’s no surprise– the charming mid-century design is hard to beat, but we have yet to uncover the story behind the button. From what we can gather, it’s important to keep your coffee beans alive, but we could use a follow up button that explains exactly how it is one does that. Ideas?
2. Nature’s Toothbrush
It’s not immediately obvious what’s going on with this “Nature’s Toothbrush” button. A red blob with black crosshatching? How do you brush your teeth with that? Look closely, though, and you’ll see the shape of an apple– stem at the top, glints of white highlights on the skin– begin to emerge.
3. Avoid the Noid
People of a certain age (30 and older, probably) may remember the Noid, the Domino’s Pizza’s mascot during the mid- to late-80’s. The Noid represented the difficulty getting a pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less– as in, avoid the Noid (a-nnoyed) but ordering from Domino’s instead.
These days, the Noid is just one of many nearly-forgotten mascots (7-UP Spot, Mac Tonight moon, we’re looking at you), but the button lives on.
4. Yum! Yum!
Another button with unclear origins, we like to imagine that this pinback was advertising whipped cream, or yogurt. Perhaps soft serve?
5. Help Allergy Annie
We’ve written about Allergy Annie before, but this design never fails to pique the interest of Museum visitors. Who is Annie and how can we help her? Also, what’s with the bird?
Well, we don’t know the answer to her feathered sidekick, but Allergy Annie was developed by Classic Air Conditioning New Braunfels to promote air cleaning products. Poor Annie is afflicted with terrible allergies because she doesn’t have “the cleaner air people” to help her out. More in the Button Museum entry about this design.
6. Fly Me
As best we can figure, this button was in response to National Airlines 1970’s “Fly Me” campaign featuring various good-looking flight attendants inviting passengers to, ahem, utilize the airlines services. In response, this button invites the viewer to fly this lady instead.
See more intriguing retro button content in “Just Streaking Through.”