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The Ubiquitous Badge Reel: From The Class Room To The Board Room

Typically worn on a belt or pants pocket, a badge reel is a small device made for holding small objects (i.e., i.d. cards, pens, keys etc). It consists of a case, metal spring, retractable cord, object-attaching mechanism and clothing attachment hardware.

Badge reel cases are made from either durable ABS plastic, metal or a combination of both. The badge reel case houses a wound spring which controls the release and uptake of a cord, typically made of nylon. At the end of the cord is a small piece of specialized hardware for attaching a small object. The most popular of these attaching mechanisms is a vinyl strap with a metal snap for attaching i.d. cards and i.d. holders.

Most badge reels in use today are being used by schools, businesses, and government agencies for holding and displaying identification cards. Other object attachment hardware options include metal split rings and snaphooks for attaching keys, cell phones, and pens, as well as small tools. Having the badge reel within arm's reach is central to its usefulness. Most badge reels are manufactured with a metal pressure clip on the back for sliding onto the top of a belt. Others have a close-ended pin or alligator clip for attaching to other articles of clothing, such as a jacket or pants pocket.

The utility of the badge reel comes from the ability to extend the cord from the reel case by about 30", making them ideal for security card swiping systems and keyless entry systems. When released, the cord retracts back inside the badge reel case, hence the name "retractable badge reel."

The two most common styles of badge reels in the marketplace today are referred to as "economy" and "heavy duty". Economy reels are by far the most common and least expensive. They are made from high impact resistant plastic and are available in a variety of solid and translucent colors. Heavy-duty badge reels are typically larger, heavier, more expensive and offer fewer color and clothing attachment options. In addition to more durable cases, the cords are stronger and available in reinforced nylon, twisted steel strand and chain link.

Badge reels are available with either a custom imprint on the front of the case or blank (no imprint). Custom imprints fall into two categories, full color and single color. Full color imprints are achieved by a method known as full color process printing. The image is first printed onto a sheet of adhesive-backed vinyl, contour cut to the exact shape of the badge reel imprint area (i.e., round or square) and then adhered to the center surface. The big advantage of full color process printing is that full color logos can be reproduced at very high resolution. In addition, this type of imprint is extremely weather - and wear-resistant. Single-color imprints are achieved by a method known as pad printing. In this case, the image is printed directly onto the badge reel surface. The advantage of pad printing is that it offers the option of printing additional information on the area of the badge reel surrounding the central imprinting area. This type of printing, known as rim printing, is not achievable with full color process printing. The disadvantage of pad printing is that the image has a tendency to wear and scratch off over time.

As with many other products found online . . . let the buyer beware. Badge reel quality, selection and price can vary widely from site to site. Your best bet for getting the lowest price is to find a company that imports the product directly from overseas (all badge reels today are made in China). Also check minimum quantities. Event though the price might be right, the minimum purchase quantity from a direct importer may be too high. In this case, pay a little more and find a site which offers the quantity you are seeking. For quality, you should always request a sample so you can judge for yourself. - Article by Scott Shenkel