The History of the Penn State Football Bank Buttons
For the past 13 years, Citizens Bank has provided customers with the ubiquitous Penn State football buttons. You’ve surely seen them before — they are small, blue, circular buttons with a punny slogan about beating the next team on the football schedule. During the 2013 football season, more than 200,000 buttons were distributed, according to the bank.
The simple buttons have become staple Penn State collectibles. Not only are they free, but the slogans are clever, funny, and even a bit sassy. For example, the button for the game against Maryland was “No hiding from Lions,” which plays off the Maryland turtle mascot.
The pins themselves are distributed on each Wednesday and given out at 10 bank branches in the Central Pennsylvania region. They’re free for anyone who comes into the bank, or you can reserve your complete season set for $10 via email.
The original button distributor wasn’t actually Citizens Bank, as it only took up the business in 2001. The Penn State football bank buttons actually trace back 42 years. The button-making began in 1972 when Central Counties Bank created a handful of Penn State bank pins and left them out for people to pick up after utilizing the bank’s services.
At first, the bank was unsure how the idea would be perceived and left its logo off of the pins. They were also only made for the first six home games of the season just in case the idea was a giant bust. The first buttons were taken up fast and demand became so high that the bank authorized a second running of the last four buttons, and this time, it decided to add a logo onto the pin.
Demand only grew from there, and the bank saw that its plain pin with only a green cardboard backing needed an upgrade. For the last two pins of the season, it issued a third variation, and this version used a metal backing that soon became the standard.
There have been minor changes in the sponsoring bank, fonts, logos, and year placement, but at their core, the buttons have stayed the same.
Even though it mass produces a Penn State collectible, it’s important to note that the company behind the buttons is still a bank with other things on its mind. That’s why Citizens Bank calls upon community members to help it out.
The ideas for slogans are sent in from Penn State fans across the nation. This year, there were 760 entries for the 12 slogans that were eventually selected. Each winner received a $25 cash prize, and the honor of having their slogan became a lifelong keepsake for Penn State fans. The winners are chosen by a Citizens Bank representative based on wit and originality.
Upon announcement of the 2014 winners, Daniel K. Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of Citizens Bank and RBS Citizens for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, stated: “We are excited to once again kick off the Penn State football season with this longstanding Citizens Bank tradition. This year’s winning slogans reflect the creativity and passion shared by so many Penn State fans and we look forward to seeing the buttons worn proudly in the sea of Blue and White at each week’s game.”
Some Button Facts
- The Hardest button to find is the Blue version of “Skin the Bears” from the 1975 Cotton Bowl v. Baylor. This is due to it being one of the only pins to come in both Blue and White. Prior to this year, bowl games were always white, so many people didn’t even know the blue was available.
- There is a total of 518 different buttons as of the 2014 season.
- An entire record of the button collections is kept here.
- The second bank distributor was Mellon Bank (a Pittsburgh-based bank). Due to its allegiance to Pitt, it refused to add its logo to the slogans that involve beating Pitt from 1986 to 1992, when the bank decided it wasn’t as harmful as originally thought to include its own name on the button.
- Some special buttons have been made that have the Blue and White inverted, such as the 1,000th overall game and most bowl games.
- Even though the button slogans were chosen beforehand, in 2011 the bank decided not to print buttons that could be misinterpreted after the Sandusky Scandal was exposed. They did not print the Ohio State “Much Ado About Nuttin'” or Wisconsin “Brie ’em to Their Knees” pin.
- One of the most famous collectors is the “Button Man.” Jonathan U. Dougherty, the President of the Alumni Society of Architectural Engineers, collects the buttons and even has a coat made up of them. You can see photos on his Twitter.
— Jonathan U Dougherty (@JUDougherty) October 23, 2014
- This year’s winning buttons slogans can be found here.
If you’re interested in coming up with slogan ideas for next year’s batch of buttons, you can pick up an entry form at one of the bank locations in Centre, Blair, or Mifflin counties, and for the following season you can email your entries to [email protected]. Here’s the future football schedules to get you started.
And finally, here are some of our personal favorites. Tell us your favorites in the comments!
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About the Author
After losing my father to cancer, I thought there was nothing THON could offer me that I didn’t already know. After four years, I found comfort in the familiar.
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