The first Hard Rock Cafe was founded in London in 1971, but the first Hard Rock Cafe pins were not made until 1985. Resembling the restaurant’s Alan Aldridge-designed circular logo, these first pins were tame compared to what was to come. In the decades that followed, the burger chain produced cloisonne and less expensive enamel-on-metal pins in the shapes of Les Paul, Stratocaster, and Kramer guitars, Rickenbacker basses, drums sets, grand pianos, and even double- and triple-necked instruments. Guitar pins were produced to honor dead rock icons such as Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, and Elvis Presley, as well as living legends like Eric Clapton and Eddie Van Halen.
Some of the most collectible vintage Hard Rock Cafe pins include the first iterations of the Save the Planet pins that featured a blue rectangle in the center instead of a circle, or those with a black rather than red bar behind the lettering (only 1,000 of each version was made). Also scare is the blue-and-white Flying V guitar with the words "San Francisco" on its neck; the pin was originally produced without the city name, and shortly after the name was added, the pin’s colors were changed to gold and red, which are the colors of the San Francisco 49ers, the city’s football team.
Other pins that are highly sought include the left-handed, black-and-white Stratocaster from Stockholm (staff pins from that location were often made in very small numbers); a pink Les Paul made for Valentine’s Day, 1996, in Tokyo; and just about any pin from the Reykjavik restaurant, since all of that location’s pins are made by hand by an Icelandic company called Thorncraft.
Also distinctive are pins that relate to a particular city. For example, you can get a banjo pin in Nashville, a scuba-themed pin in Cozumel, panda pins in Beijing, snowboard pins in Aspen, dice pins in Las Vegas, surfboard pins in Honolulu, cowboy-boot pins in Houston, and cable-car pins in San Francisco.