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The History of the Jumpgate Pin
and the Unique <*> Symbol

The design of the Pin first originated in the public domain among Internetted B5 fans as the symbol of the B5 fan community.

During B5's first season the ASCII symbol <*> became adopted by many B5 fans online as their very own symbol of the international B5 fan community. They discovered that with three simple keystrokes, you can create an instant, stylized graphic of a jumpgate as easily as you can create a sideways smiley! :-)

If you saw a <*> in an email from someone, it was like a secret handshake among fans.

The symbol is still used in .signature files and as decoration on the various B5 newsgroups, discussion forums online newsletters and web pages. This symbol is also used as a way for these fans to recognize each other at science fiction gatherings and conventions.

In the first season of the show, there was a HUGE demand for B5 merchandise - and none was available.

To solve this problem, I (Elana) realized that I should check out the idea of making a lovely special Pin out of this special symbol.

Since the <*> symbol originated within the Babylon 5 fan community rather than the show itself, that bypassed the whole issue of dealing with lawyers and licensing issues. I emailed B5 producer J. Michael Straczynski, pointing out to him:

  • The lack of legal merchandise available at that time, ESPECIALLY Pins or badges for B5 fans to wear.
  • The original difficulty about anyone getting licensing to create a B5-related product with a B5-copyrighted image.
  • A new possibility: A creative way to offer the fans a quality Pin, the design of which originated among themselves, rather than the show, thus no need to tangle with lawyers.
JMS replied that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the idea I proposed, and gave his blessing saying: "Go with Kosh."

Since I care as much about good workmanship as JMS does, I decided I did not want the <*> Pin to be available for sale unless it passed HIS strict quality standards. So I went ahead, made the Pin as you see on this Web page and then shipped the first of the series to him to see if he approved of the workmanship.

JMS liked my handiwork, saying in email on October 29, 1995 that, "...it's quite nice. By all means, good luck, looks terrific." It is great to know that this Pin had passed THE most difficult quality test possible within the B5 fan world.

Since that first Pin, I have branched out into different types of Pins to offer. After the Original (large) Pin came the "Junior Jumpgate" lapel-Pin version.

The tie tacks came later. The Rarities Series large color Pins came next, which are limited to as few as 20 per Pin color. There are still a few of each kind left except for the Stainless version. That one is sold out.

Life went on. Lots of Pins sold in the first year until the big corporations finally got a clue that B5-related merchandise was hot, so we got everything from action figures to comic books to t-shirts. Sales on the Pins slowed at that point. So I simply let this Pin page go fallow for awhile, even though I still had Pins available, as I had other projects to distract me at the time.

That sometimes disruptive condition called "life" then proceeded to intervene, and I ended up losing access to the special Pin-making equipment I had. Fortunately I was smart enough to build up a good inventory before that happened. This means, however, that I can no longer do custom Pin work. But I have many proud <*> Pins left.

Now the other companies have discontinued their flurry of B5 merchandise offerings, I can hope that my humble, beautiful little art-Pins can be popular again. That is a good thing! Time to update the website, make it somewhat more professional and easy to use, and add Paypal.

UPDATE: Starting in December 2009, I found amazing help from YOU - my fellow B5 fans  - in my current fight against Stage 4 breast cancer.  Find out the whole story here.  

The miracles continue in the present with YOUR help.  Thank you for your support!  

-Elana :)