The material presented here eminated from two sources, namely Bureau files and the assistance of the FBI's current Historian, Dr. John Fox. Today, collectors from all over the country remain interested in law enforcement badges.
In 1908 when Attorney General Charles Bonaparte reorganized the Department's investigators into a "special agent force," he hired nine Treasury investigators as special agents and put them together with 13 peonage investigators and 12 bank examiners. Whether all or some of the peonage investigators were called special agents is not known. The bank examiners were accountants and were originally called "special examiners." A distinction immediately arose between special agents and special examiners. This distinction existed into the 1930s, when it was decided that all investigative agents—agents and accountants—were to be called special agents.
The below "evolution" of the FBI's badge is self explanatory and was created as a result of information in Bureau files:
Additional information can be found in this article written by one of our FBI colleagues after some reviewing of files years ago. The article appeared in the FBI's internal magazine, "The Investigator."
While it's common today for special agents to receive their badges carried, along with their credentials, on a presentation plaque, documents found reveal that the practice of providing Assistant Directors and other ranking personnel their badges goes as far back as the 1950s. There appears to have been starting and stopping periods of this process throughout the years. We should add that the days of the set of small cuff links are long gone...