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Flag sales rising, but not on Flag Day

Flag Day doesn't cause many Americans to buy the Stars and Stripes. But other unique events beyond Flag Day are boosting flag sales in 2011.

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An American flag flies off a porch overlooking the Alabama River in historic Selma, Ala., on June 7, 2011. Flag Day, which falls on Tuesday, June 14, celebrates America's adoption of its first flag in 1777.

Ann Hermes / Staff

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It’s a big year for flag sales – but not on Flag Day.

So while Americans may have known that Tuesday, June 14, was Flag Day, which marks the adoption of the America flag in 1777, they didn't exactly rush out to buy Old Glory.

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“It's kind of a hidden holiday,” says Chris Binner , a spokesman for Valley Forge Flag Co. in Wyomissing, Pa.

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The real drivers for flag sales this year have been the killing of Osama bin Laden and troops returning from Iraq, along with the usual Memorial Day observances and Fourth of July parades. This September, Americans will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, another reason to buy the Stars and Stripes.

Sales usually spike near Memorial Day and Independence Day. All of these occasions are likely to make 2011 a strong year for flag sales.

“This has been a fairly patriotic year,” says Mr. Binner of Valley Forge Flag. Sales have up between 10 and 20 percent this year, he adds, “despite the fact that the economy has been pretty tough.”

Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, American flag sales skyrocketed. American manufactures could not meet the high demand. So Chinese and other foreign manufacturers stepped in and sold more than $50 million worth of flags, nearly 70 times their sales volume the year before.

Though foreign-made flags have dropped off since then, they’ve still hung on to a share of the market. The Flag Manufacturers Association of America estimates that US manufacturers currently provide 95 percent of American flags.

Sales have dropped since 2001, but have remained stronger than they were before the 9/11 attacks. Counting US and foreign manufacturers, flag sales are between a $150 million and $200 million industry in the United States, Binner estimates. In the last 10 years, more people have been switching out their home fashion flags, that display things like ladybugs and rainbows, to hang an American flag all the time, he adds.

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The Flag Manufacturers Association of America says on its website that you can display your American flag all the time. But if you wish to be selective, they provide a list of 31 flag-appropriate holidays, which are mostly patriotic holidays. Flag Day made the list, but then again, so did Father's Day.