A safety pin is like a straight pin but curved in a spring-loaded loop of sorts which terminates in a catch to prevent the pointy end from a) coming out, and b) poking anyone inadvertently.

A clever person, however, will immediately view the irony in the name of this object and may be later found attempting to pierce their septum with it just out of spite.

Russians wear them on their clothes for good luck. Punk rockers wear them on their clothes, often in large numbers, for several reasons. One reason is that it looks sort of tough and cool. Another reason is that punk rockers usually wear old and&wearing-out-clothes that frequently need on-the-spot repair. They are rarely stuck through cheeks like they were in the old days (1977.) As far as that goes, there were Africans doing it first.

In pinball, a safety pin is a pin in the bottom of the playfield, usually lower than and between the two flippers. This acts to bounce the ball back up, should it dart straight down the middle. A lot of tables employ this to take the amount of randomness off of the table, and lean it more towards the skill (or lack thereof) of the player.

Safety pins are usually positioned so that the ball has enough room to roll down on either side of it, so that if the ball were to roll off of the flippers it could still go down the middle. The pin typically looks like a nail in the bottom of the board, with a rubber ring around the outside.

To properly use the pin, I'd suggest doing nothing. Very seriously, if the ball looks like it's going to go straight down the middle hole (and you won't even be able to get a piece of it, and bumping the table isn't your thing), the worst thing you can do is to start mashing the flippers. Doing so will usually kick the ball with the back of the flipper, sending it quickly into oblivion. Wait for the ball to hit the pin, bounce a little (hopefully to one side), and give it a bit of English to make sure it's going to do what you want.

Very few tables have these pins, but the ones that do, add an entirely new element of skill to the table. Most newer games have abandoned this in favor of things like minimum playing times, and other saving grace features built-in to the table to assure playtime value.

I have also been informed that a safety pin (as it is called everywhere I have seen it) may also be called a center pin. YMMV.
Walter Hunt had no trouble thinking up new ideas. First he invented a machine to spin flax. Then he invented a fire engine gong, a forest saw, a stove that burned hard coal. His inventions worked, but he just did not have the knack for making money from them. One day in 1849 Walter Hunt wanted to pay a fifteen-dollar debt to a friend. So he decided to invent something new.

From a piece of brass wire about eight inches long, coiled at the center and shielded at one end, he made the first safety pin. He took out a patent on his invention, sold the rights to it [to his friend] for four hundred dollars, paid his friend back and had three hundred eighty-five dollars to spare.

Then he watched his latest brainstorm go on to become a million dollar money earner for someone else.

From Why Didn't I Think of That by "Webb Garrison";
cut-and-pasted because I couldn't possibly have said it better

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