For three years after the invasion of Iraq, it was difficult to drive more than a few miles through middle America without seeing a car displaying a magnetic yellow ribbon.
The magnets, bearing the slogan “Support Our Troops”, became a symbol of patriotism for millions of US motorists.
But as support for the war fades, demand for yellow ribbons has collapsed.
Magnet America, the largest manufacturer of the product, has seen sales fall from a peak of 1.2m in August 2004 to about 4,000 a month and now has an unsold stockpile of about 1m magnets.
“We have enough supplies to meet demand for years to come,” said Micah Pattisall, director of operations. “Every product has a lifespan and this one has run its course.”
At its peak, the North Carolina-based company employed 180 people to handle sales, marketing and distribution. Today, it employs 11 people.
Mr Pattisall said declining support for the war was not the only reason for the slump.
A flood of cheap imports from China also hurt the company, which has refused to shift production overseas even though it costs three times as much to manufacture in the US.
Only about half a dozen companies are still supplying the magnets compared with up to 200 at the height of the fad, according to Mr Pattisall.
When the company was founded in April 2003, during the initial invasion of Iraq, nearly all its revenues came from yellow ribbons. Today, patriotic products account for only 6 per cent of sales.
The yellow ribbon has been overtaken as the company’s best-selling product by a wristband promoting chastity before marriage with the slogan “True Love Waits”.
“We are growing again and looking to hire additional staff,” Mr Pattisall said.
Yellow ribbons were first displayed widely in support of kidnapped US diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979.
Some critics have condemned the magnets as a cheap and superficial way to honour the armed forces and highlighted the irony of placing them on gas-guzzling vehicles that deepen the US’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
Resentful that the yellow ribbon has become associated with support for the president, George W. Bush, opponents of the war have introduced their own car magnets emblazoned with anti-war statements.
On Ebay, the internet auction site, on Thursday, a black and white ribbon bearing the slogan “Out of Iraq, Bring ’Em Back” was priced at $5.
Traditional yellow ribbon magnets, in contrast, could be bought for one cent.