You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to participate in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (August 5-21). If you’re lucky enough to be attending as a fan, you can qualify for the most popular sport at the Games: Olympic pin trading.
Every four years, thousands of enamel and metal Olympic pins are issued by countries, teams, corporate sponsors, and media outlets. They all have different values, depending on the number of pins in circulation and the “cool factor” of the entity striking the pin.
Athletes, fans, first-time collectors and experienced “pinheads” all participate in Olympic pin trading. According to The New York Times, “Pins are a kind of social currency, a pre-Facebook form of social media that gives random fans a reason to start a conversation and even form a friendship.” How refreshing.
Olympic pin trading is fun, inexpensive, competitive and addictive. I know first hand; I still have my Olympic pin collection from the 1980 Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, New York. Back then I was a young promotion writer for Sports Illustrated magazine. I started out with a handful of silver and blue pins from SI, and in no time I was swapping with media colleagues from ABC Sports, heroes from the U.S. Hockey Team, and athletes and sports fans from around the world.
It’s impossible to be blasé about the Olympics; it’s like no other sporting event on Earth. If you ever get the opportunity to attend, don’t pass it up. And don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on a supply of trading pins before you leave…there will be plenty to buy when you get there. Go U.S.A.!
A 1904 Olympic gold medal awarded to American amateur golfer Robert E. Hunter. 14k gold, cast in relief with a golf-bag, thistles and a banner inscribed `GOLF’, the bar inscribed `1904 UNIVERSAL EXPOSITION/OLYMPIC GAMES/ST. LOUIS’. 1¼ in (3.3 cm) diameter. Estimate: £20,000-30,000. This lot is offered in the Out of the Ordinary sale on September 14, 2016, at Christie’s South Kensington, London.