Described as “the number one spectator sport” at the Olympic Games, pin trading is gaining in popularity.
Cardboard pins were first issued in 1896 to identify athletes (blue), judges (pink), and officials (red). Today the pins have been upgraded to sturdier materials, including glass, copper and brass, that allow for more intricate and lasting designs.
The first souvenir pin was struck in 1912 for the Stockholm Olympic Games. In 1924 at the Olympic village in Paris officials and athletes were housed together, which allowed for mingling and swapping of pins as a form of friendship and respect between nations.
By 1984 there were over 1,300 pin designs and some visitors attended simply to trade rather than actually watch the games. A pin’s rarity can increase its collectability and price, such as the pin produced for the canceled games in 1940. Many pins are available to the public, but others are exclusively for athletes and participants.
Most pins are official and authorized, but unauthorized and even counterfeit ones are sold. As a collector it is important to know the difference. Lists, blogs and catalogs are available to guide the beginning collector and describe the rules of trading etiquette, which are strictly observed.