It’s known as the “number one spectator sport of the Olympics”. It has been a passion of Olympics-goers for over a century. It now brings hundreds of thousands of fans together months before the games even start, in order to get a head start! What is it that has created such a fervor? Olympic trading pins!
Started during the 19th century for purely functional purposes of designating athletes, judges and police from the general public, these trading pins were made from printed cardboard! Not surprisingly, very few of these pieces still exist. But by the first decade of the 20th century Olympics organizers began to realize the appeal of lapel pins, of how a souvenir could start a trend. The idea built and grew to enormous proportions. Once corporations began getting into the game, the amount of different trading pins grew to have a huge following, and was a great way to make friends from all over the world, and a wonderful way to help sponsor the games.
In the 21st century there are entire buildings dedicated to the selling and trading of these great pins, and individuals have begun running their own designs to be traded alongside the likes of the Olympic organization itself, and huge sponsors like Coca Cola. It has become a highly organized affair, with meeting places, rules for what can be traded for what, and even classes for first time collectors to learn the lingo and etiquette!
This year’s summer games are expected to be no different from past years, and trading pin enthusiasts are already trading online before heading to London in August. Online shops exist to sell trading pins that can then be taken into the Olympics and traded before others even have access to them. One particularly rare piece was once traded for 250 trading pins!! It gets extreme.
I think it’s great that these people have found such a creative and fulfilling way to bridge the gap between countries, even continents, and that despite what language they speak, they can all understand one another through trading pins. It’s pretty amazing, really.