Niche Collecting is Nice!

by Tom Burke

Among our Olympin members, pin collecting runs the gamut. While the more experienced among us have hundreds of thousands of pins, many Olympin-ers simply own collections numbering in the hundreds. However, despite this large gap, all of us have one thing in common -- niche collecting.

Given the 113-year history of the Olympic Games, the hundreds of countries that participate, the dozens of sports, and the unending multitude of mascots, there are ample opportunities to specialize. And these unique interests could be borne from a penchant for a certain sport, a fondness for a country, or simply a way to express one's personality.

A quick scan through our Olympin Membership Directory reveals several sports enthusiasts – those who are former competitors or merely avid fans. For instance, long-time member Frank Krasnowski has a strong liking for wrestling pins. He has easily accumulated over a hundred grappling pins during the last twenty years from several countries. One of his most unique is an oversized "Sam the Olympic Eagle" mascot pin from the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Similarly, Susan Kempff crafted her hundred plus luge lot -- as sparked by her unique involvement as a luge official at World Cup and, even, Olympic Games events. Despite starting her collecting hobby at the 1998 Nagano Games, she has amassed a number of "old-school,” pins of a lighter metal alloy from previous Olympics where luge first was added to the Olympic slate in 1964.

Further, there a several "homers" in our midst -- those who specialize in collecting pins issued by their native country. They take extra pride in adding to their stockpile, especially when their homeland hosts the Olympics. Taking a large leap further is Scott Reed, a prominent collector in the Atlanta, GA area. As a history buff, he has strong interests in geography and cultures. Melding these two hobbies, he has amazingly collected an NOC pin for each country that participated in the Atlanta 1996 Games. "I have always enjoyed trading pins with the athletes," Scott proudly recalls. To round out his assemblage of country pins, he also visited several NOC offices to land the rarest ones. And on display in his business office, is a huge framed set of these 197 pins that always catches the visitor's attention.

Of course, a quadrennial favorite of many are the mascot pins. Dinah Gamin has amassed mascot pins dating back to the 1950s when she believes the IOC first introduced these characters into the limelight. One of her most treasured is the Misha bear pin from the 1980 Moscow Games that was boycotted by several countries.

And on a personal note,"I've been striving to collect sport event pins from the Olympic Games in which the sport was first contested. If anyone has a gymnastics rope climbing pin from the 1896 Athens Games, let me know!

Olympin Collectors Club newsletter, May 2009