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Pin collectors at the Olympics

July 27, 2012

Olympics pin collectors make their way to London.

LONDON: The Games have not started yet, but trading from the far corners of the earth in Olympic pins of every shape and size is already fast and furious at the entrance to London 2012.

Men, women and youngsters from Canada, China, Greece, the United States and elsewhere have already begun gathering at the gates to the Olympic Park to take part in a collecting obsession that stretches back decades for some.

Ken Davids and his brother Harvey hover between the gates of the Olympic Park for athletes and journalists with hopes of securing the special enamel and metal decorative pins designed for news organisations, corporate sponsors and National Olympic squads from Uzbekistan to Uruguay.

The two Canadian retirees are members of the international family of Olympic pin collectors, who travel to every Olympics seeking out the pins that cannot be bought in stores, with the logo of the Games stamped on Chinese dragons, US flags, Canadian Maple Leafs, London buses and the various sports.

“This is my ninth Olympics I’ve been at trading pins,” said the 66-year old Davids, adding it was a chance to spend time with his brother, travel and meet people from all over.

“You’re in a party atmosphere for two and a half weeks.”

The trade itself appears not to involve the exchange of money, only the pins of which individual sports pins from athletes and rare pins of which there are only a few are highly prized and desperately sought after.

“There are some you try to get that you take away from athletes because those you can’t buy,” Davids said.

“Everyone is looking for the Japanese Pikachu pin (handed out by Tokyo TV at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics) because they are really hard to get.”

For Daniel Presburger, a 47-year-old teacher from Los Angeles California who has 70,000 pins up for trade and 10,000 keepers in his collection, pins have become a family affair.

Presburger, his wife Karen and their twin son and daughter 12-year-old Ailan and Rosemary have arrived at London 2012 kitted out in pink smocks festooned with pins and looking for trades with journalists, athletes and other aficionados.

London is Ailan’s third Olympics and dad has decided that when the womenfolk head home in a few days, his son can stay on with him until the 2012 Games are over.

“When you trade pins you don’t just give them something, you get to meet them,” Ailan Presburger told Reuters. “We met a Ukrainian boxer today.”

Timm Jamieson, a 64-year-old architect from Roanoke, Virginia sat alongside the other pin traders, said London was his 11th Games and he was looking forward to adding to his collection of 70,000 pins and making new friends.

He nods to trading “partners” American Dan Baker and relative newcomer Linda Li, who only started in Beijing.

“I like to meet new people and when you see the pins you can communicate that way,” he said. “I’ve known Linda and Dan since Beijing.

Amid the hawking and trading and a bit of jostling for the “rare” Reuters pins on offer, Jamieson was gracious enough to entertain questions on whether a hobby which involves such travel and expense might not be viewed with much relish back home by his wife and grown children.

“I sent her some pins home and she’s trading with my friends who couldn’t make it out here,” he said, adding he will be bringing his booty from London to an annual trading meeting called Olympin in Atlanta this year.

Davids also said his wife has encouraged his hobby, but that there was not enough space in their Toronto apartment for her to allow a display of his collection.

He has reached the age where he is mulling over a trip to the next Winter Olympics in chilly Sochi, Russia but dreaming about the 2016 summer Games in Rio de Janeiro when he turns 70.

“I’m focusing on Rio, that will be my swansong.”—Reuters


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