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Olympic Pin Collecting

2024 Summer Olympic Games - Paris, France

Tickets for the Paris Olympics are about to go on reserve sale! What a thrill to attend these Games in the famous city of Paris! We will be seeing a more relaxed Olympic Games now that the pandemic has slowed down so hopefully, there will be more prominent pin trading than happened in Beijing.


Olympic Pin Collecting

The TV coverage from Los Angeles Olympics gave us the first glimpse of what was to become a popular hobby of Olympic pin collecting. Pins were purchased through venders or via people-to-people in and around the venues.

Previous to that time, athletes were given pins by their home country to trade with the other athletes at the beginning or end of their specific competition. This suddenly turned into a new craze, made popular in America in front of the world back in 1984.

It was very nice to see pins on the lanyards of athletes in Toyko and I wondered if they were given them or had to purchase the pins. Either way, there are hundreds of thousands of Olympic pins to start a collection and with so many choices, get ready to become acquainted with some Olympic history through the types and styles of pins available to start or add to your collection.

Closing Ceremony Magic from Tokyo

Closing Ceremony Magic from Tokyo

A Bit of Olympic History

Modern Era

The modern Olympic era began in 1896 in Athens, Greece. For that country, it came full circle when Athens again hosted the 2004 Olympics. Originally they wanted the 1996 Games, but their country was unprepared (in the eyes of the IOC) and did not receive the bid. They pulled themselves together and ended up hosting a fabulous Games in 2004.

One famous memory of the Athens games is the very first "act" of the Opening Ceremonies. In the months and weeks preceding the Games, it appeared that Greece was not ready and may not be ready by the Opening Ceremonies. So, in true Greek drama, the opening act was a repairman coming out to center stage and hammering down the last nail, exclaiming, "Now we are ready!"

A note regarding the photo below: It was the last day of our island sail ship cruise on the mainland in Athens. I was so tired but was not going to leave this city without seeing the site of the 1896 Athens Olympic Stadium. I put my camera nose through the fence to grab this shot. Then I thought of the brevity of the situation - I was thinking how awesome it was to see this landmark from 1896 and it dawned on me how old everything else in Greece is - put a trip to Greece on your bucket list!

1896 Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece

Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece 1896

Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece 1896

Olympic History

Ancient Era

There are no official records to recall the exact history of the ancient Olympic era. We believe they began in 776 BC and athletic events were held to honor the Greek God Zeus. Only men were allowed to compete and all "teams" were from Greece.

If you would like to learn more about the ancient Olympic games, Wikipedia has a good narrative to learn from.

Learn more about the IOC here.

Countdown Pins

Countdown pins do just that. They are published on important milestone days that lead up to the Olympic opening ceremonies. The pin shown below is the pin issued one year before the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.


Day Pins

Day Pins are issued on the consecutive days the Olympics are "open." The pin shown below is a Day Pin from Salt Lake City on the 10th day of the Games. These pins are highly popular since they only make a certain quantity and it is a "game" in itself to obtain one of these pins.

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Team USA

Team USA will always put out a pin with the specific Olympiad and the words Team USA. Check out Team USA and learn more about the US Olympic happenings.


Bridge Pins

Bridge Pins connect one Olympiad to another in either two-year or four-year increments and either summer or winter games. Therefore, a bridge pin would connect consecutive Olympiads, i.e., Vancouver (2010) to London (2012) OR sticking with the Summer Games only, London (2012) to Rio (2016). The pin to the right is bridging Salt Lake City 2002 to Athens 2004. These are some of my favorite pins.


Mascot Pins

Mascot Pins depict the mascot(s) of the Games in a large variety of ways. Some Games have one mascot, and some have several. A bit of trivia: when the USA won the Atlanta Olympics there was much anticipation about the unveiling of the mascot. Turned out it was some made up technoligcal character than was not a popular choice with the Americans. Not sure if it was the USOC or the AOC (Atlanta Olympic Committee) who heard the public outcry and changed it up a bit from "Whoisit?" to "Izzy", probably the worst Olympic mascot in the modern era. The pin below is from the Vancouver 2010 Games.


Sponsor Pins are generally hard to get prior to a specific Olympic Games, unless you work for that sponsor. Afterwards, you can find them all over eBay. This sponsor pin is from Speedo and it ranks in the top five of my favorites in my collection.


Sport Pins

Sports Pins depict the sporting events at the Olympics. There are layers and layers of sports pins, varying by equipment, venue, uniform, country, flag, etc. from that sport. I love this pin of a USA hockey puck from Torino.


My Favorite Pin

This pin was given to me by my cousin who commentated speed skating at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. (This was back when the summer and winter games were held in the same year. Sarajevo had the winter games, Los Angeles had the summer games.) It is a sponsor pin and needless to say, Sarajevo was ruined after that country's war and any keepsake from these Games is very sentimental, not to mention probably worth a little more than others.


My First Pin

This Russian Doll pin is from the 1976 Montreal Olympics. I went to college with a swimmer who was from Ecuador and he brought this pin back for me. This pin is a good example of the type of pin athletes would trade at their event, that is how Jorge got it! Pins were given to them by their home team (country) and they traded with someone who probably, in this case, swam the same event. I love this little Russian doll!


I thought it was interesting to note how the "old-fashioned" pins clasp. Much different than the usual metal clasp used today.

Another tidbit: I have a few pins from the Vancouver Games with plastic Maple Leaf clasp backs - they are very cool!


My Hardest Earned Pin

We attend ski jumping in Salt Lake City. The event began very early in the morning. After parking our car, we had to catch a bus up to the venue area or walk about a mile up a steep hill. The organizers were very smart and had this little competition: for those who choose to walk to the venue they would be awarded a "Gold Medal Mile" Olympic pin. Of course my friend and I were up to the challenge. Suffice it to say, even though the temperature was below freezing, by the time we got to the top of the hill we weren't even wearing our coats anymore.


Ways to Display Your Pins

Here are suggestions on how to display your pins while you are attending the games.


Scarf - In Salt Lake City it was cold so a scarf was standard wear. I turned mine into my pin display. I always had them with me and they were again very visible. (See the photo in the poll module, you can see how I wore my scarf.)


Golf Towel

In Atlanta, I had a golf towel attached to my belt. I could easily add a pin in a few seconds. Again, a very visible and accessible way to display the pins.


Shirt & Backpack

On your shirt - unless you just have a few pins, your shirt will become quite heavy to wear. This would also only work at the summer games since you would most likely have a coat or vest on at the winter games. A vest is indeed a good way to display your pins also.

Wearing a backpack is a very practical way to carry your personal items and display your pins.

You can also put your pins on a hat.

How To Obtain Olympic Pins

You do not have to attend the Olympics in order to get pins, but that is the easiest and most fun way.

If You Are Attending The Olympics: There are trading stations, usually sanctioned by the IOC or the host country's organizing committee. They are all over the place, and usually at every venue. It is not odd to walk up to a complete stranger you see adorned in pins and start trading - that is a very fun part of collecting Olympic pins. I carried on a friendship with a trader for a couple of years after SLC 2002 and with today's technology, no doubt you may make a friend for life.

If You Are Not Attending The Olympics: eBay is a big seller of pins past and present. The USOC has a store on its website and when the Olympics are in our home country, many sponsors have pins for sale on the homeland. Worldwide sponsors, such as McDonald's, sometimes make pins available through their companies and I have seen employees wearing the pins. Have I asked to have one or trade, you bet I have!

Future Olympic Sites

In the last decade, the IOC has revamped their process for choosing an Olympic host. Future host sites are chosen based on their submitted plan that fits their sporting, economic and social-environment planning while creating projects and sites with legacy and sustainability. Below is a list of future Olympic sites.

2024 Paris, France (summer)

2026 Milan-Cortina, Italy (winter)

2028 Los Angeles (summer)

2032 Brisbane (summer)

In historic fashion, on July 31, 2017, the IOC announced the two hosts for the Summer Olympic Games. Paris will host in 2024 and Los Angeles will host in 2028. This decision was a result of the newly implemented selection process.

In June 2019, in another historic move, the IOC announced Milan-Cortina as the 2026 Winter Olympic city. Never before has there been a two-city name for an Olympic site.

Have You Been to The Games?


My cousin was an Olympic speedskater back in the 70's and 80's and that's when my Olympic spirit was born. Too bad the 8-year-old me didn't pay more attention when she and a fellow Olympian dragged me out on the ice in Northbrook, Illinois, to try to teach me to skate. The spirit continues in me and I made it a goal when I was a teen to attend the Olympics. So far I have been to three Olympiads: Los Angeles in 1984, Atlanta in 1996, and Salt Lake City in 2002. Hoping to attend the Paris games in 2024.

Go Team Usa!



I would love to hear your stories about Olympic pins.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Joanie Ruppel

Have You Heard About Olympic Pins Before Now? - Do You Own Any?

Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on April 02, 2014:

@Vincent Fleming: Agreed - very affordable for a child's budget, interesting and helps them learn about history, sports, and new places in the world.

Vincent Fleming from Indiana on April 02, 2014:

I have collected Olympic pins for years. It is a great hobby for children!

Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on February 16, 2014:

@Mommie-Moola: Thank you! I love when that happens!

Mommie-Moola on February 16, 2014:

I've heard of them but have learned so much more from your lens. Thanks!

Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on September 06, 2012:

I also saw them on QVC. I am thinking about starting a collect .

MarcStorm LM on July 04, 2012:

They just started selling them the other day on QVC. I've heard of pins from a lot of the other Olympics too. I've always liked pins. I really think I want to collect them!

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