Pin trading is often considered a top spectator sport at an Olympic and Paralympic Games. People go mad for these little pieces of metal – and I'm one of them. Aside from my role working in the Finance Department at London 2012, I'm also a keen collector of Olympic pins.
One of the many pins designed for the London 2012 Games
I’ll always remember what got me started. My first pin trade was when I was on holiday in Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games. I was wearing a Sydney 2000 pin which had a Mexican flag on it, and a lady came up to me and offered me three pins in exchange for it. She was Mexican and wanted it for her collection. I was thrilled to be able to help her, and couldn't believe what a good deal I'd made – I was hooked!
It turned out that downtown Athens was teeming with pin traders from all over the world. In one of the central squares, all of the pavements and cafeswere covered with bags, boxes and boards of pins – and standing proudly behind their wares were the Olympic pin traders. They'd come from all over the world, as they do every two years, to trade stories and most importantly to trade pins. They had so many different designs: from past Olympic Games, from sponsors, from the media and from National Olympic Committees. By the end of the Games I'd picked up a fair few pins for my growing collection.
Olympic pin trading, it turns out, has been around for a while, and can be traced back to the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, when coloured cardboard discs were used to distinguish officials and athletes.
Metal pins first started appearing in 1912, but it wasn't until the 1980s that pin trading really became the big hobby it is today. The Games at Lake Placid in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984 produced a large number of collectable pins, and spectators to these Games became hooked on collecting their favourites. Unofficial pin trading locations began sprouting up on street corners and outside venues, with collectors keen to meet fellow fans and grow their collections.
Since then, pin trading has gone from strength to strength at each Olympic Games. Even before the Winter Olympics kicked off in Norway in 1994, the country went pin crazy. An estimated 10 million pins were sold before the Games had even started, which is 2.5 pins for every Norwegian citizen!
So, what has London got in store for our pin collecting friends from around the world? We'll be producing 2,012 individual pin designs, nearly 300 of which have now been released - and some of these have already sold out! Our countdown pins have proved particularly popular, with our next design due out in July for the One Year to Go anniversary.
There's already been such a wide range of subjects covered by our pins. There are pins depicting Olympic and Paralympic culture, our pictograms and our mascots; and we've also seen some imaginative takes on British culture, with markets, parks, music festivals and even teapots reproduced in pin-form.
Over the next few months there are some really exciting new pins hitting the shelves. Look out for designs which incorporate the Crown Jewels, British seaside scenes and – one of my personal favourites – a beautifully packaged set of pins which depict London's bridges, and which fit together to form the shape of the River Thames. For the nature lovers amongst you, there's also a special set showing off the best of British birds. Wenlock and Mandeville won't be left out either – they tell me there will be some pins which show them trying out the Olympic and Paralympic sports.
And this is just the start! There are so many more London 2012 pins to come, and we will keep you informed of the latest designs. In the meantime, happy collecting, and I look forward to trading a pin with you soon!
Keep checking the London 2012 online shop or pay a visit to one of our shops in St Pancras, Paddington Station and Heathrow Terminal, or your local John Lewis, to stay up to date with our latest releases.