Pin Collecting and Trading - A Brief History

Here's a very brief timeline of Olympic pin history together with key events in pin collecting and trading

Year Location  

1896 Athens Originally small cardboard discs were used as colourful badges to identify the athletes (blue), judges (pink) and officials (red)

1904 St. Louis The badges were now metal rather than cardboard and some were very ornate like jewellery

1908 London The metal badges were used for other groups such as IOC members and the press

1912 Stockholm The first commercially produced pins were available for spectators. Pins were also advertised in the Games programme as a form of fund raising. Up to this point, pin trading had not taken off.

1924 Paris The first Olympic village allowed athletes and officials to mix more easlily and therefore led to the swapping or trading of pins as a form of friendship and goodwill between nations

1928 St Moritz Spectators wearing pins as well as athletes and officials

1932 Los Angeles The Great Depression meant that only 2 souvenir pins were available to the public although there were athletes and officials pins

1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Between 1933 and 1936, over 1 million souvenir pins were sold to underwrite the cost of the Games. This was the first time that pins had been available before the Games and were advertised in newspapers and sold through the mail.

1940 Sapporo & Tokyo The Games were cancelled due to the war, but some pins were produced and are some of the rarest pins available

1948 London The organising committe urged participating nations to limit the number of pins they produced in order to maintain their status

1952 Helsinki The highest number of participant's badges issued - 218 variations

1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo The first 2-part badge with the Olympic rings secured to a background

1960 Squaw Valley The first sponsor pin was available. It was produced by Sylvania Electric and showed a microphone and the Olympic rings.

1964 Innsbruck
Media pins became more available as the number of international television companies providing coverage increased

1968 Mexico City The modern form of pin clasp with the butterfly back became the norm

1972 Munich Hundreds of thousands of pin variations were produced and pin trading came out of the Olympic Village and spread to spectators

1980 Lake Placid The large number of pins available and the small size of the village meant that there were lots of pins to trade and lots of people to trade with. The perfect combination for pin trading to take off.

1984 Sarajevo The first time a framed commemorative set of pins was produced. It was a 16 pin set of the mascot - Vuchko the wolf

1984 Los Angeles With perhaps 17,000,000 pins in over 1,300 designs, pin trading was a major event at the LA Games. Large pin gatherings took place and the media reported on pin trading. Large numbers of counterfeit pins emerged with some trying to cash-in on the pin craze

1988 Calgary Some visitors arrived just for the pin trading rather than the Games. The third consecutive Games held in North America meant there were large numbers of traders. Coca-Cola set up the first official pin trading centre

Since 1988 pin trading has been described as "The Number 1 Spectator Sport at the Olympic Games". It's easy to see why, with thousdands of designs, millions of individual pins and millions of collectors across the world aiming to create their perfect collection.

With the launch of the internet and online auctions, it's now even easier to locate and purchase that hard to find pin and to keep in touch with other pin collectors and groups across the world.

Thanks to the '1996 Olympic Games Countdown - The Official Book of Olympic Games Pin Collecting'
for assistance in providing the information on this page