TSX SPECIAL: AICO and AFCOS save Olympic pin-trading tradition with a venue for Paris

The Parc de la Villette site in Paris that will be the home of the Olympic Collectors Area this summer (Photo: AICO).

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The collecting and trading of Olympic pins goes back more than a century, with identification badges being fabricated for the first revival Games in Athens in 1896. A pin depicting a national flag dates from at least 1906 and the trading of pins, at least among athletes, may have started at the Paris Games of 1924.

It was another 60 years before the mania really began.

The first major Olympic pin trading center was in Los Angeles for the Games of the XXIIIrd Olympiad in 1984. Anheuser-Busch donated a 50-foot high, inflated six-pack of Budweiser to attract collectors – away from any official Olympic site, of course – and Commerce, California-based official pin manufacturer Ooh La La Inc., organized the space. The company produced an estimated 30 million pins related to the 1984 Games and created a frenzy.

The Coca-Cola Company – an Olympic supporter since 1928 – knew a good thing when it saw it and sponsored its first official pin-trading center at the Calgary Olympic Winter Games in 1988 and continued the tradition for the next 30 years. During the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, the beverage giant hosted a branded pin trading “activation” in Gangneung Olympic Park which included a trading space and featured an exhibition of Coca-Cola Olympic pins – some highly prized – from previous Games.

But no major companies stepped up to sponsor an Olympic pin-trading center in Paris, and collectors worried they would have no place to gather at the Games. They were relieved to hear in April that the International Association of Olympic Collectors (AICO) and the Association Francaise des Collectionneurs Olympiques et Sportifs (AFCOS) announced the first-ever “Official Olympic Collectors Area.” The space will be located at the Parc de la Villette, which will be near Club France and other NOC houses.

The Folie des Merveilles de Villette Makerz will host the pin trading center, the exhibition “24 Heritages Olympiques” – “24 Olympic Legacies” – and other events catering to collectors. “In this unique venue, fans and enthusiasts of the Games will share all that is Olympic in them,” according to the AICO announcement.

The “24 Olympic Legacies” exhibit will showcase the vision and passion of 24 collectors through a presentation of their collections, in philately, numismatics, pins and memorabilia.

The ground-floor space, which is approximately 150 square meters (about 1,615 sq. ft.), will be open to all visitors free of charge from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the duration of the Games from 26 July to 11 August. Volunteers will guide collectors to their trading tables, manage the rotation of collectors occupying the tables and explain how pin trading works to the uninitiated.

It will be a welcome return for one of the most endearing of Olympic hobbies, especially since there were no official or sponsored pin trading centers due to the Covid-19 pandemic for the Tokyo Games in 2021 or the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

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