Major sporting events are brilliant places to buy memorabilia. T-shirts, programmes and commemorative mugs are all snapped up by eager buyers. Even the ticket stubs are collectible.
But few sporting extravaganzas capture the imagination quite like the Olympics.
Enthusiasts have been collecting memorabilia from the Games since 1896, the year of the first modern event. Among the first items to be kept as a souvenir was a menu from a dinner held by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Athens.
The Olympic Philately, Numismatic and Memorabilia Commission advises the IOC on commemorative items, such as stamps, coins, pins and other items and there is now a huge international market for such collectibles. Somepins and buttons can fetch considerable amounts of money if they are rare or unusual.
The first pins, from 1896, were merely cardboard discs given to athletes, judges and officials, but at subsequent games pins and badges were hewn from metal and were much more robust.
The 1900 and 1904 events saw only participants receiving badges, but in London in 1908, badges for different groups were produced. Some were beautifully decorated and are prized by collectors.
Trawling the internet is the best place to find Olympic badges from Games gone by.
It’s not just metal pins and enamel badges that are coveted items among collectors, but also the participation medals, which are given to athletes, judges and officials for playing their part in each historic event.
One of the leading sellers of Olympic memorabilia is Ingrid O’Neil, who auctions many pins, buttons, mascots and other ephemera related to the Games.
Olympic pin and badge enthusiasts can also find a plethora of information at Olympin, the world’s largest Olympic Collectors’ Club. Founded in 1982 after the Lake Placid Winter Olympics, the club has more than 600 members and holds conventions where members can trade memorabilia. Its website is packed with inside knowledge on what is collectible.
People all over the world are serious about their search for badges made for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a country’s National Olympic Committee (NOC), sponsors, sports bodies and even special media pins that were created by newspapers, magazines and broadcasters covering the games.
Serious collectors – of whom there are thousands – should head to one of the World Olympic Collectors’ Fairs. This year (2012), their 18th event was held in Athens. Hosted by the IOC and the Hellenic Olympic Committee, the event attracted a global audience and was held to coincide with the handing over of the Olympic flame to the London Organising Committee for this year’s games.
There are many more societies and organising committees that are dedicated to the subject of Olympic pins. Try the London International Pin Club UK, Olympian Artifacts and International Sports Collection to see if you can find the Olympic pin you’ve been searching for.
We can’t guarantee you Olympic sporting success at Badges Plus, but we think we are gold medal-winning creators of high quality enamel badges, button badges and custom badges for all industries and sectors.
Guest Post: Robert James is the director of Badges Plus, a family-owned, British manufacturer of quality, hand-finished badges and other keepsakes. You can read more of Robert's articles by subscribing to the Badges Plus blog here. You can also find him on Google+ and Twitter.