Pins, a glittering prize for Olympic collectors

Sat Feb 15, 2014 9:31am EST
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By Philip O'Connor

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - The gold, silver and bronze medals in Sochi are not the only glittering prizes on offer. For avid collectors, pins specially made for each Games offer a great opportunity to meet, trade and build bridges between cultures.

The pins coveted by collectors are sold in retail outlets, produced by sponsors and media organizations, or offered by the national teams - the most sought-after of the small badges.

"They're usually the hardest to get," says Mark Chestnut, who has traveled to Sochi from his home in Wisconsin to watch the Games and trade pins with other enthusiasts.

"You have to find an athlete from that country or a team representative. I think there's over 80 countries represented here and some only have one or two athletes, so trying to get those pins is quite a monumental task," he told Reuters.

Chestnut began collecting pins in 1988 and estimates he now has close to 5,000. In Sochi he carries a cloth folder with dozens of swaps and duplicates, always ready to trade.

"I started collecting Olympic pins by writing companies and saying, 'Hey, send me your annual report - but by the way, I like the Olympics, could you send me an Olympic pin?'"

"Back in 1988 everyone sent them out, but now they're much harder to obtain," Chestnut said.

Since then, he has traveled to 10 Games, winter and summer, using air miles collected in his job as a technical instructor to help fund his passion. Passing on the tradition, his son Jack has joined him in Sochi for his second Olympics.   Continued...