If you pinned the Lake Placid Olympic Museum staff down and asked us to pinpoint what our least favorite items are in the museum's collection, staff would get so quiet, you would hear a pin drop.
We'd be on pins and needles hoping we didn't offend you with our opinion and if we did offend you, we would be prepared to have our ears pinned back.
You see, we have so many of these items in our collection, we fear that staff might end up pinned under a mountain of them because as hard as staff tries, they're not stored neat as a pin. Any guesses?
Pins on a hat
That's right, Olympic pins.
In all seriousness, we're here to pinpoint for you the story of how pins have become the most widely collected Olympic item.
According to the "Unauthorized Guide to Olympic Pins and Memorabilia," Olympic pins had their origins as team badges that were traded among athletes and officials. The first team pins appeared in 1906 at the unofficial Athens Games. As the Olympic Games continued, more and more nations brought pins to the Games, and in 1912, the first souvenir Olympic pins were produced.
In the early years of the Olympic movement, there were only a handful of pins unlike the thousands that are available at the Olympics today. Pins are now produced by individual teams competing in the Games, national Olympic committees, sponsors, the media, and other official organizations. As an affordable souvenir for fans to purchase, trading them has become a memorable Olympic experience for both the long-time collector and newbie. It brings people together from all nations in the spirit of friendship and cultural exchange.
The 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid helped turn pin trading into the number one spectator "sport" of the Olympic Games. The tiny Olympic Village and its Main Street was always packed with pedestrians from around the globe and it became an ideal hub for pin collecting.
It was also at these Games, that many companies and organizations began commissioning their own pins for distribution. While fans walked to venues and waited for transportation in the cold, pin trading became an activity to pass the time while meeting visitors from nations near and far. Sharing a common language wasn't necessary; smiling, gesturing and expressing a thank you was the only communication needed to swap pins. It was also useful that Lake Placid pins were issued and sold prior to the Games, making it much easier to have pins in hand to trade before the torch was lit at the Opening Ceremonies.
Some might say that pin trading became an obsession for many in Lake Placid. They may have started with one pin and then traded it for two and then somehow they received another one that might have had a personal meaning or they found it more unique than the others. Before they knew it, a particular theme to their trading had started and they were on the hunt for that one pin that would complete their collection, but their search continued pin after pin. Some traders took it a step too far and their deals took a turn for the worse.
One man was arrested in 1980 during the Lake Placid Olympic Winter Games for allegedly having in his possession stolen property including several hundred Olympic pins. In another reported case, a local resident was arrested for selling stolen pins.
These are rare cases and most pin traders are friendly and enjoy making personal connections with other Olympic fans. Traders begin to collect stories that go along with their pin trade and that's what makes this hobby so special, "pinning a memory to a pin."
To learn more about this fascinating world of Olympic pin collecting and to purchase your own Olympic pins, please visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum on Main Street.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Ironman Sunday. For more information, visit www.lpom.org.