Olympic Brooches Trading Another Victim Of Covid This Year
A few years ago, Bud Kling had three rooms added to his Pacific Palisades home in California. The builders used additional concrete with a steel reinforcing beam – and not because Mr. Kling expected a crowd. The rooms weren’t made for people. They were designed to house and showcase its collection of 30,000 Olympic pins, the colorful and endlessly varied keepsakes that have been bought and traded at the Games for decades.
Even when the builders were done, Mr. Kling, a 74-year-old tennis coach, still had many more pins than he could fit at home. He also has around 100,000 “trade pins” – multiples of the same pin that can be traded – and he carries some to the Games. His reserve is stacked in his garage and in a rented storage space.
“I have a very patient wife,” said Mr. Kling, unnecessarily.
When the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics announced that the 2020 Games would be delayed for a year and, in March, that no foreign spectators would be allowed into the country, few were as disheartened as Mr. Kling and d other hardcore Olympic brooches dealers. For them, the Games are only partially about sport. For every minute they spend watching the competition, they spend a minute – maybe two – exchanging pins, either in impromptu scrimmages off-premises or in designated malls.
The collapse of the brooches trade market will hardly add up to the losses suffered by the Tokyo Games, a venture that organizers across the country say will cost more than $ 15 billion. About $ 3 billion of that came from renegotiating contracts caused by the one-year delay. But filling national coffers has not been the goal of accommodation since the price of hosting the world’s biggest rally started to soar more than a decade ago. Countries compete for the Games in the hope of the ultimate watch me moment, a clever multi-week advertisement aimed at the entire planet.
Tokyo will get a fair share of self-promotion if the Games go ahead, something organizers promise to happen despite national polls suggesting an overwhelming number of people in Japan – who are grappling with a prolonged fourth wave of the virus – would prefer another delay or outright. cancellation.
For Olympic Games fans around the world, these Games will be remembered as the party they had to skip. This includes around 250 brooch dealers, people who plan their lives around the two-year gap between the Summer and Winter Olympics.
Never heard of Olympic pins? It is a portable and portable promotional and branding element for sports delegations, National Olympic Committees, corporate sponsors, news media and candidate cities for the Games. (The New York Times makes its own pins and gives a dozen to reporters covering the events.)
For those who are still, pins are the kind of $ 7 keepsake that you toss in a drawer, or wastebasket, when you get back from the Games. Thousands of people buy lapel pins, and many spontaneously redeem them once they see a commercial beehive outside of a place. The host countries cater to the casual and passionate fans by producing large quantities of pins, which are sold in souvenir shops.
Japan was prepared for crazy crowds. Organizers nationwide have made 600 different officially licensed pins, a Games spokesperson said, and 12 souvenir shops are located around Tokyo. Now the demand for this bonus is an open question. It’s not just that Japanese fans will be the only ones admitted to the Games. Trading is such a convenient, face-to-face activity that it is feared that it will be discouraged – even prohibited.
The Games press office made no comment other than sending out a “playbook,” published in February, outlining the security protocols. The pin exchange was not mentioned, but one of the principles was that participants should “minimize physical interactions with others” and “avoid confined spaces and crowds where possible”. This makes trading in brooches almost impossible.
For years, Coca-Cola, a long-time Olympic sponsor, has built pin exchange centers on the grounds of the Games. A spokesperson said there would be pin promotions, including a chance to acquire pins representing all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Whether the company will open and host a pin exchange center in Tokyo, the spokeswoman said, is still under evaluation.
For years, Mr. Kling was recruited by Coca-Cola to help oversee and manage its pin exchange centers, a volunteer position that made him the unofficial Tsar of the Games. One of its many roles is to enforce etiquette and unwritten rules. This means making sure tables are shared fairly, counterfeit pins are eliminated, and newcomers aren’t overloaded.
“Every now and then I hear an older guy say to a kid, ‘My brooch is a lot bigger, so you have to trade me two for it,’ he said. “We don’t want anyone crushing an 8-year-old.”
Some are there for the money. There are over 80,000 listings on eBay for Olympic pins. These speculators had a golden moment in Nagano, Japan, in 1998 when, for reasons no one has ever explained, organizers failed to produce enough pins. A commercial frenzy ensued. A few people made $ 40,000 in a matter of days. The spindle economy had a tulip mania moment.
“Guy I know put down a down payment on his house with the money he earned in Nagano,” said Sid Marantz, a pin trader who has participated in 17 Olympics and is another regular volunteer at the centers. Coca-Cola brooches trade.
At 76, Mr. Marantz retires from a family business that sold food ingredients, such as salt and sugar. He got his hands on his first pin when his parents took him to the 1960 Olympics in Rome. He was a big fan of Rafer Johnson, a versatile UCLA player who won decathlon gold that year.
“I was just blown away by it all,” he said.
He attended his next Games in Montreal in 1976 on a tour with Track & Field News, to which he subscribed. It was the first time, he said, that bystanders got involved in the large-scale pin trade.
It’s an affordable hobby, at least in the experienced hands of Mr. Marantz. He estimates that his entire collection cost him around $ 10,000. This is largely because after the 1996 Games in Atlanta, he and three friends learned of a warehouse in Colorado – home of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee – stocked with 750,000 pins. unsold. They contributed $ 35,000 and bought the entire lot. Each kept around 40,000 pins and sold the rest to pin collectors around the world.
“We called it ‘the mother wire’,” he said of the acquisition. “It means I go to the Games with pins that cost me nothing. That’s why I’m going to chat with absolutely anyone.
Beyond making new friends, brooch trading is all about searching for obscure and hard-to-find treasures. These include the pins of African delegations, as they tend to form small teams. (Burundi’s pins are especially popular; the country brought nine athletes to Rio in 2016.) Any country that has recently changed its name will end up in the pin dealer crosshairs. This means that you, North Macedonia, who will participate in their first Games since Greece forced them to add “North” to their name.
Japanese media company lapel pins are sought after from Nagano, as they are often adorned with cute cartoon mascots. This time, however, even that genre won’t be hot. The Tokyo 2020 pins – yes, that’s keeping the name, let alone the actual date – are going to be worth next to nothing, Mr Marantz predicts. Supply will overwhelm demand.
Both Mr. Marantz and Mr. Kling had bought thousands of dollars in tickets to events in Tokyo, money which has since been refunded. It was only recently that they began to accept that they wouldn’t really be going to Japan in a few weeks. The Japanese government on Friday extended the state of emergency in Tokyo and other prefectures until at least June 20.
“It’s like a falling rock,” Kling said of being forced to skip the Games, “and hit you in the head.”