So what are Olympic pins REALLY worth? A pin’s value is whatever a person is willing to pay for it at any given time. As most collectables, a pin’s value follows the same “supply and demand” equation and this can change at any given time or any given place. Olympic pin prices tend to escalate most rapidly during the Games, when pin trading and selling is at its best.

The best example of this occurred at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. About 400 pins of Sam the Eagle holding a Coca Cola bottle were stuck before the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee deemed the image too commercial for a mascot pin. By the end of the Games, the pins were selling on the street for upward of $1,500. Unfortunately, the frenzy encouraged the production of knockoffs, promptly devaluating the originals.

Although there is nothing written to help you assess the value of an Olympic pin, we have found some key characteristics that may help you know what someone is willing to buy or trade a pin for:

Type of pin: The usual order of value, high to low: National Olympic Committee, media, sponsor and commemorative.

Age of pin: A pin’s value increases with age.

Production level: The smaller the number made, the higher the value.

Condition of pin: Olympic pins with fewer scratches and nicks are usually worth more than others.

Availability of pin: Can the pin be found at any show, or are there only a few in circulation worldwide?

Makeup of a pin: Olympic pins made of precious metals, or with fine craftsmanship, or with unique features, such as moving parts, tend to be worth more.

Origin of a pin: Manufacturers in certain countries like Italy, Hungary and France, for example, are known for making fine pins.

Dispersal or purpose of pin: Was the pin sold to the general public or did only VIPs receive it?

Special circumstances: Manufacturing flaws, a change in an Olympic pin’s design, or something unique regarding a country, team, or athlete may affect the value.

So? what are they REALLY worth?

The value of these small pieces of painted metal can be measured another way. During each Olympic Games, pins become an unofficial, universal currency. Attendees use them to buy things, to thank someone, and to repay a favor.

Pinheads have reported bartering their Olympic pins for taxi rides, event tickets and other souvenirs. Sometimes Olympic pins are used to elicit special treatment in restaurants, hotels or even at border crossings. Some savvy traders negotiate really big deals: one U.S. collector, for instance, arranged to swap 15,000 Olympic pins for a three week stay in a Lillehammer house during the 1994 Olympic Games.

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