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Pin Collecting

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"What I enjoy most is the chase -- the hunt -- for the rarest pins," says Dustin Wolverton. He is a pin collector in Newport Beach, California.

Pin collecting is a hobby enjoyed by thousands of people worldwide. People buy, sell and trade pins they acquire from a variety of sources. The pins themselves come from around the globe. Most pins are manufactured by various organizations to commemorate special events.

Some of the most popular pins collected these days are those put out by Olympic committees, the media, and clubs like the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood.

Also popular are pins representing law enforcement agencies and police departments, as well as high-profile private corporations. Figure skating pins are also common.

"I've been collecting pins for about two and a half years now. What I enjoy most about it is discovering really nice-looking pins and getting in touch, via the Internet, with pin collectors all over the world," says Lise Gagne.

Pin collecting is a hobby most people enjoy in the comfort of their homes. These days, many collectors use the Internet to connect with other collectors. Indeed, many collectors have turned their hobby into a truly global experience.

Pin collectors can also find pins at local shops. Many collectors also find it beneficial to join local clubs, societies, associations and other organizations devoted to pin collecting.

It's very difficult to say exactly how many people collect pins in North America. Nobody keeps official statistics. The only way to try to gauge the size of this recreation is from pin collectors themselves.

"I would guess maybe 2,000," says Judy Dunstan of Sacramento, California. "I think there are a lot of people who collect a few pins but don't really consider themselves collectors. Everyone in my family collects pins, but only two of us would define ourselves as collectors."

"I'd say tens of thousands. It's a widespread hobby, particularly in North America," says Wolverton.

"I would estimate hundreds of thousands -- but [they're] not all serious collectors," says collector Jean Buckle.

The biggest trend in this hobby is buying, selling and trading pins over the Internet. You could say the hobby is something like a global show and tell! The Internet has made it possible for collectors around the world to easily communicate and show each other their pin collections.

Another emerging trend is the mass production of pins, especially surrounding Olympic events.

Kazuma Koizumi is an avid pin collector in Nagano, Japan. He says the sheer number of pins available at Olympic games these days makes collecting them all just about impossible.

"I am also finding since the start of the Atlanta Olympic Games site, the number of pins produced has increased to a ridiculously high level," he says.

"Consequently, one has to make a decision as to whether they are going to try and collect every pin made for that particular event, or narrow it down to strictly sponsors and media, particular sports or whatever. I feel that is a letdown and an almost impossible task to try and get all of the pins produced."

Pin collecting can be as inexpensive or as expensive as you want to make it. It just depends on what your goals are. Some people are happy with small collections. Others live for nothing less than "complete collections."

"Over the past year, my costs have easily hit $10,000 and that's just financial," says Daryl Tam of Singapore. "Fortunately, I do have a helpful and understanding wife, or else I'd be bearing other costs."

Pins that are considered rare will be expensive. The exact price of a rare pin depends on several factors, including how many were made, how hard it is to find, the design, the pin's age and condition, and of course, how badly you want it. Pins can go for as low as a few bucks, and as high as several hundred dollars or even more!

"The costs really depend on the kind of pins that you collect. For sure, some are more expensive than others. For example, some pins which are produced in smaller quantities, as Olympic media or guest pins are, are more expensive and harder to get," says Gagne.

Getting Started

Just about anyone can become a pin collector. It doesn't require any special skills other than a desire to learn about the hobby.

All you need to do is contact other pin collectors (this is really easy to do over the Internet), see what's what, and then make some decisions. You'll have to decide what kind of pins you'll want to collect and how many you'll want.

Most pin collectors say the best thing to do is to collect the kind of pins you like. Many pin collectors also try acquiring two of each kind -- one for their own collections and one for trading. This is probably the best technique for building your collection.

"My best advice to anyone thinking about getting into it is start collecting pins only if you really like the pins. Check the Internet message boards to see what other traders are looking for," says Dunstan.

It can also be an ideal hobby for the physically challenged. One doesn't even need to leave the house! You can easily use your home computer to meet other pin collectors over the Internet and get started on your own collection.

Of course, it's also good to get out and meet other pin collectors at local clubs or shops. Many people trade pins using regular mail service.

It is possible to turn pin collecting into a job, but most people do it just for the fun of it. Some people get into this hobby in such a big way that they become dealers.

Dunstan says opportunities are definitely out there for the pin collector with an entrepreneurial spirit. "I think there's a need for a site that has scans of all the pins, and updates with new images and info as they come out," she says.

"Also, there might be a need for a pin broker who will do the searching and make the contacts for a finder's fee. Also there's a need for more merchandise associated with pins -- ways of displaying them, taking pins on the road, clothing saying that 'yes, I'm a pin collector.'"


Spector's Pins of the World,
by  Harry Spector
Mostly deals with Olympic pins


The Pin Store
Pins, pins and more pins for sale!

Pins by Mail
Pin shopping and newsletters for pin collectors

Corey and Laura's Pin Pages
Specializing in collecting and trading Olympic pins

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