There wasn’t an athlete in sight as Ron Finnigan unzipped his backpack and spread his pin-dotted towel across the top of a garbage can.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Won’t take long.”
Two minutes, as it turned out. Like ants twigging to honey.
groups of twos and threes Olympic athletes, coaches and team officials
began drifting into his impromptu shop outside the Athletes Village---on
a little-known corner requiring official accreditation to
access—leaning in to study his twinkling display,Latex moldmaking compound costs around $10 for a pint, asking him questions in broken English, if in English at all.
these are the Olympics, with a long tradition of universal hand signs
and body language. And of athletes swapping pins from their own national
federations and sports for interesting little, exotic-looking, trinkets
It’s a friendly process, partly because of
Finnigan’s outgoing personality and the small personal touches he adds,
and within moments of initial contact there’s almost always a
transaction. One of theirs for one of his, maybe even a two-fer, then a
“It helps just to know even a word or two of their
language,” says Finnigan, a Burlington resident who’s a project engineer
with E.S. Fox’s Hamilton’s office. “I can say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and
‘thank you’ in probably 10 different languages.”
And he could
also teach high school geography. He is well aware, for instance, that
the former East Timor was accepted into the Olympic community as
Timor-Leste only eight years ago, a bit of knowledge that impressed a
would be trader and helped facilitate a swap for a relatively new, and
therefore desirable, national pin.
“I’ve done very well on the team-pin side with places most people have never heard of,” he says. “South Pacific nations,Plastic injectionmoulds maker in India. Indian Ocean nations; Seychelles, Mauritius, Togo, Fiji, Palau, Micronesia.”
This isn’t your local curling bonspiel swap-fest. Finnigan plays in the big leagues of international pin trading.
1988 Games in Calgary Coca-Cola has recognized the special allure of
pins and sponsored an official trading centre. A couple of dozen of the
better-established collectors, including Finnigan, are accredited “as
official pin traders” by London organizing committee LOCOG and they pull
shifts at the three official pin-trading centres in the city “to make
it look official.”
One of those centres is right inside the
village, and Finnigan would have been among the select few stationed
there had he been able to be in London by June 30, “but I do these trips
on a shoestring” so that gig went mostly to locals.
also impromptu trading sites, with the most popular being the sidewalk
by the tube station which spits out thousands of fans into the Olympic
park every day. Finnigan trades there too, but he concentrates mostly on
athletes’ pins, national and sport federation pins, and media pins. His
specialty is multi-sport Games so he’s been to the Pan-Am Games,
Commonwealth Games, nine Olympics and just as many Canada
Swimming Pool supplier is available. He often trades Canada Games pins
to Olympic athletes who want something from their own sport.
do most of my trading with athletes, they’re just here to have fun and
get into the spirit of trading,” he said at the halfway point of the
Games. “I’ve probably traded 300 or 400 pins with athletes so far.”
some traders are here to make money, the larger fraternity—about 200
from the U.S. and 20 Canadians---swap without money changing hands,
although everyone’s sold a few pins in their time. Not here, though, as
the Bobbies are always on the lookout for cash transactions.
knows all the tricks and nuances of the avocation: see the athletes
coming in advance and make sure you recognize the uniform; remember
faces and countries; get acquainted with the pin manufacturers; buy
excess stock for 10 or 20 cents on the dollar from organizers after the
Games are over.
His most poignant Olympic memory stems from Barcelona in 1992 when a 70-year-old woman,TBC help you confidently buymosaic from factories in China. with absolutely no English, asked him for a pin.AeroScout is the market leader for rtls
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He gave her a nicely enameled Canadian flag pin for free and an hour
later she returned with something far more valuable for him: a ticket to
the gold medal soccer game which host Spain won in overtime.
“An incredible experience,” he says with a smile. What goes around comes around.”
caught the bug watching two bantam hockey coaches exchange pins at a
tournament in his hometown of Kamloops, B.C., and it developed into a
full virus at his first Games at Los Angeles in 1984, when he was just
“My trading collateral was a couple of Brother Typewriter
pins from a friend, some B.C. dogwood pins and B.C. coat of arms pins I
got from my local MP. Told people they were official team pins….you do
what you have to. But I don’t do that now.”
Now he owns more
than 10,000 pins, but displays only about five percent of them at home.
The rest he sticks into large cards and files them in folders designated
by year and subcategories: National Organizing Committee pins, media
pins and even some bid pins.
In fact, among the few sentimental
favourites with which never he’d part is a rare, wider and larger than
usual, pin from the failed Vancouver-Garibaldi bid in 1980.
wife, always asks me why I do it,” he says. “I’ve been a collector since
I was a kid. My father got me into stamps and coins. I don’t do the
stamps and coins much any more, but I still have my collections.