Olympic pin had it beginning as badge.
In 1896, in the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, the badges of various colors were used to identify the officials and the athletes. In 1896, le support of the badge was in wood.
It is in 1906, at the Intermediate Olympic Games of Athens, that the first pin in the color of a delegation made it’s appearance, that being Sweden, but also France.
Around 1924, the athletes started to exchange these small objects as a sign of international friendship. During the years which followed, the uses, manufacture and the varieties mushroomed to evolve to the pin which we know today. Until the end of the 70’s, pin trading was mainly restricted to the athletes and to officials. It is at the 1980 Winter Olympics of Lake Placid that pin trading became an activity of the masses. They allowed the spectators to collect small memories and to start their own collections.
From the Olympic Summer Games of Los Angeles in 1984, the phenomenon did not stop and for the first time a sponsor, Budweiser (American beer), set up a tent where collectors could exchange pins. Pin sellers setup on the main streets and contribute to the ambiance of the Games. Coke, a major Olympic sponsor for many years, copying Budweiser’s idea, set up the international pin trading center at the 1988 Calgary olympic Winter games. Coke’s pin trading centers have met with great success in the succeeding olympiads and is a desired stop for Olympic visitors to visit during the games.
In 1988, a report of the I.O.C. devotes some lines to pins, an official recognition and conferring to him all its value of object of collection forming integral part of the Olympic memory.
It is possible to identify the number of badges for the first Olympiads thanks to the official reports or the memory of participants. Unfortunately it is no longer possible because of very large production quantities and many manufacturers. Only the sharing of knowledge by the collectors can contribute to accumulating this information.
Author: Catholympique, with the friendly collaboration of Jean-Pierre CARAVAN (USA) for translation
(Bibliography: History of Olympic Pins 1896-1992 by Cécile TREMBLAY-MATTE 1992)