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Traders Buy and Sell Olympic Souvenir Pins


The winter Olympics are now underway in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to scheduled events, there is an unofficial competition taking place on the streets, where people buy, sell and trade souvenir Olympic pins.

They bargain as intensely as any stock or commodity trader, as they search for rare and exotic enameled lapel pins. Some are official pins that have been authorized by the Olympic committee. Others were produced by commercial companies, and some have little relation to the Olympics.

A Los Angeles resident named Cesar started collecting pins at the 1984 Olympic games in his home town. Now he trades and sells the pins, and says interest is high in Salt Lake City.

"Because it gives you some souvenir of the game. People like it. It gives a remembrance of your trip to the game," he says.

Salt Lake resident Thane Tagge examines one of Cesar's pins. He wants to trade.

"That's one I don't have, a sponsor pin. And I'm trying to trade for one that I've got. I've got this snowboard Salt Lake City logo on it," Mr. Tagge says.

"See, this guy here is trying to get the best pin in the games. I will trade him but he's got to give me a suitable trade," Cesar says.

"Here, this is the best one I've got. That's the torch relay," Mr. Tagge responds.

No good, says Cesar. The trader says the pin he is being offered is worth $5.00. The one he is offering in return is worth four times as much. It is the pin of the host broadcast organization for the Olympics. The negotiations continue.

Both Cesar and Thane Tagge have the same philosophy when it comes to pin trading - buy cheap and trade up to more valuable pins. The pin's scarcity determines its value.

Mr. Tagge proudly displays one of his rarest, a limited-edition pin that looks like a cellular phone.

"OK, this one I traded from a guy. There are 2002 of them. It's number 1507. It's a U.S. West sponsor. Has the logo. And he said, sure, I'll trade you that, because he had two of them. And anything with movable parts (is valuable) see that? That's kind of fun. A cell phone, turning around like that," he says.

Thane Tagge has 500 pins. His favorite shows a bowl of green jello. The symbolism is not lost on people in Utah, where more green jello is eaten than anywhere else in the country. No one knows why, and this is just one of the many statistics that greets visitors to Utah.

Up the street and around the corner, a woman named Renee is also doing a lively business selling Olympic pins. She says her customers include both visitors to the games and local people.

"They're crazy about pins, you know. It's all about the events and the excitement and is just the spirit that if you want to relive it, hey, here it is right here," she says.

One of Renee's customers is Becky Lamar from Ogden, Utah.

Lamar:I don't have a whole lot, 15 or something.

Reporter: And why are you collecting them?

Lamar: Because they're cool. They're just neat to have. Part of the Olympics.

Collector Becky Lamar will share some of her pins with her friends. Thane Tagge plans to choose his best and display them in a frame as small trophies from the Salt Lake City Olympics.