LONDON — My mission for this post: unload my entire stash of Sports Illustrated Live From London pins — 25 in all — for the most obscure Olympic collection possible.
The SI pins (shown above) come in five colors and, as I found out during my wanderings in and just outside Olympic Park, their trade value is massively inconsistent. American and Canadian collectors coveted full sets of SIs, but Europeans were mostly disinterested; one Spanish pin heavyweight dismissed my SI-for-Botswana National Olympic Committee trade proposal with a disgusted noise and a wave of his hand, and that was that. I never did get a Botswana, but according to my standards of strangeness, I managed to do quite well.
The pin-trading hotspot at these Games is not in the Park. It’s the area just outside the gate to the Athletes’ Village, near Stratford International Train Station, where veteran traders — including this Zen-like fellow below — have been camped out for the duration. There’s something more esteemed about Olympic pin-trading than there is about sports-card collecting; it still attracts people with that obsessive collecting gene, but Olympic country pins at least started in the hands of someone from Iran or Ireland or Indonesia, and were swapped for something rather than sold. They have a real provenance.