Pin Points - Counting Down the Days

(ATR) With just over 200 days to go until the London Olympics, pin specialist Paul McGill runs through who's releasing countdown pins and which are the most sought-after in his latest “Pin Points” column. 

(ATR) Countdown pins are a cornerstone of collections from every recent Olympic Games. These are the pins that show us only too clearly that the Games are approaching and they make excellent sets, especially when they contain common motifs or subjects in their design. It’s worth remembering that these pins could form a set that takes more than four years to complete.

The countdown to London 2012 has been commemorated by retail pins as well as by sponsor pins and one internal pin to date. At the time of writing, we are approaching the 200-days-to-go milestone and pins will be be issued in January to mark the date.

Retail Pins

The retail pins that we have seen so far come in two designs. The first uses the London 2012 theme of geometric shapes to form the background to the countdown number, the milestone date and a London 2012 logo in one of the brand colors.

Collectors sometimes refer to these pins as ‘Shard’ pins because of the design. The first of these was issued at the end of the Beijing Games in 2008 to mark the four-years-to-go date. The next was launched at three-years-to-go at the Museum of London. The two-years-to-go pin was launched on the same day that the first London 2012 retail shop was opened and the one-year-to-go pin at the celebration to invite the world to come to London held in Trafalgar Square last July. There has been one Paralympic shard countdown pin issued to celebrate the one-year-to-go milestone.

Each pin is part of a limited edition. The four-years and one-year varieties were both issued as 5,000 pieces; the three- and two-year pins were only issued as 3,000 pieces. The latter pair both sold out within a month of release. The Paralympic one-year pin was issued as 3,000 pieces.

As well as counting the years, London 2012 have also issued pins to mark 1000, 500, 400 and 300 days with 200-day pins due soon.

Both the 1000- and 500-day pins were issued in sets of four. Each pin in the set used the same design of shard and numerals but different combinations of the London 2012 brand colors on the background and logo.

Rarest of Them All

For some reason, the first of the 500-day pins with the pink logo was not released. This pin remained unavailable until the end of 2011 despite the milestone date being in March 2011. When this pin was finally released, it was limited to a very small number with the majority being retained for future sets. It is likely that only 50 were issued to collectors and all through one retailer who sold their entire stock almost immediately. This is the rarest retail pin issued so far. Apart from this particular example, the remaining pins are limited to 3,000 for the 1,000-day pins and 2,012 pieces for the 500, 400 and 300 day pins.

As well as this shard design, the retail countdown pins are also available with the mascots Wenlock and Mandeville. Wenlock is shown on the Olympic countdown pins for 500, 400 and 300 days and Mandeville on the Paralympic 400- and 300-day pins.

Each pin in this set is limited to 2,012 pieces and versions for 200-days-to-go will be released in January. The mascots also appear on one-year-to go-pins either carrying a flag or ‘peeping’ out from behind a large ‘1’. The latter were limited to 1,000 pieces each and have now sold out.

Up until November 2011, every countdown pin apart from those which had sold out was available from most London 2012 pin retailers. However, on Nov. 15, every version of the countdown pin was withdrawn from sale and Honav announced that these pins would not be released individually again. This means that the only way to get any individual pins missing from your collection will be to trade for them. There has been no announcement as to how long future countdown pins will be available, but my advice would be to add them to your collection sooner rather than later as they are issued. The mascot versions of the 200-day pins have already all been allocated to retailers, so in essence they are sold out as the manufacturer has no more to replenish retailer stocks once the initial pins are sold.

Internal Pin

London 2012 has issued one internal pin to all LOCOG and Olympic Delivery Authority staff that can be classified as a countdown pin. This pin was issued in July 2011 at the one-year-to-go mark to thank all the staff for their effort. The pin combines a Union Flag logo together with the text ‘1 year to go’ on a silver background with the words ‘Thank You’ printed on the back of the pin. There were 4,250 of this pin issued. Given its limited distribution, this pin is relatively hard to come by at present.

Sponsor Pins

A number of sponsors have issued countdown pins with BT, Lloyds Banking Group, EDF, Coca-Cola and Adidas being the most notable and generous to collectors.

BT has used a consistent design across their pins combining the company logo with the London 2012 logo and the countdown number. Their pins have been available since 1,000 days to go, which makes them one of the first sponsors to issue countdown pins.

These pins have been issued in batches of between 4,000 and 6,000 pins.

Lloyds Banking Group has also issued a number of countdown pins since the two-years-to-go mark. These pins share a theme in terms of design rather than being identical. The pins use the geometric shapes found on the retail pins, but also incorporate colors and logos appropriate to the sponsor.

Lloyds not only produced Olympic countdown pins but also Paralympic countdown pins. The photograph shows a range of their pins issued so far in both varieties. For their one-year-to-go pins, Lloyds issued two almost identical pins. In one, the body of the ‘1’ numeral was hollow and in the other it had a green translucent infill – the first London 2012 pin to use this effect. Several of the Lloyds Banking Group pins are available in the green 'Lloyds TSB’ brand (shown) and also in the blue ‘Bank of Scotland’ brand. These pins have been released in issues from 250 to 5,000 pins per design.

EDF has only recently started issuing countdown pins, but its ranges are noteworthy because the Olympic and Paralympic versions have two completely different designs.

The Olympic countdown pins feature fireworks on a triangular shard. Each firework pattern is different for the various countdown dates. Only 300- and 200-day pins have been issued so far, but more pins are promised. The Paralympic countdown range features Olympic venues and buildings. Only a 300-day-pin has been issued so far featuring the Aquatics Center. Again, more pins are promised in this series. Issue sizes for these range from 500 to 1,000.

Coca-Cola boasts a major presence in Olympic pin collecting and has issued four countdown pins so far to mark the two-year, one-year and the 500-days-to-go dates.

Adidas has issued pins to mark both Olympic and Paralympic countdowns, and their pins prove to be some of the more difficult to obtain compared with the previous sponsors.

A selection of adidas pins are shown and although they all mark countdowns, unlike the other sponsors, there appears to be no consistent theme or design running through the pins. Issue sizes for these range from 400 to 2,000.

More to Come

So whatever your taste or preference, there are a number of countdown pins to add to your collection. Some are very easy to come across in trades while others are not so easy. I've provided a summary of the pins that are available, but if you would like to know more about individual pins, please take a look at mywebsite.

With a little over 200 days still to go to both Olympic and Paralympic Games, there are still a lot more countdown pins to come and we can expect that as we get closer to the Opening Ceremony, they will arrive daily.

Next month: the Royal Mail stamps and pins

In the meantime: visit ATR's special "Pin Points" webpage to stay plugged into the world of Olympic memorabilia as the London 2012 Games approach

Paul McGill runs the collectors’ website This non-commercial website aims to be the definitive source for London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic pin information. The site contains a comprehensive catalog of all the London Olympic pins as well as news articles and background on pins and pin collecting.

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