Pin Points - Paul McGill Talks Olympic Sport Pin Collecting

(ATR) Paul McGill tackles sport pin collecting for the London 2012 Games in this week's installment of Pin Points ...

Since I have been documenting the London 2012 pins and talking to both seasoned collectors and new starters, a common theme of collecting has emerged. Lots of people like to collect pins based around a specific sport. Sometimes it may be a sport they play, other times perhaps it's a sport to which they have secured Olympic tickets. In one case it happened to be the sport in which they won a gold medal at Beijing 2008! Whatever the reason, this month I'm looking at some of the pins that can be collected to celebrate a chosen sport.

The Pictograms

Nothing identifies a sport more clearly than a pictogram. Indeed, that is one of their primary purposes at an event where spectators speak many languages. Just the sight of a well designed pictogram can indicate the correct way. The London 2012 pictograms were announced back in 2009 and at the launch, individual pins for each sport were available. Each pin used the pictogram and the name of the sport against a background of one of the brand colours and all were limited to 5,000 pieces for the Olympic sports and 3,000 pieces for the Paralympic sports. Since their launch, they have proved popular with the public and a number have now sold out.

Whilst the original pictogram pins were available individually, the next pins to be released were not. Two sets of pewter effect, square pictograms were launched in August 2011. These were framed sets and each was limited to 2,012 pieces.

Most recently, selected sports have been issued as gold effect pictogram pins combining the London 2012 Olympic or Paralympic logo as appropriate to the sport. These are limited to 10,000 (Olympic) and 5,000 (Paralympic) pieces.

Sporting Mascots

Throughout 2011, a steady release of pins showing Wenlock and Mandeville trying the various sports have complimented the pictogram pins. The mascots are pictured trying each sport with separate pins for track athletics and field athletics, both forms of gymnastics and all three equestrian disciplines. Some of the pins take a humorous look at the mascots such as Wenlock trying weightlifting or on the balance beam. Each design is available as either an enamel pin (10,000 pieces) or printed (200,000 Olympic and 100,000 Paralympic). So whilst these pins are not as rare as their pictogram versions, they make a great addition to the range with some unusual designs such as the diving or trampoline pins.

There are also plans for a very large framed set of all the Olympic mascot sports as oversized pins. They make an impressive display if you have a large wall.

Sporting Equipment

The latest addition to the sports range is a small series of pins depicting sporting equipment. There are six pins in the collection and they combine items such as a basketball or football in gold with a London 2012 logo. These pins are limited to 10,000 pieces each and have only recently been launched.

Stamp pins

Regular readers may recall an earlier article in this series that described the Royal Mail’s set of sporting stamps. Each stamp was reproduced as a pin and therefore these too can be considered as belonging to the theme of sports pins. Like the pictograms, they cover the entire range of Olympic and Paralympic sports but where a sport is contested in both Games, it is reproduced as one pin. Each pin in this series is limited to 20,000 pieces.

Venue Pins

As well as the actual sports, do not forget the venues in which they will be played. At the time of writing, we have not seen any venue pins for retail, however there are venue specific designs that will be available at Games time. These may depict the actual venue or perhaps the sport being played there. We will have to wait and see.

There have been some pin designs that show the venues, but these were issued by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) – the company that constructed the Olympic Park and venues. These pins are not offered to collectors or the public.

Coca-Cola Sporting Pins

Coca-Cola is in the unique position of being a sponsor that also issues retail pins. At London 2012 they have a number of themes for their pins, two of which are sports and venues. Their pins will highlight ten sports and five venues.


Finally for this article, mention should be made of a couple of sponsors who have issued pins featuring sports. Most noticeably, Panasonic have created three pins that show the familiar sporting mascot poses but with the sponsor name included.

Another sponsor has also created a number of pins featuring the mascots trying out a few sports. These are for use inside the company and will therefore be hard to find for collectors. They have not been issued yet, hence they are not named in this discussion.

As always, this article provides only a high level overview of the pins available. If you would like to see more, then take a look at the sports page on the London Pins website.

Thank you to Coca-Cola for the use of the images of their pins.

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 catalogue of all the London Olympic pins as well as news articles and background on pins and pin collecting.

Visit the ATR Pin Points - London Collectibles webpage, dedicated to London 2012 pins.

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