Kinnaman is sticking to Olympic pin collection


March 06, 1994|By Ruth Sadler | Ruth Sadler,Sun Staff Writer

One of the most popular Olympic activities isn't limited to athletes. It's pin collecting -- and swapping.

John Kinnaman, of Howard County, began his extensive Olympic memorabilia collection in 1956. He attended high school in Germany, and his football coach took members of the team to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, for the Winter Games. As an adult, Kinnaman lived overseas on and off for 20 years. "I kept visiting these sites and collecting more stuff," he says.

"Since pins weren't a big deal til '84 in Los Angeles," he mostly collected commemorative medals and posters.

Things have changed. He went to Lillehammer, Norway, with a few hundred pins -- corporate and media pins as well as those representing the U.S. Olympic effort -- to swap with foreign collectors. He didn't have to buy a pin.

Kinnaman, whose interest in Olympic memorabilia led him to open Treasures of the Games at Antique Center 3 in Savage Mill, found more trading in Lillehammer, Norway, than two years ago xTC in either Albertville, France, or Barcelona, Spain.

"It was easy to trade pins . . . because everybody was displaying pins," he says. "It seemed almost as if every single person walking down the street had pins." There were also opportunities to swap at event venues.

The biggest activity was on Lillehammer's main street. At the Coca-Cola trading center, people could buy Coke's pins, but nothing else could be sold -- trading only.

Kinnaman's prized acquisitions were an official Olympic pin from the 1952 Oslo Games in perfect condition and a poster from the '52 Games signed by the artist. He found the poster at a crafts show in the hotel lobby on his last night in Norway.

Kinnaman says it's not too soon for new collectors to prepare for the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996. He recommends beginners join the Olympin Collectors Club, 1386 Fifth St., Schenectady, N.Y., 12303 and the Official 1996 Olympic Games Pin Society (sponsored by Coca-Cola), (800) PINS-4-96.

"Before this became a frenzy, about 10 years ago," Kinnaman says, "you could write to companies and they'd send you pins."

He says novice collectors can become knowledgeable as well as accumulate enough pins to swap in the next two years. They can get pins through ads in Olympin's newsletter, at gift shops at U.S. Olympic training sites and at the Olympic Experience in Atlanta.

Pinnacle baseball II

Right around the time baseball season opens, Pinnacle's second series will be available. As in Series I, all 330 cards will also be produced in a gold-foil version, with one gold card in each pack. A 20-card insert set called "The Cycle" features the major-league leaders in singles, doubles, triples and home runs.

Hall of fame plaques

Legendary Foils is offering plaques of Hall of Famers in four sports. Each plaque has a bust of the player, career highlights and a serial number in gold foil on a dark background. The players are baseball's Lou Gehrig, Satchel Paige, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner, basketball's Elvin Hayes, Jerry Lucas, Earl Monroe and Bob Petit, football's Red Badgro, Terry Bradshaw, Sam Huff and Jim Thorpe and hockey's Mike Bossy, Woody Dumart, Frank Mahovlich and Milt Schmidt.

Coming events

Through Oct. 31, "Sheriff and His 'Boys,' " exhibit on Sheriff Fowble, who helped develop major-leaguers Al Kaline, Ron Swoboda and Tim Nordbrook, Babe Ruth Museum, 216 Emory St., (410) 727-1539.

March 13, card show at Holiday Inn Cromwell Bridge, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., (410) 239-7446.

March 25-27, 13th annual Olympic Collectors Show, Lake Placid, N.Y.

March 26, sports memorabilia auction at Christie's East, 502 Park Ave., New York.


Card collectors, of course, had seen it all before -- Michael Jordan as baseball player on No. SP1 in Upper Deck's 1991 baseball. The price had been languishing between $6 and $8, but jumped when the White Sox invited Jordan to spring training. Interest has been brisk, and prices have trebled. There are also reports of counterfeits.

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