Beginner's Guide to Olympic Pin Collecting-Pin Backs
Although the majority of information you might need to determine interest in an Olympic pin will be found on the face, don't overlook the fact that many pins have specific information on the pin-backs. Often pins will have production levels, factory marks, copyright holder, pin number, or other information on the backs. Even the type of fastener can sometimes determine the Olympic Edition the pin comes from.
Production levels are often important in deciding the value of a certain pin. If you don't have a catalog with specific information about it you might find it on the back. Many 1980 Moscow Sports pins have the production limit in 1000s. Most 1996 Atlanta pins use the last number in the ACOP identifier as the production limit. The lower the number is the fewer were made. Many 2000 Sydney pins had low production levels which can be found on the pin-back. An example is the Pictogram/Mascot spinner pins. These were limited to 1000 and are marked as such on the back. Many 2004 Athens Sports pins had production limits of 25,000. That might seem like a lot of pins, but remember that these are distributed around the entire world. Some Olympic Editions don't have production levels on the pins. You have to determine the number produced from the pin catalogs. Please also remember that all Olympic pins do not reach their maximum production levels. A particular pin from Atlanta might have a much lower number produced than is reflected in the production level.
You may also find the company that made a pin by looking at the pin-back. It's difficult for me to understand the factory marks on older pins produced before 1984. Most Olympic pins are actually made in China. Some Olympic Committees select only one or two companies to make their pins. Some license many. Aminco, Balfour, Ho Ho, and Imprinted Products produced the majority of pins for the Centennial Games in Atlanta. Aminco made many of the pins for Sydney. Artiss-Regina produced pins for Calgary. Oo La La did pins for Los Angeles. Trofe and Aminco produced pins for Athens. As of this writing Aminco had the exclusive rights to produce pins for the United States Olympic Committee. Other NOCs have exclusive contracts with a particular supplier. Besides the aforementioned companies, Pin Pros has produced NOC pins. There are too many others to cover in this overview.
One piece of information found on recent Olympic pins is the holder of the copyright. All Olympic Editions, NOCs, and the IOC hold copyrights to the symbols identifying their pins. Games Marks, poster styles, Mascots, and even the Olympic Rings are copyrighted. The most common copyright information on Olympic pins is the host city. An example might be an Atlanta Games Mark pin. After the copyright sign you might find a date (the date for the copyrighted symbol), and ACOG (Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games) You can usually figure out the Olympic Edition by looking at the date or anagrams for the Olympic Committees. Sports Associations and Federations have their own set of copyrighted symbols.
Pin numbers can be found on many Olympic pins. These are numbers which identify the particular pin. Typically it might contain the year produced, an specific ID number, and a production level. Most pin catalogs will tell you how to read the codes for each Olympic edition. Other information, such as a precious metal mark, may be found on the pin-backs.
The most common pin fasteners are straight (stick) pin, safety pin, locking safety pin, military clutch (butterfly), hard rubber, and tie tack. Remember that the generic name for the thousands of Olympic pins is Lapel Pin. These were made to be worn. The earliest pins had a straight pin. Many of the pins from 1984 Sarajevo still used these. The most common fastener for 1980 Moscow was the safety pin fastener. Some famous 1984 Los Angeles sets had locking safety pin fasteners. By far, the most common modern fastener is the military clutch. It has a butterfly clasp which locks to a grooved pin post on the pin-back. Hard rubber fasteners have become popular because they serve the same function as the military clutch type, but the smooth surface will not damage clothing. The most expensive fastener to make is the tie tack. This uses a notched pin post with a spiral groove. The clasp is pushed on and then tightened to lock it in place. The smooth metal back will not damage clothing.