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Pin collectors pine for Games mementos

It's barely a week old, but the new West Valley 2002 pin is expected to be among the most sought after items at a series of upcoming Olympic pin shows.

The first show is Thursday, Feb. 12, at the downtown Salt Lake Marriott Hotel from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free.There are no medals awarded for it, but collecting and trading pins is definitely an Olympic event. Pins are made to commemorate bid efforts, success at being named an Olympic host, special events, individual sports and corporate sponsorships.

Since limited quantities of pins are made, they become a hot commodity on the secondary market. Pins that originally cost less than $10 can end up going for hundreds of dollars.

A pin released in August 1996, when there were exactly 2002 days left until the start of the Salt Lake Games, is now reportedly valued around $400. It originally sold in stores for $20.02.

But often pins, dubbed the "unofficial currency" of the Olympics, end up freely exchanging hands as part of the unofficial goodwill games.

"It's not like `buy 'em, kids, they're a great investment'; it's buy the pins because they're fun," said Jolene Aubel, a marketing representative for Aminco International Inc. Aminco is the official pin maker for the 2002 Winter Games.

Aubel even used a pin to get out of trouble once. "We were able to barter our way out of a parking ticket in Tignes (a venue site in France) with Olympic pins," she said. "The fun part about trading the pins is the stories behind them."

Aubel has a personal collection of more than 1,600 pins, including pins from the 1976 and 1980 Olympics.

Aminco has created 102 different pins for Salt Lake City, ranging from a special Mother's Day pin to one commemorating Salt Lake City being named a host city. It also makes collector pins for the U.S. Ski Team and USA Hockey and has a license for the Nagano Olympic line of pins.

The pins usually cost $6 or $10, depending on size, at the retail level. In addition to the West Valley pin, which memorializes the E Center as the Games' hockey venue, a pin issued for the original bid campaign is highly coveted. The gold pin features two crossed skis.

Watch for a two-piece pin created for the unveiling of the new 2002 logo, too, Aubel said.

Three other pin shows are planned during February. JC Penney at the Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City will host a show this weekend that is expected to attract pin dealers from around the country. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

On Feb. 19, a second show will be held at the downtown Salt Lake Marriott Hotel from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. And a final show will be Feb. 21 at the Souvenir Stop in the ZCMI Center from noon to 3 p.m.