You might not be able to win any medals in the so-called ‘unofficial sport of the Canada Games,’ but you can certainly take home some shiny new hardware.
There is a whole subculture of pin trading at major sporting events such as the Canada Games and the Olympics, and Barry Taman is at the centre of it. He’s the vice-president of business and sales at the Pin People, the Regina company behind the official lapel pins of the Canada Games for the past seven years.
You can find Taman at the Pin Trading post at The Forks, which opens every afternoon at 4:30 p.m., with his miniature — and highly coveted — works of art. Some of the team pins are quite intricate; the Team Nunavut Puzzle, made of interlocking pins, is especially beautiful. "Team Nunavut is very special," he says, pointing out that because of the small number of athletes Nunavut sends to the Games, their athletes may not medal.
"Their medals are their pins, so they become, like, the hottest pins in the Athlete’s Village. They’re very sought-after." Another pin high on people’s wishlists is the bobble-head buffalo designed for Team Manitoba.
Pin trading appeals to a collector’s completionist sensibilities, and the scarcity of certain pins adds to the thrill. But pin-trading is also just a great ice-breaker.
"It’s a big social part of the games," Taman says. "All the athletes bring pins. It’s a great way for athletes to meet other athletes from across Canada. The volunteers have pins, the sponsors have pins — so now you have all the different parts (of the games), mixing and mingling, trading pins. The Canada Games are more than just competitions. They’re really about bringing Canada together in so many different ways."
The Pin People have been in the pin business for 40 years, and started out with curling pins. In 1988, the company became the official licensee of the Canadian Olympic Team and was involved in managing the Coca-Cola Pin Trading Centre. "You can’t go anywhere in Calgary without bumping into someone who says, ‘Geez, I got pins from the ’88 Olympics,’" Taman says. "That was our big start in the pin business."
There is some pin-trading etiquette to be aware of. You don’t interrupt a trade in progress, for example, and trades should be equitable — a good pin for a good pin. Oh, and this one’s important: if you’re wearing it, you’re willing to trade it. "If you have a really, really good pin, you probably shouldn’t wear it," Taman cautions.
The Pin Trading Post attracts serious pin collectors, such as the members of the Winnipeg Pin Collectors Club. But then there are also people like Jamal Begg of Yellowknife, who are just getting, er, pinterested.
Begg, 16, already has a hat full of pins, most of which he’s collected in the past four days. He’s a member of the Northwest Territories Youth Ambassador Program, which has its own pin. It’s a rare one, too — only about 100 in circulation — so he’s been able to trade one for two or three.
"It’s a fun way to meet people and talk," he says. "It’s a conversation starter."
Taman figures his company produced about 120 different pins for the 2017 Canada Summer Games, and there are people out there who are trying to collect ’em all.
"It’s like the biggest scavenger hunt in Winnipeg right now," he says.
"People are mixing and mingling all over Winnipeg. In hotels and restaurants, if they see someone with a lanyard, they go up and say, ‘Do you have a pin to trade?’"