Olympic Pins: Only 100 To A Customer

ARE THERE TOO MANY OLYMPIC collectibles? Producers are cranking out official 1996 Olympic lapel pins, which now range in price from $5 to $100, depending on design and workmanship. Collectors fret that supply will be so abundant that the pins' cachet--and value--will sink. Gripes Donald Bigsby, president of the Olympin Collectors Club: "You can't mass-produce collectibles."

They blame the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) for licensing four pin companies, charging as much as $3.5 million each, then setting no cap on production numbers. High license fees, say critics, mean that the licensees must crank out the pins to make back their money. Pins have been the leading Olympic collectible item since the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games.

But ACOG and the producers believe the demand exists for more pins, whose motifs include everything from the traditional five rings to the Olympics '96 mascot--a blob named Izzy. "We're creating collectors," says Brad Shuman, president of San Diego producer Imprinted Products. Imprinted is making 50 million pins for this Olympics--almost three times the previous record.

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