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  • Olympic Memorabilia: Tepid Market for Beijing Collectibles


    The Lenovo Water Cube pin (second row, left) has been popular. (ATR)
    Supply Exceeds Demand for Most Beijing Collectibles

    Type "Beijing Olympic" into eBay's search engine and nearly 5,000 collectible items will appear. The memorabilia ranges from a set of coins (12 silver and six gold) for $7,000 to official posters, stickers or stamps for $.01.

    Looking for something to wear? A Speedo LZR swimsuit that the California seller says was worn by an Olympic medalist has a starting price of $350. Official volunteer shirts are available in orange or blue for $16.99 -- just pick a size.

    Pin collectors are once again enjoying a post-Olympic bonanza. Pins from nearly every Olympic NOC, sponsor and media organization are for sale, as well as generic pins celebrating Chinese culture, Beijing venues and Olympic sports. Most are selling for $5 to $20.

    The market is flooded with the five FUWA mascots in every size and sets of souvenir medals that sell for a fraction of their shipping costs.
    The Olympic participation medal is always sought by collectors.

    But most of the eBay items are going unsold.

    "There's not a high demand," U.S. collector Randy Parsons of Riverdale, Ga. told Around the Rings.

    He and other collectors said the relatively small number of U.S. fans who
    went to the Games kept the post-Beijing market from developing into the frenzy
    that accompanied the hunt for Athens 2004 souvenirs.

    "There weren't many Americans there apart from families of athletes and officials," Tom Burke of Burtonsville, Md. said during a recent Olympic collectibles show in an Atlanta suburb.

    Parsons said collectors are asking themselves, "Do I have to have all the Beijing pins?" "I don't," he said. Parsons is trying to get only one representative pin from each sponsor instead of every pin with the sponsor's name on it.

    Scarce Items Bring High Prices

    But collectors are eager to snap up the premier items: participation medals and IOC session badges.

    The same participation medals were handed out to athletes and media, so the number manufactured should be well over 20,000. However, media had to sign for the medals, so all of them probably weren't picked up. Prices on eBay and private sales have usually ranged from $280-$380, but the initial supply has already dried up.

    IOC session badges are even harder to find, fetching more than $330 on eBay.

    Ingrid O'Neil, one of the leading Olympic auctioneers in the world, said participation medals and session badges are always popular. "It depends on how many trickle down to
    Randy Parsons (right) tries to interest Helene White (left) in a drum from the Opening Ceremony. (ATR)
    the collectors," she said. "They are just starting to trickle down, and the first ones always get huge prices."

    Torches are scarce even though more than 22,000 were manufactured, according to reports. So where are they?

    "I have no idea," O'Neil said. "I am looking, too."

    An unused torch listed for $7,999.99 on eBay last week failed to sell. Another has been posted this week for $5,500 - plus $120 for shipping from Greece. There are no bids so far.

    Miniature replica torches made from the same material as the Bird's Nest Stadium are offered for just a few dollars by Chinese dealers, but watch out for an exorbitant shipping cost of almost $200.

    In O'Neil's latest auction, No. 57 which closed Sept. 6, a similar torch sold for $1,041, including a 15 percent commission.

    The small torches retailed for about $450 at the Super Store on the Olympic Green.

    Have an Extra Pikachu Pin for Sale?

    Collectors say the hottest pin of the Games has been the Pikachu pin of TV Tokyo, which has brought up to $200. The Asahi media pins are also popular,
    but Burke worries that some might be bootleg.

    Burke believes demand for pins will continue to taper off for a few months.

    "I think there'll be an uptick around Christmas time with people buying gifts. That happened after Athens."

    U.S. collector Helene White, who didn't go to Beijing, began watching eBay well before the Olympics.

    She told ATR she paid $15 or $20 for some pins that she saw other people purchase for $150.

    "I think I got some goodies," she said, "but I have a lust that I am dying to fulfill."

    She wants the Charles Fazzino multi-layered opening ceremony pin. White let one go for $515, but would pay up to $200.
    Sean Stowers, wearing a shirt from the Russia team sponsor, traded with the Chinese gymnasts in the Olympic Village. (ATR)

    Used tickets are going for about $10 on eBay up to more than $100 for Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Buyers are also collecting the opening and closing ceremony kits or pieces of the kits like small drums.

    Sean Stowers of Douglasville, Ga. made pins for the NOCs of Albania, Antigua-Barbuda, Bermuda, Grenada and Lesotho and traded in the Olympic Village every day.

    "The Chinese are kind of getting into it," he said. "The problem is they don't have expendable income."

    Stowers went home with some unique items. "I got down on my knees trading with the Chinese gymnasts," he said. "I have a polo shirt from one of the
    gymnasts autographed by the whole team. It would fit a teddy bear."

    He said the leotards and shirts the gymnasts traded him are probably not for sale. "But," he said, "if some big-time collector..."

    Written by
    Karen Rosen

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