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  • Lake Placid Hosts Striking Olympic Collectors Fair


    09/15/15

    (ATR) Lake Placid impresses Olympic collectors with atmosphere and cauldron lighting.

    Cauldron is lit in Lake Placid, New York for 21st World Olympic Collectors Fair. (ATR)
    About 300 people perused items and shared memories at the 21st World Olympic Collectors Fair last weekend in Lake Placid, New York, host of the 1932 and 1980 Games.

    “It’s my first time in Lake Placid, and it’s very interesting,” Irina Dzidziguri, one of seven Russians who made the trip, told Around the Rings.

    The show was held at the 1932 rink at the Olympic Center on Main Street, and organizers estimated about 300 people - including collectors and curiosity seekers - attended.

    “It’s been overwhelmingly successful,” Jon Becker, head of the organizing committee, told ATR. “It’s the largest show of its type that we’ve ever had in Lake Placid. The community really got behind it.”

    While most people were from the United States, 16 countries were represented, including Turkey, Greece, Slovakia and Lithuania.

    Prior to the show, about 90 people took a tour of the venues, including Whiteface Mountain and the bobsled facility, which has both new and old tracks.

    Irina Dzidziguri made the trek to New York from Russia for the fair (ATR)
    Many visitors also had their own little thrill ride - a quick zip on a luge sled at the USA Luge headquarters, where Olympic medalist Gordy Sheer gave them a shove down a short, icy track and luge official Dmitry Feld caught them.

    They then went to the Lake Placid Horse Show Grounds to stand in the same field where spectators watched the opening ceremony 35 years ago. The cauldron was lit mark to mark the occasion and local dignitaries spoke.

    “Our Olympic heritage is in our bloodlines,” said Mayor Craig Randall. He said the village of Lake Placid relights the torch to celebrate anniversaries and other Olympic Games.

    Keeping the flame burning, he said, could lead to “perhaps even returning a future Winter Olympiad.”

    Chinese Collecting Strong

    Hou Kun was one of 14 Chinese collectors at the show. Hou, who goes by the English name Justin, has written a book about Olympic history, culture and collecting with his wife, two-time Olympic taekwondo champion Wu Jingyu.

    Hou helped translate for many of his fellow collectors. “We cannot talk, but we can trade pins,” he said.

    He spoke passionately at the Olympin Club meeting Sunday morning about bringing more participants into the hobby, particularly young people.

    “That will be the future, not just rich people or old men,” Hou said.

    He added that many collectors in China are aged 25 to 35. Many took up the hobby for the 2008 Games and Hou believes more will become involved because of the excitement of the 2022 Winter Olympics coming back to Beijing.

    “We really do have a good future, and the Chinese market has a good future,” he said.

    Hunt for New Collectors

    Medals worth thousands of dollars (ATR)
    Outside of China, growth in the collecting field has been slow.

    Dzidziguri echoed Hou in saying that the hobby must attract youth. “We need to have the program for propaganda of pins and propaganda for children and youth,” she said.

    Dzidziguri added that many countries only make pins for the Olympic Games and no longer produce them for other events, such as regional competitions, which hurts the hobby.

    “If you don’t make anything, it’s nothing to collect,” she said.

    Dzidziguri, who works for the state sports museum in Moscow, was a member of the Olympic Philately, Numismatic and Memorabilia commission before it was disbanded in the wake of Agenda 2020.

    Collecting is now part of the larger Culture and Olympic Heritage Commission, but Dzidziguri said former commission members have been assured they will still be asked for opinions and guidance.

    She said Lake Placid items were popular at the show, but there was not much action from walk-ins.

    “Like every show, mostly it’s trading between the collectors,” Dzidziguri said.

    New Org Holds First Meeting

    AICO, the International Association of Olympic Collectors, held its first board meeting on Saturday. Officials then met with fair attendees to explain the mission of the organization representing Olympic stamp, coin and memorabilia collectors. It was formed last year and gained official recognition from the IOC at the session in Monaco in December.

    A Lithuanian collector shows his pins. (ATR)
    “It’s very important to the collector family that we have over us the umbrella of the IOC,” Roman Babut, AICO president, told ATR. “The mission is to make a platform for all groups of the Olympic collectors. We are the voice of the collecting community.”

    Babut said AICO can facilitate an exchange of information between collectors from different fields. For example, as a stamp collector, he said “behind the stamp, I must write a history of the stamp, why it was issued, what was the event, who is on the stamp, what was the background, etc. This is not existing for pin collectors.”

    AICO is only for clubs – not individuals -- and has 18 members. Olympin, the U.S.-based memorabilia club with an international membership, is the largest at 510.

    Valuable and Offbeat Items

    While many tables held Olympic winners’ medals valued at thousands of dollars, other items were available for as little as a dollar or two.

    Rich Fletcher of Janesville, Wisconsin, who took a table for the first time after attending previous shows, sold a London cookie tin for $2. However, he found no takers for an Atlanta Road to the Games video narrated by the athlete then known as Bruce Jenner. It was only $7, but required a working VCR to watch.

    Fletcher acquired his first collectibles in 1984: McDonald’s tray liners with beautiful art relating to the Sarajevo Games.

    “I was 14, and that’s when I really started getting into the Olympics," he said.

    Now Fletcher hosts viewing parties for Olympic opening ceremonies festooned with banners he has collected.

    “It’s my first time selling, and it’s just been fun and a learning experience,” said Fletcher, noting that it’s more exciting than his day job.

    “It’s much better than selling well pumps.”

    Future Show Sites

    While the host of the 22nd World Olympic Collector’s Fair has not been determined, Atlanta has been proposed as the next site for the Olympin show next October. The Olympin board will find out if any other cities are interested before voting.

    Reported in Lake Placid by Karen Rosen 

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