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Journeys of an Olympic pin collector

February 12, 2014
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer ( , Lake Placid News

ADLER, Russia - "No money, that's not allowed."

Those were the words Bill Baker said to a young Russian man as he explained how pin collecting works at the Olympics.

The hobby of pin collecting has taken Baker around the globe, and this month, it's brought him to Sochi, Russia for the the 2014 Winter Olympics. On Monday, the 65-year-old from Calgary, Canada had part of his collection spread out on the sidewalk in front of the Main Media Center at Olympic Park. He set up is collection at the bus stop there, and business was brisk.

Article Photos

Bill Baker of Calgary, Canada stands next to his display of pins Monday at the bus stop in front of the Main Media Center for the Olympics in Adler, Russia.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

"I've been to 11 Olympics. My first was in 1984 in Los Angeles," Baker said. "It's fun, it's a great way to see the world and make new friends, and I collect pins. Doing this feeds my habit."

Baker said over the years, his collection has grown to 150,000 pins, although they aren't all Olympic related.

"I collect Olympic pins, Hard Rock guitar pins and CFL football pins," he said. "I love football. I didn't make it to the CFL, but I did play some semi-pro until my knees gave out. I was a defensive tackle."

Baker's Olympic pin hobby involves trading only, but he said that's not the case with the Hard Rock guitar pins.

"Those are expensive, but I have a passion for those."

When it comes to collecting here, Baker is on the hunt for anything relating to the Sochi Olympics, and he had plenty of Canadian-themed pins to trade. Baker, however, was quite willing to swap for souvenirs other than ones from these Olympics.

Baker doesn't seem like one who is afraid to speak his mind and let a person know about minding their manners. For example, he was working a deal with a visitor from Togo, perhaps a person from that country's Olympic delegation, when another man stepped between them.

"Excuse me," Baker told the guy. "You just don't come in between two people who are having a conversation."

The man came back a few minutes later and apologized, and Baker replied, with a smile, "I'm not mad. I just wanted to let you know that's not polite. You can't just butt in like that. I was busy with him." With no animosity between Baker and the gentleman, the two parted ways with a shake of the hands and a smile.

Baker said traveling to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Games turned out to be his favorite Olympic adventure, although he did give kudos to Calgary, which hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.

"Calgary is my home, so obviously that was a big deal for me," Baker said. "But I really like Beijing. Everybody was friendly in Beijing, and there was lots of pin trading.

"I booked my trip for six weeks, and I stayed three months, and then I went back for another month for the Chinese New Year celebration," Baker continued." If you see anything, you have to go to China for that. I'm 65, and that's the best time I've had in my life. One woman I met there, she had a friend living there who was from Calgary, and she introduced me to the man. Later on, she came to visit me in Calgary for a month to see the Stampede. I still keep in touch with her."

Baker said he's not just here to collect pins. Watching sports is also on his agenda.

"I've seen some curling and hockey. Hopefully, I'll get up to the mountains to see something up there. We'll see what happens. I want to take in as much as I can while I'm here."



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