Collectors Earn Gold With Olympic Memorabilia

I hope you’re as excited about the return of the Winter Olympics as I am. It’s such a welcome relief to see the beauty of ice skating and the thrill of skiing, hockey, snowboarding and all the other winter sports when you’re getting tired of the ice and snow on a personal level.

Collectors are always competing for the colorful pins, posters, clothing and even torches from Olympic games. The Olympics create a worldwide collecting competition, with enthusiasts all over the globe seeking the memorabilia associated with these great athletes in the international arena.

Every two years, the games take place in various cities and regions, and each time, there are years of site preparation and advertising. Naturally, the advertising items are attractive to collectors and can include everything from cereal boxes, like the one in the column today, to tickets, stamps, pins and toys.

Ever since 1968, an official mascot has been created and marketed, too. That was the year that the winter competition was held in Grenoble, France, and the mascot was Schuss, a cartoon-like character on skis. Usually the mascot is an animal or image native to the host city.

The first major mascot that was popular with collectors was Misha, the Moscow Summer Olympics bear who earned more than typical merchandise due to demand. Misha even starred in an animated cartoon and eventually went on to meet Mickey Mouse himself a few years later when Mickey celebrated his 60th birthday.

This year for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, the mascot is Soohorang, a cute white tiger that offers protection and friendship, two qualities that seem even more important this year.

According to information, the white tiger has been long considered Korea’s guardian animal. Sooho actually means protection in Korean and symbolizes the protection offered to the athletes, spectators and other participants of the 2018 Games. Rang comes from the middle letter of Ho-rang-I, the Korean word for tiger, and is also the last syllable of a folk song of Gangwon Province, where the games are being held.

Whatever the meaning behind the cute white tiger, he looks fun to me, especially the version that shows him kicking his foot up with a smile. Bandabi is the name of the companion mascot created for the Paralympic games and he’s an Asiatic black bear symbolizing strong will and courage. Both are available in plush or plastic, pins and more. These cuties also are animated emoticons on South Korea’s No. 1 messaging app, KaTalk.

Of course, there have been years that the mascot hasn’t been successful, like the Greek Athena and Phevos figures that were criticized as unappealing back in 2004. So keep in mind, as with all collectibles, you should buy these trinkets only if you like them; there is no guarantee that the value will increase, especially with novelties made in mass quantity.

But lots of collectors enjoy following their favorite athlete or Olympic event and would enjoy sharing their enthusiasm with others. For others, the international nature of the Olympics makes it a great hobby for fans of travel, with colorful flags, cultural customs and national traditions displayed in this friendly competitive way.

For serious collectors, there also are participation medals. These specially designed medals are given to each participant in all games. They are marked with the venue and dates. Olympic officials receive them also, and the ones going at auction bring hundreds of dollars.

I was surprised to learn that you can even find official torches for sale. It seems that thousands are produced for the torch runs and some of these end up being sold. The iconic torches are uniquely designed each year with different shapes and markings. These souvenir torches cost thousands of dollars at resale, but what a conversation piece!

Another category of interest is posters, programs, tickets and autographs of athletes. Paper items need to be in great shape to be worth buying or selling though. EBay offers a good buying guide for Olympic stuff, so I suggest you start there and go for the gold.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambitomaureen@hot or by writing in care of this newspaper.