Trade Routes

Ryan Smith, a 14-year-old resident of Park City, Utah, has staked out his own circular table inside the large tent on Main Street that’s serving as Coca-Cola’s pin-trading center. He bluntly tells all comers, including Shoptalk, that he’s unlikely to part with the most prized pins here at the Winter Olympics: one showing a bowl of cubed green Jell-O (Utah’s official snack) and another with two Mormon mission aries on bicycles. “They’re selling on the street for $100 to $200,” says Smith, whose older brother Sean competed in freestyle moguls in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway. Ryan has had the pin-trading bug ever since.

He’s not alone. Zane Till took leave from selling dental equipment in Salt Lake City to work for Coke, super vising pin trading in the tent. What surprises him most is “how serious people get and how quickly it becomes an infatuation.”

The tent hosted some 7,000 people a day during the Games, including pin-trading czars like Edward Playfair. Coke sold a different $10 pin each day. Its rare Valentine’s Day offering was said to be going for $400 on eBay. (A search turned up no such item or price.)

Bob Copeland of Chattanooga, Tenn.—a portrait photographer, avid trader since Atlanta 1996 and owner of 3,000 pins—explains the appeal: “It’s the excitement, it’s the fun. Look at all the people I get to meet.” How much is his collection worth? “To tell you the truth,” he says, “after the Olympics, these pins are worthless.”