Utah couple celebrates Olympic pin trading 20 years after Salt Lake Games

Feb 15, 2022, 11:56 AM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 4:31 pm
(KSL TV)...

SALT LAKE CITY — In 1998, Mike and Paula Bennett owned a soccer store in the old Cottonwood Mall. They were on the bottom floor and bought some Olympic pins to sell for the upcoming games that were four years out. Sales for the pins plummeted when an official pin store opened on the main level. So, Mike Bennett took the 100-or-so pins, including original green Jell-O pins, and put them under the front counter and forgot about them.

Fast forward four years. The Olympics are now in full swing in Salt Lake City when Bennett sees a story run on a local station about people trading pins. He quickly remembers those pins under the counter. He got them out, dusted them off and went downtown with them. And, that’s where the fun really started for Bennett, who now has a collection of 3,500 official pins from the 2002 Winter Games.

Paula and Mike Bennett. (KSL TV)

“He couldn’t speak English,” Bennett tells the story of his first trade. “He put three down, pointed to that one and I nodded.”

That transaction lit a fire Bennett didn’t know existed in him. He told his wife, Paula, she should come with him and check out all of the pins.

“I hadn’t really heard of pin trading,” Paula Bennett said. “When I saw the green Jell-O pins I said to Mike, ‘What does the have to do with the Olympics?’”

One of the Bennetts’ green Jell-O pins is seen in a display case. (KSL TV)

She quickly learned there was a whole world of pins and traders playing an unofficial Olympic sport that was fun and exciting.

“Once you realize every pin has a story and was made for a reason,” that’s when you start to understand the game. One the Bennetts have been playing for 20 years. And the more time goes by, the more they love their collection. The feelings of nostalgia and having the chance to share the collection with others is one of the most rewarding parts of collecting the pins in what, they say, was the best Olympic Games ever.

“It was incredible,” Mike Bennett said. “And that’s why it’s known as probably one of the most successful games ever.”

The pin collection has everything from green Jell-O and fry sauce to fancy gold and diamond-encrusted pins created by OC Tanner, the same company that created the official medals won by athletes.

The Bennetts will tell you the patriotic pins and the official pins that represent the games are their favorites. If you remember, Salt Lake’s Games came just months after 9/11. Of course, pins were created to commemorate that too. Mike Bennett gets emotional as he points out the pin with firefighters raising the flag in New York and another pin representing the tattered American Flag as it was carried into Rice-Eccles Stadium by athletes during the opening ceremony.

The Bennetts now hold an open house for friends and family to look at the collection during Olympic Games. It’s something that started in 2020 and enjoyed again last week.

Paula Bennett never would have dreamed they would be pin collectors, but she loves the collection now for many reasons.

The Bennetts now hold an open house for friends and family to look at the collection during Olympic Games. (KSL TV)

“Our theme was ‘Light the Fire From Within,’ and I feel that passion, and the fire within, I think the pins really were that for me, and for us with this collection,” she said.

The Bennetts say they likely won’t start another pin collection, but don’t rule out expanding this one.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Olympic Utah

FILE: PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 25: Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn of the United States at...
Matt Rascon, KSL TV

Bid for SLC Olympics gets boost from Lindsey Vonn at meeting in Switzerland

The bid to bring the Olympics back to the state got a boost Wednesday, as Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn joined officials for a meeting with the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland.
19 days ago
ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 18: Gold medallist Ailing Eileen Gu of Team China poses with their me...
Michael Houck, KSL TV

Olympic Champion Eileen Gu will represent Salt Lake City for Olympic bid

Olympic athlete Eilee Gu will serve as the global ambassador for Salt Lake City's bid to host either the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games.
26 days ago
Utah team in Special Olympics...
Alex Cabrero, KSL TV

Wasatch represents Utah at National Special Olympics with cheers, fun

The Wasatch High School Unified Basketball team competed Tuesday at the National Special Olympics in Orlando. One of the athletes had everyone cheering her on, even though she didn't make a single basket.
27 days ago
USA Climbing competition in SLC on May 21st, 2022...
Alex Cabrero, KSL TV

World’s best climbers in SLC for competition

It's the perfect time for Salt Lake to be at the forefront of the sport’s popularity.
1 month ago
Nathan Chen of Team United States reacts during the Men Single Skating Short Program on day four of...
Morgan Wolfe, KSL TV

Gold medalist Nathan Chen returns to the ice at Maverik Center

Salt Lake City showed Nathan Chen they’ll always support him.
2 months ago
Nathan Chen at Utah Capitol (KSL TV)...
Alex Cabrero, KSL TV

‘Nathan Chen Day,’ Olympic gold medalist honored at Utah Capitol

Nathan Chen had been working his whole life for that gold medal moment during the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Today he is back in Utah to celebrate.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Utah couple celebrates Olympic pin trading 20 years after Salt Lake Games