Olympic pin trader has collected 200,000 pins since 1984

Calgarian Bill Baker and his pin-covered red scarf have been a familiar sight at the Olympic Games for more than 30 years.

Calgarian Bill Baker has swapped pins and gained friends at Olympic Games around the globe

Calgarian Bill Baker has swapped pins and gained friends at Olympic Games around the globe 1:06

Calgarian Bill Baker and his pin-covered red scarf have been a familiar sight at the Olympic Games for more than 30 years. But this year, the pin trader is grounded for the first time since 1998, by a recent surgery.

"I'll be honest it's ... it's hard to watch — like the opening ceremonies, I thought about getting up and no I can't do it and I was watching them and I was getting a lump and I was getting, you know, butterflies and whatever that I wasn't there," Baker said. 

The collector has about 200,000 pins and brings up to 10,000 to each Olympics he attends for trading.

Bill Baker shows off his enormous pin collection in Calgary. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

He's traded pins at the following Winter and Summer Olympic Games, and says he's made plenty of friends along the way:

  • 1984, Los Angeles
  • 1988, Calgary
  • 1996, Atlanta
  • 2000, Sydney
  • 2002, Salt Lake City
  • 2004, Athens
  • 2006, Torino
  • 2008, Beijing
  • 2010, Vancouver
  • 2012, London
  • 2014, Sochi​

"It's a vehicle to meet people and you know, socialize and whatever and yeah, you're in Athens or you're in Beijing — and there's many friendships I still have to this day," Baker said.

"I've had people come here, stay with me here from Beijing and Australia or whatever. I've gone back there, I went back for Chinese New Year in Beijing which is incredible."

Calgary-born Bill Baker has plenty of pins from the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

He's traded for pins as old as the Munich '72 games, and has pins from every Olympics since.

And it's not just pins he's received in trades along the way.

In Sochi, he met a Russian police officer who wanted to trade for some pins, but didn't have any pins to swap in return.

"He had nothing to trade, and he pointed at his hat and he said 'How about this?' in kind of broken English/Russian, and I said, 'Yes, of course!'"

Bill Baker shares a photo of himself, wearing his red scarf full of pins. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

He says the atmosphere of the Olympics is what keeps him going every time.

"For anybody that's been to Disneyland or somewhere like that, you walk in the gates and it's a whole different world. Everybody's smiling, everybody's happy, they're shaking hands ... and it's the same way at the Olympics," he said.

Baker says he plans to be back trading at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

With files from Terri Trembath