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A scribe & his unique love affair

other Updated: Nov 25, 2010 00:06 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times
Asian games

It's like any other hobby, but Gu Chen, hailing from Beijing, has taken it to another level. It's quite common to come across philatelists, coin collectors, but Chen, a journalist by profession, has made it a hobby of collecting antique pins from all across the world.

Standing outside the Main Press Centre, with accreditation cards of mega-sporting events hanging from the neck, he looks for potential 'customers' from various national Olympic committees to exchange pins, which he says has been his love for the last five years.

Displayed over a makeshift stand kept on a dustbin, the pins, dating back to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, are neatly packed in small plastic packets and his heart fills up with pride, the moment someone asks "How did you manage this?"

"I don't know when I fell in love with this. Do we need a reason to fall in love, it just happens," says the 40-year-old, who has been granted accreditation by the Asian Games Organising Committee to "ply his trade".

Every morning he is there with two black bags, attracting curious onlookers. Passers-by go through his catalogue and if they have a unique pin not in Chen's collection, he readily exchanges it for one of his.

"We are not here for money. For that I have a job," he told HT. A keen lover of sports, Gu has played "soccer, snooker and table tennis", but what holds his attention is not action on the field, but officials and athletes coming out of the competition arenas, who are willing to exchange these mementoes.

"Some people in the US and Europe do sell pins," he says, "but with me, it's different. My 1936 Olympic Games pin can fetch me $400, but I am not interested. There are some pins in my collection of around 3,000 which are not to be exchanged."

The most important collection is a set of 204 national Olympic committees (NOCs) pins. "I have the pins of all the 204 NOCs that participated at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The one pin that is worth a million for a collector is that of the Liberian NOC, which I got by chance at the Beijing Games. It's very expensive."

From the 2006 Doha Asiad to the 2008 Beijing Games to the 2010 Guangzhou Games, Chen has travelled in search for that precious commodity.