It is inevitable that along with all the genuine merchandise created for the Olympic Games, there will be an amount of fake or unofficial material offered for sale or trade. For the purposes of this article, we're classifying 'fakes' as those items which copy a legitimate pin but have not been produced by the genuine manufacturer and are being distributed from a source not recognised by LOCOG. 'Unofficial' pins are those which do not resemble the real pins, but aim to 'cash-in' on the Olympics by pretending to be associated in some way through the use, illegally, of logo, brand images or wording. These pins are not manufactured under IOC or LOCOG licence and are therefore not considered to be a London 2012 pin badge.
So the question for a pin collector is "How do I recognise a fake?"
I've tended to find that the fake pins are those with poorer quality printing, wrong shades of colour and offered without the backing card. So far, we've seen copies of both LOCOG and sponsor pins. In each case, these pins have been offered via eBay by sellers from China. That is not to say that all items on eBay from abroad are fake and that all items on eBay from the UK are genuine. Evidence to date seems to show that if a fake is being offered, it's more likely to come from a seller from China.
Some of the fakes that we have seen are of very good quality. They have the correct information boxes on the back of the pin and there is a repeating pattern on the back. The quality and shape of this pattern varies from pin to pin. The real pins have a consistency to them which is not evident in the fake pins. The printing on the front is accurate in terms of the design, however the quality, sharpness and clarity of the design is inferior to the real thing in most cases. The images below show an example of a fake sponsor pin.
The real pin is on the left and the fake on the right.
The edges of the text on the real pin are much sharper than those on the fake and the writing on the fake slopes down on the right hand side. There are also imperfections in the writing on the fake with what appear to be 'scratches' in the printing.
Also, you can feel the edges of the text on the real pin, whereas the fake has no contour and is completely flat.
The pink colouring is fairly accurate on the fake and is not as washed out as appears in the photograph.
The real pin was purchased on card from the UK, the fake as part of a set from abroad.
This photgraph shows the backs of the two pins above. Once again the real is on the left and the fake on the right. You can see that the pattern has been copied, albeit reversed.
Again, the sharpness of the pattern edges is seen in the real pin but not in the fake.
There is at least one fake pin (not shown) where the back pattern actually fades away in a corner to almost smooth metal.
None of the fake pins I have seen to date have been offered on backing card. Remember that all genuine LOCOG pins should be on the backing card and all will have the official Olympic merchandise hologram. Some sponsor pins are also available on card and where possible I have identified this in the inventory.
The unofficial pins that I have seen have either copied the Games logo or have combined 'London', '2012' and the Olympic rings. There is one set of pins that I have seen which are commonly referred to as the 'mini-pins' that may have an interesting story. These pins first appeared on eBay in early 2009. They come as a set of 6 and are copies of the coloured logo pins, the Union flag pin and the Paralympic logo pin. However they are smaller and the 4 cut-through holes in the middle of the pin are 'filled'. They also have the pin numbers 2012-19 through to 2012-24. We know now that these numbers belong to the London at Night set, however if they are a fake set, someone took the trouble to come up with a plausible sequence before they were made. It is highly likely that these pins were a planned official product that was taken to the prototype stage and then rejected and some samples made it into the market. This is supposition and not based on any evidence, but the quality of these pins is very good.
The inventory on this website will attempt to list every official pin to help you decide what's real or fake. I talk to the manufacturer, sponsors and official retailers to try and get the latest and most accurate information. If you come across a pin which is not listed, please contact me so that the information you have can be shared amongst other collectors and we keep the inventory as comprehensive as possible.