Conyers resident Frances Carey has a passion for collecting the rare and memorable. The former Rockdale special education teacher has collected over 1,000 pieces of Olympic memorabilia. And now she’s looking for something even more rare: local pin collection appraiser or a location for a permanent exhibit.
“It all started when the 1996 Summer Olympics came to our town,” said Carey. “My husband, Mike, and I are natives of Atlanta and have lived here in Conyers since 1977.” Anticipation built as the equestrian events came to the Georgia International Horse Park. Carey was just one of the thousands that caught the pin collecting fever. “Vendors set up shop around the county, and I started buying all kinds of Olympic pins,” said Carey.
Frances’ collection grew quickly as she joined in the popular custom of pin trading. Collectors used to meet at the Varsity to wheel and deal. Although most of her collection if from the 1996 Summer Olympics, she located Olympic pins dating back to 1904. And as her finds expanded, she needed room to display them. Her husband, Mike, custom designed over 12 shadow boxes for her.
Now, 15 years later, she has a huge variety of pins: mascots, sporting events, sponsors, and security. She’s even included “everything southern,” such as copy of the Varsity’s bid for a pin: “the O-rings,” says Carey. Eventually, she added pins when the World Series and Super Bowl were held in Atlanta.
“There’s a story behind every pin,” Carey said.
In addition to the hundreds on display, Carey has many pieces that simply won’t fit in the cases. Tickets, volunteer uniforms, Izzy mascot plush toys, small flags and newspaper clippings that chronicle the Atlanta Olympic and Paralympic games.
Frances’ collection was part of a display at the Langford Elliot Hall in 2006 on the 10th anniversary of the Olympic events.
Frances continues to look for other traders. She’s also looking for someone who appraises collections, such as hers. And, if the conditions are just right, she might consider moving them to a permanent exhibit so that others might enjoy learning about our local place in history.