Dave and Halga Phillips of Red Deer have been collecting bonspiel pins for over 30 years.
Their basement walls are covered with frames heavy with thousands of shining, tiny pins. More of the metal emblems from curling championships over the past hundred years sit on Dave’s desk, ready to be scanned and documented for his files, and in boxes, carefully wrapped in towels, on the floor.
“We’re creeping up on 10,000 pins in our collection,” said Dave, 75, a retired military field engineer.
“It’s not a big collection by any means but it’s something fun to do, keeps us involved in the curling world.”
“And it’s something we can do together,” added Halga, 74.
The couple were avid curlers when they were younger. Dave’s first time throwing rocks was as a young teenager in his hometown of Truro, N.S.
Halga’s came later when they were living in Valcartier, Que., in the early 1970s and she attended so many of Dave’s games, she decided it was time to glide out onto the rink herself.
“It was a great way to pick up French fast, too … I went on to be on the team that won the Quebec bonspiel one year in Quebec City,” she said.
The long-standing tradition of pin collecting and pin trading at bonspiels was picked up when Dave was stationed in Germany from 1977 to 1981.
“When you went curling against anyone in Europe, you always took a curling pin from your club and exchanged it with your opposition, shook hands and started your game. So the next thing you know, we were collecting them,” Dave said.
They belonged to the Rhine Valley Curling Club during those years and made up a new trader pin every year, something they’d never come across before.
They really starting pin collecting in 1984 when they returned to Canada.
“We attended the Brier in Victoria that year and I took 250 pins from my curling club in Chilliwack and traded them all.”
They haven’t missed a Brier, the annual Canadian men’s curling championship, since that year and have been to 26 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the women’s counterpart, as well.
Next month, they will both be volunteering in Saint John, N.B., for the World Women’s Curling Championship and in Kamloops for the Brier.
Today, to continue adding to his collection, Dave takes about 800 of the pins he doesn’t want to various curling events throughout the year to trade them with other “pinheads.”
“I take the whole works, about 34 pounds of them in a suitcase. … I don’t sell them. I just trade pin for pin,” Dave said. “Most of the time I give them away actually, because a lot of the time people will tell me they have all these pins at home and they just give them to me. I sort them, take the ones I need and mail off others to traders.”
His collections stay at home during these trips but he hopes one day to show them off to the public.
“For me, it’s an activity that keeps my memory very active as I get older,” Dave said.
“You meet so many people pin trading, too, and we’re able to stay in touch with the curling world,” added Halga.
“It’s really like a reunion every time,” Dave said. “It’s a good geography lesson, too, because you can find out where each pin is from.”
Dave’s special pins are those in his Quebec International Bonspiel collection, made by Burkes in the early years, he said.
“They’re just very attractive. As well as my Strathcona Cup ones; the first one in that set is from 1909.”
The couple are not sure what will become of their collection down the road, as their sons and grandchildren are not overly interested in taking it on.
“Maybe it will end up on the walls of a curling hall or sports museum somewhere,” Dave said.