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10 best travel souvenirs for 2012
The lure of buying travel memorabilia is a not-so secret tourism marketing ploy. But we happily fall for it every time
The year has barely begun and already those well-intentioned New Year's resolutions are being forgotten, misplaced and tossed aside.
Souvenirs, on the other hand, last a lifetime.
From the practical to the indulgent, here are 10 souvenirs we're coveting for our 2012 travel collection.
1. London Olympic Games coin set
The Olympics are all about fierce competition, inspiring stories of overcoming impossible odds and stocking up on historic trinkets that commemorate the games and host city.
To celebrate the event, The Royal Mint has released the London 2012 Sports Collection coin set, featuring 29 50-pence coins showcasing all Olympic and Paralympic Games events.
"Coins are a part of the fabric of our daily life, so to have a range of coins designed specifically to celebrate London 2012 is a huge honor, made all the more special by the fact that members of the public have designed them," says London 2012 chairman Lord Coe.
The 2012 Olympic Games will take place July 27-August 12. The Paralympic Games will be held August 29-September 9. Both events will be staged in London.
Price: 29-coin set with folder and medallion, £89.50 (US$137.50); Order from The Royal Mint.
2. Aussie solar eclipse T-shirt
Total solar eclipses are rare because their paths, while stretching for thousands of miles, are narrow.
As a result, few ever see this natural phenomenon occur.
Take part in this year's Australia Solar Eclipse Tour from Astronomical Adventures, however, and not only will you witness one of the earth’s greatest sights, you'll leave wearing a handsome tee that proves what a well-rounded traveler you are.
The eclipse will be viewed from Trinity Beach, North Queensland on November 14.
Eclipse tours from AU$4,295 (US$4,450); www.astroadventures.net
3. Mayan calendar
In anticipation of doomsday, December 21, 2012, a group of Italians have already started building an underground bunker.
In the Mayan Riviera, of course.
You wouldn't expect Italian tourists to meet their demise anywhere less fabulous, would you?
Even if you don't believe in the ancient end-of-the-world Mayan prophecy, the must-have item for 2012 (and 2013) is the colorful Arte Maya 2012 Calendar from Art Maya Tz'utuhil.
Containing 12 pages of lush paintings by Maya artists, the calendar at least makes the nail-biting countdown to December 21 a visually pleasing experience.
Price: US$14.95; www.artemaya.com
4. Queen’s Diamond Jubilee chinaware
Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 60 years of pomp and circumstance in 2012.
Fans of the octogenarian monarch can purchase fine bone china memorabilia which includes cups, plates, a tankard, pillbox clock and limited edition two-handled cup.
Anyone mystified by the entire royal obsession can at least pick up some fancy dinner plates.
Prices: £9.95-£175 (US$15-$270); www.royalcollectionshop.co.uk
5. Euro 2012 championships soccer ball
Soccer fans will be mauling one another to get their hands on Adidas's Tango 12 anytime one gets kicked off the pitch at this year's matches.
Spare yourself a broken nose and gouged eye by picking up the official match ball of the 2012 UEFA European Championship online.
The ball will be deployed for the first time in a competitive international when co-host Poland begins the tournament against Greece in Warsaw on June 8.
The 2012 UEFA European Championship will be held in Poland and Ukraine, June 8-July 1.
Price: US$30; www.shopadidas.com
6. Dragon statue
Always way cooler than years devoted to rabbits or pigs, the 2012 Lunar Year of the Dragon promises to be an auspicious time. And the United Nations has bookmarked 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives.
There's no better way to commemorate the year -- and project your own fierce self-identity -- than picking up a dragon figurine to display by the time the Lunar calendar turns on January 23.
After some light haggling, we got ours for HK$45 (about US$6) at Ladies' Market in Kowloon.
7. Expo 2012 mascot
Who wouldn't be charmed by plankton-y mascots Yeony and Suny, official plush ambassadors of Yeosu, Korea's Expo 2012.
With names derived from host city Yeosu (which means "beautiful water"), the mascots were created to tie in with the exhibition’s ocean and coastal theme.
Yeony, the blue one, represents the world's deep ocean water and "limitless natural resources." (Good to be an optimist, anyway.)
Suny, the cuter one (yes, we can tell the difference) represents all living organisms of the oceans and land.
Expo 2012, Yeosu, South Korea, May 12-August 12 2012.
Order dolls from Korea's 11st website for ₩13,800 (US$12).
8. Calgary Stampede Limited Edition Centennial Saddle
No, we don't ride horses. Half our staff are challenged by the beasts at petting zoos.
That doesn't mean we don't know true cowboy art when we see it.
For 2012's centennial celebration of the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada, renowned saddle maker Vic Bennett has been commissioned to handcraft limited edition saddles.
“It was important to us that the saddle maker embodies our Western heritage and, that they are a native of Canada,” says Western Performance Horse committee chair Hans Kollewyn.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be Canadian, or get thrown off a horse, to buy this beautiful piece.
The Calgary Stampede will be held July 6-15 in Calgary, Alberta.
Saddle price: C$4,995 (US$4,927)
9. Daytona 500 cap
Your high school driving instructor would be thrilled with a souvenir from the prestigious Daytona 500, known as "the great American race."
Daytona fans can choose from three different cap designs for US$18-$25 from retailers like Daytona Racing & Hobbies.
The Daytona 500 will be held in Daytona Beach, Florida, February 26. The race kicks off the 2012 NASCAR season.
10. U.S. presidential campaign badges
If you're traveling in the United States this year, you'll not escape the ubiquitous media coverage and lunch-counter conversations about the 2012 presidential election between Democratic President Barack Obama and whatever candidate gets the Republican Party's nomination -- the world may soon become intimately familiar with a grown man named Mitt.
Preserve the memory of mud-slinging and back-biting for generations by picking up some inevitably cheesy campaign materials from any party office or pushy campaign worker on a street corner.
Or pick an array of buttons, stickers and magnets from Irregular Times website for under US$5.
The U.S. presidential election will be held on November 6. We can't wait.