Disney Pin Trading is a popular hobby for Walt Disney World guests looking for unique souvenirs. Here are our Disney Pin Trading tips for getting pins of your favorite Disney rides, Disney characters, and special events…without breaking the bank!
Disney Pin Trading began during the Millennium Celebration in October 1999. Since then, Disney Pins have become easily the most popular merchandise and collectibles in all of Walt Disney World and Disneyland, with the possible exception of Vinylmations, which are now rising in popularity. While some fervent Disney fans scorn Pin Trading (presumably because they oppose good, clean fun), there is no doubt that Pin Trading has been embraced wholeheartedly by the general public and by legions of Disney collectors.
Pin Trading is relatively simple in practice: guests interested in the hobby and most Cast Members wear lanyards with pins attached to them. While Disney itself allows Pin Trading between guests, this is actually quite uncommon in practice. About the only time it will actually occur is if you happen upon one of the professional Pin Traders outside of the Downtown Disney or Epcot Pin Trading shops. Be warned, as some of these individuals are selling their pins without calling the transaction as much (since Disney prohibits the exchange of money in Pin Trading). Instead, they circumvent the “no cash” rule by sending eager traders inside the Pin Trading Central store to purchase specific items that they will then accept in trade. From a value perspective, these individuals are almost always “charging” more than you could find the same pins for on eBay. If there is a specific pin you really want that no longer is in Disney stores, I highly recommend waiting until you get home and doing that.
It’s unfortunate that a few bad apples give the hobby a bad name, and by no means is every guest who may ask you about trading in Walt Disney World doing it with negative intentions. Although you might want to think twice about trades with guests with binders full of pins, most guests who might ask you about trading have no such ill motives. While we recommend trading primarily with Cast Members, trades with other guests can be fun and a great way to interact with your fellow guests–most of whom share a common interest in Disney!
That said, the more common Pin Trading route is definitely guests trading with Cast Members. Cast Members who trade can be identified by their pin-filled lanyards. If a Cast Member has a green lanyard, they will only trade with kids. All other lanyards are fair game for all guests. Since only kids can trade with green lanyard-wearing Cast Members, these Cast Members usually have much better pins (since fewer people are picking them over).
Another way to get the best pins is to trade early. Look for Cast Members with Lanyards early in the morning as they have “fresh” pins. These pins get picked over during the course of the day (they are often replenished at shift changes), so your best bet is to trade early or hope to get lucky later in the day.
Cast Members are trading pins provided to them by Disney and they will accept whatever trades are offered to them regardless of whether it’s “fair” from the perspective of value. The only requirement is that the pin being traded to them is an Official Pin Trading Pin (denoted by a © Disney on the back of the pin). Don’t fret too much about a “fair” offer if you see a pin that you recognize as exceedingly rare; Cast Members will trade any other official pin for it.
One of the fun aspects of Pin Trading is that there are so many pins (if you’re a completionist, this can be a drawback). This means that you can go for certain categories of pins (my favorite are pins with the Epcot character “Figment” on them), and there will be plenty of different pins within that category for you to collect. Some fun options include:
These are just the basic common categories. There are tons of specific series, including ones that are only available to Annual Passholders, Disney Visa Cardholders, and LE Pins for special events. There are even pins made specifically for special pin trading events! The number of Disney pins available is quite mindboggling!
One downside to Pin Trading is that it can be very expensive, as individual pin prices range from $8.99 to an upwards of $34.99! When we first started Disney Pin Trading, it was relatively inexpensive. Now, in 2013, it can be super expensive if you are serious about collecting. However, it doesn’t need to be nearly this expensive. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be.
If you do your homework, you can buy your pins for trading before you ever leave home and save a ton of money! As of 2013, there are sellers on both eBay and Amazon that offer pins in bulk for about $1 per pin. When comparing this to the starter sets at Walt Disney World, you’re saving about $8 per pin, which quickly adds up when you buy 30 pins at home versus buying at the Main Street Emporium or World of Disney.
The only caveat here is that some pin sellers on eBay sell bootleg pins, so you have to do your homework. Make sure you buy from a seller on Amazon with positive reviews or one on eBay with lots of positive feedback (however, even these might be sellers of “scrapper” pins). One prominent seller on Amazon has a solid reputation and sells a great lot of 30 pins that we recommend. These probably aren’t pins you’ll want to keep for your collection, but they’re a perfect starter set for trading.
If you buy from other sellers, here are some things to keep in mind to make sure the pins you buy are legit: pins having copyright or pin trading stamps on the back doesn’t necessarily mean they’re legitimate. Make sure to check the seller’s feedback (long-standing members with near-100% feedback are generally safe), and ask the seller questions if you are uncertain.
We highly recommend going the eBay or Amazon route, which is almost always safe if you buy from a reputable source. Just think, for $30 or less, you can get 30 pins to give to your kids over the course of your trip as their “souvenirs,” which they can enjoy as they interact with Cast Members in a fun game throughout the trip. Sure beats spending $30 on a single t-shirt that they’ll wear a couple of times and outgrow!
If you’re collecting Disney Pins, you probably know what you want to do with them. You have cases or some method of displaying them. Of course, if you already collect pins, you probably don’t need an article like this introducing the hobby of pin trading to you. However, if you’re a novice or a parent who is contemplating buying some pins for a souvenir, you might wonder just what you can do with Disney pins. Unlike shirts, hats, or other souvenirs you can wear, although you can wear pins around on a lanyard or hat, most people don’t actually wear lanyards full of pins in the real world. So pins might seem to have less practical purpose than other souvenirs you can buy at Walt Disney World.
However, we’ve found a great use for Disney pins, and that’s pin boards. Move over, Pinterest, because these are real life pin boards that you can hang up around the house. The boards can serve a practical purpose (such as posting notes or messages) or can be purely for novelty or fun. Pins are great for dressing up these boards, and are a great way to display them. All you need are pins and a cheap tack board. We use our pin board for fun, pinning Disney countdown calendars, old park tickets, and other paper goods we’ve collected from the parks. It’s a great reminder of your Disney trip and great way to look forward to the next one!
There are lots of potential unorthodox uses for pins besides just storing them in boxes or cases, so get creative and find an actual use for the pins!
Sarah and I were once avid pin traders. Pin trading caused us to interact with more Cast Members than we ever did prior to trading, we’ve had more fun hunting “rare” pins than Hidden Mickeys on attractions, and it even got us selected as the “family” of the day in the Jammin’ Jungle Parade in August 2008! Moreover, I have found that pin designs are by far the most unique merchandise in all of WDW (extinct attractions, attraction anniversaries, rare characters, you name it!) If you do it right, it’s an incredibly cheap hobby, and it provides you with cheap souvenirs, especially in comparison to those costly and large Big Figs I had been collecting. That said, while we enjoyed it, we haven’t been active with Pin Trading in a while because we already carry a lot of photography gear when in the parks, and lanyards with pins would just be too much.
The size of the pins is a big deal for us. We love to collect things, but if we continued to accumulate large items at our pre-Pin Trading pace, we would have needed to invest in a large warehouse to store everything. Sarah can attest to this, I have boxes upon boxes (we have storage rooms reminiscent of Citizen Kane or Raiders of the Lost Ark) bursting with Disney items that are just waiting to be unleashed, upon our future home. In this regard, especially, pin trading has been a good hobby, as our entire collection can be condensed into just a shoe box!
That said, we haven’t become nearly as addicted to Disney Pin Trading as many others have; it can become just as expensive and space-consuming as collecting other Disney pieces, as Disney churns out tons of pins on a monthly basis all with varying price points, designs and edition sizes to satiate all of those interested in Pin Trading. We pretty much stopped buying new pins once we had enough to fill our pin board, as we didn’t want to pins in boxes and not look at them for years. Disney Pin Trading has become so popular that Disney holds special conventions dedicated to Pin Trading each year, and even a few websites devoted to following the Disney Pins exist. While you certainly don’t have to become so invested in the hobby that you have thousands of pins, sometimes it’s difficult to resist. I’ve heard of many unassuming Disney fans getting hooked and spending substantial amounts of money on the hobby. So, be warned. But if it’s something you end up enjoying a lot and it isn’t really “dangerous,” do you really need a “warning”?
If you commit to only buying a limited number of pins via Amazon or eBay prior to the trip, and stick to that plan, you can have fun without getting hooked. With this plan, you might even find yourself spending less on souvenirs!
What do you think of Disney Pin Trading? Are you a fan of it or not? If so, which pins are your favorites? What are your Pin Trading tips? Let us know in the comments!