Pin trading is a popular thing to do at Walt Disney World. It’s a fun way for kids to interact with Cast Members, collect souvenirs of favorite characters, rides, and more. This guide offers money-saving tips & tricks, offering a great entry point to trade without breaking the bank. (Updated November 9, 2023.)
Let’s start with a bit of background. Disney Pin Trading began during the Millennium Celebration. Since then, Disney Pins have become easily the most popular merchandise and collectibles in all of Walt Disney World (and beyond–pin trading is also now popular at Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, etc.) 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.
One downside to Pin Trading is that it can be very expensive, as individual pin prices start at $8.99 and only go up from there! When we first started Disney Pin Trading, it was relatively inexpensive. It can be super expensive if you are serious about collecting.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to maximize your Disney pin trading enjoyment!
Where to Buy Disney Pins
Disney Pin Trading Tips
Pin Trading is relatively simple in practice: guests interested in the hobby and Cast Members stationed at pin boards trade. While Disney itself allows trading between guests, this is quite uncommon in practice. At present, Cast Members who trade are typically stationed by pin boards found in or outside gift shops and various locations around Walt Disney World.
One way to get the best pins is to trade early. Look for Cast Members by pin boards in the morning as they tend to 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 good news is that we have another update on pin trading protocol as of November 2023: “This just ‘pin’ — guests visiting select merchandise locations at Disney Springs can once again experience their favorite ways to trade Disney pins directly with cast members!”
“Keep an eye out for cast with accessories such as lanyards and pin boards, and ask them how you can join in the Disney pin trading fun. We know just how much our fans have been looking forward to the full return of this beloved tradition of Disney pin trading and can’t wait for this pin-teractive activity to come back to even more merchandise locations across Walt Disney World in 2024.”
In case you don’t follow pin trading closely, the big development here is the return of proper lanyards. Up until now, it’s been pin boards for the last couple of years, with some Cast Members having little badges of pins on their waists. This marks the first return of neck lanyards for pin trading since March 2020!
There are also some “professional” pin traders, but they’re far less common than in years past.
From a value perspective, you are always going to save so much more money by purchasing pins in lots on Amazon before your vacation, so we don’t even recommend approaching these “professional” pin traders. Beyond that, we think they sort of take the fun out of it. Pin trading is great if it’s with Cast Members or even other fans who are casual about it, but many of these pros take a no nonsense approach that’s abrasive and off-putting for pin trading newbies.
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. Nevertheless, you might want to think twice about trades with guests with binders full of pins, as too many of them are overly serious and not particularly fun.
With that said, most regular guests who randomly ask you about trading have no such ill motives–it’s only the super hardcore who bring colossal collections into the parks who can be rude and condescending. 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!
Common Types of Disney Pins
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:
Hidden Mickeys (These are semi-common pins with small mickey heads hidden on them that are available in a series that are unique because they’re not available for sale in stores, and can only be found with Cast Members)
Characters (Choose your favorite character and trade for as many pins containing that character as you can)
Series (These are groups of ~4-8 pins that have a similar theme but are substantively different)
Retro Disney (Pins featuring Disney attractions, characters, and films from years past)
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 mind boggling!
Pin Trading Controversies
If you buy pins from third party sellers, the pins you purchase might be “scrappers.” We think of these as being like factory seconds or production overruns, which is essentially what they are. Hardcore pin traders view them as bootlegs or counterfeits, and not worthy of being added to their collections.
Our expectation is that Walt Disney World will follow suit very soon, and accordingly, we’d now advise against purchasing scrappers like the large lots you’ll find on Amazon or eBay for $2 per pin or so. Although they’re significantly cheaper than the real deal, they’ll be worth less (or worthless!) if you’re not allowed to trade them.
Scrappers are controversial with hardcore Disney Pin Trading fans, and you’ll see many complaints about them in the comments below. Scrappers exist because Disney produces pins at factories that are known for producing overruns and counterfeit items. If Disney wanted to put an end to scrappers, they could easily do so by producing the pins elsewhere. Disney has made a business decision to allow them to continue, likely because moving production would cost more money and would be bad for business. Regardless, we do not recommend rolling the dice on scrappers. It’s simply not worth the savings.
Using Disney Pins?
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 plenty of potential unorthodox uses for pins besides just storing them in boxes or cases, so get creative.
Our Disney Pin Trading Story
We were once avid pin traders. Pin trading allowed us to interact with more Cast Members than we ever did prior to trading, we’ve had more fun hunting pins than Hidden Mickeys on attractions, and it even got us selected as the “family” of the day in the Jammin’ Jungle Parade!
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.
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. 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”?
Ultimately, if you commit to only buying a limited number of pins to trade, and stick to that plan, you can have fun without getting hooked. You’ll also spend a lot less money on souvenirs and it will enhance your Walt Disney World or Disneyland vacation as pin trading is almost like an interactive game!
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? Do you buy the lots on Amazon or eBay for you or your kids to trade on vacation? Let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments!