Disney Pin Trading is a popular hobby for Walt Disney World guests wanting unique souvenirs. This post offers money-saving tips & tricks for getting into trading, so you or your kids can get your feet wet, so to speak, without breaking the bank. (Last updated July 26, 2018.)
If you’re only looking for the cheapest place to buy Disney pins, look here. Currently, you can purchase Disney pins for trading from third parties for less than $1 per pin. If you want other tips for Disney Pin Trading and what you should know about buying from third parties, we’ll have those further down in the post. Before we get to that, we’ll offer a bit of background on Disney Pin Trading.
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.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to maximize your Disney pin trading enjoyment!
Where to Buy Disney Pins
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. Lucky, it doesn’t need to cost so much.
If you do your homework, you can buy your pins for trading before you ever leave home and save a ton of money! 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 25 pins at home versus buying at the Main Street Emporium or World of Disney.
If you buy from other sellers, keep in mind that the pins you buy might be “scrappers,” which are legitimate pins for trading, but are like factory seconds or production overruns. All Disney Cast Members will accept them for trades, but they probably are not pins you would want to keep in your collection if you become a serious collector.
Scrappers are controversial with hardcore Disney Pin Trading fans, but Disney itself is selling these to third parties and/or using factories in China that are known for producing overruns. Moreover, Disneyallows Cast Members to trade scrappers. Given both of these facts, Walt Disney World’s official stance on these pins is quite clear.
If Disney wanted to put an end to scrappers, they could easily do so by producing the pins elsewhere or instituting different pin trading policies. Disney has made a business decision to do neither, likely because moving production would cost more money and policy changes in pin trading would be bad for business goodwill.
In any case, the practical reality is that the vast majority of pins on Cast Member lanyards (I’d estimate it’s over 90%) are scrappers. If you or your kids are trading pins with Cast Members, you’re going to get scrappers in return. That’s just a fact of pin trading in 2018.
As such, we highly recommend going the eBay or Amazon route. The cheap cost as compared to buying directly from Disney is too much to overlook when you’re first getting started and are only interested in Disney Pin Trading as a casual hobby or way to have extra fun on your Walt Disney World vacation.
For less than $25, you can give your kids 25 pins to trade during the trip–these same 25 pins would cost a total of $240.48 if purchased while at Walt Disney World–so you are saving a ton of money on souvenirs. Not only that, but as far as souvenirs go, pins are great. You or your kids can enjoy them as they interact with Cast Members while having fun trading throughout the vacation. Sure beats spending $30 on a single t-shirt that they’ll wear a couple of times and outgrow!
Disney Pin Trading Tips
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 Pin Trading tables outside of the Downtown Disney or Epcot Pin Trading shops.
Be warned, as some of these individuals are “professional” pin traders who 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, you are always going to save so much more money by purchasing pins in lots on Amazon before your vacation (more on this below), 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 these pros take a no nonsense approach that’s 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. 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.
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 on Cast Member lanyards)
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 mindboggling!
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 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!
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”?
Overall, 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. 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! For other Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.
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!