Disney Pin Trading Tips
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 February 9, 2023.)
If you’re only looking for the cheapest place to purchase, buy discount pins for trading at Walt Disney World HERE. Currently, you can purchase Disney pins for trading from third parties for slightly over $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.
One prominent seller on Amazon has a solid reputation and sells a great lot of 25 pins that we recommend. Here’s another option if that is sold out. Both sellers are incredibly highly rated, and those packs are great for getting started in trading. These probably aren’t pins you’ll want to keep for your collection, but they’re a perfect starter set for trading.
Pin Trading Controversies
If you buy from other 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.
All Cast Members will accept scrappers for trades. Walt Disney World has no official policy against scrappers, and the pin trading boards you’ll encounter around the parks and resorts usually have scrappers on them. If you’re purchasing pins solely so your kids can trade with Cast Members, you might as well buy scrappers. They’re cheaper, your kids are going to end up with them either way, and they won’t be able to tell the difference. It’s like comparing the store brand to Froot Loops–it’s still the same colorful, circular shaped thing, virtually indistinguishable to a blind comparison.
Scrappers are controversial with hardcore Disney Pin Trading fans, and you’ll see many complaints about them in the comments below. Many serious traders continue to admonish us for recommending them. Our view is that Disney itself is selling these to third parties and/or using factories in China that are known for producing overruns. Moreover, Disney allows Cast Members to trade scrappers. Given all of this, 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.
Beyond that, this Disney Pin Trading 101 post is written for, as the title suggests, newcomers to the hobby–not hardcore collectors. We’ve found that the overwhelming majority of readers are looking for an inexpensive way for their kids to have fun or enhance their Walt Disney World trips. Kids do not care about what’s a “scrapper” and what isn’t. They’re trading to have fun. The target audience here cares far more about cost and enjoyment than having top-tier pins. If you’re truly serious about pin trading, these tips aren’t for you…but you already knew that.
As such, we highly recommend going the Amazon (or eBay) 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 around $25, you can give your kids 25 pins to trade during the trip–these same 25 pins would cost a total of $240.48 or more 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 Cast Members stationed at pin boards trade. While Disney itself allows trading between guests, this is quite uncommon in practice. 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!
Again, the more common and convenient Pin Trading route is definitely trading with Cast Members. 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.
For the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary, two new interactive and fun types of pin trading–mystery boxes and Mickey-themed boards–debuted in the parks. You can hunt for pins of your favorite characters, attractions, and more on the Mickey-themed pinboards, or be surprised by choosing a numbered pin from one of the mystery boxes.
To participate, locate a Cast Member with a pin trading mystery box or Mickey-themed board and present a Disney Trading Pin to exchange (up to two exchanges per location). For the mystery trading boxes, select a drawer from the pin box numbered 1-24. The Cast Member will open the drawer and present you with your mystery pin in exchange for your pin.
At the Mickey-themed boards, search the trading board for the Disney pin you would like to trade. The cast member will remove your desired pin from the board and give it to you in exchange for your Disney pin.
New pin boxes and boards can be found in spots all around Walt Disney World. These locations are designated in guide maps and include all four theme parks, Disney Springs, and select resort hotels.
Additionally, you might want to keep an eye out for the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary pins, which will be released and added to the boards throughout the 18-month celebration lasting until April 2023. Celebrate the past, present & future of the Florida Project during the World’s Most Magical Celebration!
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!
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”?
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!
Instead of buying scrapper pins, why not join a pin trading group on Facebook? I have found many legitimate pins for in the $3-$6 range. its not $1 but at least you would be trading something real. I also do not have buckets of money to spend on the hobby for my daughter, but $30-60 for 10 legitimate pins to trade is more than acceptable. We were very sad to see that almost all of the pins that she traded for on our last trip were fake, this was before we knew that these fakes even existed.
I have to say, I know this is supposed to be fun, but if you see someone with a lanyard of really nice pins, don’t expect that they’re going to fork over their best one for some non-descript, scratched up piece fished out of the bottom of a bag because they’re afraid to disappoint a child. I had a parent send their kid up to me with a pin from whatever corporation mom worked for; the kid then pointed out the most expensive articulated Haunted Mansion pin I’ve had for twenty-five years, expecting me to give it to her. That was a very uncomfortable conversation.
Thank you we don’t collect pins so I had no idea where to get them. We’re going on a cruise soon and I heard there might be a pin trading thing. I thought it might be something nice for my littles to do for socializing and feeling a part of something by participating. I completely understand the frustration of fakes and over populated pins but in my situation this is exactly what I need. Even if my kids receive cheap knock offs from their trades, as long as they’re happy and feel they were apart of the magic. Thank you again!
Hi, there are Disney pins at stores such as box lunch. Would that be considers authentic or a scrapper?
Our 14 year old twins tried pin trading for the first time on our last WDW vacation and they both loved it! It’s like a scavenger hunt finding the trading locations and a treasure hunt swapping for the pins you want. We ended up spending a LOT of time on it but the kids pin collections are the best souvenir we’ve ever purchased at Disney.
We have been to Disney World three times, and are heading there in November of 2023. Pin trading is one of the favorite activities of my three girls. We found scrappers the second time we went, and will be utilizing them again on this trip. With two adults and three kids, the cost can be daunting. We do buy pins while we are there, that’s fun too, however we love to trade with cast members. If we trade it is because we like what we see, not if it is a genuine pin or not. Thanks for the advice and links.
I found like 8 pins that I’m looking for on the picture of the board you posted!
I purchase one or two pins as an inexpensive souvenir each trip; usually resort or DCL ship specific, or special events.
Several years ago while having breakfast outdoors at the Boardwalk Bakery, we met a few couples on their way to a “Pin Event” in Epcot. They were each strolling several large rolling suitcases full of pins. One couple estimated that they had spent over $100,00 in pins, the other couple estimated that they were in for over $200,000 in their years of collecting pins.
My husband no longer grumbles about my pin budget of $10 to $20 per trip.
I saw this post a couple of years ago or one like it. It was the most fun the little ones had at the parks and the resort. Never even knew about pin trading before reading this blog. There would be no way we could afford to buy pins for 6 kids. It’s something they still talk about. By the way, we also bought our Disney t-shirts at Kohls. Because we didn’t buy them at the parks are they somehow fake? Disney has a business with other companies to sell their items. Disney allows the companies to have the scrappers to sell.
This is exactly why we share the scrapper recommendation. Pin trading is a great activity for kids, but one that would be inaccessible due to the cost for many families. Scrappers get many kids into the hobby, which is a GOOD thing if you ask me. I think many of the ‘pin purists’ are missing the forest for the trees.
With that said, the Kohls shirts example isn’t quite apples to apples. What’s likely happening with scrappers is that factories in China that produce pins for Disney are making overruns on their own, and selling them via third parties. That, or they’re selling the imperfect pins they know Disney would reject. Not quite the same as licensing out characters for third party products.
Still, if Disney wanted to stop scrappers, they absolutely could. Why random people on the internet feel that it’s their job to “police” this practice–even when it’ll have zero impact–is absolutely beyond me. Scrappers are not going anywhere unless Disney wants to put an end to them. They don’t, so they won’t!
Beyond disappointed that your advice to people is to buy fake/scrapper pins off of eBay or Amazon and trade those in the parks. You can get official Disney pins from Shop Disney on sale if you watch for them. I love pin trading, but there’s nothing more frustrating than coming to the parks with authentic pins to trade, picking out one on the board, trading my real pin for it, and then getting a closer look and realizing it’s fake. Yes, the cast members can’t turn it down from someone, but at that point your just taking advantage of them and knowing they can’t tell you or your kids no as you rip open a bag with a Alice pin where she’s got green hair and no pupils on the pin. Buy authentic pins and if you can’t maybe you don’t need to participate in pin trading!
If the differences between scrappers and authentic pins are so noticeable, why make the trade in the first place? Either they’re obvious, or they aren’t.
While I understand your sentiment, the reality is that scrappers are all over pin trading boards, and have been since we got into the hobby over a decade ago. Disney could change their policy on them (either the production of scrappers or accepting them for trades), but they’ve opted against doing so.
No individual action is going to change the reality of scrappers. That’s why we recommend parents who don’t really care either way just save the money and buy scrappers. Obviously, the advice is different for serious collectors–but they’re likely not reading a 101 article for advice.
Hi Tom, HNY to you and Sarah.
Your recommendations on this post for buying pins cheap are put of stock, and don’t look likely to be back available (unless you know otherwise?). Do you have any up to date recommended sites etc please?
Thanks for the heads up–I’ve updated the links!
I am going to let you know that if you are buying those pins for cheap, you are getting scrappers or fake pins! Those aren’t the real version of the pins and it can be slight differences that you might not even notice. Disney boards have tons of fakes on them, but it isn’t really being ethical when you trade for a fake pin for a real pin….You shouldn’t be telling people to buy fake or scrapper pins.
Enjoyed your information given. THANKYOU!
I collect pins from Disney PLACES and EVENTS. I buy one each time we visit a new Disney resort hotel. This includes the ones at DL, WDW, Tokyo, and Hilton Head. I have one from each park I’ve visited. Also any other Disney place that has pins…Walt Disney Family Museum, Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, etc. Events would be the grand opening of a new attraction or land, a park anniversary, etc. If I didn’t limit my collecting to places and events, I’m afraid I’d go crazy and have to rent a storage locker!!