For a the first few years that we vacationed at Disney World we barely noticed pins. Our son Cam was only one years old when we first went, and then Mimi come along and she wasn’t too interested in them either. Then a few years ago Cam got his first pin and now our trips to WDW are influenced by these little metal collectors items and the incredible fascination and obsession that they generate…
At Disney World you will see many people with lanyards around their neck, multiple pins attached, some people have collectors bags with pouches inside to store collections, some have them on items of clothing, even on hats (which I really do not understand – these things are heavy if you have more than one or two!)
Pins come in various shapes and sizes and are categorised and priced accordingly to their color-code. Starting at red for $8.99 and moving through to yellow at $15. There are ways you can reduce the cost and add some excitement with random pin packs – but they do generate “doubles”.
So what do you do with them apart from wear them? And what do you do with these doubles that you get? Well, you trade. And this is the real fun of being a pin collector – Disney World is like being at a collectors fair everyday.
You can trade with other people…”excuse me I just saw that you have a great Buzz Lightyear pin, would you like to trade with me”? But here is another great example of how well Disney think of things, this peer trading might be enough to drive some pin sales, but what if every cast member had their own pins and traded with visitors? What if there were shops, stalls and other random places that had boards full of pins to trade. Well then that would keep people interested and drive sales of new pins too. What if you only made certain pins at certain times and once they stopped selling you could only trade them, driving collectible rare pins to being truly collectibles and valuable which then encourages people to buy them as an exclusive investment too? Disney do ALL of these things and more. There are books on pins and pin collecting (trust me, we have them!) and it is an industry in itself.
Some Crucial Rules
While trading is fun, it can get a little too serious sometimes and so Disney have some rules of trade while you are on Disney property and which should really be followed off property too if you want to keep things in the spirit of Disney.
The first rule is only swap one pin for another, and this is crucial. Most people are really good at sticking to it but some will try…. It is an essential rule for kids and the kind of thing that we would encourage our children to do with most things – a fair trade for both collectors.
Second and equally important – no buying pins for cash from other traders. Now this is obviously not good for business at WDW because they want you to buy from the shops and not each other, but also there is a good moral reason to enforce this – people, especially children, can be obsessive about their pins and allowance money would exchange hands with unscrupulous people really taking advantage. In fact it nearly happened to us once. We were at Epcot at the trading station (see more about this below) and a trader had a particular pin from the Muppets that my son wanted. Cam offered any pin he had (save a few very special ones) but the trader only wanted the special rarer (read more expensive) pins and refused to trade. Instead he suggested that my son go and by a new expensive pin and then trade that! My husband was incensed and, well, we ended up buying Cam 4 packets of random muppets pins to get the one he needed and traded the others with more honourable traders! Cam was happy with that! But beware.
The third key rule is that you can only trade 2 pins with Disney cast members at any one time, although occasionally they will bend this for a big smile and some big baby eyes (talking about the kids here and not the husband).
Trading is fun and easy and while more limited edition pins like those given to cast members, especially for long service, together with prototype or defect pins can be worth $500+ this hobby does not have to be expensive. Here are my top tips for trading:
- Start off buying value packs of 7 or 10 pins to trade with. Pins cost upwards of $7.99 each separately but you can get packs with each pin costing almost half that.
- Buy extra backs for the pins, trust me you’ll need them and it’s cheaper than buying new pins that have been lost…
- To trade rare pins visit Epcot and the trading station near the beginning of the park (not far from Mouse Gear shop) – but be prepared for a tough bargain as collectors here tend to take things seriously but you do meet some wonderful collectors who are great with children (obviously there are some exceptions as we mentioned above) and have special parts of their collection that are “free” swaps so you can exchange any pin for any other pin without haggling. Remember though, don’t be disheartened if someone says “no” to a trade, it needs to make both people happy.
- Ask staff at the concierge and front desk at resorts to look at their pin books or boards, they are often overlooked.
- Visit the shop at Wilderness Lodge campground. It has a pinboard with maybe 200 pins on it and there is sure to be something you like.
- Beware of buying on eBay and other sites. Some people encourage this to get a collection started but there are plenty of stories about fake pins or “scrappers”. This is big business! Look out for the Disney copyright seal on the reverse of the pin. Also, buying lots of pins just seems to take the fun out of trading and collecting.
- If you have a good size collection then invest in a pin trader binder or book and keep the pins you do not want to trade in there.
- Downtown Disney (or should I say Disney Springs?) is the place to go for new and rare pins at Disney’s Pin Traders downtown pin shop.
- Don’t be afraid to ask people to trade, pin collectors always like to trade and if there is no deal to be had then I have never heard of anyone getting upset – there’s always another deal…
- Pin trading is a great activity for kids as it boosts confidence, encourages social interaction and also bargaining skills which are vital in life. We would definitely suggest you give it a go if you haven’t already.
It can easily become an expensive hobby but if you restrict it to while you are at WDW only then this reduces the risk of the fun getting out of control.
Cam is Star Wars obsessed but also loves his ride-themed pins like splash mountain (definitely a family Favorite ride too as mentioned in our Magic Kingdom guide).
Mimi is a HUGE Alice in Wonderland fan and has several pins to prove it! Best place to meet Alice, 1900 Park Fare for breakfast along with the mad hatter, as mentioned in our top 5 character dining restaurants article).
We would love to hear about your pin collections, what are your Favorites? x♥x