A Different Kind of Entertainment – Disney Pin Trading in the Parks

This article marks my 100th entry for this site – wow! My thanks to anyone and everyone reading along!

And very happily it coincides with a theme week I’ve been wanting to do for a while which is: collecting in the parks.

There are all kinds of things people collect and I’ll be touching on some of the other popular items later in the week.  But for today, I’m going to spotlight my personal vice and money pit: Disney Pin Trading!

When I’m not busy seeing my favorite shows and performers at the parks, a good amount of my free time is spent interacting with Cast Members by running from lanyard to lanyard to try to find pins for my collection!

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It’s a pin Wonderland!

Pin trading in the parks is a super-fun way to add an extra activity to your time at either the Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resorts (some global Resorts also promote pin trading, but not all).

While Disney Parks have offered pins as souvenirs for decades, it wasn’t until 1999 that pin trading really took off as a Disney-sanctioned activity in the Disney mall stores and then in the parks. Reportedly inspired by a Disney executive observing pin trading happening among fans at an Olympic event, the idea caught fire among fans and collectors alike when introduced by Disney.

While the mall stores (and online Disney Store) rarely sell pins anymore, nor promote trading there, pin trading and collecting is still a regular opportunity at the Disney Parks.

The official rules of Disney Pin Trading in the parks include:

  • Tradeable pins are those made of metal (not rubber or plastic or other materials) that bear a ©Disney mark on the back and represent a Disney event, place, location, character or icon (this includes pins from other parts of the Disney company such as ABC or ESPN so long as they also meet the above criteria)
  • Third party pins (aka those from “operating participants”) that show a Disney or Disney Parks affiliation may be traded
  • Disney Cast Service Award pins or Cast Member Costume pins may not be traded
  • Personalized pins (such as those with a person’s name on them) may not be traded
  • Brooch or clasp-back pins may not be traded – tradeable pins have one or more posts on the back of them
  • Pins should be in good, undamaged condition
  • Guests can trade up to 2 pins per Cast Member per day
  • You cannot trade a pin to a Cast Member if they already have the same one on their lanyard

Here are some other basic pin trading Do’s and Don’ts:

Do:

  • Buy starter/booster packs or mystery sets at the park for trading. Starter and booster packs are great for getting lower-priced *authentic* pins to trade with onto lanyards, while mystery pins are popular for trading with other guests.
  • Be polite when you’re engaging with Cast Members about their pins. At the Disneyland Resort, Cast Members wear pin lanyards or hip packs voluntarily, while at the Walt Disney World Resort, they may be required to wear them.  Either way, say please and thank you and smile. Do not grab at the Cast Members or their lanyard or pins. The Cast Members see enough bad behavior from pin people – the good folks need to balance the behavior scale!
  • Feel free to trade as often as you want – I have often traded a pin I just got on one lanyard right back to another lanyard for a pin I liked even better!

Don’t:

  • EVER buy a pin lot on ebay. 99.99% chance you’re going to get all fake pins.       Ebay is filled with lots of lots of fake (also referred to as scrapper) pins made by factories in China and not sanctioned by Disney. These are of a lower quality than authentic pins and often can be recognized by being of a lighter weight, having the wrong colors, or having an incorrect backstamp.
  • Feel you HAVE to make a trade with anyone – either a Cast Member or a fellow guest. Trading is optional and it’s always acceptable to say “no thank you” to any trade.
  • Spend more than you can afford. Pins can be an expensive hobby if you get into the hardcore collecting aspect!

Most pin traders or collectors (those who get more seriously involved in the hobby), start out by discovering lanyard trading with Cast Members in the parks. Other variations on the lanyards may include Cast Members wearing hip packs, carrying small bags of trading pins, carrying plush wearing lanyards or manning the stations at pin trading boards, wheels or other themed locations.

While kids tend to love the process of pin trading itself – and it can be a great tool for shy young ones to practice talking to others – adults often find they are quickly drawn to a particular type of pin or theme and enjoy the hunt to complete sets or find favorite characters, movies or attractions represented.

I find as a collector that establishing a theme early on can make it easier to stay focused when distracted by other pretty pins (“ooh, shiny!”) and helps you (try to) stick to a pin budget.

Because once you get past the level of park trading and into the depths of serious pin collecting with its accompanying esoteric vocabulary and acronyms – LE, LR, HM, AP, DSSH, DA and so forth – it can get tricky AND expensive!

Some rare or popular pins can sell on the secondary market for hundreds of dollars each!

And while the hobby has always had to contend with fake pins, they have become such a bane to collectors over the past couple of years as even the most valuable, lowest limited edition pins have had copies made (think: being suckered into buying a fake Rolex for the price of a real one! Or people knowingly buying fake Rolexes and trying to pass them off as the real deal!). Thus the provenance of pins, including original packaging as well as the reputation of long-time collectors in the hobby, have become more critical when trading and collecting.

Pin trading globally by mail, once a great source of joy and fun, has now become a much riskier business with people trading online especially via social media such as Facebook and Instagram. New traders regularly report receiving fake pins or nothing at all from such ventures and I do not recommend doing this.

Mousertainment Tip: If you’re going to trade pins online – check the references of the person you’re trading with – whether that’s on ebay or on a Disney collecting forum. And if you’re uncomfortable or are risking a valuable pin, ask to do a third party trade – where a neutral third person (preferably someone with plenty of references within the online pin community) agrees to receive both parties’ packages and check the contents before sending the pins onward to complete the trade. This requires also providing the third party with extra funds for the extra round of postage onward, but can be worth it for peace of mind.

Ebay has also become a dangerous place for the sale of fake pins – even as an experienced collector, I have been burned more than once buying there. Make sure you do your homework on a pin and on the seller before you buy. Not only by checking their feedback (plenty of people unknowingly leave good feedback for bad pins), but by checking their past sales. Has a seller sold 20 of the same rare limited edition pin? Do they sell not-specifically-described pins in groups of 25, 50, 100 or more? Then caveat emptor – let the buyer beware! If it sounds too good to be true (“very rare Limited Edition of 50 pin – only $20!” “100 tradeable pins for $25!”), it very likely is.

And sadly, park trading lanyards may be covered in “questionable” pins put there by knowing and unknowing guests.

That said, both pin trading in the parks and pin collecting on a larger scale can be a fun and satisfying thing to do – if you do your homework!

And for you Mousertainment fans, pin collecting can also be a great way to show your love for some of your favorite shows at the park! For example, there have been pins released to celebrate everything from The Dapper Dans to the Aladdin show at Disney California Adventure (to be spotlighted at a future date!) to the Mad T Party!

Can you guess which of those I collect?

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A lanyard with a particularly mad theme – Mad T Party that is!

Have you traded pins in the parks? What is your favorite pin that you traded for?

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