DISNEY PIN TRADING:
Innocent Hobby... or Obsession?

by Rose Folan
ALL EARS Feature Writer

Feature Article

This article appeared in the
June 18, 2002, Issue #143 of ALL EARS®
(ISSN: 1533-0753)

How did something that started out so simply turn into an obsession? You may very well be asking yourself that same question if you're also married to a pin trader!

It started during our first trip to WDW in 2000. We bought a few souvenir pins. They were unique mementos of our trip, inexpensive, and easy to transport home. We got one for each park, and one for the Boardwalk (where we stayed). We also purchased a special Donald and Daisy bride and groom pin because the trip was a much-delayed honeymoon for us.

Those pins are still proudly displayed in our curio cabinet. But today there are also the albums stacked high on the shelf, and the lanyards draped over the mirror, and how could I forget the pin bags -- two, no three -- tucked in the cabinet. Wow! How did we get so many pins in only two years?

Maybe we should blame it all on Jiminy Cricket or the Blue Fairy. After all, she gave Jiminy his "Official Conscience" pin, which was the very first Disney pin. But aside from Jiminy's pin, it is a fact that Disney always sold collectible pins at the parks. However it was in October 1999 at the start of the Millennium Celebration that a new tradition, Disney Pin Trading, officially began, And the quest was on.

WHAT IS PIN TRADING?

In case you've never heard the phrase before, here's a bit of an explanation. Pin trading is the activity of making a mutually agreeable exchange of one Disney pin for another. Disney "pin etiquette" says that a "tradable" pin is one that is "a cloisonné, semi-cloisonné or hard-enamel metal Disney pin," that trades are basically on a one-for-one basis, and "certain pin sets must be traded as sets."

WHO ARE THE TRADERS?

Traders are as unique as their reasons for trading. They're all ages, from children to seniors. They come from all parts of the world bringing unique pins from their local Disney parks and stores.

Some traders start out with those few souvenirs and suddenly find they're trading for others they like better. Others traders, like ALL EARS subscriber Jason Diffendal, "knew about pin trading, but I consciously attempted to not get involved because I knew how much money I would be spending. But on an October 1999 trip, we stopped at the Belz Outlet and found some Disney pins for 99 cents in the Character Premier store, so I bought some. Later that day we were at Epcot, so I began to trade pins with cast members. The first pin I traded for was a FedEx Space Mountain pin with a Cast Member at Norway. That was such a cool pin. It was at that the moment I was hooked."

WHY DO THEY TRADE?

Any pin trader will tell you, once you've started it's hard to stop. But why? Well, one explanation can be found in the description of pin trading as an "interactive experience." This has a lot to do with its appeal. Trading is a great way to meet others. You can meet other guests and Cast Members, and you'll never be at a loss for conversation.

According to MaryAnn Chin, another ALL EARS subscriber, "I love Disney pin trading. The pins are generally beautiful, well made and very collectible. I like the camaraderie, the people I meet, and the chase is fun!"

My husband, Tom, definitely agrees. "A group of us met outside a local Disney Store on Saturday mornings during the release of the 100 Years of Magic Pins. We started out as strangers but, over time, we've become friends. Now we meet regularly to show our latest pins and to trade. It's lots of fun."

WHERE DO YOU TRADE?

Official trading occurs at all the Disney parks (Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, etc.) and at the Disney Stores. Additionally, you'll find trades occurring through various online groups, through the mail, and in countless other locations.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO TRADE?

This is the tough part. Disney releases a phenomenal number of pins in their different venues. So pin trading can be an expensive hobby and, as I said before, it can become an obsession.

You will find those who trade based on monetary value. They're always looking for something of greater value. There are also those who are willing to pay more than face value for a pin they really want. They tend to inflate prices and demand for certain pins.

So how do you decide? First, remember that there are just too many pins to collect them all. You have to set your own limits. Consider starting a collection on a particular theme or character and then trading for pins within that theme. You'll enjoy the fun of collecting and trading without over-extending yourself. Now if only my husband could complete his 100 Years of Dreams state pin collection, maybe he'd slow down a bit. Then again, maybe not!

And, as for all those new pins being produced, Jennifer Chin has some advice for Disney: "There are too many types and too little quantity of limited editions. The only people making out are the people who live closest to WDW and those on eBay. Disney needs to realize that some people collect for the joy of collecting."