Disney pin trading has been taking place at Disney Parks since the Millennium Celebration in 1999. Kids and adults purchase Disney pins and trade them throughout the parks with Disney cast members and other guests to build their own unique collections of pins. Disney pin trading for a newcomer can be a little embarrassing, confusing, and even expensive. These tips and tricks can help you avoid all of those things.
A Newbie’s Experience Pin Trading at Walt Disney World
I finally took the plunge into the world of Disney pin trading.
I remember walking around Walt Disney World earlier this year and noticing pin collectors. Watching them, I thought, “Well that’s kind of a fun idea for when my son gets older and can understand why it’s neat to collect things that you just look at.” Cars and toys are fun for a 3-year-old boy. Pins, not so much.
Last weekend I realized how dumb it was to wait for my son to start trading. Pin trading isn’t just for the kids; it’s for anyone who likes a good game, who likes the thrill of the chase, or who likes Disney. I was wandering around Disney Springs with two of my Traveling Mom friends when it happened. I never expected my friends to walk into the pin trading store, but they did. As soon as we walked in, out came a bag full of inexpensive pins that my friend had purchased specifically for this trip.
After watching my friends look for the villains, nerds, and other special pins that they needed to complete their own collections, I was hooked. This game loving girl couldn’t just play on the sidelines anymore. I needed in! It took me longer than I’d like to admit to pick out a pack of trade-up pins from the World of Disney Store. The princess pins were too expensive. The villains were ones that I wouldn’t want to trade away. And so on. I finally ended up with a pack of eight Disney car pins that were the most affordable, and off I went.
Beginning My Pin Trading Quest
I asked Disney cast members question after question about their favorite pins. I apologized far too often for asking to look at pins. Then I traded pin after pin, thinking that I was going to start some sort of collection, only to realize I had no idea what that collection was. I ran out of pins to trade and traded away the “collections” I’d started, just for the sake of playing the game. It was one of the most fun and unique experiences I’ve ever had at Walt Disney World, or really any of the theme parks I’ve been to. And I have a souvenir of 12 mismatched pins in my carry-on bag.
During my first ever weekend of pin trading, I learned five incredibly valuable lessons. They’re not necessarily tips for pin trading but instead, my advice to a newcomer from someone who is also new to the pin trading world!
Lesson #1: There are no such things as “special pins” or what you’re supposed to collect.
I Googled it. I Pinterested it. And I asked every cast member I could find as well as all of the other Traveling Moms. The only answer to the question of, “What should I collect?” was another question: what do you like?
Yes, there are rare pins and unique pins. Those pins are the ones that you’re likely never going to see. Or as two cast members told me, “Those are the ones that get pocketed and taken home.” People just don’t trade those. They save them and sell them on ebay for the big bucks.
What you should collect is all about what you like and what you want to collect. One of my Traveling Mom friends collects villains, Haunted Mansion stuff, and Elliott the dragon. Another one collects nerds, Mickey Mouse, and tsum tsums. One cast member loved the colorful pins because they were the kids’ favorites, and one preferred the silver chasers. As I walked around and watched the pin trading happen all around the parks, I found that, unlike other games, pin trading isn’t about who’s the best or who has the best pins. It’s about yourself, your family, and building a collection that’s unique to you.
So what do you like?
My first tip is to try to figure out what you like before you get to a cast member. It was obvious that I was new, as my friends quickly picked the more interesting pins off people before I’d even had a chance to scan the lanyard. It only takes a second to scan for a nerd if you know what you’re looking for and in pin trading, being able to scan quickly pays off. If you’re the first one to claim a pin – say that you want, not just see – it’s yours. That being said, if someone else is already looking at a lanyard, it’s still good pin trading etiquette to wait your turn and let them choose their pin first.
Lesson 2: Don’t decide to start pin trading once you arrive at Walt Disney World.
Unless you want to go broke, make the decision to start pin trading now and figure out a good reputable place to purchase inexpensive trade-up pins before your vacation. The pin trading experience felt a bit like playing Candy Crush. In Candy Crush, when you run out of lives, you can either wait and play again for free in an hour or spend the money to purchase another coin and play right away. It took all I had to not run back to the World of Disney Store to purchase more trade-up pins once the first set of eight was gone.
It’s also really hard to start collections when you only have a few pins to trade. You end up just trading the same pins over and over again trying to put together something cohesive. Buy enough pins from somewhere like ebay or the Disney outlet store before your trip. Then you can trade any time you see something you want, without giving up a pin you’d rather not trade. But beware: there are people who sell fake pins. Rumor has it that if you see a hidden Mickey on the pin that the pin is real. But I’ve also heard that people are getting better and better at making fake versions that even include that hidden Mickey. Make sure you’re buying from a reputable source.
Lesson 3: Mystery pins are the blind bags of pin trading.
Sometimes cast members will have pins turned over so you can only see the back, not the actual pin itself. Mystery pins are like blind bags for pin trading. If you want a mystery pin, you tell the cast member and you’re stuck with whatever pin they flip over. They were my favorite, especially after I saw one of my TravelingMom friends land two or three more exciting pins through mystery selections. Sometimes Disney cast members will also ask you a Disney trivia question you have to answer before you get a mystery pin. The questions are normally pretty easy, but I did get stumped once or twice.
TravelingMom Tip: If you’re with a group, have someone who is done trading ask if there is any way to see the mystery pins. We had a couple of cast members willing to show the non-trading traveling mom (and all of us nearby) the mystery pins for the price of a correct answer to a Disney trivia question. Often cast members won’t give you the option to see them, but it worked enough times that it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Lesson 4: It’s not annoying. Or just for kids.
Both of those thoughts ran through my head at various times over the course of the weekend. However, after talking to numerous cast members and asking if it was annoying to have people looking at their pins, the resounding answer was no. Most of the cast members were not only happy to show us their pins, they loved that particular part of their job. And even when we were closing down the Disney Store in Disney Springs, the cast members were coming from all over the store to show off their pins and tell us, three grown women, stories about their experiences pin trading.
So no, it’s not annoying or just for kids; it’s for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re spending the day in Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom. Pin trading’s a great way to distract your family from long lines and warm weather.
Lesson #5: Disney Pin Trading Doesn’t Just Happen at Walt Disney World
Disney pin trading happens both on land and at sea, across continents, and across the world. The trading may be a bit different on a Disney cruise line cruise or at Disneyland, but it still happens. Make sure you bring your pins anytime you’re going on a Disney vacation. You never know who will have new pins to trade!
I may not ever collect an entire dress full of unique pins like one guest we saw at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party, but I am from here on out calling myself an official Disney pin trader. And next time I head to the Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland, or any of the other Disney theme parks, I’ll be prepared. I’m bringing a bag full of cheap pins to trade away and a picture of my current collection at home!