Disney Pin Trading
is the buying and trading of collectible pins and related items featuring Disney characters, attractions, icons, and other elements. Many thousands of unique pins have been created over the years. Pins are available for a limited time; the base price for a pin is US$6
.95. Limited edition pins, and special pins (e.g. pins that have a dangle, pin-on-pin, flocking, lenticular, light-up, moving element, 3-D element, etc.) cost up to $12.95. Featured Artist and Jumbo Pins cost between $20 and $35 and Super Jumbo pins cost upwards of, and sometimes beyond, $75. Each guest may purchase up to two pins of each style per day. Pins are frequently released at special events, movie premiers, pin trading events or to commemorate the opening day of a new attraction. Some pins have appreciated well on the secondary market
and have reached prices of over US$500 at venues such as eBay
. Most Disney pins are enamel or enamel cloisonné
with a metal base.
Pin trading history
Pins have always been present at Disney parks
. But, it wasn't until 1999
as part of the Millennium Celebration that Paul Pressler
introduced Disney Pin Trading at the Disneyland Resort
. The next year, the craze spread to the Walt Disney World Resort
, which has become the home of most Pin Trading events. Since then, Pin Trading has spread to Disneyland Resort Paris
, Tokyo Disney Resort
,Hong Kong Disneyland Resort
and Disney Cruise Lines
with each location creating their own pins and traditions. Although the trading of pins has been suspended in Tokyo Disney Resort
, pins are still offered as prizes at carnival games, and a relatively small amount of pins are available.
Current Pin Trading
In all Disney resorts, a large variety of pins are available for purchase and trade. Most merchandise cast members
wear pins on lanyards
around their necks, or on a pin display card or hip lanyard (a 4” by 5” piece of colored nylon fabric) clipped to their belt. Additional cast members may wear lanyards if pin trading does not distract from their responsibilities; some managers choose to wear lanyards, but ride operators are not permitted. Some cast members wear a teal colored lanyard at Disneyland and a green lanyard at Walt Disney World with pins only tradable to children (12 years or younger).
Each lanyard contains around a dozen unique pins, and cast members must trade with guests if they are presented with an acceptable pin. The cast members may not decline a particular trade based on preference or rarity of the pin, but may decline if the pin is not acceptable or pin trading rules are not being observed.
Each guest may only trade two pins with the same cast member in one day. If the cast member gives his or her lanyard to a different cast member, a guest may trade again with the new cast member even though the physical lanyard is the same.
The specifics of what make a pin acceptable for trading varies from park to park. At Disneyland and California Adventure parks, the cast members are instructed not to accept pins that have a clasp or brooch-type backing (as with jewelry). This limitation is new as of 2008, and notable because it bars cast members from accepting pins that Disney specifically designed and made in the 1980s. The new rule about the pin backing type is printed on brochures and certain informational boards.
In Disneyland Paris, the cast members are instructed not to accept pins with any of the following origins: EuroDisney, Kodak, Arthus Bertrand, DisneyStore, Spain (also called sedesma pins), or Germany (also called ProPins). This is a partial list of the Disneyland Paris cast member instructions; the full instructions are in French, and worn on the cast members' trading lanyards.
Pin Collectors can customize displaying their pins because of the wide variety of pin products Disney produces. Lanyards are available in a wide variety of colors and designs as are lanyard medals. There are many ways to store and display a collector's pins: pin bags, notebooks, frames and cork boards. Collectors can be very creative in displaying their pins and are often easy to spot in the parks with their pin-covered vests, hats, lanyards and fanny packs.
Online Pin Trading
For pin collectors who do not live near a park, or who are in search of elusive pins, or who just enjoy pin-trading with non-cast members, it is possible to pin trade by meeting like-minded pin traders online.
The website www.PinPics.com (a sister-site to www.dizpins.com) has an impressively large (but not exhaustive) database of pins. Each pin is designated by PinPics ID number and then a description of the pin. The database is maintained through the volunteering efforts of PinPics members.
PinPics members create an online profile. The profile has three categories: pins that the member owns in his or her personal collection; pins that the member is willing to trade from his or her personal collection; pins that the member wants to have. As there are hundreds of PinPics members, it frequently happens that there is a convergence of one member's "willing to trade" pin with another member's "want to have" pin. To facilitate trading among members, PinPics sends out an automated "trade request" e-mail. The trade request e-mail is informational only: the e-mail simply advises members that there are certain other members with whom a trade might be possible. There is no obligation to trade.
Once a trade request has been sent, interested PinPics members will follow up with one another via e-mail, to determine which specific pins will be sent and received, how the package will be mailed, and to what address.
Online pin trading is similar to penpal relationships, except that specific pins are being traded rather than general gifts being sent.
Disney has published a pamphlet on how to trade pins, and tips on Pin Etiquette . Among these tips include:
- To trade a pin with a Disney cast member, the pin must be made of metal and have a representation of a Disney character, park, attraction, icon, or other official affiliation. Additionally, the pin must have a Disney copyright on its back.
- Guests must trade with Cast Members, one pin at a time, with the pin back in place (pins have functional sharp posts)
- Guests can make up to 2 pin trades per cast member per day
- Refrain from touching another person’s pins or lanyard, ask to see the pin so they can bring the pin into closer view
- The pin that is traded to the cast member cannot be a duplicate of any pin they already have on their lanyard.
- No money can change hands on Disney property in exchange for a pin.
Note that this pin etiquette pamphlet is only a partial list of restrictions, and restrictions as indicated in the above section "Current Pin Trading" also exist.
Official Disney Pin Release Locations
There are many official locations where a guest can find Disney pins for purchase.
- Disneyland Resort Anaheim (DLR)
- Disney's California Adventure
- Downtown Disney Traders
- Walt Disney World (WDW)
- Magic Kingdom
- Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Animal Kingdom
- Downtown Disney (DTD)
- Disneyland Resort Paris (DLRP)
- Disneyland Park
- Walt Disney Studios Park
- Disney Village
- Hong Kong Disneyland Resort (HKDLR)
- Tokyo Disney Resort*
- Disney Cruise Lines
- Walt Disney Studios, Burbank
- Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI)
- Disney’s Soda Fountain and Studio Store
A small selection of pins are currently available at some Disney Stores. Disney Shopping has offered limited edition pins on their website since Disney Auctions was closed.
Note*: Pin Trading is not available in Tokyo Disney Resort. Visitors can only purchase pins in the resort and win them from games.
- Artist Proof - Artist Proof pins (or AP pins) are created during a manufacturing run to verify quality. AP pins have a small AP stamped on their back. Some collectors value the AP markings, but most AP pins have minimal difference in secondary value because the markings are not normally visible.
- Back Stamp - A pin's back stamp contains information about the pin and can include copyright information and edition size.
- Cloisonné - A French word meaning "partitioned." It refers to a style of pin in which the surface decoration is set in designated sections, one color at a time. Cloisonné also refers to a pin type in which crushed minerals and pigments are used to create coloring on a pin.
- Dangle Pins - Dangle pins have an extension to the base of the pin that dangles (hangs) from one or more small loops or chains.
- Epoxy Coating - Epoxy coating is a glassy, opaque substance used as a decorative or protective coating. When the coating drys, it forms a smooth, glossy surface.
- Flocking - A flocked pin has an area that is fuzzy.
- Hard Enamel - Hard Enamel is sometimes called the new cloisonné. It not only retains the characteristics of classic cloisonné, but also provides a much wider selection of colors. Just as with cloisonné, each pin is hand-crafted in a process that begins with a flat piece of brass which is die-struck and then filled with enamel colors. The surface is then hand polished to give it a smooth finish.
- Lenticular - A Lenticular pin has two or more images that can change when it is tilted back and forth.
- Light-Up Pin - A Light-up pin has lights in its design that flash when activated. The Light-up element has been used less in recent years due to difficulties in battery replacement and metal corrosion.
- Secondary Market - The market for Disney pins for traders/collectors on web-based shops and auctions, etc. is considered the secondary market. Values of Disney pins can appreciate greatly and create very valuable, highly desired pins. For many Disney pins, unlike other collectibles, the value of the pin on the secondary market can be very high when the pin is first released and demand is high, then drop dramatically over time. Most pins retain or increase in value over time; perhaps the greatest example of appreciation is the surprise pin “Wet Paint”, which originally sold for $8.50 and now typically sells for over $200 on sites like eBay.
- Slider Pin - A Slider pin has a movable piece that slides back and forth across the base of a pin.
- Spinner Pin - A Spinner pin has a spinning mechanism that moves a piece of the pin 360 degrees.
- Soft Enamel - A soft enamel pin has the design stamped into the base metal. These pins are filled with enamel colors and baked for durability. A final clear epoxy dome is applied to protect the finish. Typically a thinner pin than cloisonné pins.
Terms exclusive to Disney pin trading
The following terms are specific, specialized terms relating to Disney pin trading:
- Build-A-Pin - The Build-A-Pin program was introduced in 2002. Guests could personalize pins bases with character add-ons. After selecting their favorite base and add on, the pin was assembled with a special machine. The Build-A-Pin program was retired in Summer 2004.
- Continuing the Pin Trading Tradition Pin - Also known as a CTT pin, these annual pins were created for guest recognition by cast members. Guests may be awarded a Continuing The Pin Trading Tradition pin for demonstrating positive Disney Pin Trading etiquette and promoting Disney Pin Trading.
- Fantasy Pin - A pin commissioned or produced by Disney pin collectors that contains similarities to Disney pins, but has not been created or endorsed by Disney. These pins are not allowed to be traded with cast members, although collectors may trade for these pins amongst themselves. From time to time, Disney will produce a pin that is very similar to a fantasy pin.
- FREE-D - Free-D stands for Fastened Rubber Element on a pin for Extra Dimension. Pins that feature Free-D elements sometimes have discoloring issues and extra precautions should be taken to make sure that the Free-D element is not dirtied.
- GWP - A GWP (Gift with Purchase) pin is a bonus pin given to guests who buy at least $25 of pin merchandise in one transaction. The Disneyland Resort designates the first Sunday of every month GWP Sunday, and has two collections each year of six pins each. The pins are often traded as lanyard fodder, and as a result they are not valuable initially. Walt Disney World has promotions where GWPs are available for $1 each with a $30 purchase. Their current promotion involves surplus Mystery Machine Pins .
- HHG - HHG, or the Hitchhiking Ghosts, are the most famous residents of the Haunted Mansion.
- HM -HM denotes either a Haunted Mansion or Hidden Mickey pin depending on the context.
- Holy Grail - A pin collector's most wanted pin or pins. A typical example is the surprise pin Wet Paint, an LE 1,000 pin depicting the wet paint sign used at Walt Disney World showing Donald Duck and his nephews running through spilt paint which typically sells for over $200 on sites like eBay. Grails are not necessarily expensive or rare, and some grails are elusive OE pins. The term originates from the Arthurian legend of the Holy Grail.
- Jumbo Pins - Jumbo Pins are larger and often more intricately designed than a regular size pin; as such, the pins cost between US$20 and US$35. Featured Artist (Jumbo) Pins are currently released at DLR, while WDW is currently releasing monthly Jumbo Monorail Collection Pins for 2008. Traditionally, Jumbo Pins were released monthly with an edition size of 750 and available for $25. Recently, Jumbo Pins have been sold in editions of 1000 for US$20 or, at the Disneyland Resort, in editions of 500 for US$35.
- Mickey's Mystery Pin Machine - Debuting at Mouse Gear in Epcot at WDW in late 2007, the machines were a modified Gravity Hill arcade machine that dispensed a pin regardless of outcome. The pins were part of small collections consisting of five pins each. Although the pins originally cost $5 and were distributed randomly, they are currently the WDW GWP pins and the Machines have now been designated as inactive and removed.
- Name Pins - Name Pins are pins that have a name engraved on them, and may not be traded with cast members.
- POH - A Piece of History pin (POH) from the 2005 set is considered to be one of the rarest series in Disney Pin Trading. Each pin contains a minuscule piece of a prop from a WDW attraction. The first pin in the series, the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea pin with a sliver of a porthole, occasionally sells for over $275 on eBay. The success of the series has led to a 2006 and 2008 set.
- PTN - Pin Trading Nights are monthly meetings of Disney Pin Traders at DLR, WDW, or Disneyland Paris resorts. The Pin Trading Team provides pin games and gives traders the opportunity to trade and socialize. Often, an LE pin is released to commemorate the occasion.
- Rack Pins - Rack pins, also called Open Edition (OE) or core pins, are pins introduced and sold until they are discontinued or retired. These pins are re-ordered for up to several consecutive years. The starting retail price for these pins is typically $6.95 (for a flat pin). Depending upon the number of features on the pin (such as pin-on-pin), the retail price will increase to either $8.95 or $10.95. Some OE pins have a high secondary value, such as the Soda Pop Series pins which each go in the $20 range.
- RSP -The Random Selection Process is the method by which LE pins are distributed at the Pin Events. Each guest submits a form which has slots for the Limited Edition merchandise items offered. Each slot is filled in order based on pin availability. If 1000 forms were to be submitted and 50 forms had an LE 25 framed set in their first slot, the first 25 forms would be given the purchase, with the remaining 25 given the opportunity to purchase their second-slot pin. Typically, there are three rounds of the RSP process with the smaller editions being unavailable to purchase in subsequent round. RSP forms only allow a style of pin to appear once on each RSP form so that there is a better, fairer chance of each person getting one pin.
- Scrapper - An unauthorized Disney pin. These pins are literally scrap pins. Sometimes they are seconds from the factory runs, or sometimes they have errors in color, design, or the imprint on the back. Scrappers can also be the result of extra unauthorized production runs. These pins often make it onto the secondary market where they are sold, often in lots, at much lower than market price. Scrapper pins can then be traded with cast members, as cast members do not decline a trade based on suspected scrapper status. Recent Hidden Mickey pins, DLR pins especially, have flooded the market months before their initial introductions.
- Shark - A person is considered a pin shark if they trade less valuable pins for more valuable pins, taking advantage unsuspecting or new pin traders, primarily for monetary gain. Use of this term has caused some controversy in the pin trading and collecting community since the value of pins on the secondary market can fluctuate widely and the value of most pins is highly subjective. Sharks are also known to buy highly anticipated pins with groups of up to 20 people at multiple locations to bypass fair-trading protocols.
- Surprise or Mystery Pins - These pins usually feature a low-Limited Edition size. Typically, the back stamp will included the words "Surprise Pin". The release of this pin happens randomly at various merchandise locations within the Disney Theme Parks and Resorts. Although Surprise pins have continued at the Disneyland Resort (as evidenced by their current Resort Sign set), WDW releases Surprise pins at PTNs rarely.
Because there are over 60,000 Disney Pins available, many themes and characters are collected:
- Cast Lanyard
- Disney Auctions LE 100
- Piece of History Pins
- Soda Pop Series
Cast Lanyard and Hidden Mickey Pins
The WDW Cast Lanyard Collection was introduced in 2002 to encourage guest to trade pins with cast members. The first series of Lanyard pins consisted of just under 100 pins. Previews of the next year's Lanyard pins are at each September Event, with the pins officially distributed a few weeks later. "Disney's Cast Lanyard Collection" is on the back stamp of each pin in the first two series. Beginning with the third series, pin designers placed Hidden Mickeys on the pins after guests complained that it was difficult to discern Lanyard pins from the other pins on lanyards. In 2007, with the release of the fifth Lanyard series, the name of the series was officially changed to the Hidden Mickey Collection and a collection of 94 of the most popular earlier designs were reissued. When asked about the change the Pin Team responded,
"The name change is based on the current identifier found on Hidden Mickey pins, a small Mickey Mouse icon. "Hidden Mickeys" are also incorporated into many attractions and locations at Disney Theme Parks and Resorts. We felt this change would compliment something fun many Guests were already seeking.
In 2007, the second WDW Hidden Mickey set was released as a collection of 75 new designs.
Disneyland Resort has had their own Lanyard Pin Series since 2002. DLR Lanyard Pin Collections have fewer styles than the WDW series, with most DLR series consisting of around 50 pins. Additionally, sets of 12 Hotel Lanyard Pins have been released biannually to DLR hotel guests who receive two pins at their time of check-in to trade. For the 2007 and 2008 Hidden Mickey Collections, pins have been released monthly by series. Scrappers of past DLR Hidden Mickey pins have appeared on the secondary market months before their official release dates. In an effort to combat this practice, designs for the 2008 series, although previously shown at DLR Pin Trading Nights, have been released each month.
Pins have been available as merchandise at WDW and DLR hard ticket events since the late 1990s. After the Millennium Celebration, annual Pin Events were established to provide event-exclusive pins and opportunities for traders to socialize. The largest and most notable event is the September Event, held at Epcot annually. The 2008's event is Disney's Pin Celebration 2008 - Pin Trading University, which was held from September 5-7, 2008. Occasionally, special events are planned at the Walt Disney World Resort beyond the September Event. Expedition Pins, was held on May 3, will allow Pin Traders to take over Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disneyland Resort offers pin events as well, although not as frequently. Their "Camp Pin-e-ha-ha" event was well received, and this year the Disney Day Campin' Event on June 21 was part of their annual summer-long Pin Festival. This year's theme is Mickey's Pin Odyssey and will feature weekly releases of themed pins.
Disneyland Paris also stages semiannual events; their most recent was the DroPIN event to celebrate the opening of their Tower of Terror.
All of the events feature pin games, exclusive pins and children's activities, and most have pin gifts to remember the event by.
Each Resort also offers a monthly Pin Trading Nights with pin boards, games, and kid's areas.