What exactly is “pin trading” at Walt Disney World and how do you do it?
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What is Disney Pin Trading?
Pin trading started at the Walt Disney World Resort in 1999. Disney pins are a fun souvenir of your trip to the most magical place on earth and a unique way to showcase all your favorite Disney things (anyone else have a bulletin board of pins in their room?).
The basic idea is…you have pins, and you trade them for other pins (mind blown…).
You can buy pins all over the Disney parks and resorts, in every gift shop and also in specialty shops that sell just pins.
You can also find them ALL over the internet. If you’re just starting out, it’s easy to buy a whole bunch of pins on Ebay so you can have them to trade. These aren’t going to be pins you really like, because you’re just going to trade them away.
You can also buy starter sets at Disney World, with four small pins of the same theme. But you’re best (cheapest) bet is to order some online before you go.
Types of Pins:
There are several types of pins: cast member only (hidden Mickey), limited edition, series, mini, jumbo, average (technically, there are no pins labeled “average.”). What does all this gobbledy gook mean???
Hidden Mickey Pins:
Hidden Mickey pins are pins that you can’t buy. They are only given to cast members to trade with YOU.
They have a little silver “hidden” Mickey somewhere on the pin (it’d be a lot more fun if the hidden Mickey was harder to find!).
They always come in a series. To tell how many pins are in a particular series, look at the TINY writing on the back of your pin. You may need a rather large magnifying glass for this, there’s no shame in that. Even my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be!
But if you manage to make out the tiny writing on the back, it will say “1 of 5” or “3 of 6.” This is true for any pin that is part of a series, not just a hidden Mickey pin.
Then if you want to, you can try to collect the whole series. Or, if you’re like me, you just spot the ones you want and completely ignore the rest. Your pin collection is completely up to you.
Well, I said most of it in the previous paragraph. Some pins come out as part of a series (a sneaky plan to get you to buy MORE, in my opinion!). But it is fun to try to find them all, even if you don’t really want them all.
Some are just pins that have a similar style. For instance, I have a series of “cupcake” pins. I have a cupcake that looks like Tinkerbell, a cupcake that looks like Minnie Mouse, and a cupcake that looks Marie (the cat from Aristocats).
But some series step it up a notch. Some fit together like a puzzle piece. There is a 12 piece set that is a map of Neverland with all the different characters from Peter Pan. Those pins won’t be easy to find just trading around the parks, but they are super cool.
Limited Edition Pins:
As the name says, some pins are only offered in limited editions (more marketing ploys!). These pins are more rare and “valuable” with serious pin traders.
If you are looking at a listing of pins somewhere, limited edition pins will be marked LE followed by the number of pins that were released. For example LE 500 or LE 1500.
When trading whatever pin you feel like for whatever pin catches your fancy on a cast member’s lanyard has lost its luster, try your hand at trading for a mystery pin.
These are pins that are pinned on the lanyard backwards, so you only see the little black Mickey head backer. Some cast members have entire lanyards of “mystery” pins, while some just have one or two.
Chances are, in all honesty, you’re not going to get anything too much more exciting than any of the regular pins they have. But you never know… It at least makes the act of pin trading more exciting, which is half the point anyway!
Do they sound good? Probably not. Because as always, there’s somebody out there who’s just trying to make a fast buck.
Scrapper pins are fake copies of the real designs that Disney has made. They tend to be flatter and have a more matted feel (less shiny). And yes, they infiltrate Disney World!
If you’re just trading pins for fun to hang up on your bedroom wall (they make great decorations, really!), this may not bother you too much. You may not even notice the difference, really.
But if you do ever trade with a serious trader, they will not be happy with a scrapped pin. Disney does its best to root these out and take them out of trading, but they can’t catch them all (they’re not Pokemon, after all).
Where to Buy Pins?
You can buy pins online to trade in the parks. You can also find some old pins that are no longer sold in the parks online. I’ve bought a lot of pins for my collection from Ebay.
There are lots of places to buy pins at Disney. The two main pin stores are found in EPCOT and Disney Springs: Pin Central and Disney’s Pin Traders.
Here are other places you can find pins at Disney:
Every resort gift shop has a section of pins.
Each ride gift shop has pins specific to that attraction.
The Wonderful World of Disney at Disney Springs.
The “EarPort” at the airport.
Special Event Pins
You can get special pins for a specific event or program you participate in. For example, if you do one of the Run Disney runs, you can buy a commemorative pin. Or if you participate in the animation class at Saratoga Springs Resort, you can get a free pin (the class itself is not free).
You can also get a free pin if you visit one of the Disney Vacation Club open houses:
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Disney’s Grand Floridian Rsort
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Riviera Resort
Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Disney’s Boardwalk Resort
Where to Trade Pins:
At the Disney Resorts
Every Disney hotel will have at least one pin board (and usually two or three!), which is a great thing to do if you’re resort hopping around Disney World.
Just go up to the front desk and ask to see the pin board. If they don’t have one, they will direct you to where you can find one. Here are the three places you will usually find a pin board at a Disney resort:
The front desk
The gift shop
Disney Vacation Club counters
Some resorts have other pin boards, like at the Basin White store at the Grand Floridian, and not all hotels have them in the same place, so again, be sure to check at the front desk and they will point you in the right direction.
In the Disney Parks
Almost all gift shops in the Disney parks (and there are a lot!) will have a pin board. A lot of shops have multiple counters, so they will point you to the right one. Just go up and ask!
If you approach the counter with no merchandise and a pin bag on your side, they will probably anticipate your question before you even ask!
At Disney Springs
There are not as many pin boards at Disney Springs as there used to be. You actually used to be able to go into Disney Springs and set up a table to trade your own pins, but no more.
However, there are still a few stores (mostly in the marketplace area) where you can trade pins. So go ahead and ask!
Mystery Pin Boards
These are a new style of pin boards at Disney that are so much fun! You can pick the number of a box (up to 2 boxes per person), and see what surprise pin awaits you inside!
If you don’t like the pin, you do not have to trade for it, unlike when you trade for a mystery pin.
Pin Trading Etiquette:
Only trade up to 2 pins at a time with one cast member.
If you end up with a pin you think is a scrapper pin, don’t trade it around to someone else.
Place your pin face down in your palm so your trading partner can pick it up without being poked (keep your pin back).
Some cast members let you place your own pin on the board, but some will have you give it to them first.
Pin Trading Events:
These are not as common as they used to be (and also not free, like they used to be). Check out the Disney Pins Blog for a list of upcoming events. Also Pintrader.club has a good list of non-Disney sponsored pin trading events where you can meet up with fellow traders.
If you noticed a couple times above I mentioned “serious” traders. I am not a serious trader. I look at a pin and think, “That’s pretty. I want it. The rest of the series is ugly. I don’t want it.”
A serious trader would look at a pin and think, “Hmm…well, it’s not a scrapper pin. It is a limited edition (of 1000), so it’s relatively rare. I will trade these two pins for that one because that makes it an equal trade.”
I don’t really know where they come up with it all, but they are the ones who have the good pins you want to trade with! They used to be able to set up tables in Disney Springs, and I got some good trades there, but not anymore.
But if you go to an event, you’ll find some serious traders, and they’ve got good pins. But they’re not cast members. You can’t just go up and offer the mini pin from your starter set. You need some good pins of your own to trade with them.
Love pin trading but can’t afford to go to the parks as much as you want (I feel you)? It is possible to meet other traders online and trade via mail (though obviously not without its risks).
Disney Pin Forum
The main site for this is the Disney Pin Forum. I’ll be honest, the forum just kind of confuses me. I haven’t quite figured it out, but I’ve been trying to trade online long enough to know that being a member on here and becoming well known is vital if you want to trade online. People don’t want to trade with people they don’t know, or that no one can vouch for. So if you’re interested in trading online, get on Disney Pin Forum.
The other main website for pin trading in Pinpics.com. This site is often used in conjunction with the forum. On the forum you can meet people, on Pinpics you can easily find and list pictures of all the pins you have, want, and are willing to trade.
You can also compare your lists with other members so you can find out what you can trade to get what you want. Most people get in touch via Disney Pin Forum, and then use Pinpics as an easy way to compare pins, so they don’t check their Pinpics accounts regularly.
But sometimes you will find people to trade with just by using Pinpics. So far I’ve traded with four people online via Pinpics.
You can find all sorts of pin trading groups on Facebook to join. You might even find some good deals on pins to buy, if you don’t have any good ones to trade. Some groups are private that you have to join, and some are public, like this one.
What to Do with Your Pins??
Well…you can hang them on a bulletin board on your wall. My aunt actually has a bulletin board in the shape of a Mickey Head (cute!).
My friend stuck them directly into her wall (granted she was 13 at the time—I wouldn’t do that in my super grown up bedroom).
There are plenty of more things to spend your money on at Disney World for your pins. You can buy a lanyard to carry them around your neck through the parks. You can also buy a little “booklet” to keep them in, which you can wear around your waist. This can hold a lot more pins once your lanyard gets too full.
Then you can buy an even bigger “booklet,” basically the size of a binder with special felt pages for putting your pins in. I used to have this, but I like them out on my wall where I can see them!
Lots of people buy cork boards to display their pins. Some people even have shaped ones, like Mickey shaped. Some people also buy special frames to put around their boards, to make them even prettier. I’ve just got a regular old bulletin board from Walmart.
So there you have the rundown on how to trade pins at Disney World!
Any more questions?
If you have any more questions about pin trading at Disney World, don’t hesitate to send me an email!
Planning a trip?
Save one of these “pins” for later: