Disney Pin Trading is the buying and trading of collectible pins featuring Disney characters, attractions, icons, events and other elements. The practice is a hobby officially supported and promoted by Disney. Disney pins make the Walt Disney Park experience more fun and enjoyable. Many thousands of unique pins have been created over the years. The Jawas occasionally do some Disney Pin Trading as well.
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 $14.95. Featured Artist and Jumbo Pins cost between $20 and $35 and Super Jumbo pins cost up to, 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 premieres, 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. The backs of each pin are very sharp and should be used with care by young collectors.
Pin trading history
Pins have always been present at Disney parks, but it wasn't until 1999 as part of the Millennium Celebration that Disney Pin Trading at the Walt Disney World was introduced. The next year, the craze spread to the Disneyland 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, Shanghai Disneyland 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 tradeable 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.
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 say "(C) Disney" on the back of it.
- 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
- Walt Disney World
- Tokyo Disney Resort
- Disneyland Resort Paris
- Hong Kong Disneyland Resort
- Shanghai Disneyland
- Disney Cruise Lines
- Walt Disney Studios, Burbank, California
- Walt Disney Imagineering
- Disney’s Soda Fountain and Studio Store
According to Disney Store staff, as of 2008, trading pins are no longer sold in stores outside of those located at the theme parks, and are only available through ordering them at the online Disney Store. Disney Shopping has offered limited edition pins on their website since Disney Auctions was closed.
- Artist Proof - Artist Proof pins (or AP pins) are created during a manufacturing run to verify quality. AP pins have an AP stamped on their back. Generally 20 - 24 AP pins are made of each pin per run. Some collectors may value AP pins more than others.
- 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 dries, 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.
- Pre-Production/Prototype Pin - Pre-Production/Prototype pins (or PP Pins) are received by product developers prior to a pin being manufactured. These pins sometimes contain different coloring, fills or features than the final production pin. The number depends on what the final product will be, as these pins may be different in size, texture, color, etc. The developers use these "test" pins to determine what the final product will be. Pins from late 2007 and beyond will contain a PP stamp on the back. Pins prior to late 2007 may contain a Pro Products label signifying that they are pre-production pins. Some pins may contain no identification that it is a pre-production pin at all.
- Scrapper Pin - A Scrapper pin is an unauthorized pin. Many of the molds Disney uses to make pins are not destroyed after the creation of its pin order, and bootlegs are created. This practice has flooded the Disney parks and secondary markets like eBay with cheap imitations, mostly of Cast lanyard pins and mystery release pins. Some are sold on eBay or found in the parks before the real pins are even released.
- 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 pin 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.
- 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 released a monthly Jumbo Monorail Collection 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, remaining pins were sold as 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, has sold for over $275 on eBay. The success of the series has led to a 2006 and 2008 set and a 2009 and 2010 set for Disneyland Resort.
- 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.
- Surprise or Mystery Pins - These pins usually feature a low-Limited Edition size. Typically, the back stamp will include 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 Resort Sign set), WDW releases Surprise pins at PTNs rarely.
- Main article: Disney Pin Trading/Gallery
See also: Hidden Mickey Pin - Alphabet Set
- Main article: Disney Pin Accessories Gallery
There are several accessories associated with Pin Trading, such as: lanyards, pouches, bags and medals.
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