The Origins of Disney Pin Trading

Did you know that thousands of pins are traded daily at Disney parks across the world? It’s true! While it seems like something only an avid collector of all things would engage in, trading pins at Disney has had some interesting history that made it so special even today.

Even if you aren’t a fan of collecting or trading pins, the origins of pin-trading is something you’ll definitely be interested in hearing about. Well, here it goes!

The History

When immersing ourselves into the backstory of Disney pin trading, it’s important that we backtrack a bit. Pin trading has had a much longer history than Disney parks have even been around.

Pin Trading Before Disney

Interestingly, the act of pin-trading has been around since the modern Olympic games, which began in Athens, Greece in 1896. Athletes, journalists, and Olympic staff were given cardboard badges, so others could identify them. Then during the summer Olympic games of 1912 in Stockholm, Sweden, metal Olympic metals were sold to spectators. Shortly after, the previous cardboard badges worn by athletes were replaced with metal.

Then in 1924 during the Olympic Paris games, athletes from different countries started trading their badges with one another. While not incredibly popular at this point, this act became the basis for pin-trading.

When the Squaw Valley games of 1960 rolled around, Sylvania Electric was the first corporate sponsor that offered and distributed their very own Olympic pin. Then in 1980, pin-trading finally began to really blossom. More and more pins were available, including ones for different sports, playing countries, mascots, and the like. Both participants in the games as well as spectators were frequently trading pins.

What made pin-trading grow most drastically during this time, however, was the fact that the Cold War was currently taking place. Soviet pins were incredibly popular, thus leading to the development of professional pin-trading operations. Pin collectors and traders would go as far as to spend hundreds of dollars for rare, limited-edition pins that were only produced within short periods of time.

For some, the hobby was serious business. The value of pins would rise or drop depending on their overall rarity, when they were distributed, and even the outcomes of the Olympic games. The trend only grew. Then in 1996, Aminco International was a major pin distributor that would later end up selling a whopping 35-million pins.

History of Disney Pin Trading

Since as far back as the 1950’s, Disney already had pins at Disneyland for souvenirs but never to the extent of the Olympics. But by the time the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan came into the picture, Disney began to get deeper into the popular hobby. At the 15-month Millennium Celebration at Walt Disney World, special pins were created as something temporary to get guests interested in their event.

In fact, Disney World offered seven different pin-trading locations during their event in October 1999. Disney staff had no idea that the hobby would get out of control at their park – but it did. As a result, pin-collecting is still in existence through other Disney parks apart from Disney World.

Modern Pin Trading

Today, there are significantly more pin kiosks and shops and Disney cast members who wear pins for trading purposes. Rather than just seven locations, there are now over 30! Additionally, there are over 100,000 different pin designs at Disney. The number only continues to grow as more designs become available.

You can buy Disney pins online or at the various parks. Other pins can be achieved from cast members or while a temporary Disney event is going on. Some of the limited-edition pins can worth up to $2,000! Outside of Disney, other third-party websites, clubs, and meetups allow for Disney pin-trading.

Of course, during the period of Disney pins going from simple souvenirs to crucial collecting items, lanyards to wear pins safe have also expanded greatly too. Others prefer to wear their pins on hats, shirts, jackets, purses, or even place them on bulletin boards.

But pin-trading isn’t as simple as it may sound. There are specific rules that come along with it, such as:

  • You can only trade up to two pins a day per cast member.
  • Pins must be in good condition.
  • When you trade with a cast member, the pin must be metal, be featuring a Disney theme or affiliation, and must be created by Disney.
  • Trading with a cast member, you cannot trade for a pin worth more value than the pin you’re trading.
  • Pins must have a back on them when being traded.
  • You cannot trade a pin if the cast member already has it.
  • You can’t trade money for a pin when trading with a cast member. There are separate kiosks and shops at Disney where you can purchase pins with money.

There are other regulations apart of Disney’s formal pin-trading operation, which is found in Disney’s Pin Trading Etiquette.

Where to Buy and Trade Disney Pins

It doesn’t seem that Disney pin-trading will be going away anytime soon. Part of the craze is getting to collect rare pins. As recent pins get older, the hype about obtaining those pins will only increase with time.

Fortunately, there are many locations you can purchase or trade pins at Disney parks. These locations include:

Disneyland Resort

  • Disneyland
  • Downtown Disney
  • California Adventure

Walt Disney World

  • Magic Kingdom
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Downtown Disney
  • Epcot

Disneyland Resort Paris

  • Disneyland Park
  • Disney Village
  • Walt Disney Studios Park

Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

Tokyo Disney Resort

  • Tokyo Disneyland
  • Disneysea
  • Ikspiari

Walt Disney Studios (Burbank, California)

Walt Disney Imagineering

Disney Cruises

There are numerous places to trade and purchase pins at the above locations. However, trading hours may vary. Before delving into purchasing or trading pins, do adequate research. Find out what different pins mean. Try to aim for certain types of pins. Most importantly, further educate yourself on how to trade pins and where and when to do so. Keep your eyes peeled for any new pins!

Hint: If you’re going to Disneyland soon, check out the limited-edition pins for Pixar Fest!

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