An Insider's Guide to Pin Trading in Disney Parks

Posted by Make Badges on 16th Mar 2015

Disney Pin Trading
Image via

If there's something that Disney does well, it’s creating collectibles. They've been handing out specialty badges at their resorts for years, but in 1999 they officially sanctioned pin collecting as part of their Millennium celebration.

Like most Disney collectibles, these pin badges came in sets but are sold individually. Some were only sold in one particular park or in one resort, so you'd have to visit the entire complex in order to complete your set.

Walk around any Disney theme park, and you'll spot employees—otherwise known as cast members—wearing lanyards around their necks covered with Disney pins. You might think Disney is allowing its workers to show off their personal collections, but that's nowhere near the truth. It's all part of that magical hobby known as Disney Pin Trading, which we at Make Badges just love. Keep reading to find out more.

What is Disney Pin Trading?

Disney Pin trading involves the buying, collecting, and exchanging of specially designed pins from Disney.

These pins feature Disney characters, attractions, icons, events, and anything for the avid fan to enjoy. These pins are available for purchase at various locations within Disney Parks and Resorts, as well as from those who sell them online.

Each pin often has a unique design, some even being limited edition or special releases, making them highly sought after by collectors and potentially worth a lot of money.

The essence of this form of pin trading is not just in the collection of pins but the experience of trading them with other guests and Disney Cast Members.

Cast Members wear lanyards or hip packs adorned with pins and are happy to trade with guests (more information below). This activity encourages interaction and storytelling among Disney fans of all ages, creating a vibrant community of collectors who share a passion for Disney and its rich legacy of colourful characters.

At Make Badges, we encourage all forms of Disney pin trading, and the unique it commemorates visits, celebrates beloved characters and connects with others in the magical setting of Disney Parks.

The Origins of Disney Pin Trading

Specialty Disney pins have been around much longer than the parks have existed, but they really came into vogue during the Millennium celebrations. Beginning in 1999, Disney opened pin kiosks throughout the parks and encouraged guests to purchase them for trading.

In order to spur on the trading excitement, they provided select cast members with a lanyard covered in pins for trading.

The badge sets are themed according to what Disney event is popular. For the Millennium, they created a photomosaic puzzle of Spaceship Earth, the giant ball that greets visitors in Epcot, and broke it up into puzzle pieces.

One piece was sold each day, giving collectors a fierce reason to trade among themselves.

Soon after that, Disney created the Hidden Mickey pins, touching on the unofficial game that's played throughout the parks. Each pin had an outline of Mickey Mouse's head hidden somewhere in the design, so keep an eye out!

How to Begin Disney Pin Trading as a Hobby

The best way to begin collecting Disney pins is by purchasing a lanyard in one of the parks. Each lanyard comes with a collection of badges, usually six or eight. Wear the lanyard and walk up to any cast member who's wearing a similar lanyard. Look at the pins they're wearing. If you see one you like, offer to trade.

Cast members will trade any pin on their lanyard with any other Disney badge from yours. The only exception to this rule is cast members who wear a green lanyard. These are reserved for trading with children.

Some cast members make a fun game out of putting one pin in the back of the lanyard, showing only the backing in front. You can trade any of your pins for this mystery pin, and sometimes you'll find a rare one this way.

Disney traders only deal in genuine Disney pins. They will have the Disney logo on them and will be relatively heavy for their size. Other giveaway badges can be attractive additions to your collection, but you can't use them for trading.

Rules of Disney Pin Trading

Pin trading at Disney is a fun and engaging activity, guided by a few straightforward rules to ensure a pleasant experience for everyone involved:

  • Each pin should be an authentic Disney pin badge, identifiable by the “©Disney” stamp on its back.
  • Pins must be in good condition to trade with and feature the authentic Disney Mickey Mouse ear backing.
  • The decision to trade pins is entirely up to you, but when you choose to trade, cast members are required to exchange any official Disney pin you select (except in some cases).
  • Pin trading is designed to be a cost-free activity; there should never be any charges associated with trading a Disney pin.
  • Cast members are open to trading most pins, with the exception of award, service, and personalised name pins, which are not eligible for trade.
  • When selecting a pin from a cast member, tradition requires that you should not directly touch the pins. Instead, simply point to the pin you're interested in, and the cast member will handle it for you.

Trading With Cast Members

It's become a Disney tradition. To this day, if you walk up to any cast member who is wearing a pin lanyard, they have to trade any pin you choose in return for any pin you give them. The only exception to this rule is the cast members wearing the green lanyards.

These are reserved for trading with children only, and they take their duties very seriously. Don't try to convince them to trade with you "just this once."

It won't work, but you may get a laugh at the creative ways a cast member turns you down, because they're not actually supposed to tell you "no."

Best Practices

The best way to experience Disney pin trading is by getting ready ahead of time. If you're planning a visit to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or any other Disney park, start your planning now:

  • Purchase inexpensive "trader" pins in bulk online. You can find bags of them on eBay and on other shopping sites.
  • Look through pin sites online to get an idea of the available specialty pins around.
  • Find some special pins you plan to look for. This makes pin trading even more fun, with a treasure hunt aspect added in for the kids.
  • Wear your pins proudly in the parks, either on a lanyard, a hat, or a special pin-trading shirt.

Collecting Rare Disney Badges

The rarest badges are those made in smaller, exclusive editions. Some holiday pins and those celebrating Disney events such as the Food & Wine festival, are created in a limited edition. The back of the pin will show a phrase such as "35 of 150,” which shows how large the printing run is.

The smaller the amount, the rarer the pin. Among the rarest are those created for cast members and annual pass holders, both of which can't be purchased directly by the general public. The only way to collect these pins is by trading or buying them on an online selling site such as eBay.

Serious Collections

Some people simply trade for pins they like the look of, while others have collections in mind. No matter which type of collector you are, keep an eye out for other collectors who may trade around the pin kiosks. You may find a special pin you might not otherwise add to your collection, although you might have to give up a more valuable pin in return than one of your cheap "traders."

Do I Have to be at Disneyland to Trade Pins?

No, you don’t have to necessarily be at a Disneyland park. There are ways to get them online or you can always design your own.

To be able to trade up for the pins your kids really want, you need to have some pins to trade. So start with the inexpensive ones.

Tips on Pin trading

If you are diving into this exciting hobby for the first time, we at Make Badges have some great tips:

  1. Disney offers lots of pin designs, but there are mystery sets as well to keep your eye out for.
  2. New pins are released regularly and Disney comes out with special pins for special events and movie openings.
  3. Many of the Disney pins available for trading are not available for sale; pin trading is the only way to get them.
  4. Use pin fasteners to secure them on so they aren’t lost
  5. Separate your collection by rarity
  6. Pin trading is intended to be free; you should never pay to trade a Disney pin.

Whether you are simply looking for custom-made badges to mark a special occasion or intent on starting your own custom collection, you'll find all sorts of badges at Make Badges ready for your individual designs. We’re happy to help, so feel free to contact us today. 

Discounted Prices