Inside The Insane World Of Disney Pin Trading

When most people think about Disney, they are probably thinking about the Happiest Place on Earth or the massive collection of delightful animated movies. Most people are probably not thinking about thousands upon thousands of commemorative pins - but surprisingly, pins trading comprises a major subculture within the Disney fan universe. 

These little metal pins might seem like a strange thing to collect, but according to some insane Disney pin trading stories, there are people who have over 5,000 pins, some of which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Some adorn the vests of Disneyland social club members, while others are kept pristine in velvet-lined binders.

  • Disney Got The Idea From The Olympics

    When George Kalogridis, the president of Walt Disney World Resort, went to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, he was looking for ways to spice up the Disney Millennium celebration he'd be organizing. 

    He came across a group of people trading Olympics-themed pins and was impressed by the connections people were making despite not sharing a language. He decided to bring that experience to the Millennium celebration in 1999, and pin trading took off from there.

  • There Are 100,000 Pins To Collect

    Disney pin collecting is a completionist's worst nightmare. There are over 100,000 pins, which means getting one of each is more or less impossible.

    There are pins with individual Disney movies, mascots, and characters. Some pins are based on special events or attractions and rides in the parks. There are also themed series, like the Soda Pop series and the Piece of History Pins.

  • There's A Counterfeiting Problem

    There's A Counterfeiting Problem
    Video: YouTube

    Because there's so much money to be made in the pin trade, it should come as no surprise that counterfeits are an issue. One common scheme involves sending an illegally obtained pin mold to a Chinese factory then reselling the pins for cheap in the United States, often over sites like eBay.

    Robert Edward Smyrak and Larry James Allred were involved in such a scheme in 2013. Smyrak was only sentenced to one year in jail, three years probation, and restitution, but Allred was sentenced to eight years and had to pay $210,000.

    While each pled guilty to one count of trademark infringement, a felony, Allred also pled guilty to aggravating factors for property loss of over $200,000. 

  • Some Of The Pins Are Absurdly Expensive

    Some Of The Pins Are Absurdly Expensive
    Photo: jcart15 / eBay

    While most Disney pins are generally priced between $8.95 and $14.95, the rarer pins can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. This Snow White Princess Carousel Horse pin sold for $2,400.00 on eBay. Disney releases limited edition pins, which also tend to sport hefty price tags on resale sites. 

  • Some Pins Are Super Rare


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    For some collectors, the most fun part is tracking the rarer pins and adding them to one's collection. If that's your collecting style, Disney pins won't disappoint. Here are a few examples of some of the rarest ones:

    Cast Member 45-Year Service Award Pin: Some pins are only awarded to cast members, and since this one only goes to cast members who have been with a Disney park for 45 years, it is incredibly rare. Unlike other employee recognition pins, this one has had the same design since its original release.

    Flubber Mystery Pin: This pin was released in September 2000 at Epcot Theme Park in Walt Disney World. The green pin shows the character Flubber with its name and the year 2000 stamped across his legs.  Only 500 of these pins were ever released, and each of them has a an individual number on the back to prove it was part of this limited release. 

    Piece of History Pins: These pins are perhaps some of the most interesting. They aren't rare because of artificial scarcity - they're rare because each one contains real material from a former Disney attraction. Sometimes it's a bit of elevator cables, while other times it's a splinter of wood from a ride. No matter what, these pins are physical representations of Disney history, which makes them highly desirable to collectors. 

    Other rare pins are often limited releases that coincide with a holiday, film release, or park event. 

  • There Are Pin Trading Meet-Ups All Over The World

    Some of the most exciting events in the world of pin trading involve meet-ups and special events. Fans come together both in and out of Disney parks to show off their collections, trade with like-minded fans, and just get to know each other. There are also special events where limited edition pins are released. For example, the Disney Studio Store in Hollywood, CA, has special release events with limited edition pins.