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Tips for helping your kids start pin trading at Disney World

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My son and daughter have been trading pins at Walt Disney World for almost four years now and the excitement of it hasn't dulled. As a parent, I think it's a fun hobby for them, and it adds a bit of excitement to our trips into the theme parks. I'd like to share a few tips we've learned along the way, in case pin-trading is something you're considering.

First, be aware that Disney does have some basic rules for pin trading:

** Teach your child to ask to view a cast member's pins. Do not grab at lanyards.
** Pins must be metal and represent a Disney event, character, location or icon, and be in good condition.
** There is a limit of two trades per guest with the same cast member.
** No money can be involved in the trade.
** Cast members with green lanyards can only trade with kids ages 3 to 12.

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Allowing your child to approach the cast member while you listen is a great way for them to learn and practice social interaction skills in a safe, controlled environment.

The start-up costs for pin-trading may seem expensive if you're buying for more than one child. This activity certainly can be pricey for the serious collectors. But if you're just trading for fun, there are some ways to lower expenses.

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First, you'll need something to display your pins. Many guests choose lanyards, which typically are the least-expensive option. You can purchase them in just about any Disney World gift ship, or perhaps you already received some as part of a Disney promotion. For example, Disney Cruise Line gives lanyards to returning cruisers and Disney World passholders received them one year as well. Another option is a soft album, and these come in various sizes and prices. The smaller ones actually have straps and can be worn as a bag or purse.

My children have multiple lanyards -- one for pins they want to save and one for pins they are willing to trade. After losing a few pins that were near-and-dear to their hearts, we invested in the locking backs -- about $10 for 10 backs. Now, though, I almost wish we had bought the more expensive album-type bags because I think they would allow easier access to the pins -- no locking backs needed -- and there would be less opportunity for loss because of the zippered closure.

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The other big expense is the pins themselves. Pins in the parks start at about $7 and increase in price. This can add up quickly if you want to give your child a handful to get started. You can purchase a starter set, which contains several pins and a lanyard. Those prices begin at about $30.

But, if you're not picky about the design, many guests recommend purchasing pins on eBay for the best deal. Typically those lots contain anywhere from 25 to 100 pins, making the average cost less than a dollar per pin. Don't need 100 pins? Perhaps you can split the lot with friends. Be aware, however, that some of these sellers are offering scrappers, which are pins not authorized by Disney and cannot be traded on property.

Guests who are really into pin trading look forward to an annual event at Epcot that is just for them. This year's "Disney Trade Celebration 2012 - Mickey's Circus" takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on September 7 and 8. Event admission is $120 per person plus Epcot admission, and registration has opened. For all the details, check out here.

Also, Downtown Disney Marketplace's Disney's Pin Traders is continuing to host monthly events with Disney Design Group artists. Artist Adrianne Draude, who is behind the creation of a number of Walt Disney World pins, will be meeting with fans and signing pins from 5 to 7 p.m. on July 27, August 10, and September 28. (Be sure to subscribe to the AllEars.Net newsletter for all the latest news of special pin-trading events.)

For answers to many other questions, check out Disney's official pin-trading site, and please share your pin-trading tips and experiences in the comments.

The previous post in this blog was SeaWorld Orlando's TurtleTrek takes visitors on amazing journey.

The next post in this blog is Surprising the kids with a Disney vacation.

Comments (6)

Brooke:

Recently, I have some friends that got some "flak" from cast members for trading pins they had purchased in bulk from ebay.

Is there any official statement about trading pins purchased on ebay?

Just curious. We love Disney and want to be sure we are playing "by the rules". :)

KRISTIN: From what I understand, cast members are trained to not accept "scrappers," which are the pins not authorized by Disney. Unfortunately, some of the eBay sellers are offering those pins, rather than legitimate ones, so it's important to understand what you are purchasing.

Lorri Gumanow:

My son is an only child and also has some mild disabilities. We go to WDW at least once a year. We started pin trading together during our first visit to WDW when he was 8 years old. It was a really fantastic way for him to practice his social skills and to interact with other adults: practicing eye contact, using an appropriate volume in his voice, and engaging in conversation. Now he's 12 and an actor, and he wants to be a Disney cast member some day!

As we started to really get into the whole world of pin trading, we began to go to pin trading events outside the parks (in NYC we used to go to monthly pin trading events that are no longer held :-( ). We met other traders and learned their tips and tricks.

My trick for saving money is to focus on collecting the Hidden Mickey pins instead of buying expensive pins in the parks. Before our annual trip to WDW, I buy 50-100 pins on eBay. Then I print out the Hidden Mickey list for the current year from the Disney website and put the list in a page protector. (I learned the hard way that having a wet list after Splash Mountain is not a good thing!) I sort through the pins I have to trade and find a few that are on the list, and put those aside. Then, we are ready to trade in the parks!

Trading for Hidden Mickey pins is like a game, a scavenger hunt. We know what pins we need (via the list), and which pins on our lanyards we don't need and can trade. It is so much fun to try to find these pins, and we have so many wonderful interactions with cast members every day! My son's social skills have improved astronomically since we started doing this. Taking him to WDW is like putting him into a magic bubble - he comes out of his shell!

In 2010 we actually collected the entire Hidden Mickey collection, and got the last pin we needed in our final 15 minutes at our resort before leaving to go home! What an accomplishment! High fives from all the cast members in the gift shop!!

The best part: My actual cost for the pins for this game was $100. Not bad, considering how much stuff costs at the World! And the results - priceless!

Bill:

The concern with telling people to buy lots of pins on eBay is many of those auctions contain what is known as scrapper pins, and actually hurts the pin trading community by mixing scrappers in with legitimate pins. Scrappers are pins, usually sold directly from the factories and NOT AUTHORIZED by Disney.

KRISTIN: Thanks, Bill, for the reminder. I have added that info to the post.

Jen:

Great post! I'm so looking forward to when our kids can enjoy pin trading with us! Just wanted to send out a cautionary reminder regarding purchasing pins on eBay. Many of those large lots of pins, the ones where the price per pin is unbelievably low, are not genuine Disney trading pins. Rather, they are "Scrappers," or fakes that are not authorized by Disney. Here is a more in-depth look at the issue:
http://reviews.ebay.com/FAKE-DISNEY-PINS-101?ugid=10000000001748045

Thanks again to the whole Allears team for keeping us sane while we're away from "home." Love reading your articles!

KRISTIN: Thanks, Jen, for the reminder. I updated the post to include that information.

Misty:

Are the trading pins that are sold at the Disney stores authorized pins?

BJ Reynolds:

The bottom line is that it just does not make any sense that someone would auction off their entire collection for $3.50. Even if they did, and started at 0, it would be their whole collection. They would not have 50 other items up for bulks of 50-1,000 Disney pins. It is NEVER a good idea to suggest that somebody do that. They are fakes. They aren't always some pins that fell off of the assembly line due to flaws.

There ARE some good sellers on ebay, and a few other sites where you can find some honest sellers, or people who just want to get rid of some extras.

There are people who knowingly do this, for themselves and/or their kids. Yes it is an expensive hobby, and a lot of collectors don't get up to some huge 500 pin count. But its always better to teach your kids honesty. It is doing right by all your other traders and collectors out there. And just like with every other kid out there with a hobby, later on sometimes they want/need to sell some of their collection, and the pins' authenticity will matter.

Also, Hidden Mickey pins are some of the most copied pins out there. Be sure to inspect your pins a bit before you trade for them.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 17, 2012 8:53 AM.

The previous post in this blog was SeaWorld Orlando's TurtleTrek takes visitors on amazing journey.

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