Disney Trading Pins: Tips, Secrets, and Scrappers

Disney Trading Pins: Tips, Secrets, and Scrappers

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Around the time our daughter Rebecca was middle school age, she got turned onto pin trading during our Disney vacations. Looking for places to trade pins and finding pins that she really liked became a big part of the trip for her.

And, by extension, it added an extra dimension to our trips that I wouldn’t have thought to do myself.

And it didn’t cost very much, either.

In this post I’m going to go in-depth on everything you need to know about Disney pin trading, including topics like:

  • The history of pin trading
  • How and why to pin trade
  • Pin trading terminology
  • Tons of information about fake pins and scrapper pins and how to avoid them

 

What Are Disney Trading Pins?

Disney trading pins are small collectible pins that feature Disney characters, attractions, icons, or events. They can be purchased individually, in packs, or traded with others, particularly at the Disney parks.

Many cast members working at the parks will be wearing lanyards with 12 pins on them. (These are not their own personal pins; they belong to Disney.) You’re welcome to look at their lanyards and choose a pin you would like to trade them for.

They will be happy to trade with you if your pin meets the criteria (which we’ll talk about later.) In order words, they won’t say, “Mmm, no thanks, I don’t want a Minnie Mouse pin.”

Cast members that are wearing green lanyards only trade with kids.

You’re allowed to trade up to 2 pins, per cast member, per day. You shouldn’t grab their lanyard or touch their pins, but instead tell them which pin you would like. In addition, you’re not supposed to give them a pin they already have (although I have that rule is not well enforced).

So how many Disney trading pins are there? I don’t think anyone knows for sure the exact number, but it’s several thousand. I’ve read numbers ranging from 70,000 to 120,000.

 

Why Pin Trade?

The short reason, for most people, is “because it’s fun.”

One thing I liked about it was that it caused us to interact with a lot of cast members, and occasionally learn a thing or two from them. I also liked how it caused us to slow down and pay a little more attention to our surroundings: instead of just dashing to the next ride, we would be keeping our eyes out for pin boards or cast members wearing pin lanyards.

If you’re the kind of person who likes a challenge, you could make it your goal to find a specific pin, or see how many pins of a particular character you can find.

From a more practical perspective, Disney pins can be a pretty inexpensive souvenir that doesn’t take up a lot of space, either in your luggage or when you get back home.

 

When Did Disney Pin Trading Start?

Disney pins themselves have been around since the parks opened, but pin trading wasn’t a “thing” until the Millennium Celebration at Walt Disney World in 1999.

Ranker tells the story of how Disney Pin Trading all began:

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…

Disney pins, the article goes on to say, were never intended to be a phenomenon, or even to last more than about a year, but the demand of guests, particularly collectors, caused pin trading to last for two decades and counting.

The trading craze has spread to the Disneyland Resort in California (home of most Pin Trading events), as well as Aulani, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Disney Cruise Lines.

Interestingly, pin trading officially ended at Tokyo Disney Resort in 2002 because guests were getting so carried away with trading that it was taking over the park. However, pin are still offered there as prizes for carnival games, and a relatively small number of pins are available for sale.

 

How Much Do Disney Pins Cost?

According to Wiki:

  • The base price for a pin is USD $9.99.
  • 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 upwards of, and sometimes beyond, $125.

 

Are There Fake Disney Trading Pins?

Yes.

A lot of them.

And by “a lot,” I mean “thousands and thousands.”

And many of them — a huge number of them — are right inside the Disney parks.

Surprised? I was. Let’s talk about this, because there’s a lot to say.

 

What are Disney Scrapper Pins?

When we bought these Pin Starter Sets in the past, I completely believed that I was buying genuine, bona-fide, authentic Disney pins.

The set were recommended by a popular Disney blogger, who said the seller was incredibly high-rated, and that the pins in the set were “legitimate for trading.”

That sounded great to me!

And when the pins arrived, none of us were disappointed, and ever doubted their “realness.” I mean, they didn’t look weird or ugly or anything. They didn’t say “Diznee” on the back.

So we traded these pins — which we firmly believed were authentic pins — with many Disney cast members’ pins, who of course were only trading authentic Disney pins, right?

Whoops.

Turns out we were wrong on both counts.

You know those “tradable pins” that I bought from an “incredibly high-rated seller”?

Well, apparently referring to a Disney pin as “tradable” doesn’t mean anything.

Well … actually it kinda does mean something. It’s pretty much code for a “fake” or “scrapper pin.”

Scrappers are officially-licensed pins, made where actual Disney pins are produced. However, they were meant to be discarded (hence the name) because they did not meet the quality control criteria. I’ve heard them be described as “factory seconds” or “production overruns.”

Cheap packs of pins that you can find on Ebay or Amazon (like the pack we got) are very likely to be scrappers.

As in, very very likely.

As in, they are almost definitely scrappers.

 

Will Cast Members Trade Scrapper Pins?

I’m sure many readers will be rolling their eyes at my naivete, but I just assumed that Disney pins being worn and handed out by Disney employees at the Disney Parks would be real Disney pins.

Nope.

Well, okay … surely a couple fake pins get traded to a cast member here and there without anyone noticing … but the vast majority of their pins must be real, right?

Nope.

Turns out that roughly 90% of the pins you see on cast member lanyard and Disney pin trading boards are scrappers.

You might assume that’s because cast members don’t know the difference, or maybe some of them do, but they don’t have time to check the pins closely.

That may be true, but it’s also more than that.
Cast members have to trade a pin as long as the pin:

  1. Is made of metal
  2. Has a representation of a Disney character, attraction, etc
  3. Has a Dismey copyright on the back

And guess what? Scrapper pins meet all 3 criteria.

And that’s why they be advertised as “tradable.”

Because they are.

So that means it’s entirely possible to spend top-dollar on real Disney pins, trade them with cast members during your vacation, and end up with a bunch of junky, fake pins when you get home.

Not only is it “entirely possible,” but it’s almost guaranteed.

This creates somewhat of a dilemma for families like us: people who really enjoy the fun of pin trading in the parks, but don’t really care about how valuable or authentic our pins are, as long as we like them.

  • One one hand, I don’t want to give people fake pins or contribute to the problem of fake pins circulating the parks.
  • On the other hand, if we trade pins with a cast member — which we really enjoy doing — we almost certainly are going to get fake pins in return … so why should I pay good money real pins so that at the end of my vacation I can end up with a bunch of scrappers?

 

As someone wrote in the comments of a blog post about pins:

The fake pins are so pervasive, I find it best to make one of two choices.
1. Don’t worry about fakes; or
2. Don’t trade pins

 

Disney blogger Tom Bricker explains how Disney themselves apparently feels about all this:

Scrappers are controversial with hardcore Disney Pin Trading fans, but Disney itself is selling these to third parties and/or using factories in China that are known for producing overruns. Moreover, Disney allows Cast Members to trade scrappers. Given both of these facts, Walt Disney World’s official stance on these pins is quite clear.

If Disney wanted to put an end to scrappers, they could easily do so by producing the pins elsewhere or instituting different pin trading policies. Disney has made a business decision to do neither, likely because moving production would cost more money and policy changes in pin trading would be bad for business goodwill.

In any case, the practical reality is that the vast majority of pins on Cast Member lanyards (I’d estimate it’s over 90%) are scrappers. If you or your kids are trading pins with Cast Members, you’re going to get scrappers in return. That’s just a fact of pin trading.

As such, we highly recommend going the eBay or Amazon route …

 

And I tend to agree with him.

To me, it makes no sense to spend $200+ on real pins and trade them with Disney cast members, only to end up with a pile of cheap, fake pins when you’re by the end of your vacation.

Also, the way I see it is this: If I’m trading a fake for another fake, then that’s an even trade.

So unless something makes me change my mind — and by all means, if you have something to share that might change my mind, feel free to share it with me in the comments — we will continue to buy cheap pin starter packs (which are almost certainly scrappers) and trade them with cast members (for different pins that are scrappers).

However, this is an understandably controversial topic, and I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I “recommend” buying scrappers, or anything else. I’m just explaining the situation and telling you what we choose to do.

I also want to stress that I would never knowingly trade a scrapper pin for someone else’s real pin, either by flat-out lying or just not mentioning it.

The only trading we do is with Disney cast members, and since almost all of their pins are fakes … well, I consider that an equal trade.

 

How Can You Tell if Disney Pins are Fake?

I’m sure that right about now several are you are running to your Disney pin collections, eager to find out whether or not they are fake pins.

There also may be some of you who are determined to continue pin trading in the parks, but to just do it very very diligently and look for the very few pins out there that are authentic.

Here are some of the important things to look for in determining whether a pin is real or fake:

  1. Color — One of the most common colors in a fake pin is a “dirty yellow” or coloring that seems “too bright.” If the skin tone of a princess looks a little funny, that’s the sign us a fake. Also, an official pin should not have any paint peeling or coming off in any way.
  2. Sharp lines — Even small lettering should be clear enough that you’re able to make out all the words.
  3. Edges on a fake pin tend to be more rough.
  4. The Magnet Test — If you want to trade in the parks but want to avoid fakes, probably best thing to do is to pack a quality magnet in your park bag and test any pins that you’re considering.
    Generally speaking, fake pins cling to magnets, while real Disney pins don’t.
  5. Weight — Fake pins are often made with inferior metals, which tend to be lighter. If you’re holding a Disney pin that you know is authentic, you may be able to gauge the authenticity of another pin by comparing the two.
  6. Raised Front — The front of the pin should be raised and have a little texture to it, as opposed to being completely smooth.

 

Since this kind of thing is hard to really “get” without visuals and comparisons, I’ve included some videos below from people who know a lot more about this than I do:

 

Is my Disney Pin Fake? A Step-by-Step Guide

 

Most Common Fake Disney Pins

 

10 Easy Ways to Spot Fake Disney Pins! {Scrappers}

 

Where to Buy Disney Pins

So where can you buy Disney pins, either for the purpose of trading and/or starting your own collection?

If you are okay with buying scrapper pins, there are places on both eBay and Amazon where you can get a pack of pins pretty cheap — roughly $1 per pin. (And again, just to make sure there is no confusion, the reason they are so cheap is because they are fake/scrapper pins.)

Disney Trading Pins-Lot of 25-No DuplicatesDisney Trading Pins-Lot of 25-No DuplicatesDisney Trading Pins-Lot of 25-No DuplicatesDisney Trading Pins-Lot of 25-No DuplicatesDisney Trading Pins-Lot of 25-No DuplicatesDisney Trading Pins-Lot of 25-No Duplicates

 

 

If you are only interested in authentic Disney pins, obviously your best bet is buying your pins directly from Disney, either at the gift shops in the parks, on online.

Facebook is actually a good place to buy pins online. Pinderella is very popular for selling authentic pins at good prices.

 

Video — Guide to Buying Disney Pins Online

 

How to Carry Disney Trading Pins

Your first consideration is to keep your pins safe. The backs that come with the pins can easily come off when they’re being jostled around. (Remember, the whole reason Rebecca got into pin trading is because somebody else lost their pin.)

We replaced our pin backs with these more secure backs:

25 PCS of Nickel (Silver) Plated Butterfly Clutch Pin Backs25 PCS of Nickel (Silver) Plated Butterfly Clutch Pin Backs25 PCS of Nickel (Silver) Plated Butterfly Clutch Pin Backs

 

 

Most people (including Rebecca) like to wear their trading pins on a lanyard, like the Disney cast members do.

Of course these lanyards don’t have to have Disney characters (in fact, you can make an argument that decorating a plain lanyard with pins is a better idea). But if you — or more likely, your kids — want a Disney lanyard, here are a few cute ones:

Disney Princess Lanyard with Card HolderDisney Princess Lanyard with Card HolderDisney Princess Lanyard with Card HolderSet of 2 Mickey and Minnie Mouse Lanyards with Detachable Coin PurseSet of 2 Mickey and Minnie Mouse Lanyards with Detachable Coin PurseSet of 2 Mickey and Minnie Mouse Lanyards with Detachable Coin PurseMinnie Mouse Pink LanyardMinnie Mouse Pink LanyardMinnie Mouse Pink Lanyard

 

 

If you go this route, keep in mind that a lanyard full of pins can get awfully heavy and turn into a real pain when you’re walking for miles in the heat.

So if you have a lot of pins — say, more than 6 or 7 — consider:

  • Keeping your favorites safely back in the hotel room
  • Having 2 lanyards; one for “keepers” and one for “traders”
  • Wearing your favorites on lanyards, and keeping the traders in a coin purse

 

Disney Pin Trading Bags

They are some bags that were created just for the purpose of holding Disney pins:

Small Pin Trading Display Shoulder Strap BagSmall Pin Trading Display Shoulder Strap BagSmall Pin Trading Display Shoulder Strap BagOffical Mickey Mouse Pin Trading Bag with Shoulder StrapOffical Mickey Mouse Pin Trading Bag with Shoulder StrapOffical Mickey Mouse Pin Trading Bag with Shoulder Strap

 

 

Another option is to wear your pins on a visor, hat, or vest.

Wearing Disney trading pins on a vest
Someone proudly wearing their Disney pins on a vest
Photo courtesy of Laurie at Pics from the World of Disney

 

How to Display Disney Trading Pins (in real life)

Sadly, eventually you have to leave the Disney parks and return to your real life in the normal world, where you [probably] won’t walk around with a lanyard covered in Disney pins.

So what do you do with your pins that’s better than just tossing them into a drawer into your next trip?

Well, if you already have your pins on a lanyard, you can simply hang your lanyard up on some sort of hook.

Another easy thing to do is buy a cork board and hang it on the wall. You could use it just for Disney pins, or for more “normal” things as well, like grocery lists and Christmas card photos of your cousin’s family.

Some people create “Disney boards” that have not only pins, but countdown calendars, park tickets, photos, park maps, and other paper souvenirs.

 

If you’re crafty, you might want to make your own display board:

DIY Pin Trading Display

 

If you’re a hard-core collector — or just one of those organized people — you might like to keep it in an album made for storing pins. Each page can hold a different type of pin, or a different group of characters, or pins that you collected during a specific trip.

Disney Parks Exclusive Pin Trading AlbumDisney Parks Exclusive Pin Trading AlbumDisney Parks Exclusive Pin Trading Album

 

 

How to Make a Disney Pin Trading Book

 

And hey, even in the real world it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a few Disney pins out and about. Rebecca keeps a few on her school backpack, and I plan to wear one or two on the collar of my denim jacket this fall.

 

How to Style and Wear Disney Pins

 

Disney Pin Trading Terms

Like most hobbies, pin trading has its own set of terminology and abbreviations that seasoned vets toss around with ease, but which could baffle newbies.

Here is a partial list of abbreviations from Disney Pin Blog:

    DPB (Disney Pins Blog)
    OE (Open Edition pin)
    LR (Limited Release pin)
    LE (Limited Edition pin)
    WDI (Walt Disney Imagineering pins)
    HM (Hidden Mickey pin)
    ISO (In Search Of)
    HTF (Hard To Find)
    NFT (Not For Trade)
    NFS (Not For Sale)
    PTD/PTS (Pin Traders Delight, Pin Traders Sundae)
    SPR (Surprise Pin Release)
    Grail (A pin collector’s favorite pin)
    CME (Cast Member Exclusive pin)
    CL (Cast Lanyard pin)
    Pinjury (Unintentionally stabbed from a pin post, sometimes drawing blood)

 

And here’s an explanation of some different pin types from Complete Set:

  • Cloisonné — Surface of the pin contains individually set color sections
  • Dangle Pins — A portion of the pin hangs from small loops or a chain
  • Die Cast — Hand engraving dies used to create a three-dimensional image
  • Free-D — Contains a fastened rubber element on a pin adding extra dimension
  • Flocked — The pin has an area that’s a bit fuzzy
  • Hard Enamel — Next generation follow-up to Cloisonné allowing for more colors
  • Jumbo Pins — Larger, often more intricately designed and more expensive pins
  • Lenticular — A pin where the image changes when tilted back and forth
  • Light-Up — You guessed it! The pin has a section which lights when activated
  • Slider Pin — These pins have a movable piece which can slide across the pin
  • Spinner Pin — One part of the pin can move a full 360 degrees
  • Soft Enamel — Thinner pin than cloisonné pins but offering some of the same effect
  •  

    Video — Disney Pin Trading Lingo

     

    What is a Hidden Mickey Pin?

    Just as the name suggests, Hidden Mickeys are pins with small Mickey heads hidden on them. (They’re not so much “hidden” as they are tiny.)

    So what’s the history behind Hidden Mickey pins?

    According to Wiki, a group of pins called the “WDW Cast Lanyard Collection” was introduced in 1999, meant to encourage guests to trade pins with cast members.

    When guests complained that it was too hard to tell the difference between Lanyard Collection pins and “regular” pins, designers began placing Hidden Mickeys on the pins. In 2007, the series name was officially changed to the “Hidden Mickey Collection.”

     

    Disney Trading Pin Starter Sets

    When people are brand new to pin trading, they often like to start out with a “pin starter set,” containing just a few pins and a lanyard, to get going.

    Here are a few nice-looking starter sets that I saw on Amazon.

    While I do not know for sure whether they are real Disney pins, I am guessing that they are, between both the price and the fact that they either say “Disney Parks authentic” or have the Disney logo on the product page.

    Disney Parks Frozen Pin Trading Starter SetDisney Parks Frozen Pin Trading Starter SetDisney Parks Frozen Pin Trading Starter SetRogue One: A Star Wars Story Pin Trading Starter SetRogue One: A Star Wars Story Pin Trading Starter SetRogue One: A Star Wars Story Pin Trading Starter SetPin Trading Starter Set - VillainsPin Trading Starter Set – VillainsPin Trading Starter Set - VillainsDisney Pins - Friends Are Forever - Starter Lanyard SetDisney Pins – Friends Are Forever – Starter Lanyard SetDisney Pins - Friends Are Forever - Starter Lanyard Set

     

     

    Disney Pin Trading Book

    I tried my best to include a lot of information in this post, and I certainly hope that it was helpful.

    However, as lengthy as this post is, it certainly isn’t an exhaustive look at Disney Pin Trading. Nor do I pretend to be either an expert or a collector.

    So if you want to learn more, check out The Mouse Pin Trading Guide.

    Mouse Pin Trading Guide:  The Beginner's Guide to the Fun and Obsessive world of Disney Pin Trading!Mouse Pin Trading Guide: The Beginner’s Guide to the Fun and Obsessive world of Disney Pin Trading!Mouse Pin Trading Guide:  The Beginner's Guide to the Fun and Obsessive world of Disney Pin Trading!

     

    I haven’t read the book myself, but it has very good reviews on Amazon.
    Reviewer LuckyLanena says:

    This was the best $13 I ever spent. This book guides you not only through the History of Pin but many helpful tips. The best part is the book includes full lists of all the “Hidden Mickey” and if you register your book on the author’s website you get print out copies of the pin list in FULL Color plus sign up for the informative newsletter. I now Trade with pride and knowledge. Thank you!

     

    Now it’s your turn.

    Does your family enjoy pin trading at Disney World? How do carry your pins at the park? How do you display your pins at home? Do you insist on owning and trading only genuine pins? Let us know below in the comments!

     

    What are Disney scrapper pins?  How can you tell if a Disney pin is fake? Where can you buy Disney pins? Find out everything you need to know about Disney pin trading.

    Pin trading at the Disney Parks -- tips, secrets, and how to tell real pins from fake pins


2 thoughts on “Disney Trading Pins: Tips, Secrets, and Scrappers”

  • So personally, I don’t care about the trading pins being “fake”.
    We are going for the first time (not me, this will make trip 3 for me) as a family. My older boys (13 & 10) thought it was a super cool thing to do in the park. If I told THEM they weren’t real pins, I highly doubt they would care either. This is more of a one time trip, as we try new places every year.
    But the reason I meant to comment was some people get genuinely SERIOUS about them! I am with several Disney groups on Facebook, and some fella made it clear he didn’t think children should be allowed because their “dumb parents” weren’t buying real ones, and there should be a special area for the “REAL” ones.
    Now I know people get serious about Disney, but WOAH now Buddy, I think we were all here to have a good time?! HAHA
    I’m more a laid back, enjoy life type person, so I’m hoping these children, or adults….are just enjoying themselves. Pins, no pins, clueless about what pins are….just have fun! (And don’t be a jerk!)

  • We like to buy pins because inevitably we have a specific character or princess that is our favorite that trip, and we can keep pins forever rather than clothes we grow out of or toys that will eventually get tossed aside or given away.
    We rarely trade. We do buy at Orlando area walmarts. I also find some that look to be real,or maybe last years styles in the tourist trap souvenir shops around Orlando. We also went to the Disney outlet store and they are there as well.
    We bring them home and put on the lanyards and hang them on wall including our celebration pins and 1st visit pins & jedi training pins. It is fun to remember why we pick certain ones! And affordable and such space saving while traveling and at home.
    Lanyards can be found cheaper at the tourist stores, walmart and disney stores. I bought at disney store for 1.99!
    Happy collecting to all!!!

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