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Pin Collecting

One of the most popular activities for guests at any Disney resort is pin trading. The trend was inspired by pin trading activities at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Disney’s vast collection of pins includes special designs featuring attractions, resorts, characters, special events, holidays, and more. Guests can buy many pins directly for their collection, but the fun is in trading them. There are many pins that you can only get by trading with Cast Members because they’re never sold in stores.

The problem with pin trading is that there are a lot of counterfeits out there that look extremely similar to the real thing. Most Disney pins, both real and fake, are manufactured in China. When a factory finishes with a legitimate run of real pins, they often discard the old mold. These same molds are then used in counterfeit production runs to create pins that can look nearly identical to the real thing.

The following qualities will help you determine whether a pin is real or a fake. These elements will ensure that you’re looking at a genuine pin but are not necessarily present on every pin that’s authentic. Just because a pin lacks one of the criteria, it’s not necessarily a fake. Having one or more of these features does mean that your pin is almost surely real.

1. Look for the official Disney Pin Trading logo

Disney Pin LogoDisney Pin Logo

Every official Disney Pin should have a Pin Trading logo on the back. The main part of the logo is a classic Mickey head with a banner across the middle. Inside the banner it will say “Pin Trading,” with the release year beneath it. Newer pins have the Mickey head logo set atop a crest shape, making it look even more official. It should also say “© Disney.”

2. Look for a stick pin closure

Wrong Pin ClosureWrong Pin ClosureTrading pins don't have this closure.

Official Disney trading pins have a stick pin that pokes a hole into an article of clothing and is held on by a rubber Mickey Mouse shaped pin back. If the closure is anything else, it may not be the real McCoy. Please note that if the pin back doesn’t look like Mickey, it doesn’t mean that it’s a fake. The original pin back may have been replaced.

3. Look for prongs on the back

With and Without ProngsWith and Without ProngsThe pin on the left is authentic

Official Disney Pin Trading pins usually feature at least one prong to keep the pin from spinning. Larger pins boast two small prongs while smaller pins usually offer one tiny prong. These prongs, or nubs, are little more than raised bumps so they’re easy to miss, but a nub or two on the back is an excellent indicator that you have a genuine pin.

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Comments

Thank you for this great article. I appreciated hearing that it's ok just to get pins because they make you happy. I'm not a SERIOUS collector, but was curious about real vs fake so l won't get caught by a less...honest seller, when I'm supporting my habit! I love your description of the pins as "little paintings" as I've described them that way too! Thanks again!

It seems, as some others have mentioned, that the guidelines in the article are only really valid in more recent pins.
I have a few pins from the early 2000's (2002-2006) that these guidelines would call them fake even though they were purchased directly from the park.

ie: The number of prongs, the logo, etc.
The logo has definitely changed over the years.

I've been trading for 5 years and I've amassed a rather large collection (thanks to a local pin trader who sold me his entire 600+ pin collection for an absolute steal). We started collecting during the Pin Trading 10th anniversary and in those 5 years with all of the scrappers that have flooded the market, Disney has really stopped investing in this program. It's still a fun way to meet and interact with cast members, but now I accept that I'm probably not going to come home with any REALLY great new finds. Scrapper or no, if the pin is cute and is in reasonably good shape, I'm happy to give it a home in my permanent collection. So many of these things are produced, I imagine that they'll eventually go the way of beanie babies. If it's not fun or if the pins don't mean something special to you, I don't see much of a point in collecting and trading. I own pins because it makes me smile when I look at them (they're like little miniature paintings) and because I like to use them as a vehicle to meet people and engage with them in a way that I otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to.

As for the scrappers that are in really bad shape, I like to used them for Disney-inspired crafts. One of my pins (a Mickey Mouse golfer) was missing the paint on his one shoe, so I filled in the missing space and carefully matched the paint to his other shoe. Now he hitches a ride on my golf bag :). He looks great and I'm not concerned about him falling off because he cost me a little bit of nothing. Scrappers are also great for adorning scrapbook pages or for making a DIY castle-shaped matted photo frames filled with pins--you know, the ones that they sell in the shops for around $1200!!

Those are great ideas for what to do with the scrap pins. I was a merchandise cast member and as for advice for getting rare or unique pins, trade early. I had a number of rare pins on my lanyard while working there and they were the first to be traded. I remember when I was working at the Green Thumb Emporium in the Land I got a pin that was made for the opening of Seven Dwarves Mine Train and one I had never seen before. Not 10 minutes later a tween girl asked to see my pins and she screamed "THAT ONE" so loud it scared me, and I couldn't say no to such enthusiasm!

I am not an avid pin trader now, but it was very fun to do as a cast member and the fastpass and ticket book pins are a favorite of mine, and I love you mentioning ways to create great things to do with fake ones. Just because they aren't genuine doesn't mean that they can't still be special :)

Pin number 2 is an official Disney pin- it's from their Earth Day celebration many years ago. It is made exactly like the other pins they hand out for visiting character restaurants.

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