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Assorted Disney pins

Pin trading is a time-honored activity at the Disney Parks. Well over 100,000 varieties of official Disney pins have been manufactured over the last two decades, feeding into a pin frenzy that has caught on with tourists and passholders like. As with any hobby, of course, there are myriad ways to approach pin trading at the parks. Guests can walk up to almost any cast member wearing a lanyard and trade for the pins they’re wearing; alternatively, they can find more cast member pin trading opportunities at the shops around the parks and resorts, where boards are placed throughout the day for guests to trade off of.

Those looking for more of a challenge can try trading with other guest pin traders in the parks, though this requires a little different approach than trading pins with cast members. For one thing, a guest may be traidng pins that are older or more valuable than standard rack pins, which can yield some rare and interesting finds. Unlike cast members, however, guests can refuse any trade they don't want to make, which makes the whole activity of pin trading more complicated and difficult to pull off.

Ready to get started? Here are a few tips and tricks to make your next pin trade go as smoothly as possible.

DO familiarize yourself with the best times and places to trade.

Sunset Ranch Pins and Souvenirs in Disney Hollywood Studios

Image: Theme Park Tourist, Flickr (license)

Since pin trading between guests is not organized by Disney, there are no official times or places scheduled at the parks. That said, most pin trading is generally conducted on Thursdays and Sundays. New park pins are released on most Thursday mornings, while Sundays are the non-blackout weekend days for many passholders.

Although you can find guests conducting trades anywhere within the parks or Downtown Disney area, the two best places to trade are outside Westward Ho Pin Trading Company in Frontierland and the picnic area by the Disneyland Esplanade lockers. You might also get lucky in the seating area behind Goofy’s Sky School in Disney California Adventure or at the tables outside Rancho Del Zocalo in Frontierland, though these places have been routinely kept pin trader-free for diners over the last few months.

DO read up on the different types of pins out there.

Assorted Disney Pins

Image: Disney (license)

Disney pins come in all shapes, sizes, editions, and price tags. Most are sold within the Disney Parks, but you’ll also find rarer and more sought-after pins at the Disney Store, Disney Studio Store Hollywood, bi-annual D23 conventions and Mickey’s of Glendale (cast member-only merchandiser). These are the most common kinds of pins you’ll run across while trading with guests:

  • Hidden Mickey (HM): These pins are rarely made available for purchase in the parks’ shops. If you’ve ever traded with a cast member, you likely acquired one of these, as they’re most often found on a CM’s lanyard. You’ll recognize them by the little Mickey head symbol on the front of the pin. These are also the cheapest pins to acquire and the most likely to be scrapped and/or counterfeited.
  • Open edition (OE): Older open edition pins can be rare and valuable, but the majority are cheap and easy to find. Almost every single pin sold on the racks at Disney shops are open editions.
  • Limited release/edition (LR/LE): Limited release pins are often found in mystery pin packs and are fairly easy to acquire. They aren’t quite as rare as limited edition pins, however, which can be the most difficult to obtain. Some limited edition pins, especially those released at the parks, can have edition sizes as large as 6,000-10,000, while LE pins from other licensed sellers can run as low as 100. (A few older pins might run even lower—say, around 10 or 15—though these pins are near-impossible to track down and often come with a hefty price tag.)

Other commonly-used terms include PTD (pin trader’s delight, a limited edition pin released exclusively at the Disney Studio Store Hollywood with the purchase of an ice cream sundae), WDI (Walt Disney Imagineering pins released exclusively at Mickey’s of Glendale), DA (Disney Auctions, often expensive, low-LE pins), AP (artist proof pins, rare versions of open edition or limited editions pins), PP (pre-production, rare early prototypes of open edition or limited edition pins), and so on.

If you’re looking to get serious about your pin collecting/trading habit, check out PinPics.com, a website devoted to cataloging every Disney pin. You’ll find valuable information about the rarity, desirability, and history of the pins you have, as well as those you’re looking to obtain.

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