When my family first visited Disney World in 2003, our room package included a "gift" - a Disney pin starter set, consisting of four Mickey Mouse pins and a lanyard to wear them on. Since we had two children, we naturally had to purchase another such set. Little did we realize the addiction we were about to fall victim to!
The premise is innocent enough - Disney creates collectible pins of the various characters, movies, theme parks, resorts, and rides that populate the Disney universe. Many of these pins are quite attractive, and virtually all are very affordable, ranging from six to twelve dollars each. While you can certainly wear your pins on any piece of clothing, most people choose to purchase a lanyard for around ten dollars (for the uninitiated, a pin lanyard is a sort of cloth necklace that you affix your pins to. Lanyards are easy to wear, easy to remove, easy to organize.). True hardcore collectors have been known to keep their pins in special binders or cases, but doing so removes a lot of the fun of pin collecting - namely, of showing them off.
Most Disney World cast members have lanyards of their own, and this is where Disney really gets you - for you see, cast members must trade with any guest who requests that they do so (provided that you are not trying to give them a pin that they already own). A smaller number of cast members wear special green lanyards which indicate that they may only trade with guests twelve years old and younger. On the face of the matter, this seems to be a great bargain - you can trade away a common, cheap pin to a cast member for a large, expensive (or even limited edition) pin. Once you make a trade or two, you find yourelf hooked.
Almost every Disney souvenier shop or stand has at least a small selection of pins for sale, and every park has at least one specialty shop with a wide array of pins for sale. Of course, pin inventories vary from stand to stand and from shop to shop. We now make it a point to ride the monorail to the Contemporary Resort once during every trip to Disney World just to visit the pin trader located there!
Yes, after a couple of days, my wife and I could no longer resist the siren song of the pins, and we purchased our own lanyards. The entire family took their lanards back this last trip, and we fully intend to take them again the next time we go. My son collects Chip, Dale, and Stitch. My daughter likes the villains, plus Bambi and any cat pins. My wife colects one thing only - she has one of the most amazing Tinkerbell collections that you'll ever see on a "casual" collector. As for me, I'm all over the place - pins from each of the theme parks, from every resort we stay at, plus Robin Hood, the Jungle Book, the Lion King, and Pirates of the Carribean.
Of course, those eight dollar purchases add up in a hurry. Our lanyards are worth several hundred dollars already, but in reality are worth much more than that, since we each own several pins that are no longer made, are from overseas, or are otherwise rare.
Oh, yes - there is a collectibility factor to be considered. Some pins are sold only at Walt Disnney World in Florida, where others are sold only at Disneyland or Eurodisney. All pins are eventually discontinued (which contributes to my liking of Jungle Book pins - almost no new ones are made), and limited editions are made, often to commemorate a specific event (holidays, celebrations, etc). Some pins are only available to vacation club members, to season pass holders, or to those who attend special events (such as Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party)... there is even a series (Cast Lanyard pins) that can never be purchased, and must insted be traded for with a cast member! Finally, there is the Hidden Mickey series of pins - a very popular type of limited edition.
There is no right or wrong way to trade pins - if someone has something you'd like, and you have something they will accept, then trade away... this is the fun. That being said, experience has taught us a few tricks to pin trading success.
- Set a limit. We have a one pin purchase per day rule. If you trade it away, fine, but don't expect to buy it again - unless you wait until another day. The low price point of pins can lure you into spending far too much far too quickly if you do not monitor how many you buy.
- Go trading early! Cast members have their pins replenished every night. Naturally, this means that if you want "good" pins from them, you stand the best chance in the early mornings, before the crowds have picked them over. Also be aware that when new employees come on duty later in the day, they bring their own fresh lanyards with them.
- Keep your eyes open. Don't be afraid to approach cast members at the park gates, or janitorial cast members. Even most management members have either a lanyard or a pin card (the latter attached to their belt).
- Invest in starter sets. If you are more interested in trading than in buying a collection, it would be silly to buy pins at seven or eight dollars each when you can buy a box of seven for twenty-five dollars. Of course, most people learn this lesson quickly - you'll see a lot of these starter pins on cast lanyards later in the day.
- Don't be shy, but be polite. Unless a cast member is helping another guest, they are always happy to show you their pins. All you have to do is ask nicely!
- Check the schedule. Many of the larger pin stores do pin trading events at certain times in the day, such as giving you fifteen seconds to "trade" with a bulletin board, or alowing you to take a number to have a chance to look through a massive book of pins to "trade" with. Ask around, and see when these occur - you can find many older, harder to find pins this way.
All kidding aside, pin collecting and trading is an extremely fun activity, and one that every member of the family can share in. Our family all know what each member is looking for, and have found that it's as much fun to find an item on someone else's wish list as it is to find one on yours.
And if your tastes change... well, you can always trade those pins again!
By Author. All Rights Reserved. Date
March 07, 2007
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