The Origins of Disney Pin Trading

If you’ve been to a Disney park in the last
twenty years, odds are you’ve come across the seemingly endless amount of Disney pins
that are sold, collected, and traded on a daily basis. It has become almost a staple of the Disney
park experience. Today we’re going to explore the origins
of Disney Pin trading, and to do that we have to go back over 120 years. The origins of Disney pin trading actually
takes us to the modern Olympic games, and those began in Athens in 1896. During that first event, athletes, Olympic
officials, and journalists were given small badges made of cardboard to wear to identify
themselves. From here two paths would develop over the
course of Olympic history that would eventually merge into one. For the 1912 summer Olympic games in Stockholm,
Sweden, commemorative metal pins were made and sold to spectators. Unlike cardboard, metal pins make for great
souvenirs. They’re small, easy to manufacture, easy
to ship, and affordable. By this point the cardboard badges used by
athletes and officials at the games had also been replaced with metal variants. By the 1924 olympics in Paris, France, a hobby
began to take shape. Athletes were beginning to trade their badges
with other athletes in other countries as a gesture of goodwill and friendship. It wasn’t a big tradition at that point,
but it would be the seed that would eventually grow into something much larger. Back on the spectator side, there would be
more development at the 1960 Squaw Valley games, when a company called Sylvania Electric
would become the first corporate sponsor to design and issue their own commemorative pin
to go along with the olympic pins. That, too, began a slowly growing trend of expanding
the pin offerings more and more every 4 years at the next Olympics. The 1980 Lake Placid games are where the two
really started to explode into one large hobby. By that point the pins for the Olympic games
expanded to include pins for specific nations taking part, sports being played, sponsors
and mascots, and even pins for the different media outlets covering the event. Not only were athletes trading pins with one
another, but so were spectators. Because we were still in the midst of the
cold war, soviet pins were especially popular for collectors and this is also when we would
begin to see pin trading clubs appear. From there the craze just got bigger. Traders and collectors were spending hundreds
and sometimes thousands of dollars on pins. Remember this wasn’t the consistent stream
of pins we see today with Disney. These were limited engagements that only occurred
every four years. This also predates e-commerce and the rise
of the internet. So trying to get all of the pins you wanted
to collect was a much more difficult task back then. In 1996 at the Atlanta game the craze would
perhaps reach a peak. A company called Aminco International created
and sold over 1000 pin designs for the two-week event and estimated that they would, in total,
sell over 35 million pins. What’s interesting is that the value of
certain pins would fluctuate over the course of the games depending on the outcome of the
games themselves. If an underdog nation found itself unexpectedly
winning the gold medal in an event, that nation’s pin set would also find itself becoming much
more desired by collectors. Pin trading would naturally continue on to
the 1998 Olympic games in Nagano, Japan, and that’s where members of Disney would take
note of the lucrative and popular hobby. They were planning for a 15-month long Millennium
celebration in Walt Disney World. They decided that bringing the custom over
to their parks would be a fun way to create keepsakes, encourage guests from around the
world to meet and interact with one another, and of course make some money. Now Disney pins as a concept had already existed
at this point. Like I said earlier, pins in general made
for good souvenirs, and so Disney pins in one form or another could be found as far
back as the 1950’s in Disneyland. They just weren’t especially popular or
unpopular up until that point, and there certainly weren’t as many as there are today. They were just normal souvenirs. When the celebration began in October of 1999,
the official pin trading stations were limited to 7 areas across the parks. The entire pin trading concept itself was
meant to only run as long as the celebration, and was initially planned to end after 15
months. Merchandising spokesman Steven Miller said
“We really had no idea whether people would be interested in this.” Well spoiler alert: People were definitely
interested in it. Just as it did at the Olympics over the previous
20 years, pin collecting and trading exploded at Disney World. It tapped into all the same psychological
reasons that drive people to collect stamps and coins and anything else you can think
of. People take pride in building a collection. They feel satisfaction of out obtaining a
complete set. They socialize and experience a camaraderie
with fellow collectors and traders. Take all of that, and add on decades and decades
of characters that are beloved staples of modern media, and it’s really no surprise
that it caught on like wildfire and still continues to this day. More cast members were given pins for trading,
and within the year the number of pin trading stations expanded from that initial 7 locations
to over 30. On top of that, during the 15 month millennium
celebration, Disney was introducing new pin designs every single day. While they never officially disclosed any
sales figures, Walt Disney World Director of Merchandise, Brand Management, and Special
Events, Linda Conrad, went on the record to say that Disney pin sales “made up a substantial
part of the millennium revenues.” So as you’d expect, Disney quickly decided
to extend the program indefinitely and also went on to expand the merchandise to Disneyland
and their other resorts. Today the hobby is still going strong and
there are over 100,000 Disney pin designs out there. They not only include pins that guests are
able to purchase online and at the parks, but also limited edition pins, cast member
pins, and event pins. There are countless websites dedicated to
collecting, trading, and cataloging the pins. There are even meetups, not just at the Disney
Parks, but across the globe, where collectors can show off their pins and trade with one
another. Today It would be impossible to go a full
day at the Disney parks without coming across the pins. They are a fun and exciting aspect of a Disney
vacation, and it all began with these little cardboard badges in 1896.

100 thoughts on “The Origins of Disney Pin Trading

  1. Great video as always Rob I'm a huge collector who is going in August to Epcot for a Disney Pin event so I enjoyed the history behind my obsession 😀

  2. Wow!! What a Great video! I was researching to do a similar video for my first Disney History!!!! I am a pin trader and live the Epcot pins! I have the one on the thumb nail!

  3. Why, I even bought one myself, don’t you know. I remember like it was yesterday. I was at the pin store on BVS at DCA. There it was: Rapunzel holding a floating lamp and admiring it. I had to have it. So, I bought it, & even wore it a couple of times too hoping that it’d give me good luck. Well, it never did. But, the pin still holds a special place in my heart bc I love how things turned out for her in the end of that movie and wish my life would metaphorically turn out like hers did. I ended up selling the pin along with some other items a couple of years later. But, when Rob Plays does a wonderful video like this, the warm memories that come along with that pin come flooding my heart and soul.

  4. This is such a lovely video – it made me look at my collection again, and remember how much I love my pins and how many memories they hold.

  5. I got one in 2000 and just noticed recently it says "limited edition of 7500" its of mickey in a train that actually lights up
    I guess from the old night time parade

  6. Rob, will you please consider a video or series of videos on the topic of how W.E.D. Enterprises functioned as a business*? How did they generate revenue? How has that changed over time? How did they grow the business into what it is today? What is the *business story of W.E.D. (not the history that we all know so well)? Would love to see your treatment of this topic. Thanks for your consideration.

  7. My very first Disney pin was given to me at Disneyland in 1986. It was a Tomorrowland pin with astronaut Donald and a rocket. I would get pins every WDW visit because they were like only $6 then. Travel companies started giving them out, but I remember one year having to claim one of the pins at a resort hotel gift shop. It was a 2000 pin and came with a blank cm-wide lanyard. A cast member who gave them out explained how pin trading worked, and I saw that same 2000 pin throughout the parks as people traded at the pin spots with their free pin. I however kept mine, because it was the perfect millennium celebration souvenir. That, and despite 1999 and 2001, there were no Class of 2000 pins made by Disney. Not even a Y2K variant.

    Anyway, all the 2000 release pins had the 2000 Disney logo on the back, while the official logo started appearing in 2001. Around that time I couldn’t understand the hobby of pin trading. Time at the parks was limited, and you paid good money for pins you wanted, otherwise you wouldn’t’ve bought it. Why would you trade that? This was before mystery blind box/bag sets, or hidden Mickey CM sets. So I now understand why people do it. I started displaying my collection on a lanyard and backpack a few years ago, and despite the weight, I love it! It gets CM and park guests a way to interact with you like I’ve never experienced before. Just remember to buy locking backs!

  8. After seeing them at Disney World (2014) and didn't get any pin, when I was at Disneyland Paris I started collecting. Now I have to go back and trade in the States. Pretty tough for an Australian but it's worth it for Disney.

  9. Great video! I can't wait to trade some more pins during my next trip which is coming up very soon! It's funny I saw this since I just made a video on Pin Trading too! Do you pin trade Rob? If you don't make sure to watch my tutorial before you go out! 😉 Keep up the great work!

  10. I wouldn't normally consider myself as a collector but collecting the pins is one of the best parts about our family vacation to wdw

  11. Amazing video! I personally can't take a trip anymore without buying and trading pins- it has become a hobby for my entire family and I love hearing about the history.

  12. In 1998, the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals were in WDW. Pin trading is a big part of that organization, which they also adopted from the Olympics. The pin trading that OotM brought over to WDW that year was also a big factor into WDW picking up on the trend.

  13. I’m glad you mentioned the Olympic pin trading – that is a HUGE deal. Didn’t realize it went that far back, though!

  14. I went to Disney in early 2017,and barely any people had pins. I ended up doing most if not all of the pin trading with cast members.

  15. How do you go about making one of your videos? I have always admired them and it has inspired me to create a channel of my own (which I will not plug) I wouldn’t think to study the history of pins themselves in order to find out about Disney’s I probably would have started with Disney and they are so well structured I’m sure you put a lot of thought and research into these and I hope I can create content as good as this someday. Thank you

  16. Nice Epcot 30th anniversary pin. I have that one also. Was lucky enough to be working there at the time.

    I got a fancy schmancy 35th anniversary one last year. This time I had to buy it though. I think it was nearly 35 dollars. Worth it! Lol.

  17. A fun little “side quest” I do at the parks is buy a pin and keep trading as many times as I could with the CMs. Great video!

  18. I have a 2000 Disney pin. I always wondered why I didn’t have pins from earlier and now it makes sense

  19. This is an ironic video considering that last week when I decided that a nearly simple Baymax pin I looked to get was actually 13.99, I am giving up buying pins. I started April 2000 when I found them as I was a Boy Scout and pins were a badge of honor of your rank and camps you went to. My pins were favorite attractions I did, the parks and the hotels I stayed at for the longest time as well as the celebration going on when I went. These were my coaster credits in a way and early on I wore them on a hat similar to Boy Scout pins, back when the pins were metal backing and not rubber like they have been since about 2005. As of my last two trips to Disneyland, I find that it isn't worth it any more.I have 2000 and 2001 pins to about 2013/14 (not including ones I've traded for) but honestly besides traders, I'll likely not gonna pin collect anymore. I haven't bought any new pins since about 2013/4 at all and only get free DVC pins or ones I traded to get.

  20. I've only visited Disney World once, but I love the pins I picked up when I was there! I have two Haunted Mansion pins, a Tower of Terror pin and a Disney Wonder pin (that was the cruise ship I was on). I wish I had gotten a Pirates of the Caribbean pin though!

  21. The only pin I've ever gotten from the park was a Star Tours pin that I got in the late 90s. I have no idea whatever happened to it, but I wish I still had it.

  22. I started with hockey pins, playing different teams and trading.. have some old Olympic pins too Rob, but I love Disney pins the most.
    And they were hard to carry even more than the pins, but I loved vinylmation mickeys, and I really wish they would bring them back. Different subject matter all on a mickey consistently different. And expensive. and kozik. I'm sure they made tons

  23. I love my pins! I didn't get into them until a few years ago. My kid loves 'em and it's a nice way to get him a souvenir (we were AP holders at Disneyland for a long time) without spending a fortune. I like the tie in with the Olympian pins, I have friends who are Olympians who treasure trading pin memories with the other athletes! Also points for showing figure skating, my Olympian friends are all skaters 😉

  24. Great video! I always forget how new Disney pin trading is! I bought my first pins around 2001. I was only 11 (maybe 10 actually) at the time, so I had no idea it was a new thing, I just got the pins I thought were pretty as a souvenir. I still have all those pins I bought from 2001-2004 as a kid, as well as the collection I built up as an adult. I like to try and trade in the parks (though fake pins make that hard) but I've distanced myself from the pin collector scene because it's so dismal. Just a bunch of people taking advantage of their proximity to the park and exploiting it for profit.

  25. I never got into the pins. Neither did my kids. We went to Orlando for Spring Break every year from 2001-2012 and just never got the bug. We each saw a couple pins we liked and bought them. A cast member asked my kids if they wanted to trade and my kids looked at them like they were insane ha ha. I have my Mickey pirate pin (a rotating pin) on my oilskin Aussie hat, and it is my only one. 😀🍹🇵🇭

  26. my fav kind of pins are the hidden mickey Epcot logo ones, and the 25th anniversary Epcot ones that have Figment

  27. I’m really not sure you’re right here… I first visited Disney world back in about 1995… pin trading was definitely very much a thing.

  28. My little boys have really gotten into trading pins. It is really fun and relatively inexpensive way to experience some enjoyment in the parks!

  29. I collect whatever pins I like, but my main collections are "Nightmare Before Christmas", "Haunted Mansion", "Figment & Dreamfinder", "Carousel of Progress", "The Country Bear Jamboree" and "Great Movie Ride". I do not yet have any Haunted Mansion pins, but someday!!! I at least have Haunted Mansion crossover tee shirts featuring my favorite cartoon, "Beetlejuice: The Animated Series" AND the Jim Shore Hatbox Ghost figurine…

  30. As always a great video! I remember that on my first visit to Disney World I bought a starter kit for pins! They are irresistible! ❤️

  31. These are fun to collect. It's also a "hoot" to watch kids come up to cast members ready to "trade" Who said kids won't put down there "phones" and enjoy life! I actually also wear a "Goofy's Kitchen " button at work (in a restaurant in Houston) When it's a Disney on Ice event going on, I wear it and the kids really smile. My favorite is the Magic Behind our Steam Trains Tour pin from WDW. Tomorrow is Donald Duck day (guess what I will wear to work) LOL

  32. When I was growing up, my dad used to collect pins so it was especially neat when Disney started to create their own pins. Now I too collect pins and not just from Disney but anywhere I go.

  33. Rob, I am brand new to your channel as of about 3 minutes ago. 🙂 Just wanted to give you kudos on your well-researched videos! Super informative and a nice departure from the usual Disney history videos one would find on YouTube.

  34. Hey! Just learned that McDonalds is going to have Incredibles toys!!! I’m there right now, and they’re already using the packaging! I’m excited because they haven’t had Disney toys in over a decade! I think this topic would make a great video – Disney’s history with McDonalds, through movie promos, park and anniversary promos, and even McDonalds being sold all over the parks.

  35. It's sort of a tradition for me to buy a new pin every year I go to Disneyland and trade at least one of my older ones. It seems like now the only pins that really strike my fancy are the ones in the parks, not so much the ones cast members have, especially since most of those tend to be fake. But that's what my older pins are for, lol.

    Anyways I'm usually on the lookout for lesser known character pins like this Emperor's New Groove one and Pleakley pin I bought last year! Or the Iago one I found a few years back.

  36. I️ will admit I️ am a Disney Pinaholic and when I️ complete sets; note I️ only trade to collect sets and I️ rarely come upon them, I️ had the 5 color flag set for the longest time about 4 years and I️ had 4 of the pond and I️ was searching far and wide for the Yellow Pin and when I️ came across it at the P&P adventure in Epcot I️ gave the Cast Member the biggest hug I️ could because it was forever that I’ve been looking for it and I️ finally found it and another cast member about two days earlier I️ was chatting with because I️ traded and saw the Green Flag mentioned the Yellow Flag and she said that she traded it about 2 hours earlier and I️ was just devastated. But my best pin trade was when I️ went to the Japan Village in Epcot, I️ went over to the Pin Cart beside the Shrine and the Cast Member held out her lanyard and then she said she had another pin besides that and held up a Star Wars Limited Edition price that was bigger than the medallion that I️ keep on my Trading bag (yes I️ will bring my tasing bag into the parks along with my Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Cards collection of I️ have the chance to get over to Magic and play it trade) and I️ looked at it in the store and it was the most expensive pin in the store and it just surprised me.

  37. I remember in 2011 I collected the Club Penguin pins with my brother. Also I found out my grandfather used to collect Disney pins before he passed and one of the things that found its way to my house was his old pins.

  38. I am so glad I nvr started or bought them for my kids. When spending so much money to get in the gate & how busy we are, I just can’t see getting involved. I’d rather collect 1-2 magnets each trip.

  39. I'm currently buying bulk disney pins just for pin trading for a big family cruise later this year. 😂 That disney fever must be on the global brain.

  40. I corrupted my daughter into collecting Disney pins. She has an impressive princess collection at this point.

  41. My grandma was looking at pins for me, and she said she bought a Pokémon one since I like Pokémon too. (It was stitch)

  42. I was there for the first week of pin trading at WDW on a family vacation. I still have a bunch of pins from that trip, including a misprinted Aristocats pin I bought on Main St.

  43. I love my pins and I have only traded twice. I've spent about well over $300. Every single trip I make to Orlando, I have to get a pin.

  44. you forgot to mention the more recent history, like how fake/scrapper pins almost killed pin trading, and the even more recent popularity of fantasy pins

  45. After watching this video I ordered one of the Soviet Olympic pins from Etsy because I love the design!

  46. There’s an unspoken rule in the Parks that if a guest asks a cast member to trade for a pin, the cast member must make the trade.

  47. 2:48. Puerto Rico boxer vs. USA boxer. I'm from Puerto Rico and it feels great to see this. Thanks Rob.

  48. talking about survey markers last time at Fort Wilderness they had a survey marker placed in the parking area and it was a Mickey silhouette I so wanted to pull that thing up have you ever seen one on property?

  49. I never traded pins but I have a haunted mansion pin with chip and Dale and then a splash mountain one with Mickey, Donald and goofy lol! Those are my 2 fav rides at the parks! 😍

  50. I've started collecting pins after a couple years now and I cannot tell you how much I enjoy collecting them. I don't trade because I fear that I might get duped.

  51. I don't do the Disney ones but I love pin trading at festivals and conventions. Mine are mostly music and cartoon related.

  52. The concept of pin trading at the Olympics was so popular that it was frequently copied by other international competitions. One of these was Odyssey of the Mind, which is a kind of problem-solving competition for schoolchildren. It was founded in the late 70s/early 80s when pin trading first started to take off, so it used them from the beginning.

    I bring this up because when I was ten, I was a competitor at the 1998 OM World Finals at the Wide World of Sports complex. Every US state and nation competing had their own pin set. I've got no way of verifying this, but it's possible that this was the first time pins were traded at a Disney park.

  53. I’m addicted to these things! Literally that’s the only thing I buy in the parks now. My collection is mostly Mickey, Marvel, Star Wars/Indiana Jones, and movies I like.

  54. Because I don't have a great deal of disposable income, I've bought only pins that I REALLY liked and the idea of trading them, though I hear about it happening, had never happened with me.

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