Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Disney Week: Trading pins without breaking the bank

Posted February 4

Pin trading with King Pin at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

For some, pin trading is a big deal at Disney World - a chance to meet up with Disney employees (AKA cast members) and exchange pins featuring various Disney characters, landmarks, holidays and more.

Before my family's Disney trip, friends had encouraged that we take part in this exchange of the hard-enameled metal Disney pins, which collectors often stick on lanyards that they wear around their necks as they go through the parks.

Not much of a collector of anything, I wasn't sure these tiny little pins were worth the effort and expense. After all, you have to have a pin if you want to trade for a new one, and I'd done the math. Lanyards can run you around $10. The pins can start around $7 in the parks and go way up ... and pin traders can have dozens around their neck at a time.

Then our wonderful Disney travel agent Lori Potter sent us lanyards with two pins for each of my girls as part of the gift package that she sends her clients. At the same time, a friend explained all about pin trading to my older daughter. She was hooked. We would be pin trading. I'm so glad we did.

To save big money, we took the advice of another friend and Disney fan, who suggested we buy pins from eBay before we left. For about $25, we had a pack of 50 pins shipped to us just days before we were scheduled to leave. The evening they arrived, the kids took part in their first pin trading experience - divvying up the pack between the two of them.

Our first opportunity to trade was on arrival day at our hotel - the Animal Kingdom Lodge. According to the daily activity sheet, somebody named "King Pin" would be trading in the hotel gift shop. We found a cast member dressed in African garb with dozens of pins. He was absolutely hilarious, joking about the mystery pins that he also had in a pouch and complementing the girls on their selections.

Over the next four days, we found ourselves going out of the way so the girls, my 10-year-old especially, could trade pins with various cast members. In some cases, as we waited for a parade or fireworks to start, for instance, we gave our tween some autonomy to go off on her own (within sight of us) and trade pins. While doing it, she struck up some great conversations with the cast members, getting tips of her own and learning a bit more about the parks.

Some tips if you're trading:

  • Disney officially supports this practice (it must make them a lot of money, considering the price of the pins!). Be sure you know the official Disney guidelines before you go. Any old pin won't work.
  • Get some pins on eBay before you go. Make sure you're buying the official Disney pins before you make your purchase. (See the bullet above about the official Disney guidelines).
  • Not all cast members trade pins. Look out for ones wearing lanyards or carrying small purses with pins stuck in.
  • Mind your manners. Don't let your kids grab or pull on other people's lanyards. Ask the cast member nicely if they are able to trade.
  • If you're staying at or visiting a Disney resort, be sure to ask in the gift shop if they have a pin trading board or if any employees are trading pins.
  • At shops within the parks, we also found lots of cast members and boards with pins. At Big Top Souvenirs at Magic Kingdom across from the Dumbo ride, pins were actually stuck in pretend boxes of popcorn. It never hurts to ask!
  • We usually traded two pins at a time.
  • All of the trading during our visit happened between my daughters and cast members, but guests also trade pins with each other.

If you're new to Disney pin trading, this should get you started. But, like any detail about Disney, there's lots more information online, so be sure to Google. And if you have tips on pin trading, please share in the comments!

See our Disney Week page for more Disney coverage.


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