It’s Flashback Friday!
My old workplace: Pin Traders at Disney Springs.
Long before I was a Disney Cast Member, I was a Disney Pin Trader.
During every family vacation to Disney World or Disneyland, I would trade or buy as many Disney pins as I could afford. I especially like collecting holiday pins.
I loved trading pins with guests and talking to them about where they’re from and if they are collecting certain characters like the princesses.
Something that I had a lot of fun with as a Disney Cast Members was pin trading with guests.
In my merchandise role, I got to wear a black cast lanyard and stock it with 12 Disney pins provided by my managers.
If I gave away pins to guests during the day as part of a Magical Moment celebration, I would re-stock my lanyard during my break.
For extra fun, at least once a day I would turn over a pin and pin it on my lanyard backwards.
This was a “mystery” pin.
Guests wouldn’t be able to see it before the trade and they had to trade for it if they selected it.
Usually my mystery pins were pretty good pins, typically having something to do with a Disney princess, but not always. That’s what makes mystery pin trading nerve-wrecking for young guests! Is it worth trading a pin or not???!!!
Pin trading tips: The best way to get a good pin trade is to trade with CMs early in the day when they have “fresh” pins on their lanyard. During the course of the day, the pins get pretty picked over even with replenishing the selection at breaks or shift changes. Surprisingly, some of the best pins can be found on custodial lanyards, so it’s always worth a look; you might get lucky! And, “mystery” pins are always better in the morning than late at night!!
Guests used to ask me all the time if it’s easy for cast members to tell “real” Disney pins from scrappers. Just like jewelers can tell a real diamond from a cubic zirconium at a glance, it only takes a day or two on the job to immediately tell the difference.
But, here’s the truth: To most guests, especially the little ones, it doesn’t matter! They’re pin trading for fun and most times are interested in only certain pins, like Disney princess or Star Wars pins. They don’t like any of the pins on their newly purchased My First Lanyard with Pins, and can’t wait to trade them away for something they do like.
And, here’s another truth: All Disney pins are made in China. The difference between “real” trading pins that cost $8 – $20 at the parks and the much cheaper scrappers which sell online for <$50 cents each and which were probably made at the same factory, is usually a subtle variation in color or a slightly different (cheaper) metal. Again, most casual pin collectors don’t care. Especially the under 5 year old ones.
Dealing with the serious pin collectors is another matter. They go to the parks early and interrupt cast members helping other guests demanding to see their pins. If it’s later on in the day and the CMs pins aren’t very “good”, i.e., special/rare, woe to them! They act like they are personally insulted that the CMs pins are so common or boring.
Disney Pin Trading Tips
Pin trading is big at Disney’s parks and resorts. While the simple act of trading pins with a cast member is easy, I have some tips for guests wanting to start a collection.
Tip#1: Look beyond the lanyards
Cast member lanyards are the most obvious place to look for Disney pins, but they’re not the only option. You can find pins at resorts, merchandise locations, and Disney Vacation Club kiosks. In some locations, pin boards and pin books are sitting out nearly all the time. At others, you have to ask to see these extra pins, but they’re nearly always available.
Every Walt Disney World resort (with the exception of the Swan and Dolphin) does pin trading somewhere. Just ask at the front desk or concierge, and they can direct you to the resort’s pin board or pin book.
Some other good pin trading locations to look for include:
- Pin boards at park stroller rental locations across Disney World property
- The Pin Drum at the photo purchase area of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
- Pin Oven Mitt at Main Street Confectionary in Magic Kingdom
- The Frontier Trading Post pin board at Magic Kingdom
- Popcorn trading pins at Big Top Store in Magic Kingdom
- Pin boards at the Magic Kingdom bus area
- Pin trading book at African Outpost in Epcot
- Pin Tree of Life at The Outpost outside Disney’s Animal Kingdom
You can also find pin boards at or behind many merchandise registers.
Tip #2: Know where the best lanyards are
Many cast members – but not all – wear pin lanyards. Merchandise cast members wear them most often, followed by custodial and guest relations. For safety reasons, cast members working attractions or other “safety critical” roles do not wear trading pins.
Pins are refreshed most often for merchandise lanyards because these get the most trading action. This is great if you’re lucky enough to spot a lanyard just after it’s gotten fresh pins. However, merchandise cast members often have a poor pin collection simply because guests trade with them so often.
Custodial cast members get fewer trades, so it’s always worth taking a look at their lanyards. If you spot a manager or coordinator wearing pins, you’ll want to get a look at those, too. They probably trade the least because they are so busy running around all the time. But, you never know with cast members, you just might come across some spectacular pin finds.
Tip #3: Visit Disney Pin Traders at Disney Springs
Disney Pin Traders at Disney Springs has the best pin trading. When their pin wall is open, you can check out dozens and dozens of pins. The wall is refreshed often, too, so this is a good place to find special pins. Unfortunately, the pin wall isn’t always open but you can ask any cast member working there for information on the next trading time.
Tip #4: Know your pins
Serious pin traders know the value of a special pin when they see it. If you’re serious about pin trading, do some research before you arrive at WDW to identify pins or pin sets that you’re particularly interested in collecting.
Tip #5: Guests can pin trade with other guests
Not all guests who wear pins in the parks are looking to trade with other guests. Many just want to show off their pins. We once traded pins with two wonderful Japanese guests while sailing aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship. All their trading pins were from Disneyland Tokyo and all our pins were from Disney World. It was so much fun and we got several very special pins!
Tip #6: Observe proper pin trading etiquette
All pin traders should know how to approach cast members correctly and politely conduct a pin trade. Always ask to see a CMs pins rather than leering at them from a distance. Cast members wearing pins are always happy to show them to you, but it can get uncomfortable when guests are staring at your lanyard from 5 feet away without saying anything. You can trade two pins per cast member per day.
Tip #7: Trading for mystery pins
This is one of my favorite things! Backward pins are mystery pins that you must trade for without knowing what they are first. You can’t trade a mystery pin right back to the cast member if you don’t like it.
I never turned around a common pin as a “mystery pin” as I think that’s kind of mean, but some cast members do, so be warned! Keep some pins on hand that you don’t care about to trade for mystery pins and keep in mind that you can always trade them away to the next CM you see.
My work costume at Pin Traders:
We’ve written two books about our time working and playing at Disney World.
Both are available on Amazon.com: Two Girls and a Mouse Tale and Adventures in the Animal Kingdom.
If you’d like to follow our daily Disney blog, here’s the link: https://collinsrace1.wordpress.com/
Have a magical day!