If you’re a Disney fan and you’re not trading pins, what are you waiting for?! Learn all the details and finer points of Disney pin trading with our ultimate guide.
It started innocently enough.
When we became Magic Key holders, we each got a commemorative enamel Disney pin with our passes. None of us really wanted the pins, so we took them with us on our next Disneyland visit and let the kids trade them.
After that first trade, it was all over! They discovered the thrill of the hunt, looking for rare pins or favorite characters, and we were off and running.
We’ve learned a lot about Disney pin trading over the last few years, and I’m finally sharing all of our secrets and tips right here!
Psst — before you dive in for the tips, be sure to sign up below for my VIP group, where I’ll send more of my very best family ideas straight to ya.
Why Trade Disney Pins?
Before we started letting the kids trade pins, I admit — I didn’t really get it.
It seemed like an extra expense (it is) for not a lot of return.
But now that we’ve been in the game for a bit, I understand the allure and I actually see lots of benefits.
Firstly, it creates another activity to do at the park. If the lines are long or you’re waiting for a reservation, or even if you just want to have a low-key day, wandering the parks looking for pin trades is a fantastic activity.
It also encourages kids (if you let them do the trading themselves) to have some structured interactions with other folks. They can discuss exchanges, make deals, and swap, all while they practice autonomy, manners, boundaries, and so many other interpersonal skills.
There’s also the thrill of the hunt. If you have a couple of pins in a set and you’re looking to complete it, it can be really fun and engaging to take a peek at the pin traders in the parks to see if they have what you need.
And finally, we have found that it can introduce you to lots of interesting people with wonderful stories to share.
Where to Get Pins
You can obviously march right into just about any store in a Disney park and purchase pins. But unless you’re looking for something very specific, this isn’t the first method I would recommend.
There are lots of sellers online who sell Disney pin lots, and that’s how we started.
Particularly on Etsy, you’re likely to be able to find large amounts of pins that you can buy as a lot, usually at a price that works out to about one dollar per pin. Here’s a great example.
If your goal is to have a batch of pins to be able to trade in the parks, this is a great way to start. But! Be aware that you’ll probably get some scrappers. Read on for more details.
How to Spot Fake Disney Pins and Scrappers
What is a scrapper pin? Scrappers are pins that are duplicates of official Disney pins, but of a lesser quality. They often come from production overruns or factory seconds.
At first glance they look okay, but when you look at the details or compare them to an official Disney pin, you’ll see the differences in quality.
What I tend to notice first about a scrapper is the enamel. Real Disney pins are made from hard enamel, which dries level with the silver outlines on the pins.
Scrappers often use soft enamel, which shrinks and settles a bit as it dries, so that the silver outlines stand up above the enamel a bit.
You can see an example with this two princess pins from the same series. The Cinderella pin is real, while the Jasmine pin is a scrapper. You can see the difference in the surface of the pins.
Also, look for the finish on the silver portions of the pin. Is it smooth and well-defined, or ragged and bumpy? This is another telltale sign of real pins vs. scrappers.
When we first started trading, this post helped me be able to spot them easily!
All that being said, you can trade scrappers in the park!
Disney Pin Trading Basics
So let’s talk Disney pin trading basics. Just a note — if you’re a serious pin trader looking with extremely high standards, this post might not be for you.
We approach pin trading as a fun experience and added entertainment value to our Disneyland visits. And truly, our kids don’t care about scrappers vs. real pins. They just love the fun of trading.
Look for cast members stationed in shops or at stands throughout the parks. They’ll have a pin board with a selection of pins on them, ready to trade.
The cast members are trained to take whatever trade is offered. So keep in mind that they may have scrappers on their trading boards as well, if that matters to you.
You can also trade with other guests, if you meet a guest who is interested in trading. This is less common than trading with cast members but we have traded with at least one guest on every trip that we’ve made.
When trading with other guests, there’s no requirement for trading so you could theoretically offer them a trade that they’re not interested in. Don’t take it personally! Perhaps they’re working on a collection, or just didn’t find enough value in what you’re offering.
Try another trade or just say thank you and move along.
Where to Trade Pins at Disneyland
Our favorite places to trade pins at Disneyland are:
- Outside the Space Mountain exit
- Store Command shop
- On Main Street outside of the Magic Shop
- At the wagon outside of the pin shop in Frontierland
- At the wagon outside of the Haunted Mansion
Our favorite places for Disney pin trading in Disney’s California Adventure are:
- Julis Katz + Sons on Buena Vista Street
- At the wagon near the Cappuccino Cart near the entrance to Pixar Pier
- Knick’s Knacks
- Midway Mercantile
This is by no means an exhaustive list of locations — these just happen to be ones where we find good trades!
It’s worth noting that the earlier in the day, the better the trades. In the morning the cast members stock their boards with fresh pins, so you’ll have early pick.
Pin Trading Games You’ll notice that at some checkout counters, they have a pin trading game set up. It’s a wooden set of drawers, numbered, each with a pin inside. The cast member will ask you a trivia question and if you get it right, you choose a numbered drawer. If you like the pin inside, you can trade. Note: nothing is free! These pins aren’t yours just for answering the questions. You still have to trade a pin in return.
Most of all, I hope you have a great time if you decide to start trading pins!
When we started, it added a layer of magic to our trips that we hadn’t previously experienced. Watching our kids manage their collections, choose their favorites, and chat with people about the process is so heartwarming.
Have fun! xoxo