Please help us welcome the good folks from PinPics.com to MiceChat. From time to time, they’ll be dropping by to fill us all in on what’s new in the world of Disney pins.
You’ve probably seen them in the parks or at Disney events. Maybe your friend is one, maybe you are involved yourself. One thing is certain, Disney pin collectors are more numerous than you think. The hobby is global too. Wherever you find a Disney park, be it in The States, Europe, or Asia, you’ll find a strong pin collecting base.
Originally, the primary function of Disney pins was to be traded. They were another way for kids to have fun at the parks, or a way for adults to interact with other Disney fans socially. While trading is still unquestionably a key element of the hobby, recent years have witnessed a steady rise in a different attitude to pin collecting.
These are the collectors you probably won’t see at the parks. They love the characters and pins as much as any trader, but their emphasis is less on the social or trade-oriented side. Their enjoyment comes from a growing appreciation of pins as a collectible art form.
There is not a black and white distinction between collectors and traders, in fact almost everyone involved in pins straddles the two. Most traders have their grails which they wouldn’t trade away for anything, and likewise, most serious collectors are still open and willing to trade, albeit much more selectively.
People collect everything from comic books to stuffed animals to matchboxes to Renaissance art. Behind this overwhelming drive to acquire things in such a purposeful way lies a complex web of motivational reasons, and there have been a large number of studies on the psychology of a collector’s mindset. A collection can also be used as a means of expressing one’s personality, as well as act as an inspiring legacy for the future; many of the world’s finest museums originated from personal collections.
This is probably not the place to delve too deeply into this side of things, but it does lead us nicely to the question of why Disney pins and Disneyana items have proved so enduringly popular with collectors.
Ever since the first Mickey Mouse short premiered in 1928, Disney has cast a certain magic over audiences, enabling them to lose themselves in another world. It’s not so much escapism; more a celebration of the imagination. Disney experiences often linger happily in the memory, and the characters have a genuine lasting appeal. Perhaps one of the main reasons behind the allure of Disney can be found in something Walt himself said when he spoke of a spot in every adult which remains from childhood:
“In planning a new picture, we don’t think of grown-ups and we don’t think of children, but just of that fine, clean, unspoiled spot down deep in every one of us that maybe the world has made us forget and that maybe our pictures can help recall.”
This universal appeal is one of the reasons the characters from Disney productions still resonate so strongly with so many people. Disney Pins work in tandem with this appeal, and have consistently provided examples of how these characters are kept fresh and alive, being used in new ways.
Pin trading only became an official Disney hobby in 1999, but there are many pins which predate this important landmark. Some collectors particularly prize the older pins, valuing them according to their age and condition. Some of the vintage pins date from as far back as the 1930s, with the earliest known pin (so far!) dated 1930.
There is the thrill of the hunt too. Searching for and locating long-desired pins and discovering hidden and rare gems, is part of a journey which, depending on the parameters of the collection, may never be completed. Because of this, collectors tend to be selective in what they are searching for. It would be close to impossible to collect every pin released, so typically collectors narrow down their field of collection to a more manageable spectrum, focussing primarily on only one or two particular characters, movies, or design features.
Another factor is rarity. Pins are frequently produced in limited edition series. This can mean that there are as little as a few hundred, fifty, or even ten of a particular pin. And that’s worldwide. The scarcity of these pins is always taken into account by collectors, and whenever these lower edition pins are of a particularly accomplished design or popular character, desirability rockets.
The quality of the designs behind the pins is one of the biggest factors for the attention pins have been receiving in the wider collecting world. Collectors have started to realize that there’s no reason why these limited edition pins should be viewed in a way any different to a limited edition print, engraving, or lithograph.
This is just the tip of a very large iceberg. The glimpse into the world of Disney Pins provided here may or may not inspire you to get involved with the hobby, but the artwork in the accompanying pictures will no doubt give you some understanding as to why pins have been considered an undiscovered gem in the collecting world for so long, and why collectors are starting to view pins as something more than just a means to a trade.
As the appreciation of pins as a collectible form of art work grows, so too has the number of collectors becoming involved in the hobby. In turn, this has increased competition for those pins released in limited edition series. This combination of greater desirability, a larger collector-base, and low edition sizes for the most popular pins, has meant that prices on the secondary market are starting to rise significantly.
In a way it confirms what many collectors have known for a long time; providing an affirmation that pins are a serious collectible. But the upward trend is met with resistance in some quarters, particularly traders, as it means that unless a pin can be obtained on its release, the rising secondary market value may push the pin beyond their reach.
To some extent the growth of pins is comparable with the growth of other collectibles such as comic books. Though there are many differences between the collectibles themselves, the developmental paths taken by the two hobbies have key similarities. Like comics, Disney pins have a long-established pedigree,
stretching back to the 1930s. They have also proven themselves from a commercial perspective; supporting a burgeoning number of retailers and resellers whose primary income comes from the sale of pins on the the secondary market. A further similarity is in the quest for wider recognition; for years, avid comic collectors would be telling anyone willing to listen that comics were an under appreciated art form, yet it took a long time for this notion to sink in on a mainstream level.
A recent Wall Street Journal article “Wham! Ka-Pow! Zounds!” (February 25, 2013), features comments from a number of auction houses outlining how and why comic books have proved a profitable investment opportunity. The most famous example cited is, of course, Action Comics No. 1 (the first appearance of Superman) which sold for 10 cents when it was released in 1938. A copy sold for
$317,200 in 2008, and more recently, a near-perfect condition copy sold for $2.1 million in 2011.
SOLD March 2013 $2449.99.
As with all forms of collecting, pin collecting is a highly subjective activity. Although investors may influence the market prices, and dealers and critics may help influence trends, the individual collector’s taste remains key. Certain characters, themes and designs may not appeal to some but can appeal to others. In this way, a pin collection can also be an expression of personality and an extension of the collector themselves.
SOLD Nov 2012, $1800
There is a huge amount of information, knowledge, and history for new collectors to take in before they can get up to speed with those already involved in the hobby, and the consequences of not being fully-informed can act as a barrier to entry for many prospective collectors. The pitfalls for the newcomer are manifold. Traders and collectors known as “sharks” have happily exploited a novice collector’s lack of knowledge when making a trade or purchase, skewing the transaction considerably to their advantage. There have also been many instances of unscrupulous dealers and Internet vendors who have copies of popular pins manufactured illegally and then knowingly pass off the counterfeit pins as the real things. Another problem encountered, particularly on eBay, is “fishing”, which involves vendors setting a price for pins considerably higher than it should be, in an attempt to take advantage of buyers less familiar with established past auction values.
There are a number of resources on hand that collectors can refer to which help make the hobby more transparent. These include pin price guides, books, numerous online communities, and the online pin database PinPics.
There was a great deal of resistance when comic books eventually followed the path of other collectibles such as baseball cards and sports memorabilia, and started to be graded and authenticated. But as the Wall Street Journal article states, the grading and authenticating of comics “brought structure to the market.” It also permitted the hobby to flourish on a global scale, bringing with it due acknowledgement of the creative achievements of the artists and writers involved. If the current movement to authenticate and encapsulate pins proves just as reliable, then the future for pins is particularly bright.
Established auction houses have started to take an interest not just in vintage pins, but contemporary ones also. Major collectible dealers across the country are starting to stock them too. As the encapsulation and authenticating of pins gains momentum, this kind of exposure will increase greatly. Although the Wild West of eBay will no doubt still have a prominent role in the secondary market of pins, thankfully for the collector it will no longer be the only source.
Due to the enduring nature of classic Disney, pins will maintain a lasting appeal for collectors. If you’re a fan of Disney, they may well prove a rewarding extension of the magic. If you’re not a Disney fan, they may yet make you one! Remember always that the hobby is meant to be fun. If you do decide to become involved, buy because you love the art, and take pleasure from it. There are some exquisite pieces out there to be enjoyed for generations to come.
Are you a pin trader or collector? Do you just buy everything you can get your hands on or do you have specific characters or themes that you focus on? We really look forward to hearing from you.