Please help us welcome the good folks from 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.

PinPics#726 Disneyland Pin Trading Press Pin 1999
PinPics#11657 The Brenda White Collection (Angry Donald Duck) 1999

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.

PinPics#32846 Princess Friends (Belle) 2004
PinPics#39958 Elisabete Gomes Signature Series (Sleeping Beauty) 2005

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.

PinPics#25890 Masterpiece Series (“Daisylyn”) 2003
PinPics#30723 Stitch Morning Coffee 2004
PinPics#25137 Transformation (Maleficent) 2003

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.

PinPics#29497 Mickey Mouse Club 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.

PinPics#17180 Drink Me (Alice in the Bottle) 1995
PinPics#57520 Ghost Mickey & The Hitchhiking Ghosts 2007
PinPics#93603 Pixelated Wreck-It Ralph 2012

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.

PinPics#36939 Art Nouveau (Ariel) 2005
PinPics#45986 Masterpiece Series (Snow White) 2006

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.

PinPics#45198 Cruella De Vil (Jumbo) 2006
PinPics#65280 The Glamorous Thirties (Minnie Evening Gown) 2006

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.


PinPics#49011 Labor Day 2006 (Jessica Rabbit Cabaret) 2006


PinPics#38950 Aristocats Jumbo (Edgar) 2005
PinPics#43996 Tinker Bell Day of Beauty (Bubble Bath) 2006

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.


PinPics#85994 Disney Princess Designer Collection, Limited Edition of 150. Released Aug 2011, $199.95

SOLD March 2013 $2449.99.

PinPics#70345 El Capitan Marquee: Up, Limited Edition of 150. Released May 2009, $12.95, SOLD Feb 2013 $1,000

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.

PinPics#81948 Disney Girls R/C Mystery Collection Chaser (Rapunzel) Limited Release. Dec 2010, $19.95

SOLD Nov 2012, $1800

PinPics#33980 Stitch Halloween Set, Limited Edition of 100, Oct 2004, $300SOLD Jan 2013 $899.99
PinPics#48745 Jessica Rabbit as Marilyn Monroe, Limited Edition of 100, July 2008, $19.95, SOLD Dec 2012 $612.60

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.

PinPics#28624 Featured Artist Jim Tronoski (Scar & Hyenas) 2004
PinPics#65915 Star Wars Duel 2008

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.

PinPics#28967 Elisabete Gomes (Fantasia 2000 Sprite) 2004


PinPics#45648 Featured Artist Chris Chapman (Grotto Reflections) 2006

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.

PinPics#68827 Jumbo Art Nouveau Series (Maleficent) 2009
PinPics#30536 Donald Duck as Uncle Sam 2004

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.

  • Zeathos51

    I don’t collect pins but from what I’ve seen, the artwork is impressive for such a small scale. I can’t afford to collect anything at volume but I do enjoy buying a resin statue of either Call of the Wolf, or a low priced statue of a cougar or deer at a local Temecula Store. I enjoy life and landscape drawings and sculptures either from Disney or of a nature setting usually with a Native American tie. I will say that I have a fairly big DVD collection of animated films since I do enjoy that genre. I’m more for collecting statues and artwork if I can affoird it, especially the ones at Knotts Berry Farm’s Virginias or at the Main Street art shop.

    Thanks for the insight, I do have a couple of pins including the Ranger Donald pin I got with the small statue.

  • Welcome PinPics folks! So nice to have you here on MiceChat.

    I’m one of the people who collects the pins I like but never wears them to the park or trades them. I’m drawn to the artistic pins. If it catches my eye, I’m hooked.

  • disneydempster

    Thanks for the excellent introduction. I am a collector but with a different focus. My wife and my first date was a screening of Snow White at the Disney studios in 1983. In May we celebrate our 30th anniversary as we’ve celebrated that event each month. About 11 years ago I discovered a Snow White pin and give one to my wife each month. It’s too slow and unpredictable to buy pins only at the parks, so I make full use of PinPics and various online resources to buy and identify new designs. Fortunately for me there are over 400 SW pins so I can keep this tradition going awhile longer.

    • DobbysCloset

      I think this is such a sweet and romantic thing to do….Awwwwwwww……..!

  • Illusion0fLife

    A great first article! I’m excited to see what else you guys have in store for us in the future.

    I got started pin collecting in 2001, my very first pin being a Walt Disney Travel Co. pin I got for free when we booked our trip. Since then I’ve amassed a pretty solid collection of pins, most of which are Disney pins, though I have a good amount of pins from other sources. I’ve dabbled a bit in trading, but the problem for me is that I only buy pins that I really like making it hard to part ways with them.

  • DobbysCloset

    When I woke up this morning I did not know that there was something I desperately needed to add to my treasure collection of rare and interesting things…that would be the Stitch Morning Coffee pin… I’ve always thought that the idea for the collectible pins — small, portable, beautifully-made, NOT subject to breaking like figurines — was brilliant. I’m not wanting to start any new collections for myself but if I were forty years younger, this would be so appealing.

    As to the Stitch Morning Coffee pin, I’m going to add the artwork to my collection of prospective tattoos…

    I find more to love about MiceChat every day…

  • JiminyCricketFan

    I have loved collecting pins, starting a few years ago. I have to confess that lately they have lost some interest with me. I love the great designs, but so often they disappear from the shops so quickly that the substandard pins are left. I have come to the determination that Disney is missing a lot with their limited editions being so small. If they sell out in only a few hours, then they really are too small a run. Those who produce the pins don’t seem to be able to see the artistic value in the pins, as they seem to set the same production number for both the ugly pins and the beautifully elaborate ones.

  • AvidTurtleTalker

    I used to collect mainly Mickey and Jack Skellington pins, but now I just get the pins that I like. I also trade for pins that I like as well. So once I run out of the mystery pins I don’t love, then I wont really trade

  • StevenW

    “a near-perfect condition copy sold for $2.1 million in 2011”

    Stop. VERY FEW people profit from their collections. The people that are truly profitting from this pin trading is Disney. On aggregate, only Disney is making the money at the first transaction. Most pins are not worth any money, not even the retail face value in their original packaging. You’ll have a hard time unloading your collections if you tire of the hobby. Just collect them for your own enjoyment.

    If you want that rare item, you have to be informed of the pins. Look for unique pieces. Never try to complete a series. This is the major loss of most novice collectors. It is quite easy to spend a lot of money for the readily available individual pins in the Disney store in the park; however, on close inspection, you’ll won’t find the heavily prized missing item. Thus, you can easily spend tons on an incomplete collection. Only buy a series if the whole thing is sold as a unit. Unfortunately, complete series are sold out quickly.

    Best to avoid collecting. They are fun for awhile. Then you realize that the whole thing is just sitting on your shelf collecting dust instead.

    • I really enjoy collecting (not trading). I buy the pins, figures, posters, original art that I enjoy. I do it because I enjoy it. From time to time, I sell something at a profit (even a substantial profit). But that isn’t the reason I collect.

      If you are buying things you don’t like because you think they might have value later, I can see where you are coming from. But if you feel like your stuff is “Just collecting dust,” then you aren’t buying the things you love.

      My Olszewski’s, Avanzino’s and rare pins certainly do collect dust, but I take much pleasure in having them. They help make my house a home.

    • disney4me2001

      While I get the point you’re trying to make, I just want to point out that the quote you used from the article is referring to Action Comics #1, not a pin collection.

      Me personally, I’ve been collecting since 2001. While I do admit that I try to go for some of the valuable ones (or what I think might become valuable), I only buy what I want most in my collection. It’s just an additional benefit if it happens to become valuable later on the secondary market. It’s nice to know that my collection might have some value in the future, but I most likely will never sell any of my pins unless it’s out of absolute financial need. And I still love my oldest pins as much as I did when I first bought them. So for me, the fact that I am still enjoying my collection today is what makes it worth the time and money invested into it.

      • StevenW

        The article is about pin collecting and it featured a comic book. If you have a problem with it, it isn’t with me, but the author. He included the comic book reference to advance the point that pins, like comic books, are highly collectible and can fetch much money if you buy the right ones. I guarantee you, you’re more likely to hit a dud than paydirt.

  • whamo

    My wife likes the evil characters, the Villains, especially the female ones. We each have abut a dozen pins and some trading pins we take to the park. I got one of those 1,000 Opening Day pins from Carslands Opening. I also kept a Fastpass from that first day. I haven’t brought a pin since then. They cost too much. I can’t believe people who buy books full of them.

  • Dan the Light Man

    i’m happy to see a pin collecting article/series back on one of my favorite sites!! There used to be a great pin podcast out there but it disappeared without a trace last June so i will look forward to reading your posts! Any chance of a new release show??