When I wrote this, I had just seen the Disney Studio Store in Hollywood‘s (DSSH) newest upcoming pin release and all I could do was shake my head in sadness. There was a time when seeing the new pins was a source of hope and optimism for MAYBE getting one of these limited edition beauties. In fact, when I first started pin collecting and went to (what was then called) the Disney Soda Fountain (DSF) and they actually had bins of $3 and $4 pins that didn’t get bought! Had I known then what I know now, I would have bought them all – even the kind of sad Prince of Persia pins. But pin collecting has gotten so outrageously difficult over the past few years that for the casual collector it’s become cutthroat and discouraging. Most collectors are very nice people and fun to talk with, but there are some sharks in the water that make it difficult to enjoy the hobby. On top of that, the kind of investment of time, energy, and money necessary to get the pins you want can be extraordinary.
Any release with a very limited production run brings out those who specialize in reselling them on eBay. You’ll see postings far in advance advertising “pre-release” sales of pins for double their marked price or more. Disney Studio Store Hollywood (DSSH) has had a particularly difficult time managing the problem. At one time, they allowed you to buy two per person with the idea being one to keep and one to trade. But as people started bringing in their entire families to buy 10-20 at a time, DSSH limited sales to one per person. Then people brought their babies in and so DSSH limited sales to one per person over the age of four. Then people started waiting in line overnight and DSSH banned early line-ups. Then “unofficial” lines started forming and at least once there was an altercation causing DSSH to go to a completely random way of distributing pins. DSSH has done so much to make the pin collecting experience one everyone can enjoy, but some people have turned it into a sheer money-making enterprise which has sucked the fun out of it for those of us on limited budgets and limited time.
You might think this is limited to places like DSSH where pin releases are small, but not so. The Diamond pin collection celebrating Disneyland’s 60th anniversary became so out of control that for the first time Disneyland had to advertise in advance a wristband system like they have for Candy Cane sales at Christmas! And these are for pins that release on a Thursday. Does anyone go to work anymore? I even took a day of vacation to try to get one of these pins and found out that being at the park two hours early for an 8am opening wasn’t enough. I needed to be there at 4am! And this is for a pin whose production size is 3,000. Now to be fair, this is peculiar for a park pin release, but the demand for these pins in particular is so high it’s almost unbelievable. When the first one came out, I knew I couldn’t make it to the park so I chomped at the bit and bought one online that first day at $30 – almost twice the price. Turned out to be a bargain. By the end of the month it was selling for over $120 each. I bought the next one at $50 as a “pre-sale” and found out that was a bargain also. And the craziness only increased over time.
For the casual collector who loves Disney’s extensive and beautiful line of open edition pins (OE), you’ll constantly be pleased. There is a wide variety to choose from and no need to worry about long lines. But if you’re thinking about getting into serious pin collecting, take a step back to think about it. It can be fun, rewarding, and you’ll meet some really nice people. But you’ll also be exposed to the sharks, the cheats, and the greedy misers. It’s certainly a trade off. There are people who stalk Cast Members to try and get the newest Hidden Mickey pins in the park. There are people who try to take advantage of newbies to the hobby and get them to buy expensive limited edition pins in exchange for cheap ones. And there are people online who sell fake pins for real prices and deceive the inexperienced collector.
For me, I generally only attend ticketed pin events where I am guaranteed a spot in line because of my paid admission. Both the theme parks and DSSH host these kind of events and they are generally wonderful to go to. If you can get in, you’ll still encounter sharks and greedy misers, but at least you won’t have to rely on them to get your pins. Disney Parks and DSSH have done their best to make it fair. Random distribution and wristbands have gone a long way to making it a much better experience. And the merchandising folks keep working on it! The latest countdown pins for Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out with a 10,000 pin limited edition – pretty much making it accessible to anyone who wants one. I’m glad that Disney keeps listening to their guests and tries to make the experience better and better. One idea that would be nice to see implemented – make OE versions of really popular limited edition pins with subtle differences like paint colors so that at its possible to get one. Will I continue to collect pins? For sure! It’s a fun hobby I share with my daughter and love on my own. But my eyes are open now to the reality of pin collecting, so I can go into it feeling less frustrated and more aware than I was before. I hope this helps you, too.
- For more about DSSH pin releases read about it on our blog post
- Read about Disney theme park special pin events (which are fantastic) also on the blog
- For a recap of my most recent Cinderella pin trading event experience read about it here
- To find out about some of the pitfalls of pin trading, follow some of our posts here
- How to tell if your pin is a fake can be found here on the Disney Nerds blog