Pin-Sanity

An interesting article about the subculture of Disney Pin Trading which launched 10 years ago has been published by The Orange County Register.

The subculture of Disney pin trading turns 10
By Sarah Tully

Disney’s pin trading was supposed to be only for its Millennium Celebration. But when 2000 ended, fans wouldn’t let Disney stop making the collectibles.
Now, Disney pins – of Snow White to the Monorail – have evolved into an international phenomenon.
Collectors have camped overnight for limited-edition pins, some embedded with actual tiny pieces of Disneyland rides. Fans pack strollers with thousands of tack-like pins to swap at events. Traders with studded lanyards regularly troll Disney parks for pins that only employees give out.
Disney, celebrating the 10th anniversary of pin trading at Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort, has lost track of how many types of pins the company has created.
“You have no idea (of) the insanity,” said trader Karin Bergmann, 46. “We call it pin-sanity.”
Trading starts
Disney officials got the idea for pin trading from the Olympics; in 1896, athletes exchanged cardboard discs, and a century or so later pin-trading at the Games exploded.
George Kalogridis, now president of Disneyland Resort, headed to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan to get ideas for Disney’s Millennium Celebration that he was leading. He was then based at Florida’s Epcot.
In Nagano, he and colleagues happened to see a pin-trading area. Few traders spoke the same language, but they were communicating perfectly.
“We thought, ‘Wow, what if we could create that type of experience with the millennium?’ ” Kalogridis said.
Disney pins were supposed to last 15 months, starting in Florida and later in California parks.
“The guests won’t let you stop it,” Kalogridis said. “That’s what’s fun.”
Steven Miller, project manager of Disney trading, said he guesses that there are less than 50,000 types of pins.
“Quite frankly, we don’t know,” Miller said, declining to say how much money the pins generate.
Addictive hobby
Alan Zanger, a retired paparazzo in West Covina, said he traded the rush of hunting for celebrities for the thrill of finding pins.
Zanger goes to Disneyland at least 200 times a year, often bringing his 9-year-old daughter. He has about 5,000 pins.
Many fans often begin by picking a character or theme.
Katy Langness of Westminster started with pins featuring nurses. Andrea Shah of Riverside prefers “A Nightmare before Christmas” items.
Laurin Bergmann, 14, likes the purple that pops out of Maleficent pins. She says they are so valuable that she might sell them to pay for private culinary school.
Many collectors won’t say – or don’t know – how much they spend. They also often don’t know how many pins they have, either.
Standard pins go for $6.95 to $15.95 each.
Serious hobbyists often spend thousands. A single pin can grow in value to $1,000, such as a Jiminy Cricket pin from a Paris pin-trading night, said Alix Bax, who owns the Dizzipinz Web site.
The Riverside resident began selling pins on the Internet in 2005. In her personal collection, she has 5,944 pins.
Five years ago, eBay listed about 13,000 pins, she said. This week, there were more than 40,000.
Pin rules
Disney pin-trading has its own rules and etiquette.
At the parks, visitors are allowed to trade pins with employees, who get pins made by Disney especially for them that are not for sale. The “cast member” pins are meant to be a way for employees to interact with visitors.
Some hobbyists set up trading tables within parks.
“It’s a whole subculture,” said Ron Spanbauer, 55, of Duarte, who trades at Florida parks about three times a year. “People don’t know when they are walking around the park.”
His friend, Karin Bergmann, added: “The big joke is, ‘Do they have rides here?’”
Disneyland Resort sets up monthly pin-trading nights, when everything is traded and nothing is for sale. In January, about 300 people showed up on a rainy night to a Paradise Pier Hotel ballroom.
Until last summer, some collectors regularly spent nights under Disneyland’s elevated Monorail tracks to get in line for limited-edition pins, fans said. Disney eventually stopped allowing it, they said.
For an October release, some fans dressed in camouflage and hid in trash cans in Downtown Disney, Bergmann and Spanbauer said.
Betsy Sanchez, a Disneyland Resort spokeswoman, said Disney went to an online, random wristband system in January to make the system more equitable for some exclusive pins. The random system was used Wednesday for a 10th-anniversary pin release.
Most traders just find pin collecting a fun way to make friends and connect with Disney employees and the parks.
“Without our guests and their passion, (pins) would have ended long ago,” said Miller, the project manager of Disney trading.
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