Trading Pins

If you love lapel pins, chances are that you might be a pinhead.

Collectors of all kinds amass with unique and valued items such as art, stamps or coins, books and more. But a lapel pin collector? Take Dave Phillips from Edmonton, Canada. His collection of pins related to the popular Canadian sport of curling now numbers 9,301, he recently told the Edmonton Journal newspaper.

And that’s “just a small collection,” he admits, adding that another pin collector “…from Hartney, Manitoba, has between 18 and 19 thousand pins. And there’s a guy from Calgary…who must have 25,000 of them.”

Phillips says it’s his love of curling that motivated him to join the “pinhead” community built around the sport.

What is it about lapel pins that has your interest piqued?

Perhaps it was finding the collection of Olympics pins your father had collected for decades. Or maybe you and your family visited Disney World and got hooked on the theme park’s popular pin trading tradition. Or you may be interested in collecting memorabilia from your favorite sports teams, but are looking to go beyond the usual t-shirts and hats.

Custom lapel pin trading and collecting can be a fun and sometimes profitable hobby, and it’s also a great way to socialize and connect with like-minded “pinheads” from around the world.

Want to get started? Here are some expert tips for the beginning pin collector:

Zero In On What You Love: Whether it’s politics, sports, religion, your college alma mater, or frequent trips to far off places, take a minute to ask yourself, what are you passionate about? If you can name it, chances are there are pins you can collect that go along with it.

Pin collector Mike Brown grew up near Lake Placid, NY, home of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. He had a small collection of sports-themed lapel pins from his favorite sports teams, but when he stumbled across a 1980 Olympics pin at a pin swap meet he attended, he knew he had found his true passion.

“For me, seeing that 1980s Olympics logo again made me remember how exciting it was to live through that time, and really, how much I love the Olympics. From that one pin, I collected others from the 1980 games and then began to branch out to other games. I enjoy this kind of pin collecting because each time there’s a new Olympics, you get a chance to catch the fever all over again.” says Brown, who traveled to London last summer just to attend pin trading meets held at the Coca Cola Official Olympic Pin Trading Centre.

Inventory the Pins You Have: Almost everyone has a few lapel pins tucked away in a drawer or jewelry box. Even if they have nothing to do with the kind of pin you hope to collect, gather together all the pins you have. If you’re at any kind of event where businesses are giving away freebies, look — and ask — for pins. You can also ask friends and relatives if they have any extra pins they don’t mind parting with.

The point of collecting random pins for trading? It will help you have something to bring to the table when you first attend a pin collectors’ meeting or pin collecting swap meet. You may not be terribly interested in collected pins showcasing businesses in your area, but someone you meet might be, and this can form the basis of your first trade. Whatever grouping of pins you manage to come up with, display them neatly by pinning to a piece of black velvet, or investing in a special pin case to house your wares.

Read Up on Pin Values and Pin Appearance: Before attending a specialty pin collecting meet or buying a collection of lapel pins online, take some time to read up on the worth of certain lapel pins and make a “wish list” of pin favorites. Depending on your area of pin trading, some of the best books on lapel pin values include:
Tomart’s 6th Edition DISNEYANA Guide to Pin Trading Which includes everything you need to know about Disney pins and the Disney “pinhead” community.
The Unauthorized Guide to Olympic Pins & Memorabilia (Schiffer Book for Collectors) Published in 2001, this book is still a great resource guide because it shows you what older Olympic pins look like, thus making it less likely for you to get hoodwinked by a dishonest pin trader.
200 Years of Political Campaign Collectibles If you plan to start a political button and pin collection, this book can help familiarize you with what you are looking for, from America’s first elections through to more recent times.
• And our blog post: Disney Pin Collectors: How to Spot Fake “Scrapper Pins” You will want to consider learning about the fakes and understand the uniqueness and/or values of certain lapel pins before you get duped out or one your own hidden treasures!

Attend Your First Meet: Finally, it’s time to find out what it is about the pinhead trading and collecting community that makes it so addictive! Pin meets are competitive, fun, and very social events that can help you meet pin collectors from near and far as you start taking part in this enjoyable hobby. Look at online pin trading message boards for pin trading events in your area. Sports collectible swap meets tend to have areas just for pin trades and pin sellers. Disney pin trading nights are also held in locations across the country (sponsored by local Disney pin collecting clubs) as well as at Disney properties worldwide.

If you liked this post, stay tuned for more in our “Guide to Becoming a Pinhead” series!