The Rich History of Trading Pins and Their Rise in Popularity

The Rich History of Trading Pins and Their Rise in Popularity

The Olympic Games may seem to be all about sports, but unknown to many, one of the Games’ biggest draws is pin trading. If you want to know the history of trading pins, read on and see how they rose to the popularity they enjoy today.

The Olympic Games may seem to be all about sports, but unknown to many, one of the Games’ biggest draws is pin trading. Athletes, officials and spectators all participate freely.

One might wonder where this tradition came from and why trading pins have become such a huge deal. The practice is even prominent outside the Games, especially at youth sports events, and even at Disney parks.

If you want to know the history of trading pins, read on and see how they rose to the popularity they enjoy today.

Where Sports Pins Came From

The origins of the Olympic trading pins date back to the first modern Olympic Games, held in 1896. Athletes in Athens used cardboard discs as badges in different colors to identify the athletes, judges, and officials.

In 1904 when the designs of the pins became more ornamental. Trading began in earnest at the Olympic village in 1924 in Paris. Athletes and officials swapped pins as a symbol of international friendship.

Each nation had its own pin, and exchanging pins with the other countries became a sign of goodwill. Although this sparked the interest of spectators, Olympic organizers wanted it to remain exclusive, so they decided to limit the numbers of pins produced.

Pin trading among spectators really took off in 1972, thanks to the abundance of pin variations produced for the Summer Olympics in Munich.

Sports Pins’ Rise to Popularity

Soon afterward, trading pins became one of the top “spectator sports” in the Olympics. Fans even organized their own trading events. In the ensuing years, pin trading became an even bigger part of sports.


In 1988, Coca-Cola organized the company’s first official pin trading center at the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. Although corporate sponsors of events had their own pins since the 1960 Games, this was the first time a corporation stepped into pin trading in such a major way.

After the huge success of that endeavor, Coca-Cola remained dedicated to the custom. This is the main driving force behind pin trading becoming as hugely popular as it is today. Some people reportedly only go to the Olympics to trade pins rather than watch any sport.


Pins aren’t exclusive to sports, of course.  Disney, in particular, has always had pins featuring icons, characters, attractions, and more. Disney released some special pins, including limited edition ones, light-up pins, 3D pins, and more over the years.

Pin trading didn’t become a major event at Disney until 1999. That’s when the Millennium Celebration at Walt Disney World Resort introduced the hobby. Trading pins spread to other Disney amusement parks, including Disneyland in California, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney, and more.

Each location has unique pins and traditions. Tokyo Disney has since suspended the tradition, but guests can still win pins as prizes at carnival games.

Today, you’ll see Disney characters wearing one or more on their person. Managers might also wear lanyards with pins. Disney doesn’t let ride operators have pins, though, as trading might distract them from their jobs.

Guests can trade Disney pins with any character wearing a lanyard. They must offer an eligible pin or two,  and they must abide by established pin trading rules.

Either the character or the person initiating it can decline the trade. Note that each location may have different rules, so pay attention to these if you wish to trade pins.

Other Events

You can also thank youth league baseball for the popularity of pin trading. Baseball pins have existed since the 1920s, when a bakery in Rochester, New York released pinback buttons for their local baseball players.

When Little League Baseball® released its first official baseball trading pins in 1983, the practice further exploded in popularity.

Pin trading has even extended outside of sports to academic competitions, such as Odyssey of the Mind and Destination Imagination Pin trading is a huge part of the international finals of each organization held every spring. Teams design their own pins, so each pin can be as creative as the teams want to make them.

Trading Pins as a Hobby

People like trading pins because of the sheer amount of pins you can get your hands on. People are also drawn to the elusiveness of some pins, as many trading pins are not available for sale. You’ll have to trade one of your own to get another one that you like better.

Trading pins is also a great way to make friends. When people with the same interests come together in one place, they tend to become lasting friends.

There are many manufacturers that can make your team’s design into a trading pin. If you want to go this route, you must know what makes a pin appealing to traders and collectors. Pins with moving pieces, blinkers, glitter, crystals, and other features are more likely to gather interest.

Create Your Own Trading Pin

Creating a custom pin design is a fun, easy process if you choose a good manufacturer. At Lapel Pin Superstore, we can create pins with good quality materials and rich colors, at a price that won’t break your team’s budget

Let us show you how easy it can be to create great looking, affordable custom trading pins. Contact Us now to learn more!

Loved By Customers

Here Are A Few of Our Incredible Clients

"Just amazing! We have a winner! Thank you so much. Incredible! You have a lifelong customer and I will surely be referring friends and bringing my business back very, very often. Lovingly, and sincerely,"

Lucas Wagner - Public Education Dept.

"I just wanted to tell you that I finally received my pins due to the fact that I'm in Afghanistan. I have so many compliments on them, you guys did a fantastic job. Thank you so much for the great work!"

Tom Garrason - US Military

"I would like to thank you for the timely and professional attention that our organization received from your company. We greatly appreciated the continuous communication that you gave us!."

David Droker - Kings Community Action Org.