There’s a pin embedded with an actual piece of Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride.
A single press identification pin once sold for $53,325.00.
Pin collecting is full of interesting, historical, and downright lucrative stories like these. It’s why pin collecting, trading, and selling are so popular (#pingame has nearly 1.3 million posts on Instagram).
If you’re considering becoming a pinhead yourself, we have just the inspiration you need.
We’ve amassed a sampling of 15 high-value and historical pins from several pin-collecting niches. We also offered suggestions in each niche to help you get started collecting with more moderately priced pins. And finally, we revealed the three tools we used to research this list so you can find the gems of your new collection.
The magical world of Disney pinsIn 1999, Walt Disney World Resort introduced the idea of trading Disney pins during their year-long Millennium Celebration. There are now over 60,000 official unique Disney pins to collect.
Whether it’s for their design, rarity, or trading price, a few of these pins stand out among the rest.
The Super Jumbo Maleficent Dragon Gate pin: Recently sold for $500
There are plenty of pins modeled after the queen baddie from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. But the detail and scarcity of the Maleficent Dragon Gate pin have made it a prized collectible for Disney pinheads.
The design is based directly on artist Guy Vasilovich’s lithograph. Only 100 of these platinum pins were released in its limited edition. This particular pin came with the lithograph and sold for nearly $500 in 2016.
Gomes Alice in Wonderland artist proof pin: On auction for $4,000
This pin depicts a scene from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, where the title character is serenaded by a chorus of flowers come to life. Anthropomorphic vegetation aside, the scene is iconic in Disney lore, and this pin is among the most valuable of its kind.
There are good reasons why this pin is on auction for upwards of $4,000. First, it was designed by Elisabeth Gomes, whose pins always fetch high prices on the secondary market.
Second, it’s an artist proof pin from a limited edition lot. The first few pins from each limited edition are checked for quality and stamped “AP” for artist proof. The scarcity of these pins makes them all the more valuable.
50-year service pin: On auction for $5,000
Disney awards its employees pins based on years of service. After 50 years of service, they’re presented with this pin featuring the iconic Steamboat Willy.
First-year pins look similar to this, with two notable differences: the number “50” embossed at the top and the diamond embedded at the bottom.
The exact value of this collectible is hard to pin down since they’re not sold very often, but at least one was offered at auction for nearly $5,000 in 2017.
Olympic pins are a golden opportunityWay back in 1896, during the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, athletes and officials were given cardboard identification badges. Trading badges became a sign of goodwill between competing nations.
By the 1912 games in Stockholm, Sweden, the custom went commercial with the first souvenir pins sold to the public.
Now, Olympic pin trading is its own event, rivaling the popularity of the sporting contests the pins represent.
Fazzino 1996 Rio Olympics pin: Sold for $995
Charles Fazzino is an artist known for his incredibly intricate 3D designs, which he applies to silkscreens. He began turning his Olympic-themed artwork into multi-layered pins in 2004.
This pin, designed for the 1996 Rio Olympics, is one of the most valuable of all the Fazzino Olympic pins.
The pin is part of the ongoing partnership Fazzino has with the broadcast network NBC (you can spot the familiar stylized peacock just above the word Rio). It recently sold on eBay for a hefty $995. Other Fazzino Olympic pins range from ten to a few hundred dollars.
Varsity staff pin: Sold for $300
It was a ring of the onion—not Olympic—variety that adorned one of the most popular pins from the 1996 Atlanta games. The pin was created by the Varsity restaurant and featured a box of onion rings, a favorite menu item.
The Atlanta Commission for the Olympic Games claimed a copyright infringement on the pins, stating that the onion rings too closely resembled their Olympic counterparts.
Most of the pins were confiscated. The ones that remain in circulation are considered rare and have sold for $300 on eBay.
The staff version (given to Varsity employees) is rarer still, and the pins have been listed online for $800. Not bad for a pin that was originally either given away or sold for $5 each.
1940 Olympic visitor pin: Sold for $300
This pin would have been given to visitors of the 1940 Winter Olympic games held in the German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. That is, if those games had actually taken place.
After cities in Japan and Switzerland either lost or forfeited their bid for hosting the 1940 games, the honor landed on Germany. But in 1939, Germany invaded Poland, kicking off World War II—and the games were officially canceled.
Several pins were produced before the games were kaput, though. This visitor pin is one of the hardest to find and has been sold in the past for $300.
Baseball pins are America’s pastimeTrading cards get all the buzz in baseball, but pins have been an important collectible through more than a century of ballgames. Like their cardstock cousins, trading pins were often used to promote products, were sometimes sold with bubblegum, and many of them have become very valuable.
1911 World Series press pin: Sold for $53,325
Collecting press pins from sporting events has become a niche within a niche in the pin world—and for good reason. Some press pins have soared to incredible values.
This press pin from the 1911 World Series is a perfect example.
It’s the first press pin ever created for a world series, and there were only three made. In 2013, one of these pins auctioned for a cool $53,325. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more valuable pin anywhere. On the bottom end of the spectrum, you can fill your collection with press pins costing barely a dollar.
1956 Topps baseball trading pin collection: For sale for $15,600
In 1956, for the price of one nickel, you could buy a Topps brand baseball trading pin and a piece of “candy-coated gum.” It was the first time Topps would diverge from their typical trading card.
The full set of pins from that year included 60 different players.
Topps used a technique called litho production to make the pins, which left them highly susceptible to damage. So a pin-pusher sitting on a full set in good condition would expect to get around $15,600 if they decided to sell. No word on the value of the bubble gum.
Pepsin Gum baseball pin: For sale for $1,440
Perhaps the first-ever example of a commercially available, sports-related pin is the cameo Pepsin Gum collection. These pins were released by the Pepsin Gum Company in 1898.
Each pin featured a well-known player on the front and a promotional gum message inside. In all, there were over 100 variations in the series of pins made that first year. Each will set you back a few hundred to over $1,000 dollars.
Curling pins were early to the gameThe culture of pin collecting in curling is similar to that of the Olympics. Each curling club has its own pin, and players trade theirs with other teams. Pins are created for special events like championships, and those, too, are traded.
Curling pinatics are pretty serious about their hobby. Legend has it that someone once offered the Halifax Curling Club $50,000 for their collection of four 1927 MacDonald’s Brier (championship) pins. The offer was rejected.
1937 MacDonald’s Brier pin: Sold for $910
The Brier is sort of the World Series of Canadian curling. For the first 50 years of the championship, the Brier was sponsored by MacDonald(that’s Mac, not Mc) Tobacco. Pins from those early championships are worth a pretty Canadian penny.
Have a look at this pin from the 1937 championship.
Notice the tartan background. That’s a call back to curling’s Scottish roots.
This beauty sold in 2012 for $910. But you can start your collection with more recent Brier pins, like this one from 1987, for around $10.
1937 Coronation Trophy Canadian Branch of the RCCC: On auction for $699.95
The Brier isn’t the only trophy in curling. Local clubs also hold their own bonspiels (tournaments) and often create pins for them.
This pin commemorates the coronation league championship of a curling club based in the Ottawa Valley, Montreal area.
1913 Manitoba Curling Association pin: On auction for $199.99
Pretty much any description you read about curling will mention that it’s a social sport. Trading team pins was a physical representation of that comradery. A few of those historic team pins have gained significant value over the decades.
This pin from the Manitoba Curling Association is a great example.
The design is simple, but the real value comes from its age and condition. It’s rare to find a pin over 100 years old with little to no signs of wear. This pin is being offered on eBay for $199.99.
Branded promotional pins have a pinatic followingPins are a popular way for companies to recognize employees, promote products, and commemorate business milestones. Some companies put out thousands of pins, which fosters a whole community of collectors who focus just on that one brand.
McDonald’s 2001 World Trade Center Twin Towers pin: Sold for $445
McDonald’s is a good example of a company that’s created a whole pin culture—and fans are lovin’ it. Some private collectors have assembled tens of thousands of pins.
One standout is this 2001 World Trade Center Twin Towers pin. For obvious sentimental reasons, it has garnered a lot of attention.
Both this pin and a similar version in another colorway recently sold on eBay for $445 each.
In general, though, McDonald’s pins are a great niche to start a collection. There are so many to choose from, and most are affordable. In fact, you can find people selling a set of 12 vintage McDonald’s pins for less than $1 per pin.
Coca-Cola 1912 cloisonné lapel pin: Sold for $700
Coca-Cola was invented in 1892. Not long after that, the first Coke-themed pins were released. Exhibit A, this cloisonné lapel pin from 1912.
The back of this pin has a stamp bearing the name Whitehead and Hoag, a popular pin and button manufacturer active in the first half of the 20th century. It was listed as being in “very high” condition when it brought $700 at auction in 2012.
You won’t have trouble quickly growing your Coca-Cola collection. There are currently 3,567 listings on eBay for “coca cola pin,” ranging in price from around $600 for a mounted set to $2.95 for a single vintage pin.
Hard Rock Cafe 2018 Andorra Grand Opening staff pin: Sold for $411
The Hard Rock Cafe started issuing pins in 1985. Since then, they’ve released thousands of pins, and, like others on our list, some of the most valuable are the pins given to staff.
Here’s a staff pin from the 2018 grand opening of the Hard Rock Cafe in Andorra.
This pin is a double whammy for collectors since it’s also an event pin, which means it’s a limited edition that was only offered at a specific time. This pin sold for $411 on eBay—not bad, considering it’s only two years old.
There’s an active community called the Hard Rock Cafe Pin Collectors’ Club that would be a great resource if you decide to start your own collection. They manage a large catalog of pins you can sift through to get an idea of current values and styles.
Resources to research your own pin collectionYou can’t jump into the #pingame without information. Here are some of the resources we use to research pins like the ones on this list.
eBay is a great place to start. Find pins that are currently on auction by entering a term like “Disney pins” in the search bar. You can also see what’s been sold by clicking the “Sold Items” box on the left side of the results screen. Filter by most or least expensive, depending on which end of the spectrum you want to start on.
eBay doesn’t show the sold price on “Best Offer” bids. To find those, go to WatchCount.com. Enter your search term, click “Completed Items” on the left side of the screen, then again by highest or lowest price.
WorthPoint is a paid service that helps you find the value of collectibles. They let you search seven items for free, though, so you can try it out. Just enter your search term and sort by price.