WILLIAMSBURG — It’s a niche hobby, but one that draws the masses to Busch Gardens. Those who participate love the hunt and the ever-changing collections to find. Just ask Brian Rorrer, the man who brought pin trading to the attention of those in charge at Busch Gardens.
“My wife and I were on our honeymoon at Disney World. At first, we weren’t going to get into pin trading but our first stop was Animal Kingdom. We noticed that there was a pin trading cart by one of the rides and out of interest, we kind of wandered over and before we knew it, we were grabbing the entire rack of pins and the entire pin trading program became a big part of our honeymoon,” Rorrer says.
When the Rorrers arrived home from their honeymoon, Brian was quick to send an email to Busch Gardens to see if they would consider implementing a program like Disney had. In 2019, the park officially launched pin trading.
To get started, guests have the ability to purchase different pins at merchandise locations throughout the park. Those pins can then be kept or traded with other guests and park employees. Pins range in designs from the animals that can be seen in the park, artwork designed for different thrill rides, various shopping and dining experiences, and even the special park events during the year.
Pins are released on different levels. General merchandise pins can be bought in gift shops for various price points. Visitors to the park can also find ambassador pins, which are specific to park employees and can be traded by viewing employee lanyards. Some of the pins in the merchandise stores have limited edition or special edition markings.
One of the most special pins is the presidential pin.
Kevin Lembke, park president, can be found in the park, and if you know to ask, he has pins that only the park president has. Past presidential pins include a 40th-anniversary pin, a wolf pin, a Festhaus pin, and more. Usually, the only way to find those is by finding the president himself on a park operations day. New presidential pins are released yearly.
At various times of year, Busch Gardens releases new sets of pins. Mystery Box sets are popular among guests. The box will show which pins belong to the set, but there is always a question mark pin. Those question mark pins, known as chaser pins, are usually only made in small quantities.
According to Rorrer, there are many pros to pin trading within the park. Those who trade often get to know park employees on another level, can interact with guests who share a passion for pin trading, and more.
“The trading is fun, and I feel that the trading is more fun than buying a pin in one of the gift shops. The merchandise departments are always changing the pins on lanyards to keep the interest alive,” Rorrer said.
The park offers pin trading starter sets throughout many of its merchandise locations. The pin trading starter sets usually come with a lanyard that has a few themed pins on them. Those new to pin trading can buy a starter set and start trading right away. The only caveat is that all pins being traded must be original, Busch Gardens, Sea World, or Sesame Place pins.
According to Rorrer, pin traders get involved for all sorts of reasons.
“Some people really like the different designs, some people like to collect pins designated for their favorite ride, some people like to buy the pins that relate to their favorite place to eat in the park,” Rorrer says.
To encourage pin trading, Busch Gardens has put up a pin trading board in their Emporium Gift Shop located in the England section of the park. Guests can trade with the board to complete sets of pins or get rid of pins that they don’t need. Don’t live close to the park? Pin trading connoisseurs have set up many Facebook pages where guests virtually trade and mail pins to each other.
“We have friends down in Florida who we trade our Williamsburg pins with,” Rorrer says.
On March 18 from noon-2 p.m., Busch Gardens will host an in-person pin trading event in the Oktoberfest section of the park. Guests will have the opportunity to learn more about pin trading, meet other traders, and have a chance to spin the wheel to earn pins, from the general merchandise pins to a shot at a rare pin.
Rorrer and his wife are passionate about pin trading. They have bags and bags of pins in their house and encourage people to get started in their own collections. Rorrer perhaps sums it up best; do research, have patience and don’t give up.
“Do your research and figure out what you want to start collecting. Be patient if you don’t find the pin that you are looking for during your time at the park. Pins from the first year of pin trading can still be found in the park today,” Rorrer said.
To learn more about pin trading, visit the Busch Gardens Pin Trading group on Facebook.