Team Trading Pins 101: What You Need to Know Before You Order

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By Angela Weight, TBP Editor/Admin
Before my son Jack’s 12u team started planning our week at one of the major tournament facilities in Cooperstown, New York, (but I’m no longer allowed to say their name or I’ll get sued for trademark infringement,) I had no idea that team trading pins were a thing. In fact, the first time someone mentioned them, I thought they were talking about ink pens. (I’m from the South where pen and pin are audibly the same word.) But, no, we’re talking pins. At big tournament events, players will bring pins that represent their team to trade with players from other teams. They proudly display them on rally towels, in scrapbooks and in shadow boxes.
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Since trading pins aren’t something we order every day, many of us team parents are kind of stumped on how to design one and where to order them from. It can be a little intimidating. To get these answers and demystify the whole process, I reached out to Chris Cordeiro of Being an expert on everything in the realm of trading pins, he answered all my questions and provided some good insight for all of us who are in charge of ordering them for our teams.
Here’s what I learned.
Q: Are teams expected to have a pin design made before ordering them? Or do pin vendors design them for us?

A: When you contact a pin manufacturer, you just need to have a little bit of an idea of how you’d like your team pin to look. The two most common types for baseball trading are soft enamel, which is thicker and more solid. It has almost a 3D texture when you run your finger across it. Each individual color is separated by metal so it creates a very classic and cool affect. Production time takes longer – 25 to 30 days. They say 14 business days, but with delivery you can expect around 30 days from ordering to delivery. 

Soft Enamel:

-more solid

-longer production time

-a little more expensive

-fewer details

The second type is offset printed or photo etched. These have a solid metal pinback and the design is printed directly onto the metal and covered with a polyurethane or epoxy dome to give it a finished effect. They’re not as heavy as the soft enamel pins, but on the positive side, they are a little less expensive and have a much faster production time – usually about a week. And you can do more design details and effects than on soft enamel.

Offset Printed:

-lighter weight

-shorter production time

-less expensive

-more design details available

For the design itself……

You just need to provide a little information like the details you’d want on your pin, a copy of your logo or a link to a team web page and any written information you want on the pin such players’ names, numbers, age division, maybe the name of the tournament you’re attending. It’s really up to you. 

Q: What if you design a pin for us and we don’t like the proof? Do you charge for a redo?

A: As long as you’re not in a time crunch, you should never settle for a pin design that you’re not happy with. One of the services that people really like about my pin company in particular, is that we generally start off offering several different design styles that you can choose from and we’re happy to continue adjusting it to make it perfect for you.  If a company gives you a hard time about changes and it’s not because you’re short on time, you should just contact another vendor.

If a company wants to charge you a redo fee for the art design, simply contact another vendor. Every pin company provides this service free of charge. But do keep in mind, as sort of etiquette, that the people doing these designs spend a lot of time on them. So, try to provide most information possible up front to ensure that you’re both really happy with the end result.

Q: If our team is going to a big tourney like Cooperstown, how many pins should we order? Is there a per-player recommendation?

A: Cooperstown is hands-down the largest baseball pin trading event ever. We get a ton of orders for teams going to Cooperstown and the minimum seems to be 1,000 pins. The most common is 1,200. Some teams order in excess of 1,500. Remember, you’re going to be trading amongst hundreds of teams with 12 players each. And this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most players. If you’re making the trek to Cooperstown, my personal recommendation is to go all out. When you separate the cost by player, ordering a few more hundred pins usually works out to only $10 or $15 more per kid. If you can afford it, I believe it’s worth it.

Q: How long will it take for our pins to arrive? How far in advance do you recommend ordering them?
A: As I said, for soft enamel pins, you should order at least 30 days in advance. Production errors are rare, but they do happen occasionally with every pin vendor. Ordering a month in advance gives you a little more time for corrections and also unforeseen shipping hold-ups. So, of course, the more lead time you have, the better off you will be. 
For offset printed pins, production is about seven days. These pins, after being printed, have to cure under a UV light for a couple of days so the ink doesn’t smear during transport. Shipping usually takes four days. This is the best option for value and quick turnaround.
Q: What are the most popular pin sizes? Is there a general recommendation?

A: 1.75 inches seems to be the most common size ordered. However, there are sizes smaller and larger, normally starting at 1.25 inches up to around 3 inches. Pins over 2 inches in size increase dramatically in cost.

Here’s a link that can help you with the sizing.  it shows pin sizes in comparison to an American quarter.
Q: What are they made out of? Are some pin designs and materials more sturdy than others? We don’t want to order ones that will break.

A: All pins  are made with an iron back plating. You can order different thicknesses to ensure that your pin is very sturdy .08 mm is the thinnest and 2 mm generally the thickest. Remember this is solid metal so increasing the thickness will cost slightly more but will dramatically affect the shipping cost due to the extra weight.

Q: What is the price range for pins based on quantity and design? What can we as a team expect to pay for an average order of pins based on the typical quantity?

A: An order of 100 very high quality pins will usually cost $250 to $300, depending on the shape and size. For smaller quantities, the cost per pin is very high because the most expensive part is the metal mold which tends to cost about  60 to $120 to produce, depending on the pin’s size and shape. 

Ordering 500 pins will usually run about $700 to $800. Whereas 1,000 pins will be around a $1,000 to $1,200. With higher quantities, the price per pin is actually very inexpensive, but the initial mold fee and shipping costs, due to the weight, are very expensive. This is off-set when you order higher quantities. 

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Q: There are so many baseball pin vendors online. What should we look for in choosing one?

A: First off, look for one that has a design style you like and can relate to. Secondly, word-of-mouth recommendation is probably the best reference you could have. Placing your order well ahead of time with any pin vendor will probably reduce any and all problems. Here’s a design I did for a Texas team that has a spinner feature on it.

Q: What is your return policy if we receive the wrong pins or if some are broken?

A: I keep on touching on this, but the easiest way to remedy all problems is to order well in advance. Most companies will be happy to replace any damaged or incorrect pins provided you have the time before your tournament or event. The most likely case if there is an error, is that they will offer you a credit if you don’t have enough time to receive corrected pins by the date of your tournament.

Q: What other factors should we consider in ordering team pins?

A: The first thing to keep in mind is your budget. Also keep in mind, when you want add-on features like blinkers, sliders, danglers, spinners, even glitter adds to production time. I keep stressing the importance of not waiting until the last minute to order. That’s probably the biggest thing to remember. Generally, each tournament will provide some guidelines on how many pins to bring for trading. But there’s really no wrong answers as long as you have some pins and can participate. It gives everyone a chance to enjoy the fun.


Angela Weight

Founder and publisher of Travel Ball, Angela Weight is still a little shocked to be running one of the most popular youth sports parenting sites on the web. Click the ABOUT US tab to read her story.

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