What Are Sports Trading Pins

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In 2018, more than 25 million kids took the field and played youth baseball. Little League and youth baseball is an American summer tradition like no other, and its long history traces multiple generations.

Yes, on a hot summer night just before dusk, you’ll find kids all across this great country standing in the batter’s box and dreaming big dreams of sending doubles into the gap to the MLB.

Tied to the summer tradition of baseball is one of the deepest customs in the sports industry, trading sports buttons or pins. Are you unfamiliar? Read on to learn more about these sports traditions.

History of Pin Trading

What Are Sports Trading Pins
May 27, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Race fans view a pin trading display prior to the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Guy Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Pin collecting and trading is an ingrained part of the sports tradition in America and abroad. You and your children may trade pins without knowing where the tradition began and how it evolved.

Professional sports and amateur leagues all participate, and the tradition’s origins date back to the end of the 19th century.

Beginnings in the Olympics

Pin trading started in the early Olympic games. Athletes, judges, and officials needed a way to designate themselves and their home countries. They did this by affixing rudimentary discs to their chests.

As athletes mingled during the games, they used these pins as conversation starters. They’d trade discs with each other as a show of solidarity and respect.

As the games progressed, the discs evolved into more elaborate pins. Pin trading continued among athletes and also extended to spectators. Pin value increased with demand.

The Wild and Wooly Days of Early Baseball

The early days of baseball contained fascinating characters. The sport’s infancy attracted men who were unable to fit in with then-modern society.

Professional baseball’s structure was far different compared to the big business of today’s MLB.

Though the professional leagues were the standard and played the World Series, smaller cities also had teams, much like the minor leagues, with a big difference. These leagues and teams operated independently of the majors.

These small teams in small towns were the focal point of local entertainment and civic pride. In the early 1920s, a bakery in Rochester, NY, began selling pins of local baseball players, similar to the Olympic-style pins.

From that genesis, teams began manufacturing pins for players to wear and trade on the road as they played in small-towns across the northeast and midwest.

An Extended Tradition

Pin-trading caught fire in the 1940s, and its popularity in professional sports transferred to youth sports.

These days, Little League baseball teams and other youth sports travel teams trade pins to show respect and friendship. Coaches award pins to players for on-the-field achievements and good sportsmanship.

Current Pin Trading Market

What Are Sports Trading Pins
Apr 1, 2021; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Chuck Radtke of Hartland, Wi., shows off his Milwaukee Brewers opening day pins that he had received in past seasons on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Mandatory Credit: Angela Peterson-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s pin-trading market is not limited to sports teams. Comic book and science fiction fans trade pins. Entertainment companies also issue pins meant for collection and trading.

These pins, of course, hold no material value. Their value is based solely on market demand. If you’re looking to enter the market and start a collection, there are a few places to look for rare pins.

Card Shops

Trading cards and trading pins go hand-in-hand. They’re collectibles, and where do you shop for these items?

Card shops across America feature collections of rare and valuable sports pins. If you’re on the hunt for commemorative pins not related to sports, try your nearest comic book shop.

Expos and Flea Markets

Are you looking for rare pins? Try a sports trade show or expo. These memorabilia events happen across the country, and sellers look to profit from hard-to-find or interesting sports items.

It’s worth your time to check flea markets. Sellers at these events are willing to sell old or unused items at a low price. Many times, sellers aren’t aware that what they’re selling holds high collectible value.

For example, someone purchased a rare Velvet Underground demo record at a New York flea market for $0.75. They turned around and sold it for over $26,000! You never know what you’ll find at a flea market.


Memorabilia trading is so easy these days due to modern technology. You can find trading pins at online auction sites as well as dedicated sports memorabilia websites.

Take your time and dig through the virtual stacks to find the pins you want.

Boost Team Spirit and Buy Pins for Your Team

Are you a youth sports coach looking to add team-building and camaraderie? You have to buy custom pins for your team. You won’t regret it.

These pins create memories that will last a lifetime. Contact a local trophy shop or look online for a custom pin maker to start the process.

Make it Special

What design options can you choose to make your team pin special? Pin manufacturers give you the options of bobbleheads, spinners, and other intricate designs.

Reward Players

Maybe a player who goes three for three in the box deserves a pin. What about the player who makes a spectacular catch in the outfield or a stab at second base? They do, too.

In-game achievements deserve rewards. So do players who exhibit good sportsmanship and respect. These custom pins are a great way to reward players who show excellence on and off the field.

Trading Pins are a Vital Part of the Sports Industry

Trading pins have been part of sports and the sports industry since the early Olympic games. This deep, long-standing trading tradition shows no signs of slowing down.

Players across the country, including Little League travel teams, continue to trade pins to demonstrate sportsmanship and respect. Their history will extend as long as people play sports.

Do you need more sports history news? Make sure to check the rest of our page.

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