It all starts with the Disney Cast Members (employees) who participate in pin trading. They wear a lanyard with pins or have a pin pouch attached to their belts. There were lots of Cast Members who trade pins, including quite a few of the staff at the stores, those monitoring the lines at the rides and many just walking around.
Want to trade pins? Just ask them to trade and as long as they are not busy with someone else, they happily oblige. In five days of pin trading we only had one grouchy person who obviously was not enjoying that part of her job.
The pins the Cast Members trade include older pins, current pins found at the stores and recent issues.
The problem is Eli also had to have a stock of pins to trade. I knew that buying at the parks could be expensive, so before we went I checked other options. Online there are numerous vendors that sell Disney pins; After carefully checking out the options, we bought 30 pins from a vendor selling authentic Disney pins for $1.35 each. No choice, bulk only, but postage was included!
But the question was, would they measure up? They did. The pins were all authentic Disney pins, had the required Mickey-stopper and even included limited editions and Hidden Mickey pins.