As parents, Scott and I look at a variety of opportunities for family bonding, but also like to introduce our daughters to valuable life lessons and skills. The girls were only four and two and a half years old when we took them to their first National Hot Wheels convention. You might think that’s too young to participate, but we found age-appropriate activities then watched as they didn’t skip a beat in getting acclimated when they attended again the following year. Aside from sports and arts, we’ve taken them to coin auctions geared toward kids, empowered signup for things like on-field spectator activities at minor league ball games, stressed the importance of learning about a variety of hobbies and encouraged them to seize all unique opportunities to ensure they don’t have a cookie-cutter life.
During trips to Disney when the girls were young, we took advantage of pin-trading. This unique activity isn’t exclusive to Disney, but they certainly have things set up to ensure safety. Cast members wear special lanyards or pouches and are required to trade with anyone who asks. What it allowed us to do is encourage the girls to take the lead. We didn’t trade on their behalf, but instead told them if they want to trade with someone, THEY need to do it. As a result, it reinforced the importance of speaking up for themselves. It empowered them to approach strangers and ask to trade. It taught them they could say, ‘no’, when non-cast members asked to trade for something they didn’t want to give away. The only exception was when Kennedy was an Honorary Pin Trader on a Disney Cruise. In that case, she was stocked with pins just like cast members and was on the giving end of all the transactions.
As I said, pin trading and pin collecting aren’t exclusive to Disney entertainment options. It’s actually one of the things I really missed about attending gaming conventions. Many exhibitors, as well as the conventions themselves, have pins available to commemorate the event, brand or a product release. Some are through a designated program such as Pin Bazaar and are included in event checklists while others are stand alone promotions by the exhibitors.
It’s not just about pins though. There are buttons also. My girls had so much fun at Gen Con 50 as they participated in a variety of activities to earn different buttons. Both of them have been attending these types of events for so many years that they are right at home trying new things and interacting with people they don’t know. Those types of life skills are taught by immersive education and we’re huge advocates for using “life lesson” as an excuse to attend conventions, concerts, festivals and other things.
Each time there is an event, we fill our lanyards with all the buttons and pins and display them throughout the event with pride. But when the events are over, the pins and buttons all go into a bag then stored in my closet or somewhere. “Somewhere” is probably more accurate since I don’t know where they all are. Maybe inspired by the way he decided to show off his dice collection, Scott ordered some pin organizers so I can display them! I went through a couple bags that were in my closet then sorted and added all the pins to the board. The board had flaps to make it easy to attach the pin and not lose the back. Other corkboard based systems meant you would end up with a bag of pinbacks stashed in a drawer.
Then he showed me that they hold buttons also and I was ecstatic! I immediately started sorting those out also. These new organizers don’t include our Disney buttons and pins, but they do showcase the ones from the gaming events we’ve attended most recently. Regardless whether I hang them as decorations on the wall or from a hanger in the closet doesn’t matter. The important thing is that these items are no longer just stashed in a Ziploc. They’re in a display where we can enjoy them.
I’m even more excited about collecting buttons and pins at Geekway, Origins and Gen Con this year but need to subtly let Scott know he’ll probably need to buy more of these cases. I knew I missed the people, the excitement and the social interactions that come with convention season, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how much I missed the personal mission to acquire the most pins and buttons.
Do you collect pins and buttons at conventions?