Few things symbolize camaraderie and tradition better than the classic trading pin. The trading pin has become a worldwide symbol of decorum and has been incorporated into popular culture for over 100 years. Big companies like Coca Cola, Disney and even the U.S. government have used trading pins in their ads and traditions.
But there are few activities in which the trading pin is as vital as baseball. The history of the baseball lapel pin is short, however, their impact on the sport has been felt with force.
The origin of the trading pin itself goes back to Ancient Greece, where Olympic athletes would wear small medallions of cardboard or scrap metal to identify themselves and where they come from. But, the trading pin picked up in popularity around the turn of the century.
The common story begins in Rochester, New York, a few hours from where the game itself originated in Cooperstown. A local bakery began selling small pieces of memorabilia for a local baseball team: trading pins with players on them that came in individuals or packs.
Since then, the baseball trading pin has grown in popularity. Jackie Robinson was famously put on pins created by Topps and has a rookie year pin that goes for as much as $1500 each today. Big name players like Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth had pins that were big hits, and important World Series pins like 1912 (when Fenway Park was opened) and 1927 (when the Yankees dismantled the Pirates) sell today for thousands each.
But pin trading isn’t just for the old heads. The act of trading has made its way into the modern era by taking advantage of one of baseball’s most important events: the Little League World Series. Players bring pins from across the country with them and trade with opposing teams and local pin trading fanatics. At the iconic event, Williamsport is full of young kids trading things like classic baseball pins and memorabilia to cartoon character and food themed pins.
The baseball trading pin world is alive and well. So, whenever you wonder why you get to enjoy such a fun past time, you can thank a small bakery in New York. And don’t be afraid to get in on the fun!