Hockey season is gearing up, and that means pin trading season is gearing up too. Truth be told, being the parent responsible for ordering trading pins for the team is a big responsibility, especially when it comes to big tournaments. Some “perks” of being the pin parent:
What a nightmare! But fear not - we’ve been in your shoes a few times now and perfected a process that eliminates all the fear and pressure that comes with being the pin parent. Keep reading for our 5 Step Process to buying trading pins simply, quickly, and right.
Starting earlier in the season has a number of benefits related to the stress we mentioned above, but the primary benefits of ordering early are A.) higher quality pins and B.) better deals.
Quality: By the time June rolls around, the companies that make trading pins get slammed with hundreds of requests like yours each day, which means their factories get slammed with thousands of orders. Coupling limited capacity, high demand, and seasonal factory employees, your order in June gets less attention and is more likely to have errors than it would if processed in April.
Deals: Most pin companies run promotions from February through April offering free t-shirts, banners, pin bags, and towels (item’s you’d otherwise be buying separately). Additionally, many pin companies are forced to raise prices May through July due to price increases they see from their own supply chain.
So even if you don’t know if your team is going to make it to the pin trading event later in the season, but know there is a possibility, it’s usually best to start the design process as early as you can. Regardless, the team will love having pins that were made specially for them and they’ll have an awesome keepsake that they can also give out to friends and family.
We mentioned before that many of these companies use the same overseas suppliers, so the value the company provides aside from the pin itself is usually what separates them. Look for quick responses (within minutes of your email or quote request during daytime hours), friendly service, and a company that actually answers the phone.
Price generally correlates to quality: There are primarily three groupings of companies when it comes to price. Those that price low, those that price high, and those somewhere in between. It’s important to differentiate what each price point is actually offering you as far as quality and service.
Important note: AVOID THE LOW COST ECHELON. Many of these companies are overseas, their communication is sporadic at best, especially after you’ve paid, and you will get what you paid for - a cheap product. These companies often cut corners, producing a thinner pin (standard thickness is 1.5mm). Some will measure size diagonally versus a standard LxW sizing. There is truly nothing worse than seeing kids stuck trying to trade inferior pins, or worse, nothing at all because the pin company didn’t deliver as promised. It’s important to avoid these cheaper prices because they truly won’t put in the time and effort necessary to deliver you not only a good product but a good customer experience.
In the high priced group you’ll find many companies that specialize in lapel pins trying to sell trading pins. These companies are used to selling to companies with large budgets, so they don’t adjust their pricing for a different type of product.
No matter how much we as parents and coaches try to convey fairness and equality, pin trading will always be dictated by two things: Popularity, and subsequently, the supply & demand curve. The trick is, almost any pin can become popular once a limited supply is introduced: so aim to create rarity. Not only is this a smart move, but if done right can reduce your total pin cost.
How do you accomplish this? Create two designs, one “elite”, in limited quantities with a few bells & whistles, and the other standard in a quantity that will give your team sufficient pins to trade. The trick is to use the upgrades such that you’re able to use the same pin mold for both designs. A few ways to do this:
Not using the same die will cost you a few hundred dollars extra. At the end of the day, trading pins are given away, so save some cash and find a way to use the same die - your customer care team should also be able to give you some ideas!
General formula when ordering one pin design:
(# kids on your team) x (# of teams in tournament) x (1.2)
The 1.2 factor allows extras for siblings to trade (unless you like tantrums) and a few extras for the players to keep or trade with their friends. Umpires sometimes participate in trading to commemorate their unique tournament experience, organizers, and occasionally a zealous parent or two, so having some extras for one of these often limited pins comes in handy.
When ordering two pins, a standard and an elite pin, the recommended formula is:
Standard Pin: (# kids on your team) x (# of teams in tournament) x (0.9)
Elite Pin: Smaller tournaments go 10 per player, for regional/national tournaments make the range 15-20. The goal for Elite Pin is obviously to have way less than there are total kids in the tournament (supply & demand)!
Stay tuned for more hockey and trading pin news - happy hockey season!