I have been among you for exactly one cycle (PAX East 2014 to PAX East 2015), during which this community has seen immense growth. As we all know, with growth comes change; most of it good, but some of it not. I would like this post to shed light on well-defined issues as they form and have constructive discussions about them. I will do my best to keep this OP up-to-date as new concerns within the community arise and/or as potential solutions are proposed and pursued.Cultivating an eBay Culture
During PAX East 2015, Blizzard Entertainment had an Overwatch booth that pitted two teams against each other. Everyone who tried the game received an Overwatch pin, with the MVP (determined by the game) receiving a Golden Overwatch Pin (as well as the regular version). To call the Golden Overwatch Pin rare is an understatement because the line for the booth was constantly capped and only 1 in 10 people who got to play the game got the pin. Many people who got the golden pin were not Pinny Arcade community members, which is great, because there's no better way to enter a new community than through an activity you already enjoy (kicking ass at video games). The problem occurred when people didn't know what the pins were for (golden or otherwise), and instead of booth staff telling them "There is a large pin trading community at PAX and you just got a great pin!" they said, explicitly, "don't trade that pin away, it can go for a lot on eBay".
The Pin Trader - "The Guy From That Website"
I have asked several people with the golden overwatch pin what they would trade; they explicitly told me they were not trading it, and that they were looking for money. I've witnessed the same thing happen to other people several times. You can find the pin on eBay right now (3/9/15, one day after PAX East 2015) for $150+.
(last edit on 3/10/2015 4:10pm EST: solution posted, see below)
I've spent a lot of time thinking about this online service and asking others about it. I'm of the **opinion** that, as long as we have eBay, thepintrader.com is not a bad thing for the community. The prices are lower than eBay, they're constant, and they allow people who can't get to every PAX (or form a dedicated collection team) a way to acquire the pins they want. I would like to keep the online portion of that entity out of this topic and raise awareness of something else. Routinely, "the guy from the website" can be found in lines with a bag where you give him a pin - any pin - and are allowed to reach into the bag and choose any other pin in the bag. My understanding* is that pins given to him do not go in the bag, meaning he determines which pins are given out beforehand, and his hope is to collect "better" pins than the pins he allotted for distribution. Worse, the pins he is distributing are the pins that educated community members use as fodder, and he looks for people who clearly don't know what they're giving up. I stopped someone from giving the guy a Corrupted Garruk for a chance at the bag (I traded him for it instead), and Pin Trader Guy was clearly displeased with me. I've seen other people give up pins they don't know the value of - pins they waited in line to acquire - at a chance to play this game.
SOLUTION: The Pin Trader - "The Guy From That Website"
This is not the same game presented to us by the Penny Arcade staff. They surround their games by GREAT 1-for-1 trade tables, clearly explain their games up front, have legitimate prize pools, and take the time to explain things to newer community members. "The guy from that website" is very quick to take your Chandra pin, hand you a Hot Dog Fairy, and leave the line. It's not okay.
* This understanding stems from the fact that the pins in the bag are individually wrapped, preventing people from 'feeling out the good pins', and I don't think he goes off and individually wraps the pins he acquires and puts them back in the bag.
The Increasing Cost of Booth Pins
was kind enough to respond to this post and explain the game more clearly. I did my best to give honest and constructive feedback that represents the many conversations I've had about the game over the last two PAXen (PAX South 2015, PAX East 2015). The conversation can be found here.
(last edit 3/10/2015 11:05am EST: solution posted, see below)
In the days of yore, one acquired pins by waiting in line at booths to play a game. The lines were long, but it was okay because you were doing two things you love at once: playing new video games and acquiring epic shinies. Today, an increasing number of booths are charging money ($10-15) for their pins. Pin collecting is not cheap to begin with: tickets to PAX cost money, as do the logistics surrounding the event (hotels, travel, food, ...). Pin collecting takes time; lines often stretch well past the one hour mark. Paying for most of the pins after getting to the event and the front of the line not only leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the collector, but inhibits trades and, worse, raises the barrier of entry to the hobby. I was next to a group of four people at the Supergiant Games booth who loved Bastion and Transistor (rightfully so) and wanted to get a few pins because they liked what they saw on others' lanyards. When they saw me pay $30 for the 2 pins they were taken aback: "$30 for 2 pins?! That's more than we paid for both of those games!" Not only did they not get into the hobby, but I felt pretty stupid paying more for the pins than the games they were from. Also, artificially adding more value to some pins than others (Supergiant sold theirs for $15 but Frima and Behemoth sold theirs for $10) inhibits lateral trades.
SOLUTION: The Increasing Cost of Booth Pins
There are elegant ways to charge for pins: the Magic the Gathering booth has paid events that teach you how to play, give you a bunch of cards/MtG-related things, and then vouchers that can be traded in for even more MtG stuff or pins. I can even understand Behemoth's approach of "people love bubble gum machines / slots, so let's do that with pins!". What I'm specifically talking about are the increasing amounts of Supergiants and Frimas on the floor, simply requiring cash for their wares.
edit to clarify - I agree that the cost per pin is not dramatically increasing. Rather, there are more pins in general and thus, there are more booths with pins that cost money. To achieve your goal of "getting all of the floor pins" requires more money now, not just more time. Also, $15+ for a single pin that isn't a limited run is pretty steep.
As mentioned in the original OP, Pinny Arcade is in its infancy, which means that it's currently possible (and thus tempting) to collect every single pin, even at the cost of enjoying everything else PAX has to offer. It's up to the individual collector to decide which pins (all? certain vendors/games? CATS ONLY?!?!) they value enough to acquire. The introduction of more and more pins, even at some cash price, is a good thing because it helps the community reach a point of maturity where a complete collection is just too hard to attain for most people. As more and more people recognize that fact, their mentality will *hopefully* shift from hoarding to trading, from simply "having" to "doing". With this mentality in mind, paying for pins is a good thing; it gives the collector a way to directly support the artists and developers they care about and gain a keepsake to remind them of it in the form of a kick ass pin.
Ideally, collectors will learn to bury their brain squirrels before their wallets and look at their pin collection as a series of happy moments; each one telling a story of support given, friendships made, and events attended.
Penny Arcade is a shining light in the video game and tabletop scene and PAX is a great manifestation of that. One of the things that draws people to Pinny Arcade is the translation of that 'purity' to collecting and trading video- and tabletop-gaming pins. Constantly, we see veteran traders helping newer ones: offering good advice, connecting trades, and even giving away pins. However, Pinny Arcade is in its infancy and that feel-good vibe can sometimes cause us to turn a blind eye to the people (both official vendors and third parties) looking to take advantage of us. I think we need to openly discuss these things and their impacts on the future of Pinny Arcade.