Dr. Frank Begun Talks History of Pin Trading in Destination Imagination

Dr. Frank Talks DI Pins

By: Dr. Frank Begun

My name is Dr. Frank Begun, and I’m the guy with the rainbow mustache at Global Finals each year.

Photo and pin of Dr. Frank

Let Me Introduce Myself

Many of you involved in Destination Imagination already know me. For those of you who do not know me, let me introduce myself. I have been an avid collector of DI pins since the first Destination Imagination tournament season in 2000 (and for 5 years before that with both the Hard Rock Cafés and another creative problem-solving program). It was my goal each year to obtain one of each pin traded at Global Finals. This was not too difficult in the early years when the number of pin variations counted in the hundreds. It was a real challenge in recent years when they numbered in the thousands! Since my recent retirement from the practice of medicine, I have decided to retire from pin collecting, too. You may have seen the recent announcements regarding the auctioning of my pin collection with all proceeds going to support Destination Imagination.

A Little History of the DI Pin Collection

My “career” with DI actually began in 1994-1995 with the predecessor program, OM. My oldest daughter’s team competed in what was called World Finals. A frenetic level of pin trading was taking place all over the University of Tennessee campus. As a creature prone to collecting “cool stuff,” I was completely hooked. I was fascinated by the creativity and diversity of the little metal objects. I watched with fascination at the fun kids (and adults) were having meeting, bartering, and exchanging the pins at all hours and in every nook and cranny of the campus. Compared to my low-keyed Hard Rock Pin collecting experience, I was like a deer in headlights. With pins from our Wisconsin Affiliate, my real pin trading passion was sparked. Despite my family’s frequent eye-rolling, my personal philosophy is along the lines of “anything worth doing is worth doing to excess,” and when it came to collecting DI pins, boy did I do it in excess.

When Destination Imagination was born in 1999, I was involved as a founder and contributed to the development of the first year’s Challenges—the infamous “egg obstacle course” Challenge (Fruit Roller Coaster & Eggsploration) and the music interpretation Challenge (If Music Be the Food of Life… Play on!). For over 25 years, I had the privilege of attending Global Finals in various capacities. The most recent and rewarding role was sharing leadership for a group of volunteers known as the Pin Backers. The Pin Backers’ task was to serve as goodwill ambassadors regarding pin trading and to make sure that participants traded fairly and had fun. We sponsored a “fair pin trading guide” to help “newbies” understand the pin trading experience, to be able to engage in pin trading on an even keel with other more experienced traders, and to walk away happy with the deals they make. We also got to trade pins!

The Pin Trading Tradition (and Passion)

Pin trading, on a superficial level, is the exchange of pins between two people. However, DI pin trading is so much more. It serves as an ice breaker and a way to meet new people from around the world. It is a means by which kids can develop confidence and the ability to barter with other traders, including older kids and adults. It teaches them to negotiate with others to come to an agreement. It teaches them to be selective and to stay within a “pin budget.” Most importantly, it teaches kids to practice patience and to handle both success and disappointment. On another level, it is fascinating to observe the development of a valuation system or supply and demand “pin economy” that emerges over the days of Global Finals (some pins are hot traders while others are not). Best of all, kids go home with a treasury of souvenir pins, a concrete reminder of their Global Finals experience.

Over the course of 20 Global Finals tournaments, I was able to amass a collection of approximately 16,000 unique DI pins. I tried to act, with the help of others, as the unofficial curator of DI pins and that is the history behind the collection that is up for auction. Recently (to my wife’s great relief), I decided to put my DI pin collection to good use as a way of benefitting the Destination Imagination organization. It was always the plan to donate the collection to DI and this seems like the perfect time to do so. There will be an upcoming auction of selected pins and pin sets from the “Official Dr. Frank’s Rainbow Mustache Pin Collection.” If and when you decide to participate in the auction, you are bidding to obtain a piece of DI creative history. You are also helping to raise needed funds for the DI organization. Need I say more? I am contributing the pins knowing that they are going to support an organization that has been, and continues to be, such a positive influence on thousands of kids around the world and on my own family, as well.

Walking away happy with the deal,
Dr. Frank