Pin Trader Club

Pin Grades

I'm always learning something new about pin trading, and when I don't understand something, I try and ask an expert for their opinion. Recently disney_abi on Instagram posted about some of her fantasy pins and mentioned the different grades she has available.

People talk about "Grade A" pins and "Grade B" pins, and I know that Grade A is better than Grade B is better than Grade C, but I don't know what goes into a fantasy pin maker deciding on the quality. So I asked disney_abi her opinions, and she went above and beyond and wrote this fantastic guide explaining her process when grading pins.

Thanks so much, Abi!

What are pin grades and how to tell the difference


As an avid pin trader, we all want the best quality. We all look for small dents, enamel lifting off of old pins or a lost post on the back due to being swapped continuously about through different hands. 

As a fantasy pin designer, we have the same "quality control" issues. We WANT all of our 40, 50, 60 pins to be perfect. The likelihood of this being the case is slim. We don't want any dents in the enamel; we don't want the colours melting into each other or random dots of enamel where they shouldn't be. 

So, what is the difference?

When going through our pins that the manufacturer has sent to us, we get our magnifying glasses out and check everything! We want to make sure that people get the best quality and, most of all, enjoy the pin we have created for their collection. 

Below I am going to tell you how I go through my pins and show you the differences between A, B and C grades.

3 R2D2s of varying quality
3 R2D2s of varying quality


4 Atlantis pins of varying quality
4 Atlantis pins of varying quality

In these pictures, we have three or four identical pins — one "A" grade, one or two "B" grades and one "C" grade. We have three or four pins; three different prices and I will tell you why. 

Grade A Pins


For a Fantasy pin maker, this pin is our dream. There are no flaws. All the enamel is filled in, there are no dents or dipping, and there are no colour problems.
A Grade "A" Atlantis pin, no flaws, exactly as the artist imagined
A Grade "A" Atlantis pin, no flaws, exactly as the artist imagined

A Grade "A" R2D2 pin, exactly as the artist imaged with no flaws
A Grade "A" R2D2 pin, exactly as the artist imaged with no flaws


We class this pin as a Grade "A" due to its lack of flaws. A pin like this is what you imagined it would be. It looks like the drawing you sent off and the artwork that came back. GREAT! We love it when things go to plan. 

Grade B Pins


So what is a Grade B pin? In a few words, less than perfect. 

Less than perfect can be something small like a dent in the enamel or a piece of the metal that isn't connected.
 
The next set of pictures are what I class as "B" grade pins.

Note the dents in some of the white paint
Note the dents in some of the white paint

The R2D2 pin looks pretty good. All the colours are in the right places; the metalwork is looking good. Take a closer look. We have a few dents in the white enamel. Below the purple, third white section along – we have a tiny dip in the lower-left corner. This pin is not perfect. 

Note the broken bit of metal on Milo's arm
Note the broken bit of metal on Milo's arm
This next picture has a broken piece on the metal base. Where? On Milos upper arm there is a small break of the pin base. Luckily the enamel didn't blend, but it's not perfect. This would be our Grade "B". It's not like the Grade "A", not perfect but almost.

Come on Milo, wash your shirt!
Come on Milo, wash your shirt!

This final example has a black mark on Milos t-shirt. The mark happened during production, and we cannot clean it off. As a Pin maker, we don't want our pins to go to waste so we will put the price down lower for "minor flaws". 

Grade C pins


The flaws on these pins are a little more obvious.

R2D2 with a large blue dot on his leg, definately a grade "C"
R2D2 with a large blue dot on his leg, definately a grade "C"

On the R2D2 pin, on his right arm, we have a large blue dot. That did not come in the artwork, and you didn't ask for it to be there. This is not a nice thing to find in your box of 40,50,60 pins that you have ordered. 

Another blue dot, this time on Milo's head, another example of a grade "C"
Another blue dot, this time on Milo's head, another example of a grade "C"


On the Atlantis pin, Milo has a lovely blue dot in the middle of his forehead – again you didn't ask for it to be there and it certainly wasn't in the artwork that you received back from your manufacturer. 

Getting pins like this is heartbreaking when you imagined so many beautiful pins lined up. We can't just throw them away or send them back to the sender. We mark these pins down and make sure that the people who are buying them are aware of the flaws

The differences between pins can be small or large. 

In short - Grade "A" pins are precisely how you imagined them to be. Grade "B" pins are a little less than perfect but still look good, and Grade "C" pins have a larger area that isn't anything like you thought it was going to be. 

I hope this article helps people understand the differences and how we, pin makers, judge some of our pins! 

Thank you so much for writing this guide Abi! If you don't already, please follow her on Instagram, she makes terrific fantasy pins and is such a fantastic part of our community!

If you have any questions about grading pins, feel free to write a comment below, and I will try and get them answered for you.


This article was written by tosbourn on Monday 20 July 2020.


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  1. LadyRogue86 21 Jul 2020 3:40 PM

    A favorite seller of mine always puts the letter “B” and a number behind all of their eBay listings. It looks like (B5). I have often wondered if this a grading system but I can’t tell because it is always a “B”. Do you have any inside to that?

    1. 👤elaine 22 Jul 2020 2:22 PM

      I haven't come across a grading system like that before. Maybe it's the amount of flaws or the number of pins that they have in that condition???