One of the biggest blights on Disney pin trading is the fact that there are a lot of fake Disney pins in circulation. Unfortunately, people and factories circulate known fakes because they know they can make good money, especially if the people buying or trading them don't know how to spot fakes. Hopefully, by the end of the article, you will be well equipped to spot fake Disney pins!
We plan to keep this article updated with new tips or any news related to spotting fake Disney pins, so please comment below if there is something you would like to see added!
We're sharing an extensive list, it is important to know that to be fake, a pin doesn't have to have all of these signs, and a genuine pin might exhibit one or two. This list is to help guide you, but unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule for what is real and what is fake.
It is also important to note that a lot of older pins that Disney have produced will exhibit quite a few of the things I'm about to list, for example, the backs of older pins are way different to more recent pins. With that in mind, I'm going to say that these are good things to look for in pins made in 2015 or newer (official pins typically have the year printed on the back of them). This guidance might still hold for older pins but always make your judgement.
20 things to look for to tell if your Disney pin is fake
Here are twenty different things to look for to help determine if your Disney pin is official or if it might be a counterfeit or a scrapper.
Check the pin with a magnet
While it is true that a small proportion of official Disney pins will stick to magnets, the vast majority of official pins won't.
Likewise, a high percentage of fake pins will stick to magnets.
The magnetism is down to the metals used in the production of the pins, the metal used in fake pins has other telltale signs, which we will get to later.
Move the pin under a light source
Moving the pin under a light source will highlight little imperfections that you may not see when it is stuck on a pinboard a few meters away.
The imperfections you're looking for are in the enamel, usually dents or brush strokes.
A few small marks can be slight blemishes that slipped through quality control, but a lot of visible brush strokes or dents usually indicate it is fake or a scrapper.
Mickey Waffling needs to extend past the edge of the pin
On official pins, the waffling effect extends past the edge of the pin, in fake pins you can often see where the waffling doesn't quite meet the side, let alone extend past it.
Incorrect waffling might be a quality control issue but is often found in fake pins.
Mickey Waffling needs to be complete
Even if the waffling goes right to the edge, another telltale sign of fake waffling (and therefore phoney pin) is if there are missing parts of the waffle.
Missing waffling is often most noticeable if there are other things stamped on the back of the pin, or if there are parts of the pin that jut out (like a wand or Bo-peep's staff)
Edges should be smooth
Fake pins are often cheaply cut from their moulds, and as a result, the edges can be quite rough. Rough edges can be apparent in photographs, but usually, the easiest way to tell is to rub your finger along the edges. They should feel completely smooth.
Official pins have smooth edges, and because of the quality of the metal used, they would have to be severely damaged for them to feel rough due to wear and tear.
Fake pins have a different sound
Because of the different metal used in fake pins, some pins will sound different!
If you gently tap two pins from the same set off of something hard, they should sound the same.
This advice will only make sense to follow if you've got used to the feel and sound of many official pins, but some people claim the sound can be incredibly distinctive.
The weight of the pin
Again this is due to the different metals and materials used when making fake pins versus the more expensive to produce official pins.
Fake pins will often feel a lot lighter than their conventional counterparts.
In some pins, the metal can be so light that you can bend the pin without too much effort, this would never be the case with an official pin.
Two nubs by the pin post
The first time I heard the term nubs and posts, I was baffled, so let me explain quickly before talking about them with regards to fake pins.
The post is the pointy part of the pin, the pin of the pin if you will!
The nubs are like two tiny pins that are either side of the post; these are in place to stop the pin swaying side to side when it is attached to something.
We have purchased official pins that only have one nub, and even some are still made without nubs, but as a general rule of thumb, if there aren’t any nubs be wary.
The pin post quality
On official Disney pins, the pin post is properly riveted or welded into place, and it looks secure and well defined.
On some fake pins, the post is tacked onto the back of the pin with adhesive and looks a lot more flimsy.
These lower quality posts frequently come hand-in-hand with a lack of nub.
Big colour differences
Colours aren't always 100% identical between pins since pins come in different batches and from various locations; however, if there are significant colour differences that can point to the pin being fake.
One of the main things to look for is what is the wrong colour if you know the iconic dress is dark green and the pin is a lime or light green, then that would raise some red flags.
Harder to spot but still worth looking for are subtle differences in colour. Fake pins will look a little more washed out. The best way to compare is to look at a selection of pictures online.
Look for a high-gloss finish
Most official pins have a high-gloss finish.
Unless the official run was a matte finish by design then not having high-gloss is a sign it might be fake.
A high-gloss pin will not only look glossy under light but will also feel smooth.
A well defined hidden Mickey symbol
With hidden Mickey pins, look for a well defined Mickey symbol, often in fakes, the Mickey symbol seems like a bit of an afterthought.
Disney takes a great deal of care in how it depicts the main mouse's symbol, so if the image isn't clear, or the ears seem misplaced, there is a decent chance it is a fake.
Dipping in the enamel
When we say dipping in the enamel what we mean is when there is an apparent dip that you can see when moving the pin around under a light source, it shows the unevenly applied paint.
Dipping can be a quality control issue, but if it appears in more than one place in the pin, it should raise a red flag.
Misspelt words are a big giveaway
The quality control in fake pin factories tends to not pick up on misspelt words that often, especially when letters look the same (i and l for example).
Another issue can be words running together, for example, no spaces between words, or missing words.
Mickey Pin Backs
Official Disney pins all come with a rubber pin back in the shape of Mickey’s head. If a pin is claiming to be new and has a different type of back I would be dubious.
The pin backs are fairly soft, so if the pin back is a hard plastic then again it might be a fake.
These are one of the easier parts of the pin to get right, so just having an official pin back doesn’t make it official.
If you're buying a pin and the price is incredibly low, either because it is in a job-lot or very cheap, this should raise a bit of a flag.
It is possible to get good deals online. However people generally know the worth of a pin, anything lower than £5 per pin should raise eyebrows.
Thirty pins for £20 is too good to be true.
Look at the fine detail
On fake Disney pins finer detailing is missed.
The fine detailing is often in the eyes of a character, but smaller detail is often blurry or missing entirely on faked pins.
If you look closely at most official pins, you will see decent detail around the eyes, on many fake pins they usually are a couple of dots.
Look for the official Pin Trading logo
Every official Disney Pin should have a Pin Trading logo on the back.
The central part of the logo is a classic Mickey head with a banner underneath it.
Inside the banner has the text "Pin Trading," with the release year beneath it.
Newer pins have the Mickey head logo set on top of a crest shape.
Fakes can have this printed on the back too, but not having it is a big red flag.
Fake pins smell different
I have to admit I haven't experienced this one myself, but when I asked on Instagram what people's tips were, @angela_june_04 explained that her boyfriend says fake pins smell more metallic.
If you have a real and a fake pin beside each other you can tell. As we've said before fake Disney pins are made with different materials so it stands to reason they would smell different, you could check for lead with a 3M product.
Let us know in the comments if you've tried this technique!
Practice makes perfect
Take time to learn from people who share when they've been stung by fake pins, it is easy to read a guide like this and think "ah yes, the colour quality is important" but knowing that and comparing two different pins are very different.
You will learn a lot more by practising and learning from your collection and other people's collections.
Hidden Mickey pins are one of the most commonly faked pin, which is one of the reasons why you might see some groups on Facebook and other places actively forbid the discussion or trading of Hidden Mickey pins.
As a general rule, the more complicated the pin, the less chance of it being a fake. The companies that make fake pins are doing everything possible to keep costs down (which is why the pins have the significant issues we're discussing). Because of this, it is often not worth their while faking intricate pins or pins with unique features, like pin-on-pin, or pins with moveable parts.
That doesn't mean that elaborate pins can't be fake, just that it happens a little less compared to pins with a more simple design.
Hidden Mickey pins don't have any backing cards and usually are relatively simple designs, making them prime targets for faking.
How to be 100% sure
The only way to be 100% sure it is official is to buy the pin from Disney, so either in the parks, in an official Disney store, or the official Disney websites.
Even when trading with someone you completely trust, unless they bought it from a park, you have to vouch for who they traded it with, and so on!
Spotting fake Disney pins in the parks
In the parks there are two rules cast members are meant to follow which are essential for our discussion:
1. If they realise one of their pins is fake, they must remove it from their lanyard/board and dispose of it.
2. They cannot turn down a trade from a member of the public.
This second point is fantastic if you've spotted a limited edition 100 pin on a cast member's trading board and all you have is a super-common hidden mickey pin. It is less fantastic when people use this as a loophole for trading known fakes for real pins, which unfortunately happens a lot.
I've personally traded with a cast member and received a fake pin. It wasn't the cast members fault.
I've spoken to cast members about this and confirmed that 90%+ of some pinboards are going to be fake pins.
Some folk have suggested that visiting the boards earlier in the day should mean there are fewer fakes, but we would still suggest assuming most of the pins are fake.
The best thing you can do when making a trade in person with a cast member or a visitor is to ask to see the pin up close first, take a look at it and think about the tips we've listed above, if something doesn't feel right you can always walk away from the trade.
Spotting fake Disney pins online
Because I don't live near a Disney park, I get my pin trading fix from trading online. Trading online has some unique challenges when it comes to spotting fakes.
Even when you ask for pictures, you can never be 100% they are the pictures of the pin you're receiving.
Pictures don't always tell the whole story. It can be challenging to make out all defects or get a sense for the quality. Levels of light and picture quality can hide a multitude of sins.
Because of this, I would always recommend following these steps:
Trade with people you trust, if you have a long relationship with a pin trader, the chances are they aren't going to want to trade a fake pin with you.
Always ask for photos of the back and the front. If you need more detail, ask for more pictures of precisely the bit you need. For example, you could ask to see a close up of the pin's post.
If you aren’t convinced of the legitimacy of the images, you could ask the person to “timestamp” the photo by including a bit of writing with their username and date on a bit of paper.
If you haven't traded with someone before, feel free to ask them to share some references, or use an external service. On Pin Trader Club we have a feature where you can leave a review for someone you've traded with, it appears publicly on their profile. There are also services like https://instagram.com/pin_alerts_resource who try and crowdsource recommendations on traders
Avoid places where back and forth is nearly impossible, like eBay.
What to do with fake Disney pins
If you end up with some counterfeit pins, the question becomes what to do with them.
At the end of the day if you love the pin and enjoy looking at it, then there is no reason to bin it, just because something isn't genuine doesn't mean you can't like it!
What you should not do is try and trade or sell it, that would be wholly unethical and only helps to spur on the terrible practice of making fake pins.
If you don't want them as part of your collection, but don't want to throw them away - you could consider using the pins in craft projects!
Ask people for help spotting fakes
One of the fantastic things about this community is how helpful a lot of people are.
Never be afraid to ask people for help, there are many people in this lovely community that are excellent at spotting and explaining when a pin might be fake.
If you're messaging with someone on here, you can easily add a picture to get their opinion. I've also had great success posting to Instagram stories asking for help. Some people go above and beyond!
In the future, we might even build something into this site that would let you upload some pictures/info and get crowdsourced feedback. If this would be something you'd like to see, comment below!
Fakes and Scrappers
There is a difference between fake pins and pins that are considered scrappers; for this article, we've lumped both terms together to mean "pins you want to avoid". If you're interested in learning more about the differences between fakes and scrappers, then we can recommend Dreaming of Disney's article Scrappers & fakes; what's the difference?
What our community has to say
When writing this post, we asked around on our Instagram and Twitter feeds to see what you lovely people do when looking to see if a pin is fake or not. Here are some of our favourites.
I look for overstretched or too close/squished Mickey heads in the waffling, borders around the waffling (although sometimes that's not a true indicator) and 'off' colouring - muddy-looking or faded colours. Jagged edges on the metal can also be an indication of a scrapper or fake.
In person, the weight of the pin and thickness of the metal can give it away too - they can feel unusually light, or the metal base can look oddly thick
One thing to note, lately Disney's quality control has been lacking. So some pins will have dipped paint or odd Mickey waffling borders and still be official. If you bought it straight from the parks and it looks like that, then you're in the clear, and it's real. If you bought it 3rd party, I'd be cautious.
I think a big part of spotting fake pins is knowing what the common fakes are.
I was in merchandise for a year, so I got familiar with what kinds of pins were always fake.
Stuff like the family member pins, character footprints, puffles, etc.
It's something that gets a lot easier with experience.
Big tells are soft enamel with a wet paint look instead of hard enamel, enamel that doesn't meet the metal ridges, so you can feel them when you run your finger across, and the hidden Mickey waffling having a border.
I think a lot of times you can look closely at a pin and if you see really obvious quality issues, like sloppy lines and really off colours, you know it's fake.
I want to thank everyone who has contributed their thoughts, shared images and helped edit this article down, you are all amazing.
What do you have to say about spotting fake Disney pins
Please share below any other tips or tricks you've picked up for detecting fake Disney pins. The more we can educate ourselves, the less profitable it will be for people to produce fakes and hopefully, the more we can stamp this out!