(Updated February 2013)
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Mis-knowledge can lead to frustration and abuse. This Top 10 list shows some areas of Disney pin collecting where there is confusion. If this is helpful, I have several other Disney pin collecting articles that may also be beneficial...
1. Pin Backs
You'd think such a small thing wouldn't cause such frustration, but it does. Some folks get angry if their pin doesn't have the black Mickey Mouse rubber pinback. But depending on the era of the pin, you'll find quite a variety of backs:
- Black Rubber Mickey Head - The most common back used by Disney these days.
- Metal "Butterfly" Squeeze Clasps - These pin backs were used for many of the pins sold before 2000. They come in both gold and silver color, and Disney has used them indiscriminately...I have even seen double-posted pins with one of each color, straight from the package!
- Various Shaped Rubber Backs - For quite some time, Disney used gold-colored round rubber backs. But in recent days, they have used a greater variety of colors and shapes. Disney Catalog pins, for instance, now use a small, diamond-shaped back. Disney even markets pin back replacements in a variety of shapes and styles. Depending on the time period and park, I've seen yellow and brown backs as well.
- Tie Tack Backs - For a short time during the 1980s and 1990s, Disney experimented using the same type of clasps as used on tie tacks. Effective, but heavy and bulky.
- Locking Screw-On Backs - On a few pins - including stick pins from the 1970s - Disney experimented with backs that screwed on. Effective but expensive. Available on eBay for your personal collection.
- Straight-Pin Clasps - These come on pins from the early 1990s and before...they are more the traditional brooch-type pin back which uses a clasp to hold the pin in place. Secure, but hard to put on and take off.
With so much pin trading going on, pin backs are constantly being switched around. Unless you purchase something directly in a package, you may never know what back it truly started out with.
The main thing to remember with pin backs is that unless your pin is very rare, what type of pin back you find isn't going to be that important. Yes, there are a few purists who may argue this point; but in the end, it's what's on the front that counts.
2. Copyrights on Pins
With the prevalence of Scrapper pins, there's been greater concern about whether a pin is legitimately Disney or not...one of the biggest confusions concerning this is backstamp info (what is written on the back of a Disney pin). Here are some pointers:
- One of the biggest confusions: Both legitimate pins and Scrapper pins may contain a Disney copyright and "China." The majority of pins used by Disney are manufactured in China, so it makes sense that the Scrappers would also come from there. But there are OTHER companies outside of China which make and have in the past made Disney pins, so just because a pin doesn't say "China" on the back doesn't mean it's not real Disney.
- Many pins from the 1990s and 1980s have a "Taiwan" copyright instead of "China."
- During the 1970s and 1960s, many vintage pins had nothing on their backs. Not all pins without backstamps are legitimate, though, so educate yourself by looking at places like PinPics.com or Dizpins.com to find out what is real and what is counterfeit.
- For a period of time in the 1970s and 1980s, Disney placed "Walt Disney Productions" on the backs of their pins (sometimes with a copyright mark and sometimes without).
- Very early pins may simple have "WD" or "WDP" stamped somewhere on the back.
- Certain companies were licensed by Disney to create their pins over the years. They include Monogram Products, Inc. (Largo, FL), Sedesma (Europe), ProPin (Germany), Brier Manufacturing (1930s and early 1940s), Cohn & Rosenberger (1930s), Schroco (Vintage), Marx (1940s) and MANY others.
3. Cloisonne'? Enamel? Die-Struck? What's the Difference?
You'll see a lot of pins called cloisonne' on eBay when they're really not.
Webster's Dictionary defines cloisonne' as "enamelwork in which colored areas are separated by thin metal bands fixed edgewise to the ground." Think about a stained glass window: Colored glass is placed between think strips of metal. When cloisonne' pins are created, powered colored glass is melted into a die-cast stamped pin with ridges. According to Tomart's DISNEYANA Guide to Pin Trading, "the genuine cloisonne' process usually causes a slight bend in the metal."
Enamel pins are a less expensive way of manufacturing pins. The process is similar to cloisonne', except colors are added to recessed areas using soft enamel paint. Sometimes, an epoxy dome is added to prevent scratching. There's even imitation enamel (which give pins a smooth surface compared with soft enamel).
Die-Struck pins are one or two color, using usually copper or brass. They can come in gold, silver, or bronze colors, with satin or matte among the finishes.
Some pins appear to have photo brass etching, where pins are produced by a photographic and chemical etching process. Pin designs are etched to a brass plate, with the design then filled with soft enamel colors.
Finally, there are screen printing pins. Colors are actually silk screen printed onto a brass base (like what's done with t-shirt printing), where a coating of resin or plastic is added to protect coloration (refer to the "Something Around Every Corner" Walt Disney World set as an example of this).
There are many different types of pin processes, but these represent the most often used. Through the years, Disney has used a variety of processes to create their pins.
4. Jerry Leigh, Bertoni, ProPin, Sedesma and Others
Disney commissioned companies to create pins for marketing outside of their parks...and that seems to cause some confusion.
Ever bought something Disney at Walmart? How about Kohl's, Macy's or Old Navy? Then you probably bought something produced by Jerry Leigh. For many years, Jerry Leigh has produced Disney clothing, pins, towels and other Disney items for fans outside of the main Disney Parks. Jerry Leigh's pins, however, are mostly sold in gift shops surrounding Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Since 2005, they've released over 260 Disney pin designs! The pins are fully tradeable in the parks, and contain a Disney copyright. One nice thing about Jerry Leigh pins is that they seem to have mostly avoided the eyes of scrappers.
Bertoni-Milano is more widely recognized by its name G.D.E. Bertoni, the world-famous maker of the World Cup soccer trophies for decades. In fact, the business has been producing metal designs for over 100 years. During the 1990s (possibly 1980s as well), they were the official Disney licensee for Italy for pins. During that time, they produced about 100 or so different Disney designs that ranged in quality from extremely good to fair. The different poses is what people seem to really like about the company's products.. Bertoni pins are also tradeable in the parks.
I like Germany's ProPin Disney pins as well (though some folks don't). ProPin was the official Disney Germany licensee for Disney pins 1995 through 2000, creating over 250 designs including 20 or more 9-pin collections. Their forte' was in using up many many colors on their small pins, making the detail of Propins stunning. ProPins are all tradeable in the Disney parks.
Then there are Sedesma pins. These are sold throughout Spain...you can find them everywhere, including grocery stores. Disney bounces back and forth in regards to Sedemsa. Most Cast Members are taking these in trade. So what's the beef? Frankly, some folks think Sedesma pins are cheaper quality pins. I used to suggest avoiding them on eBay in bulk, but now that they're being permitted at the parks without problem, I have no problem with bidding on them for use strictly as traders.
5. What's REALLY Tradeable inside the Parks?
Below I will list part of Disney's official policy (as of April 2009) about pin trading, from their official site. But there are some practical things people just don't think about which I will list within the rules (in parentheses and italic) .
- The main criteria to judge whether a pin is tradable or not is that it must be a metal pin bearing a "(c) Disney" mark on the back that represents a Disney Event, Place or Location, Character or Icon.
- Pins should be in good, undamaged. tradable condition.
- For a safe trading experience, please trade one pin at a time, hand to hand with pin backs attached.
- Guests may trade a maximum of two (2) pins per Cast Member, per day.
- Please refrain from touching a Cast Member's of Guest's pins or lanyard. If you need a closer look, kindly ask the Cast Member or Guest wearing the lanyard if she or he can bring it into clearer view for you.
- Monies, gifts or receipts may not be exchanged or used in trade for a pin.
- When trading with a Cast Member, Guests should offer a pin that is not currently displayed on the Cast Member's lanyard.
- Pins from other business units of The Walt Disney Company (i.e. ABC, ESPN) are accepted for trade.
- Operating participant pins that show a Disney, Disneyland Resort, or Walt Disney World Resort affiliation are accepted for trading.
- Plastic pins, rubber pins or other non-metal pins are not accepted for trading.
- Personalized Name pins are not accepted for trade.
- Brooch style or "clasp pins" are not accepted for trade. (This is also new to the Guidelines.)
- Disney Service Award pins, Spirit of Disneyland Resort pins, Partners in Excellence pins or Cast Member costume pins (i.e. Host/Hostess Badges, Disney Trainer) are not tradable.
- Guidelines are subject to change without notice.
6. Plastic Pins, Rubber Pins, Wood Pins, Pewter Pins
Whether these pins are tradeable within the parks, that doesn't mean there couldn't be some there (nor does this mean that such pins are worthless).
Disney sells rubber pins and plastic pins periodically in the parks. The plastic pins were mostly sold in the 1970s and '80s, and were larger than normal-sized metal pins. Rubber pins are also periodically available for purchase within the parks, usually featuring heads of various characters. In addition, some metal pins feature a rubber-type material attached directly to the metal -- Free-D is what Disney calls this special 3D effect.
Older pins have been created out of wood; in addition, a lot of "jewelry" pins of pewter, sterling silver, gold and nickel are for sale in department stores, etc. Those pins are not tradeable in the parks (pins with straight-back clasps), though Disney has put out some pewter and silver pins in the parks over the years...those should be permitted. Either way, such pins are many times quite beautiful, and highly collectible.
7. It Looks Like Disney; It Must Be Disney (Think Again!)
Mystery, Vinylmatian, Disney and Coca-Cola are more than likely the biggest targets of pin counterfeiting and bootlegging. Just because it looks like a Disney pin doesn't mean it really is one...
Scrapper pins are illegally-made overruns of real Disney pins. Counterfeits and bootlegs are pins created using the Disney characters, sometimes in different poses but sometimes trying to copy rare pins. One way to pick out counterfeits is to use common sense reasoning: Disney isn't going to cheapen their characters like Ariel, Tinker Bell or Jessica Rabbit by putting them into near pornographic poses. But beyond that, you need to study photo databases like Pinpics to get to know what pins are counterfeit and which aren't.
8. If it's in a Bag, It Must be a Scrapper Pin, Right? Not Neccesarily.
No one hates Scrapper pins more than me, and no one is as disgusted by people who unscrupulously market their pins as being "real" Disney pins on eBay when they are actually selling unauthorized 2nds and overruns they buy for pennies on the dollar from factories in China (see my other articles on Scrappers for details). But one thing is wrongly being circulated by certain Sellers about how to determine if a pin is a Scrapper or not: You may hear, "If a pin is being sold sealed in a plastic bag, then it's a Scrapper." Not always:
- Many pins sold to Cast Members at Company D are sold without a sales card; they are sold in little sealed plastic bags. The difference here is that these bags will have a price tag on them.
- Giveaway pins and Cast Member award pins are often placed in plastic or mylar bags to help protect the pins.
- Many collectors place their pins in miniature ziplock bags for protection (of course, these are different than the factory-sealed bags...but it's mentioned to prevent confusion).
- Finally, any Scrapper Seller can simply remove their Scrapper pin from its bag to hide the fact that it's a Scrapper.
Use common sense and research to determine if your pin is a Scrapper. Search a seller's "Other Items" to see if they're selling the same pins over and over again. Get to know the common Scrapper pins and avoid the sellers that always seem to have those pins for sale. Be wise! Ask where people get their pins! Get a straight answer! Protect yourself.
9. Every Pin Is Recorded on the Pin Sites - If It's Not There, It's a Fake. Uh...no.
There are over 95,000 pins listed on PinPics as of February 2013 (mostly Disney). Literally 100s of new pins are added monthly, as pin collecting continues to be "big money" for Disney. But if you look in the mix of the new listings, you'll always see some classics being added.
Pin collecting wasn't really taken seriously by The Disney Company until the late 1990s. And although there are some very good collection guides and sites out there, no one in the world has the "definitive list" of every Disney pin created. One of my hobbies now as a pin collector is to find these undiscovered treasures and get their histories listed. If you find a pin that's not recorded in Tomart's or on PinPics, don't automatically reject it as a bootleg or counterfeit. Do research. If you don't know what to do, send a picture of it to Tomart's or one of the pin sites...but search their databases first. You might just have a hidden treasure! I've had people send me pictures of pins they couldn't find on PinPics that weregreat-looking Cast Member pins and other pins that were quite rare. I'm currently doing research on some stunning jewel-encrusted brooch-style pins that no one -- from Pinpics to Tomarts -- seems to recognize. Could these be rare treasures? I'm excited to find out!
10. Cast Member Pins are Always Rare...Again, no.
You see it a lot in descriptions: People suggest since they're selling a Cast member pin, it MUST be rare. While this is certainly true about SOME Cast pins, it is not the norm.
This is my opinion only, but I believe it has merit. Part of Disney's contract with Cast Members is that they do not purchase reduced priced pins to sell as a profit, nor make a profit off of the pins they buy (even at full price)...this is what I have been told by more than one CM. That said, The Disney Company knows that there are literally 100s of Cast Members who use eBay to sell their Cast Member-only pins...and they turn a blind eye toward the practice (which is their right, of course). Consequently, lots of Cast Members use the purchase of Cast-only pins to help supplement their income. These pins many times command a high price when first introduced on the market...but over time, so many CMs are doing this that the market gets saturated. Do yourself a favor and do a search for Cast Member pins on PinPics...see the number of people Wanting the pins vs. those willing to part with theirs. Newer pins are highly sought....but over time, a majority of Cast pins become pretty common finds. The trick? Use common sense. Low-edition sized pins -- whether Cast Member pins or not -- are going to be harder to find. But if there's 2000-5000 of these pins available, show some patience and you'll end up saving yourself some money.