Disney Pins 101

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This Top 10 list shows areas of Disney pin collecting where there is confusion.  While articles on Disney pin collecting abound on the USA eBay site, there are only a few on eBay.co.uk so I thought this might 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.
  • Metal Squeeze Clasps - These pinbacks were used for many of the pins sold before 2000.  They come in both gold and silver colour, and Disney has used them indiscriminately...I have even seen double-posted pins with one of each colour, straight from the package!
  • Various Shaped Rubber Backs - For quite some time, Disney used gold-coloured round rubber backs.  But in recent days, they have used a greater variety of colours and shapes.  Disney Catalog pins, for instance, now use a small, diamond-shaped back.  Disney even markets pinback 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 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 which screwed on.  Expensive but effective.  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.

The main thing to remember with pin backs is that unless your pin is very rare, what type of pinback 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...and one of the biggest confusions concerning this is the copywrite (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.  Propins (Germany), Sedesma (Spain) and Bertoni (Italy) come to mind. 
  • During the 1970s and 1960s, many vintage pins had nothing on their backs.  Not all pins lacking backstamps are legitimate, though, so educate yourself by looking at places like PinPics.com or Dizpins.com to determine 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 besides the ones listed above were licenced by Disney to create their pins over the years.  They include Monogram Products, Inc. (Largo, FL), Brier Manufacturing (1930s and early 1940s), Cohn & Rosenberger (1930s), Schroco (Vintage), Marx (1940s) and others.

3. Cloisonne'?  Enamel?  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 coloured areas are separated by thin metal bands fixed edgewise to the ground."  Think about a stained glass window: Coloured glass is placed between think strips of metal.  When cloisonne' pins are created, powered coloured 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; paint is applied to the pin and then a coating of resin or plastic is added to protect the paint job.  The trade-off with these pins is that although they may appear to be "cheaper," they are able to use a greater variety of colours.  With some pins (including the "Something Around Every Corner" WDW set, colours were actually printed on before the enamel process took place.

4. Bertoni, ProPin and Sedesma

Disney commissioned companies to create pins for marketing outside of their parks.  Three pin manufacturers that cause some confusion are Sedesma, ProPin and Bertoni.

Bertoni-Milano is certainly recognised by football fans as G.D.E. Bertoni, the world-famous maker of the World Cup trophies for decades.  In fact, the business has been producing metal designs for over a century.  During the 1990s (possibly 1980s as well), they were the official Disney licencee 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 easily tradeable in the parks.

I confess I also really like Germany's ProPin designs.  The official Disney Germany licencee for pins 1995 through 2000, they created over 250 designs including 20 or more 9-pin collections.  Their forte' was in using many colors on their small pins, making the detail of Propins stunning.  ProPins are all tradeable in 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.  Finally, most Cast Members are taking these in trade.  Some folks think Sedesma pins are cheaply made.  I used to suggest avoiding buying them on eBay, but now that they're being permitted at the parks without problem, I have changed my opinion.

5. What's REALLY Tradeable inside the Parks?

Below I will list part of Disney's "official policy" about pin trading, from their official site.  But there are some practical things people 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 that represents a Disney Event, Location, Character or Icon.  Some pins from our operating Participants are also tradable, but must represent the Operating Participant in a way that has a specific Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort affiliation. (I would add to this that I have, on rare occasion, been able to trade a straight pinback pin - the ones with a old-style brooch pin clasp - with a Cast Member.  Many Cast Members won't trade these, though they should, as the pins were distributed at Disneyland in the 1980s during their 35th anniversary celebration).
  • Pins should be in good, undamaged condition.
  • Guests may trade a maximum of two pins with each Cast Member.
  • Guests may trade only one pin of the same style with a Cast Member.  (This is one of the BEST reasons to avoid purchasing multiple copies of pins from people...besides the fact that many times such bulk sales are coming from Scrappers.)
  • When trading with Cast Members, Guests should offer a pin that is not already displayed on the Cast Member's lanyard.  (Lesson 2 on not buying multiples.  If you see 1000s of a certain pin being sold on eBay, most likely, you will see 100s of those same pins on Cast Member lanyards...and CMs are NOT obligated to trade if they already have the pin you have on their lanyard.  People who buy bulk orders of these pins from people are sorely disappointed when they find they are unable to trade with Cast Members.  See my article on Scrappers.
  • Disney name pins - pins that are imprinted with a person's name (not talking character names...personal names) may not be traded with Cast Members.  (These are the pins that are being sold by the 100s on eBay, periodically.  They are NOT tradeable in the parks.)
  • * Rules are subject to change without notice.  (This is written in small print at the bottom.)

6. Plastic Pins, Rubber Pins, Wood Pins, Pewter Pins

Whether these pins are tradeable within the parks is subject to Disney's "rules are subject to change without notice" clause.  I've never seen a plastic or rubber pin on a Cast Member's lanyard, but that doesn't mean there could be some there, nor does it 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 variety stores, etc.  Those pins - unless they look closely like a tradeable Disney pin - will not be accepted within the parks.

7. The "Artist Proof" Scam

Now hear me correctly:  I'm not saying all people who say "Artist Proof" on their sales are perpetrating scams.  I AM saying that because of the way that Disney has worded some of their framed sets, people are using phrases from Disney's description to imply that what they are selling is severely limited in edition size (when in fact it isn't).

  Finally, this scam has pretty much died out:  "Mickey's Philharmagic" framed print and pin set, featuring Donald Duck (Pinpics #25192), reads on the back, "Title: Mickey's Philharmagic, Artist: Disney Design Group, Edition: Production limited to the year 2003, Artist Proofs: 20."  Any discerning reader would understand that there were 20 Artist Proofs made of the series of lithographs and pins -- meaning, during the creation of the 1000s of sets, Disney stopped to make 20 Artist Proof pints and pins - one every so often - to be sure that the quality of the lithograph and pin was still good.  But some auctions suggest this print and pin is limited in edition size to 20!  When these first came out, some sellers on eBay claimed they had Artist Proof versions of this set, when in fact, they got what everyone else got.  The point here is to be wary and educated about people who claim to have super-rare pins.  Check places like Dizpins and PinPics for substantiation.  I routinely use words like "rare" or "hard-to-find" in my pin auctions...but I also DEFINE what I mean by that (to be "rare' for instance, eight or fewer pins must be up for trade on the trader boards for me use that specific term).  Don't just assume people are either knowledgeable or 100% straight with you.  There are LOTS of GREAT eBay sellers out there...but there are also sharks.

8. If it's in a Bag, It Must be a Scrapper Pin.  Well...Not Always.

No one hates Scrapper pins as much as I do.  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 certain factories in China (see my articles on Scrapper pins on the USA eBay for more information).  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 close to 62,000 pins listed on PinPics as of April 2008.  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!  Last week, I had someone send me a picture of a pin they couldn't find on PinPics...it was a great-looking Cast Member pin, and sure to be pretty rare.  Had that person just tossed the pin because they couldn't find it recorded anywhere, they would have lost a treasure!

10. "Cast Member Pins are Always Rare."  Again, this is a myth.

You see it a lot in descriptions.  People suggest, if it was only available to Cast members, 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.

If you have other ideas for mistaken concepts about Disney pins, feel free to email me and I'll consider adding them to the list.  Also, forgive my American spellings.  If you email me with spelling corrections, I am happy to make them.  Thanks again for reading.

I have multiple articles on Disney Pin Collecting...three on the eBay.co.uk boards and nearly two dozen on the USA boards, including tips for saving time and money at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  I hope you get the chance to read these, and please mark them HELPFUL if you learned something (the more an article is marked HELPFUL, the better chance it has of being seen by others).  THANKS!

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