Updated 2016: Pin collecting is a wonderful hobby and in the end beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you are concerned about your pins being fake here are some easy ways to tell if they are. But first some general things to know about fakes. It’s difficult for pin forgers to fake a pin when the more complex the original is. Pin-on-pin, hinged pins, spinners, lenticular pins, stained glass pins and other pins with special features make it more costly and more difficult to make. Counterfeiters and the distributors who sell their items are interested in maximizing profit and minimizing expenses so are unlikely to spare the extra resources to make these type of items. But there are definitely tell-tale ways to know if you likely have a fake pin. Spotting these ways might save you heartache in the end.
The Magnet Test – A friend of mine in Hawaii, Michael, told me fake pins cling to magnets, and I’ve found this to be true. All pins are made out of metal so I don’t know why authentic pins don’t stick to a magnet, but they must be treated with a special polymer or something. If you run a magnet over your pins and some of them cling to it, they are likely fake. I’ve only encountered one Vinylmation pin that was authentic that ever stuck to a magnet, but found many, MANY Hidden Mickey pins that have. Michael carries a reasonably powerful magnet with him in his pin trading case and uses that to test if a pin is authentic or not. It’s a quick and easy way to ferret out the fakes fast.
Paint Dimples – Dimples on kids are cute. Dimples on pins are not. If you look at a pin and can see dimples in the paint (depressions along the surface of the paint) then it’s likely that your pin is a fake or at least a scrapper. Generally, real pins don’t pass the test if the paint isn’t of high enough quality. Now, you might find a minor dimple on a real pin that has a large painted area of one color only, but even that’s unusual. On fake Hidden Mickey pins (of which there are tons), you’ll find lots of dimples even in small areas where there should be none. Simply tilt the pin in the light and you’ll be able to see the dimples fairly easily. If you have to stare REALLY hard it’s probably not a dimple but a minor flaw in the pin which may or may not mean it’s a fake.
Pin Weight – Fake pins are often made with inferior metal. It’s how they can sell it to distributors at rock bottom prices and why a pin that should cost a lot more is often sold at below the original price. The quality of the pin suffers in every respect. Inferior metals tend to be lighter. If you carry a similar pin in your hand, you can almost tell immediately if the weight is off. This may not be easy to differentiate when you start collecting, but as you discover which pins are authentic and which pins are fakes, you’ll almost be able to tell by the weight alone if something is wrong.
Production Problems – Because of the need counterfeiters have to maximize profits, they often cut corners in the production process. This leads to flaws in the final product that don’t appear on authentic pins. Rough edges on the exterior of the pin can be detected by simply running your finger around the edges. If you feel any sharpness, it hasn’t been finished correctly and is probably a fake. It should feel smooth all the way around. The backstamp on the reverse side of the pin should be centered on most pins with clearly readable (even if tiny) print. Fake pins often don’t spend the time or money on quality imprinting so it may appear off-center and the letters might seem faded or lightly imprinted. Also, the waffle pattern should bleed off the edges and should not be exaggerated. Sometimes they can actually be raised too high which again is due to poor quality craftsmanship.
Spelling Errors – Believe it or not fake pins sometimes have spelling errors. Sometimes they are blatant errors, but often times they are hard to detect (and why they pass through the counterfeiters). A “t” can look like an “f” or an “i” can actually be a “l.” It is those types of errors that often get missed. Sometimes capitalization is a problem or spacing is inconsistent. The back might be printed “2of5” or “2 of 5.”
Hopefully these tips will help you as you navigate the tricky waters of fake pins. Unfortunately, the majority of pins on cast lanyards are fakes and scrappers, but any pin you purchase from a Disney store is definitely not fake – even if it has some dimples or rough edges. Those are simply ones that somehow got past the screening process, but they are authentic. Have fun!
Read other posts in this series for more tips and help in collecting and trading pins:
- Disney Pin Trading 101: Resources
- Disney Pin Trading 101: Pin Lingo
- Disney Pin Trading 101: 4 Tips to Avoid Pin Trading Pitfalls
- Disney Pin Trading 101: Places to Trade and Collect
- Disney Pin Trading 101: 4 Tips to Avoid Fakes on Ebay