5 Ways to Tell If Your Pin is a Fake – Disney Pin Trading 101

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.

Pins like this are hard to fake because they include complex elements like a sliding piece
Pins like this are hard to fake because they include complex elements like a sliding piece

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.

Pins that you purchase directly from Disney can be trusted even if they sometimes have production flaws. These didn't have flaws, but I wasn't concerned either way since I got them at a Disney pin event
Pins that you purchase directly from Disney can be trusted even if they sometimes have production flaws. These didn’t have flaws, but I wasn’t concerned either way since I got them at a Disney pin event

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.

Can you tell which one is fake? The one on the right has a nicely centered stamp in the middle. The one on the right as an oddly shaped box around the logo and the lettering is off and off-centered. The fake is on the left.
Can you tell which one is fake? The one on the right has a nicely centered stamp in the middle. The one on the right as an oddly shaped box around the logo and the lettering is off and off-centered. The fake is on the left.

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.

Incorrect spelling happens on fake card backs, too.
Incorrect spelling happens on fake card backs, too.

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!

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28 thoughts on “5 Ways to Tell If Your Pin is a Fake – Disney Pin Trading 101

  1. Hello, I’m new at pin trading. I’ve traded at the parks and I’ve also purchased on Ebay. I found your site while searching for some answers to my speculation of having some fake pins. I’ve spent hours with a magnifying glass examining my almost 100 pins collected thus far. Can you tell me if the magnet test is a positive way to weed them out? Some of the one I had speculated were fake did not react to a magnet. And some of the pins I purchased at the parks have some minor paint flaws “dimples”. I’m confused on how to tell 100% or at lease 95% that what I have are authentic. Your help is much appreciated. Thank you,
    Kathleen K.

    1. Hi, Kathleen! Thanks for writing. The magnet test is only one way to tell and while generally reliable, I have found a few (very few) real pins that didn’t pass. The more experience you have in identifying fake pins, the easier it is to tell by feel and look alone. I haven’t seen a forger who was able to copy a more sophisticated pin so if it’s pin-on-pin, 3D, has a spinner or movement element, it’s probably real. Also, if you purchased them directly from the parks, they are definitely real. I have about one or two real pins that have a very slight dimple, but forged pins have dimples that are much more pronounced. Most of all, if you are happy with your pins and they bring joy to your life, don’t worry about it too much. Just be careful who you trade with and if you buy on eBay don’t go by rating alone. Really consider asking questions to yourself – could some guy in North Carolina be able to sell a LE300 pin at less than cost? And do it week after week? Odds are he is knowingly selling scrappers. Hope this helps! – Craig

      1. i have used the magnet test in my pin lot from ebay, and i found a few pins who stuck to the magnet, but i realized that they were all made out of the same kind of material. is it normal that pins with a sort of glaze put on them CAN get magnetised while still being real?

      2. Although it is true that there are a few pins that are actually from the parks that can stick to a magnet, almost none of them do. But the fact that you used the phrase “pin lot from eBay” already makes me suspicious. Almost any pin lot from eBay are scrappers and/or fakes. And just because the seller has a high rating just means they deliver on time. Most people don’t even realize that the pins are scrappers and fakes. But if you look at the negative comments, you can usually see a pattern develop. Those who sell bogus pins will have negative feedback about the quality of the pins themselves. Thanks for asking!

      3. Hello Kathleen, Craig, and Bram,

        In reply to Bram’s question re: magnetized pins that have “glaze” on them: prior to the official “Disney Pin Trading” explosion of the late 90’s, Monogram Products released licensed Disney pins in the 80’s that were sold as Lapel Pins. These pins came on a black jewelry card. It’s hard to prove a negative, but the ones I’ve personally owned are roughly 1″ tall, have a clear “glaze” on them, and are completely magnetized. I believe these are what Bram was referring to. These pins are legitimate, pre-date trading, and many are documented and included in pinpics.

      4. Thanks for the added info, Louie! Yes, indeed. While the magnet test is a good indicator, there are some legit pins that are attracted to magnets and are fully Disney. The hidden Mickey pins shouldn’t be, but early pins didn’t even always have the Mickey ear backs (when I was a cast member we had a number of Cast Member pins that had the regular squeeze backs).

  2. Hi Craig,
    Thank you so much for the information. I have some really fun pins. They are like little treasures. The series I am concerned about is the Formal Series. I have Mickey and Pluto in a tuxedo. I was hoping to collect the entire series, but both these pins are reactive to the magnet. I felt my heart sink when it happened. These 2 pins are my favorite and are really beautiful. I was hoping there might be a list that exist stating which pins are authentic, but will still react to a magnet. (lol that would be too easy). I’ll enjoy the pins I have and be more selective when purchasing pins in the future. Thanks again! Kathleen

    1. Hi, Kathleen!
      I completely understand about the crestfallen heart. I too have been victim to that. The more I learned about pins and pin trading, the more I was so disappointed at all the scrappers and fakes out there. Most Hidden Mickey pins have scrappers and fakes out there so just be careful. Pin events are my favorite to go to. Not only do they have authentic pins for sure, they are usually beautiful, tough-to-find, and high quality. And you often get to meet the pin designers! If you get a chance, try to go to an event. I usually mention it on the blog and on my Facebook page. – Craig

  3. I did the magnet test and only the chaser pins stuck to the magnet. The chaser pins are the ones that appear all metal. Are those exceptions to the magnet rule or are they fake? One of them I looked up on pinpics and it was listed too.

    1. Believe it or not, they are NOT exceptions to the magnet rule. At first I thought it had to do with the paint composition that kept them from sticking, but it’s something about the quality of the metal they use in producing the pins that make them non-ferrous. Now, like I said, there are a few (but a very few) pins that don’t pass the magnet test but they are extremely rare. Still they do happen. If you actually buy a pin (not trade for it) at the parks and it doesn’t pass the test, it’s still a real pin. But all of the Hidden Mickey pins are highly suspect.

  4. Hi, I have viewed many web sites to find out how to know if Disney pins are real or fake. On site told me that 2008 and under are magnetic and 2009 and up are not magnetic. Have you found this ?

    1. I don’t believe that’s true, but I would need to verify it. I know that many of my older pins, even as old as 1986 are not magnetic and are definitely real (received by me or close friends direct from Disney). I have pins from around 2000 that are not magnetic either.

  5. I bought a Pirate Mackey head pin at Disney world this week that has a dimpme on the paint and after reading a few siteseconds today I fear it’s a fake? Does Disney sell fakes?

    1. Disney does not sell fakes. You can rest assured that your pin is valid. It could just be a pin that slipped through their quality control. It happens from time to time. I have a couple authentic pins that have slight dimples, but those are far different than the fake pins and scrappers. Enjoy your pin!

  6. Hi Kathleen,
    I have been familiar with Disney pins for a while, but I just recently made the mistake of buying some off of EBay. If Disney stamp on the back says only “Official” or “Authentic” does that make them fake? I have seen quite a few pictures online that the stamp says just “Authentic”.

    1. Hi, Brittani!
      Glad you’re following along. I’m not sure who Kathleen is, but I’m Craig and I created and write Disney Nerds. I hope I can help. I’ll tell you that even fake ones have stamps that are correct. It’s just often that the stamps are imprinted poorly or with flaws. Sometimes the stamp is completely fake, but more and more the counterfeiters are getting better. If you’re buying pins in bulk you are almost always buying fakes and scrappers. But there are many eBay sellers who are selling good pins. I’m one of them!

  7. I have a pin that I cannot identify and would appreciate the group’s help. It is part of the black enamel Disney Family of pins but the “Mom” that I have is wearing a crown rather than mouse ears and holding a wand. I have not been able to find it in any hidden mickey release. The back has “Hidden Mickey Pin/Completer (?) Pin and is dated 2009 like the other pins in the series. It is not magnetic, and feels the same weight as the other pins in the ‘family’.

    1. If you have a picture and send it to me, I’d be happy to at least look at it. Another good resource is PinPics.com. They do lots of Disney pins and are a great resource. Completer pins aren’t always listed on the Disney websites, but places like PinPics often have them. Hope that helps!

  8. Your post has helped me immensely. I found a seller on ebay and was thrilled at his prices. The 1st pin I received passed all the tests. So I put in an order for several more. EACH ONE has major flaws, To be honest I look through a loop which is helpful. It’s also great to compare the ones bought at Disney with the fakes/scrappers. There will often be tiny slight imperfections only visible through a loop with the ones bought at Disney – for the most part though they are magnificently precise, and looking through a loop helps me to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into them. Nowhere on an authentic Disney pin will you find a huge drop of glaze spilled on the back or consistent dimpling where the glaze didn’t fill in on the front etc.

    Again thanks…due to your post I knew exactly what to look for!

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback! I’m glad the post helped and if you want to send me some pics of scrappers you encountered, that would be great.

  9. With the abundance and majority of fakes or scrappers on cast memeber lanyards at the parks, is it even recommended at this point to pin trade? I mean I could be paying for a 2 pack that could cost me near $18-$20 and trade for a scrapper or worse a fake. I’m just getting into pins but am super weary about even thinking about trading. Do seasoned folks still recommend trading with cast member lanyards and pin boards at all?

    1. That’s a great question Drew! I only tend to trade pins that cost me around $5 each. You can find plenty of combo packs or pin packs where the average cost is $5. I don’t really collect Hidden Mickeys except if it’s a really good set (like the macaron set I loved). If you do trade with a CM, go very early in the morning and hit up supervisors and managers first as they usually walk out with refreshed pin lanyards. You might find some there. I tend to avoid most pin boards except those actually run by Disney at pin trading events. Those boards are the BEST! I will also trade with other collectors but even then watch out. Some are SUPER nice. Some are sharks. Like in life. Don’t give up hope. Just be selective. I tend to only buy pins that I don’t care if I have to keep them. Don’t buy pins for pure trade bait as you might get stuck with them. Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks for the reply, great advice! It does make sense early morning trading at the parks would be a safer option, as you said lanyards get refreshed at the start of the day. I’ll have to explore and learn more about these pin trading events I read and see mentioned about. Still new to the fun and just like grabbing whatever pins kinda catch my eye at this point. Hopefully I can get into trading but being new to this it’s hard to have the keen selective eye needed to spot what’s authentic I guess.

    1. Wow! That’s a tough one. Without holding them and looking at them in person, this one is hard to tell. Sorry I couldn’t be more help to you!

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