Basic Tips for Collectors: Learning the Lingo

Disney Star Tours Scrapper Pin

At first glance this pin appears to be correct. But if you click on the thumbnail and view the larger image you will see it is poorly done. The edges are rough and unfinished, the type is muddled and sloppy, and the Mickey is distorted.

A collector is a collector no matter how grand or how modest their collection may be. Now you’ve most likely come here because you’re either a collector of Disney Pins or you’re just wading into the waters of pin trading and would like some clear no-nonsense advice. Whichever the case may be you’ve come to the right place!

In the world of collecting, whether you collect 18th-century porcelain or Pez dispensers, the terms are basically all the same. Now when it comes to Disney Pins I know many of you are probably perplexed by terms such as “scrapper” and “counterfeit” and how they apply to Disney Pins. This section will walk you through the definitions.

Cast Lanyard and Hidden Mickey Pins

Most Disney pins can be purchased at a Disney store or at one of their theme parks. They vary in price and complexity and pin trading can be a really fun way to meet cast members and other collectors. Some of the most prized pins among collectors, however, are Cast Lanyard exclusives and Hidden Mickey Pins. These pins are made only to be traded by Disney Cast Members and can’t be purchased outside the secondhand market. And they generally are made in limited quantities and get traded fast so they’re not always easy to come by.

Cast Lanyard exclusives are pins that are generally produced in series and have unique designs that can’t be purchased at an official Disney retail location. These pins will be stamped with “Cast Lanyard Series” on the back of the pin.

A Hidden Mickey pin has a small Mickey head silhouette (two ears and a head for the unintiated) somewhere on the front of the pin. These pins also originate with cast members and are intended to be traded and not sold.

What’s a “Scrapper”?

When a corporation has something made in a factory they generally reserve the right to send back anything that does not meet their quality standards or something that was simply damaged during shipment. As you know Disney, especially in recent years, has always been very particular about the quality of the products they distribute in their theme parks and stores.

The process of making the enameled pins that Disney produces for sale and trade is time-consuming and has many steps, the last of which is the final polishing and buffing of the pin. When a pin is delivered to Disney from a manufacturer in China it is inspected to make sure that it is of the highest quality. A pin that arrives with burrs, sharp edges, blurred images or dents in the enamel is sent back to be “scrapped” or destroyed – hence the term “scrapper”. These pins are not intended to be sold but unfortunately sometimes make their way into the pin trading community (the “how” of this I will address in another section). So although the design is identical to one you may find in a Disney shop, and the pin appears to have all of the appropriate markings on the back, it is not a pin that was ever intended by Disney to make its way into the marketplace. Scrappers are then, by simple definition, lower quality seconds that have made their way via the Black Market into the pin trading community.

Fake, Counterfeit, and Bootleg Pins

Dale Hong Kong Scrapper Pin

Closer inpsection of this pin reveals its poor quality. The top edge has a large sharp burr and the Mickey is blurred into a double image. This is a pin that was never intended to be distributed by the Disney company.

There are two major kinds of imitations in the world of collecting: copies and forgeries. A copy is just a copy and might have been done by an amateur for their own amusement or may be an authorized copy such as a print of a painting. A forgery, however, is a different animal altogether and is a topic that comes up a great deal when it comes to Disney pins.

Call them fakes, forgeries or counterfeit – these words all mean the same thing – a fake is something that was intentionally made to fool a collector. Just recently in Southern California two men were arrested for sending authentic Disney pins to China to be made into mass quantities of lower quality (and cheaper) copies. They intended to sell the copies on the internet as authentic to unsuspecting collectors for a hefty profit. Luckily the counterfeit pins were seized by U.S. Customs agents and didn’t make it into the pin trading community.

So what is a “bootleg” pin in comparison to a fake? Well the answer to that is simple. A bootleg pin is one that was never designed or authorized by Disney. These pins may feature popular characters and are outfitted with the correct looking back stamps but they are completely unauthorized and most definitely not genuine Disney pins. Bootleg pins can be easier to spot as they will never show up in any official Disney pin guide whereas a forgery looks an awful lot like the real thing. And one other thing to remember, bootleg pins often have the same defects as scrappers as they were never intended to meet quality control standards. Fakes and scrappers alike can be stamped “Cast Lanyard Series” or contain a hidden Mickey in the design so savvy collectors know that either of these marking do not guarantee a pins authenticity.

To learn more about how to tell a fake or bootleg pin, see my post on “How to Tell a Fake from the Real Thing”

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