How to Tell a Fake from the Real Thing

Two Ezra Hitchhiking Ghost Pins

fig. 1 Putting these two pins side-by-side makes it easier to spot the fake. The pin on the right is clearly less detailed and has many flaws.

Spotting fakes and “scrapper” pins isn’t as difficult as you might think. The one thing that should stand out to a collector is the quality of the pin. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples. Keep in mind, however, there is no “science” to this and the only way to know if a Disney pin is truly authentic is to purchase it directly from Disney.

In figure 1 are two seemingly identical pins. One is the genuine article and the other is a scrapper. Can you tell which is which? Look carefully at the two pins side by side. The first thing that should jump out is the pin on the right has a sharp burr sticking off the edge on the upper right side. As you look closer you will notice the colors are different. The pin on the right is much lighter and the details on the outer frame are not as distinct as the pin on the left. In addition to all of this the one glaring mistake is in the image itself. Compare the outer frame of the pin on the left to the one on the right. On the right hand pin the frame only goes about three-quarters of the way around, whereas the authentic pin has a full frame around the entire piece.

Tinkerbell Pin Trading Scrapper Pin

fig. 2  At first glance this pin appears to be fine but it is, in fact, a low quality scrapper.

Now that was fairly easy when you have the two pins side-by-side but the chances of that happening while you are out and about and trading with other folks are slim. The one rule of thumb that will generally give a red flag is whether or not the pin has sharp unfinished edges. An easy way to tell is to simply run your finger around the edge of the pin. Even pins that have points as part of the design will be polished and smooth. If you feel a sharp protrusion that feels as if it could cut you, chances are the pin is a scrapper. Either way, as a collector, you always want to be on the lookout for the best quality pieces for your collection.

Tinkerbell Scrapper Pin Detail

fig. 3 When you take a closer look at this pin you can see how poorly exectued it is. The edges are so rough and unfinished that you could cut yourself if you rang your finger along them.

Let’s have a look a more obvious example.  In figure 2 is a Pin Trading pin with Tinkerbell in the middle. At first glance it looks perfectly fine but have a look at figure 3 below it. You can clearly see the edge is unfinished. If you ran your finger over it you would feel the sharp burrs. The most important thing to point out here is that when you’re trading with other folks don’t be afraid to ask to pick up the pin and inspect it first. After all you may be trading away a great pin for a scrapper that another trader might not want.

Something to note: Never assume that because a trader has a scrapper that they know it is a scrapper. The pin trading community is based largely on trust and camaraderie. But even the savviest collector can have something in their collection that is not genuine and not know it. Remember to be polite and respectful when interacting with cast members and the pin trading community. We want to keep pin trading fun and enjoyable for everyone!

Dale Japan Authentic Hidden Mickey Series Pin

fig. 4 An authentic pin from a popular  Hidden Mickey series with Dale in Japan. Fake versions of this pin made their way into the market some time ago.

Let’s look at one last comparison. Figure 4 is a genuine Hidden Mickey pin of Dale in Japan. This pin is part of a series of six pins featuring Chip n’ Dale in the countries where Disney has theme parks. Figure 5, from the same series, is a low quality scrapper that at a distance looks fine. Click on the image to see a larger detail. You’ll notice right away the rough edge of the pin. The Hidden Mickey is a sloppy double image and the pin overall has been poorly enameled.

Disneyland Hong Kong Chip Scrapper Pin

fig. 5 This pin from the same series as fig. 4 is clearly a scrapper. Sharp burrs, a blurred design and muddled colors are all obvious upon closer inspection.

Many sites will tell you to look at the back of the pin for foolproof identification but I find this not to be the case. The trouble with fakes, bootleg pins and scrappers is that they almost always have the correct markings and copyright information. However with a little inspection, and a good magnifying glass, you can often spot discrepancies in the marks on fake pins. Misspelled words, rambled together letters and words missing letters are a fairly good sign that something is amiss. Unfortunately, however the back of a pin may not give you any clues (see figure 6).

Disney Pin Backs

fig. 6 Although some sites will tell you to look at the back of a pin to determine its authenticity, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between the real pin and the fake.

3 thoughts on “How to Tell a Fake from the Real Thing

  1. I’m a new pin trader. I got pins as souvenirs growing up but just got into trading some so this information was helpful, thank you! =)

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