Pin Grading Guide



Enamel pins are actually handmade and produced by hand! It's not a big machine filling all the little details in with enamel, but rather a worker and a tiny syringe filling in the pin. Because of this, enamel pins are rarely 100% perfect and free of flaws. A lot of work goes into making enamel pins, starting with making a mold! Hard enamel pins may be cast in one of various type of metals, depending on what is needed to make the design work best. Next enamel is filled in various stages in conjunction with baking. Pins are then polished and plated!


 I inspect all pins I receive. Pins are graded according to the degree of which imperfections are noticeable on the pin. I inspect my pins in a well-lit room and hold them about 12 inches away to inspect them. Not all pin makers grade their pins in the same way, but this is how I grade my pins.


Standard Grade

Because pins are handmade, it is very rare to come across a pin that is absolutely perfect. Standards, or A grade pins, are the closest thing to a perfect pin. Standard pins are primarily graded on their front facing surface, but noticeable issues on the sides will knock them down to seconds. Backs of the pins are not graded unless there is an issue with the posts and back stamp. Standard pins usually contain very minor faults, which may include:

  • small, but noticeable, air bubbles
  • minor uneven enamel filling, dips in the enamel
  • some light imperfections in the metal plating
  • surface scuffing or light scratches on the enamel or metal
  • nicks on the enamel or metal
  • small noticeable areas of missing plating on sides of pin*
  • minor specks on the surface of the enamel or inside epoxy
  • minor, but noticeable, offset in screen printing

These pins are sold at full price and make nice gifts or additions to a collection. They are beautiful and are great for wear or display purposes. 


Seconds Grade

These pins have noticeable flaws, some more minor or major than others. Seconds pins still accurately display the intended design, their flaws are not so serious that they inhibit the design. Seconds pins will contain noticeable flaws, which may include:

  • noticeable or multiple areas of under filled enamel
  • small areas of wrong color dripped in the enamel
  • sizable dents, scratches, or scuffs in metal or enamel
  • Scratches in screen-printed details.
  • Noticeable black marks or dusts
  • multiple points of imperfections on the metal plating
  • multiple air bubbles in the enamel
  • missing enamel on a small portion of the pin
  • noticeable off-set screen printing
  • enamel staining on sides or back of pin
  • overfilled enamel that floods some metal lines
  • some missing plating on rainbow metal pins
  • noticeable amounts of dust in multiple areas
  • small gouges or marks on enamel
  • large areas of imperfection of the metal on the sides of the pin
  • large areas of plating missing on back of pin

A seconds grade pin might not be as nice as a Standard Grade, but it is still highly wearable and can make a good additional to a collection if the imperfections noted above are not bothersome to a collector. This is great for budget pin options, as well as display pins on hats or backpacks where they are not looked at as closely. They are especially nice for high traffic areas, such as a jacket or backpack, where they will come in contact with things frequently. You don't have to sweat over scratches or damage!


Junk Pins

Junk pins are pins with serious flaws and imperfections that often impede the design. Their defects are so severe that it would impact their wearability. These pins are sold at a very deep discount due to these issues. Issues may include:

  • Large areas of underfilled, overfilled or missing enamel.
  • Tarnished, dented or scratched metal.
  • Large areas of the wrong color enamel.
  • Large chips, scratches, holes or cracks in the enamel.
  • Misplaced, heavily scratched or distorted screen-print
  • Large areas of dust, hair or spots in the enamel.
  • Loose back posts.
  • large and very noticeable areas of scuffing
  • large or deep gouges in enamel
  • large or deep scratches in enamel
  • large areas of under filled enamel
  • multiple defects or imperfections in the metal plating
  • large and multiple air bubbles in enamel
  • large or multiple areas of missing metal lines
  • multiple areas of enamel staining or discolored enamel
  • low quality enamel or metal work
  • missing or incorrect back stamp
  • rainbow metal plating is missing on over 40% or more of metal
  • more than one unfilled enamel area
  • broken or missing pin posts


Weird Pins

Weird pins are, well, weird! These pins have strange features that make them special without it necessarily effecting the intended design. These pins are sold at varying prices to reflect, outside of the weirdness, imperfections in the pin. Strange features may include:

  • incorrect color placement
  • missing enamel in a unique way
  • strange markings that create an interesting effect


If you ever have a question or concern about pin grading, or the type of pin you're interested in receiving, please feel free to reach out!