If you’re going to Disney World with kids, chances are they will notice and covet some of the Disney pins at some point. You can’t blame them, heck I covet some of them myself, and they can be hard to resist when every Cast Member in the park has a trading lanyard, and every shop and kiosk has plenty of pins for sale.
With “clearance” pins running about $2 new, and others going up to $20+ a piece, pin trading can easily become a bank buster. So what do you do?
Many people end up on eBay for pins that are around $0.50 each, and those pins are typically very used and beat up, or scrappers. Scrappers are counterfeit Disney pins that have been created in a number of different ways. Sometimes a person buys pins, then ships them to factories to get molds made and starts to get pins duplicated that way. Other times a factory may be under orders to destroy an official Disney pin mold – but they don’t, and start selling the pins to non-Disney parties, or the factory may have pre-made back stock to sell off. Because of the varying methods of production, the quality of a scrapper may be terrible, it may be slightly different from the original, or it may be identical to the Disney authorized pins, but the bottom line with scrappers is that it cuts Disney out of the profit margin.
Let me go over the 4 different classifications I have for scrappers, using images I snatched from Google.
The Ugly/Poor Quality ones:
This scrapper pin looks like Aurora got beat up! Her face is dirty, her mouth and eyes are off, her tiara is eating her poofy bangs, and even a part of her hair isn’t colored in yellow! If you see a pin that looks this bad, it’s not a manufacturer error or a defective pin, it’s a cheap knock-off. These types of pins may also have rough edges/sides and backs that do not look very nice.
The Nearly Identical Ones:
They are very similar to the official pins, and are often made to the same kind of quality, but, they often have some kind of color difference. The problem being, if you don’t know which pin is the authentic one, or you’ve never seen the officially produced pin, you might never guess that you’re looking at a scrapper. The differences in the pins edges (scrappers are usually rough or uneven) and backsides can also be noticeable if you train yourself on what to look for.
The Identical Ones:
These pins are often over stock in a factory or made from the original molds given by Disney, so a comparison picture won’t help because both pins look alike! There may be small details that set them apart, but most people will not notice the differences at all.
Be Aware of Plastics:
I didn’t realize these were a thing until my kids started trading this past visit, but my son found a “Looking for Hidden Mickeys” pin, and I noticed it was in pretty bad shape as we walked away. I showed it to my husband and he said “this is plastic! It’s fake!” So there are plastic pins out there that look pretty identical to the real metal pins. I’m sure there are also plastic pins that look bad or nearly identical too, so it’s just important to be aware that they are out there.
I won’t debate the merits or problems with using scrappers, because at the end of the day you are going to decide what kind of pins to buy, and an adult collector is going to have different motives and perspectives than a family who just wants to get pins for their kids to trade around on a whim. But, I will caution you that the cheap eBay scrappers are all over the park, and even many trading boards and cast members have them and are trading/accepting them without even realizing it. Usually they are the identical/nearly identical pins that no one can even tell the difference in that are traded around, the cheapest, bad looking scrappers will likely get rejected by Cast Members, but, it does making trading with official pins more difficult and costly (costly because you’re trading a $5 pin, on average, for a $0.50 one). I’ve heard more than one parents complain that they purchased loads of pins in the park shops for their children to trade, and when they tried to research the traded pins at home, they found the vast majority of them were forgeries with no value.
So, how do you know if an add on eBay or Craigslist is for scrapper pins? Well, you can try to ask the seller and hope they’ll be honest, but usually they’ll word things vaguely like “these are the same pins being traded in the parks” or “they are stamped trading pins.” Of course, that’s not a lie, but that doesn’t mean the pins aren’t scrappers. That being the case, it’s unlikely you’ll ever know for sure, and many eBay sellers will mix in common, but authentic, pins to leave you guessing.
Another big problem in the pin trading community is that so many people call themselves experts when they can’t be one. Sure, you can have common knowledge and spot a poorly constructed pin, maybe even notice something is off on a nearly identical pin, but very few can verify for certain if an identical scrapper is real or not. If you call one of the Disney numbers and speak with someone about where to find or how to become a pin expert, they will tell you there’s no such thing. In fact, even Disney can’t guarantee the authenticity of all of their pins for the simple fact that they’ve been making pins since before World War II, and have not always put (c) Disney on pins.
When considering that piece of information, how can so many people buying pins be sure they’re getting or not getting scrappers? Unless it’s a low quality product, they will never know for certain in most cases. So what does that mean if you’re a pin trader who does not want scrappers? Basically, you have to purchase your pins new, at Disney official stores or events, and that’s your only option to be 100% certain of the authenticity. Even some Disney-made pins have appeared with low quality features lately – like bad edges around the pin – and most of the pins made for locations outside of the US (Euro Disney, Disney Hong Kong, Japanese Disney, etc) are noted as being poorly made, even though they’re bought in a Disney facility and are new out of the package when purchased.
This is all food for thought, I just want people to be aware of the issues before they start trading pins and investing small fortunes in them.