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There exists a few grades of pins. Everyone's criteria for what makes an A Grade (Standard) versus a B Grade (Second) is different, but these are mine. I use this grading scale to determine which of my pins is considered a Standard Grade (A Grade) or a Seconds Grade (B Grade), and more.
I inspect my pins in either natural sunlight or a well-lit room and hold them at a little closer than arm's length.
Pins are handmade items and can vary from unit to unit. Very few pins are perfect, A grades or standards are scrutinized primarily on their facing surface (the front or design side of the pin) and are graded on a curve. The sides of the pins are scrutinized to a much lower degree, and the back of the pins are not scrutinized except with regards to the posts and the back stamp. Generally, these are pins that have some minor faults to them. Some of these minor faults include...
I test and polish all A Grade pins to ensure that they conform to the artwork and specifications of my design. Most A Grades are eligible to be paired with a custom color rubber pin back or a metal locking pin back.
*Note that the sides of pins are held to a much lower level of scrutiny when considering an A grade from a B grade pin. A grade pins may exhibit scuffing in the metal surface, minor enamel spillover or small areas of missing plating on the sides and still be considered an A grade.
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. The vast majority of pins that I sell are A grade or Standard grade.
These pins have noticeable flaws, some more minor or major than others. Like A grade pins, B grade pins are primarily scrutinized based on their facing surface (the front of the pin) with some scrutiny for their sides and, with exception to the posts and back stamp, are not scrutinized on the back of the pin. Some of the flaws that would qualify a pin as a B grade include...
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.
On occasion, I may sell "B2 Grade" pins, which are pins that I consider to be slightly more defective than a Seconds (B Grade) pin, but are not considered junk, for a deep discount.
Pins in this category have multiple and massive defects that prevent them from being sold as standard or even seconds. Their defects are so severe that it would impact their wearability. Many C grade or Free grade pins are still lovely as wearable pieces. Some of these defects include...
These pins are never put up for sale and are sometimes offered for free during specials or sales. Pins without my back stamp or an incorrect back stamp are never given away or sold. Free grade pins that are so severely damaged that they qualify as D Grade or Junk Grade pins are recycled at a metals recycling facility.
These pins are perfect. I don't have many S Grade pins and will dig through the batches to find and keep an S Grade as a model for photography, for my portfolio of work or for display purposes. I do not sell S Grade or Collector Grade pins. I do not scrutinize pins, even by request, for S Grade or Collector Grade pins.
Oopsies pins are not a grade, I typically use this category to denote pins sold at a slight discount because the artwork may be incorrect among an entire batch. Incorrect artwork that qualifies pins as an Oopsies can include incorrect color fill, incorrect pin size, missing metal lines, or wrong plating. Oopsies aren't necessarily flawed and are sold like regular pins, except with a small discount.