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.
A Grade/Standard Grade
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...
- small, but noticeable, air bubbles
- small, but noticeable, enamel under fill
- some light imperfections in the metal plating
- surface scuffing or light scratches on the enamel or metal
- nicks on the enamel or metal
- multiple areas of noticeable dust mixed into glitter
- multiple areas of overturned glitter
- noticeable areas of missing plating on sides of pin*
- noticeable areas of enamel spillover on sides of pin*
- noticeable dust on soft enamel pins
- encased posts with slight wiggle
- minor, but noticeable, offset in screen printing
- plating imperfections on the front of pin
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.
B Grade/Seconds 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...
- noticeable or multiple areas of under filled enamel
- moderately scuffed enamel or metal
- multiple points of imperfections on the metal plating
- multiple air bubbles in the enamel
- missing metal lines
- missing enamel on a small portion of the pin
- noticeable off-set screen printing
- areas of low glitter
- one unfilled area of enamel
- enamel staining on sides or back of pin
- overfilled enamel that floods some metal lines
- some missing plating on duochrome pins
- large amounts of glitter in areas where there shouldn't be
- noticeable amounts of dust on soft enamel
- small gouges or marks on enamel
- encased posts that have significant sway
- 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.
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.
C Grade/Free Grade
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...
- 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 soft or hard enamel
- multiple areas where glitter has been misapplied
- 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
- duochrome plating is missing on over 40% or more of metal
- significant areas of low-fill
- more than one unfilled enamel area
- broken or missing pin posts
- color changing enamel does not color shift
- areas where enamel is missing
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.
S Grade/Collector Grade
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 and do not make any exceptions. I also 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.