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Grading System: How I Grade Enamel Pins

Header for Evy Benita's enamel pin grade system. Text reads "grading".

Welcome to my grading system, where I show you how I grade enamel pins for my shop!

Last updated: 17/12/2020

No pin is perfect, but the severity of flaws can vary drastically. Thus, many pin makers choose to have a public grading system in place.

A grading system gives an overview of how enamel pins are sorted into different categories depending on their quality. The most common names for these categories, or “grades”, are as follows:

  • Standard Grade, also known as “A Grade” or “Jacket Grade”
  • Seconds Grade, also known as “B Grade”
  • Salvage Grade, also known as “C Grade” or “Junk Grade”

My enamel pin grade scale also has a fourth category: an “A- Grade”. I use this grade specifically for pre-orders, Pin Club and Kickstarter rewards. This grade helps me keep the quality rate of enamel pins sold in my shop to a very high standard, as well as ensuring that pre-order projects deliver good quality pins to match its budget. Before we move on to explore my individual enamel pin grades, I need to mention one very important thing:

If you placed an order or backed a Kickstarter prior to December 17th, 2020, the pins in your order will be subject to my previous grading system that was in place at the time of your payment.


Categories

The grading system I use for my enamel pins consists of four grades:


Standard Grade Enamel Pins (A)

My Standard Grade pins are the best of the batch, and from an order of 100 pins, I will normally have 50-60 Standard Grades.

Shows an example of a Standard Grade enamel pin, in accordance with Evy Benita's grading system. The pin shows little to no imperfections.
Example: Standard Grade enamel pin from my Galactic Reef collection

The grading system I use for my shop is very strict, and only the highest quality pins make it into my Standard Grade category. Notably, no enamel pin is flawless, and each piece is bound to display minor signs of the production process.

Traits of Standard Grade Enamel Pins:

Standard Grades will appear close to perfect, and any imperfections present should be hardly (if even) noticeable. These pins should display the following qualities:

  • Clean and smooth enamel
  • Metal plating should be polished and shiny
  • Dye plating should be clean and matte

If at all present, Standard Grade imperfections will be minimal:

  • Minor marks in the metal or enamel
  • Tiny imperfections in screen-printed details
  • Special effect pins might show signs of the effect’s texture (i.e. glow powder grains in glow effects, tiny air bubbles in epoxy).
  • I allow screen-printed details to overlap metal. This is common in screen-printed pins, and I do not consider it a flaw.

Pre-Order Standard Grade (A-)

No enamel pin is perfect, but when I list ready-to-sell enamel pins in my shop, I have the luxury of being very strict. I can count exactly how many I have of each grade, then list them accordingly.

With pre-order pins, which have not yet been manufactured, I do not have this benefit. Consequently, my grading system also has an A- Grade category. If you pledge for or order from any of the following scenarios, your pins will be subject to this grade*:

*Unless, of course, you have pledged for or pre-ordered a Seconds Grade pin.

To clarify, my goal is to send out Standard Grade pins for pre-orders whenever possible. This A- Grade is only in place in case I receive a batch of pins with a high rate of minor imperfections. Due to this uncertainty, I keep my pre-order discounted at 25%-50% off their full retail price.

Three axolotl pin badges classified as "Pre-Order Standard Grade" enamel pins. All three display minor imperfections.
Three examples of A- Grade pins from my Sleeping Beauties Collection. Each pin has a small spec of dust embedded in the paint, but apart from that, they’re pretty much perfect.

Common Imperfections

A- Grade enamel pins might display a small number of any of the following imperfections:

  • Tiny specs of dust or scratches
  • Small imperfections in the metal
  • Teeny-tiny chips
  • Minor under-filling in non-central parts of the design
  • Small imperfections in screen-printed details
  • Minor offsets in screen-printed details
  • Glitter might display small darkened debris
  • Pins that contain glow-in-the-dark effects may show signs of the glow-powder used, and may also contain small cracks close to the edges.
  • Pins with sandblasted, semi-translucent, glitter, epoxy and/or similar effects, may show signs of air bubbles or bumps.
  • Screen-printed details may overlap with the metal plating. This is common for screen-printed details placed close to the raised metal/zinc alloy outlines.

Ultimately, your pins will display no more than a handful of the imperfections listed above. Some pieces do show an overwhelming amount of imperfections, but under those circumstances, I will classify them as Seconds Grade pins.


Seconds Grade Enamel Pins (B Grade)

My Seconds Grade pins have noticeable flaws. Seconds pins don’t always look great for close-up photography, but they’re beautiful additions to backpacks, bags, and pinboards, and are a great choice if you like to wear your pins out on adventures.

In fact, Seconds Grade enamel pins are often preferred for outdoor adventures.

Minor defects are highlighted in one of my Clouded Leopard enamel pins.
Example of a Seconds Grade enamel pin, also from Sleeping Beauties. This pin has more prominent underfilling in its paw, plus four minor defects.
Enamel pin grading: three common C Grade errors: dirty smudges, the wrong color paint, and a large hole in the enamel.
Examples of extreme B Grade enamel pins with borderline flaws. These will normally have a greater discount than regular B Grades.
An axolotl enamel pin with a small piece of dust embedded in its white paint, and a rainbow pangolin hard enamel pin with a dark scratch on one of its blue paint scales.
B Grade Examples: Hydrangea Axolotl pin and Hydrangea Pangolin pin.

Common Traits for Seconds Grade Pins

Defects in Second Grade enamel pins might be, but are not limited to:

  • Under-filled areas.
  • Large specs of dust or paint.
  • Small paint smudges.
  • Small areas with the wrong color fill.
  • Scratches in screen-printed details.
  • Severe overlapping of screen-printed details onto the metal/zinc alloy outlines, to the point where the outlines are no longer visible.
  • Multiple imperfections in the metal, such as scratches, overfilling, tarnish and more.
  • One or more air bubbles in the enamel.
  • Large cracks along the edges of the enamel filling (in particular with glow-in-the-dark pins)
  • Large dark specs in glitter.

Salvage Grade Enamel Pins (C Grade)

My Salvage Grade pins have highly noticeable defects or in some cases peculiar differences from the original designs. Such defects might include, but are not limited to:

  • 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.
  • Glow-in-the-dark effect doesn’t work.
  • Large areas of missing glitter.
  • Misplaced, heavily scratched or distorted screen-print
  • Large areas of dust, hair or spots in the enamel.
  • Mildly loose back posts.
A "Salvage Grade" hard enamel pin depicting a tranquil snow mink. The pin has a smudge of white paint going over the metal plating and into the blue background area.
Here’s an example of a Salvage Grade pin from my Winter Collection. This pin has a severe paint smudge that covers a large area of the pin.

My grading system is dynamic and may be added to whenever I encounter new materials, effects or issues not previously encountered. I will not make changes to existing rules or lower existing standards, but I may add rules for materials not previously mentioned.Thank you for visiting! Hugs, – Evy πŸ™‚ <3