How I Grade My Pins

Curious about the Grade A, B and C Grade pins in my shop? Or just wondering what “Grading”, “B Grades” or “Seconds” means in relation to enamel pins?

I use a three-class system for grading my pins. This is a system I’ve developed from talking to other artists, reading through the grading systems of other creators, and studying Grade A and B pins I’ve purchased from other creators.

Two super cute pangolin enamel pins and two adorable axolotl enamel pins, all in curled up poses looking cozy and asleep.

What is enamel pin “Grading”?

For pin makers, “grading” refers to sorting individual pins into groups (or grades) based on the quality of the pin. There’s no one way to do this, -some makers have a two-grade system: one grade for mint condition pins, and one for flawed pins. Others might have multiple grades depending on the severity of the imperfections a pin might have.

I operate on a three-grade system: My A Grades are the best of the batch, my B Grades have small imperfections, and my C Grades have larger flaws.

Are A Grades perfect?

Enamel pins are made by humans, and like most things in this world, every pin is likely to have small traces of imperfections. These are imperfections we may not recognize as “flaws”, but rather attributes of the materials the pins are made of. However, some pins come with more noticeable flaws, and that’s why I use a grading system.

In my grading system, A Grades are the best of the batch. An A Grade pin might display the occasional dark edge where the paint meets the metal (especially with white paint where you have a high translucency), and if you look really hard for it, you’re likely to find a tiny mark or two in the metal. But these marks certainly won’t be visible unless you really look for them.

My Grade Levels

“A Grade” Enamel Pins

A Grade pins will have an uninterrupted shiny plating and smooth color fill. There will be no visible air bubbles, paint drops, chips in the paint, overflowing paint, and so on.

A Grade pins are as flawless as they come and represent the best of the batch.

Examples of A Grade pins:

A Rainbow Clouded Leopard hard enamel pin by EvyB Pin Club.

FAQ: A Grades

  • When I order pins, an average of 45% will be A Grades
  • My A Grade pins are priced at £12.99(approx. $16.80)
  • Rainbow Club Member’s Price: $13.50

“B Grade” Enamel Pins

B Grade pins still look beautiful! B Grades will have minor defects, often these won’t be visible at first glance. Such defects might be darkened or burnt outline plating, small air bubbles or scratches, or mini specs of debris captured in the enamel paint.

Because of their small defects, B Grades are sold at a 30% discount.

Because they already have small imperfections, B Grades are perfect for anyone who like to wear their pins outdoors, where they might be exposed to wear and tear. They’re also great if you’re more interested in the pin’s design itself, rather than it being mint condition.

Imperfections you might find in a B Grade pin are, but not limited to:

  • Small air bubbles or dents
  • Small scratches or chips in the metal and/or paint
  • Dust particles or small paint splatter embedded in the paint

Gallery of B Grade examples:

An adorable enamel pin by EvyB, showing a rainbow pangolin curled up and asleep.
Here’s an example of a classic B Grade pin. Can you see the dust embedded on one of the pangolin’s scales?
Three B Grade axolotl pins by EvyB Illustration
These three Tea Rose Axolotls are examples of what I like to call annoying B Grades. These pins are so close to perfect, but each of them have a tiny flaw that’s just slightly too noticeable for the pin to be classified as an A Grade. Highlighted on the image to the right, you might be able to detect the dust embedded in the white paint on two of them, and a small air bubble in the eye of the third pin.
A beautiful red fox enamel pin decorated in swirly patterns, backed by a circular winter background.
This Red Fox B Grade has a small spec of blue paint embedded in the white area of its tail.
A winter landscape enamel pin by EvyB, depicting a tranquil lynx resting in a winter setting. The lynx's warm yellow gives a beautiful contrast to the cold blue and white background.
This Lynx B Grade has a chip/dent in the blue paint.
A clouded leopard hard enamel pin with gold plating, a white body base and patches decorated in beautiful rainbow colors! Enamel pins by EvyB.
It’s difficult to capture tiny specs of dust in photographs, but I’ve attempted to highlight them with red circles. For my Clouded Leopard pins, dust was the most common imperfection for B Grades.
A snow badger hard enamel pin with a scratch to the metal plating.
Scratched/burnt metal: I’ve lowered the contrast in this image so you might be able to see the the scratch. All four images show the same pin. The scratch to the metal is not that obvious when looking straight onto the pin, but becomes very clear when pointing a light at the pin 🙂
A horned owl hard enamel pin with a scratch next to its eye.
My Horned Owl pins had quite a low rate of B Grades. Here’s an example of a more severe one 🙂
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.
A Hydrangea Axolotl with a tiny spec of dust, and a Hydrangea Pangolin with a dark scratch or dust spec(I can’t remember exactly what it was, but as you can see it’s quite obvious up close).

Imperfections you won’t find in any of my B Grade pins:

  • Large gaps of missing paint or wrong-color paint
  • Large scratches or cracks in the paint or metal
  • Large air bubbles
  • Blue lines of missing plating

FAQ: B Grades

  • When I order pins, an average of 50% will be B Grades
  • My B Grade pins are priced at £9 (approx. $11.70)
  • Rainbow Club Member’s Price: $9.80

“C Grade” Enamel Pins

C Grade pins have clearly visible and large defects such as paint bleeding over the plating outline, air bubbles in the enamel paint, hollow areas, larger scratches or larger areas of darkened or burnt plating. Because of these severe imperfections, they’re sold at a 65% discount.

C Grades are great for large pin board collections, i.e. if you collect a specific color palette and don’t plan on taking close-up photos 🙂 I also think they look great on backpacks.

Imperfections you might find in a B Grade pin are, but not limited to:

  • Areas of missing paint
  • Paint overflowing the metal outlines and other areas of the designs
  • Large cracks, scratches or air bubbles
  • If a pin displays a very high number of B Grade defects, I will classify it as a C Grade
vA C 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 a great example of one of my C Grade pins: this Snow Mink enamel pin has paint leaking over the plating and into another color space, plus some embedded dust particles.
Other common G Grade defects: multiple areas of burnt metal(left) and overflowing paint and holes(right).
I tried overexposing this image to make the paint overflowing more clear, but if you can’t see it, the areas highlighted in the lower row of badger pins have overflowing paint and/or burnt metal.
This Hydrangea Clouded Leopard pin has a few areas of regular B Grade flaws, but his front paw has a dent and quite a lot of dust specs.
The Tea Rose Clouded leopard pin on the left has two areas of dirt smudges, plus a few more areas of B Grade flaws. The one on the right has a large dirt smudge on the nose, plus multiple areas of dust around its body.
Three common C Grade imperfections: dirt smudge(leopard, left), wrong paint fill(fox, middle), and a large hole(badger, right).
These bunny pins are weird. Their only flaw is that they all have one area where a different type of white paint has been used. The main body of paint has a higher translucency level, whereas the mouth(top left), head(top right) and eye patch(bottom centre) have a more hard and clear white. Other than this paint error, they’re pretty much perfect!

FAQ: C Grades

  • When I order pins, an average of 5% will be C Grades
  • My C Grade pins are priced at £5 (approx. $6.50)
  • Rainbow Club Member’s Price: $5.40

Other FAQ

Do you ever get pins that don’t qualify for any of the grades?

I do! I have a secret little D Grade category for pins that are so severely flawed that they just can’t be sold.

D Grades are a pretty rare occurrence, and this makes them so unique that I don’t like to throw them away. Instead, I place them on a “rescue” board in my workspace where they can help me develop new designs 😀

Can I use your grading system?

Of course you can! You may not copy the article over to your own website or blog, but you’re more than welcome to direct anyone to this page for reference 🙂

Do you accept returns on B and C Grades?

I accept returns of A Grade pins, but not on B Grades or C Grades. Each of these pins will have its individual flaws within the guidelines provided in this article, so please only purchase a B or C Grade pin if you’re okay with this 🙂

When are B and C Grades made available?

I’m a fairly new pin maker, and I originally intended to release my B and C Grades in flash sales throughout the year. I’ve later changed my mind on this, and am just beginning to make B Grade pins available in pre-orders and Kickstarter campaigns. I’ve also launched B Grade tiers for my Patreon Pin Club.

I can offer B Grade pins as pre-orders, Kickstarter rewards and Pin Club tiers because I’ve ordered enough batches of pins to know how many I’ll receive on average, as well as the most usual minimum and maximum quantity. With this experience, I also know that C Grades occur more rarely. I might get 2 in one order and 20 in another. Because of this, C Grade pins are only made available after I’ve actually received and graded the pins 🙂

Can I request a specific pin from the B and C Grades?

No, unfortunately not. I wish I could offer this, but the extra time spent on it would mean I’d have to increase the prices, which I’d rather not do 😀

Rainbow Club’s Clouded Leopard rewards for April 🙂

Thank you so much for checking out my grading system! Most of the pins I’ve shown you here will be available in my regular shop and the Member’s Exclusive Shop. Please also check out Rainbow Club (my Patreon Pin Club) if this is something you’re interested in 🙂

Big hugs! – Evy <3