Counterfeit pins - what are they and how do they happen?
What is a counterfeit pin?
In basic terms, a counterfeit pin is a pin that has been produced and sold without the designer’s permission.
The designer didn’t order and pay for the production of those pins and more importantly, the designer isn’t being recognised or credited as the creator and isn’t earning any money from the sale of those pins.
Image source: pintheft.com
How does this happen?
Counterfeits happen in a couple of different ways; design traces, duplicate/stolen molds and generally unreputable factories.
There are people whose job it is to look for designs on trending themes (TV shows, books, self care etc), bestsellers and successful shops. These individual designs and sometimes entire shops are then targeted and exploited.
Original product photographs, Instagram posts and other design images are saved and then traced over, often quite poorly.
Original Bookish and Bakewell pins
Pins are often produced in the cheapest way possible. The tracing is rushed, hard enamel designs are often reproduced in soft enamel and many times the original plating is replaced with the cheapest plating.
Badly traced counterfeit pins
Counterfeits created from traced images are often terrible quality, missing out details, misspelling words and having mismatched or uneven lines. Sometimes, when a factory has been caught our selling direct exact copies, they'll redraw a design. The results of which are interesting to say the least.
Copied artwork counterfeit pin
With all of these pins created from traces and redrawn artwork, the colours of the pins will quite often be way off, especially when it comes to important things, like skin tone or hair colour.
Things are changing though. The quality of trace jobs is getting better unfortunately. There are some factories who have learnt that producing good quality counterfeits makes the counterfeits more appealing to customers (both individuals and re-sellers) and harder to spot.
When making enamel pins, a mold is created from which all pins are created. A one off fee is charged for the creation of these molds and the same mold are is for each batch of pins for consistency and continuity. These molds are kept secure by factories.
Unsecure molds can be leaked in many ways; multiple molds may be created along with the original when the pins were commissioned, duplicates may be created at a later date or the original mold may simply be stolen.
Pins created using original molds or duplicate molds created using the original artwork will look exactly the same shape as the original pin.
The differences come in whether they counterfeit pin has the same plating (black dyed, gold plated, rose gold, silver etc) as the original, is the same finish (hard vs soft enamel), has the correct pantone colours and any additional details such as screen printing.
This is the most basic of them all really. Some factories just DGAF when it comes to making a buttload more of a pin design they’ve been commissioned to make.
This is quite often the case when factories (or middlemen - pin suppliers who outsource manufacturing to Chinese factories) have a low minimum order of around 50 pins. Additional pins are made with the batch ordered, these pins are sold on to make the entire batch of pins more profitable for the factory.
The pins created are exact replicas of the original pin. The colours are the same, the finish and plating is the same.
Pins commissioned via middlemen suppliers are at most risk. The artists have no control and are completely unaware of which factories are used to create their pins.
So what happens to these counterfeits?
Counterfeit pins are sold directly to customers and website like AliExpress and DHGate, to re-sellers in bulk through the same sources and are directly marketed via email and DM to pin sellers, usually with the factories claiming to have design rights to the pins being offered for sale.
I'll go in this topic in more detail in the next blog in this series but for now check out these resources.
Free Instagram graphic from Bookish and Bakewell
Free phone wallpaper and stories graphic from Bookish and Bakewell