All About Seconds Pins

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What are Seconds Pins?

Seconds pins are pins that are less than perfect. They are still sellable, but they're just not quite perfect, and that just naturally comes with the process. Even though some of the process for making enamel pins is automated, and there can still be errors. Just like if you have prints with rounded corners and sometimes the corners aren't quite right. With any kind of creative process, you'd probably make some mistakes, and that's normal.

A lot of people will sell their seconds and I just wanted to talk about my criteria for seconds pins and maybe help you if you're looking at your stuff and wondering, "Well, I don't know if I can do this or not," so let's take a look.

How many seconds are normal?

When I'm in the process of packaging pins, I set aside the ones that I don't like, then I end up with a big pile of questionable pins. I go through this pile again and take the obviously defective pins and then usually end up putting a few back in the inventory pile.

10 to 15% defective, is pretty standard. If you order 100 and you see 10 are not quite right, then that's very normal. 15% is still average, but if you're at 20% or higher, you're going to want to talk to your manufacturer about it. Some people, if you're using a middle woman or a middle man, they can take care of that for you, which is nice because you don't really have to worry about the interaction with the manufacturer.

What to do when you have too many seconds

Sometimes manufacturers will give you credit, probably not as much as you would hope, but that’s usually my preferred way to go. I have had a manufacturer replace a portion of damaged pins, and I have had another manufacturer replace a whole order. It really depends on the severity of the damage, and the manufacturer’s policies. Definitely don't feel bad about contacting them if you really feel like something's wrong.

For example, I got a whole shipment of limited edition Christmas trees that had contaminated plating. This means the gold plating solution was contaminated, so it didn't adhere to the metal underneath correctly. All of them looked tarnished because the gold plating wasn’t even, and I couldn't sell any of them. In that case, they replaced half of them, which was not ideal, but I could still sell the others as seconds pins, so I wasn't totally losing money, but I couldn't sell all of them at full price.

In that same order, there were gnome pins that also had contaminated plating, but they were so much more severe than the trees that my manufacturer replaced 100% of those. I appreciated that because there were some that I didn't even feel comfortable selling as seconds, because they were so damaged. I just want you to know that it happens to everyone and give you a couple of examples of issue that have come up for me and how they were resolved.

Examples of seconds

One question that I get all the time is how to tell what’s a second. It’s all pretty subjective, but here are some things that I look out for when I’m sorting pins. You can see all of the examples in the video!

  • Missing enamel can be an issue for soft enamel pins. Like I said in Anatomy of a Pin, factories use machines to fill in all the enamel, and sometimes areas just don't get filled right, so you get things that are very obvious and not something that I would sell at a full price.

  • Black spots that can show up sometimes. Some of this is part of the polishing process, so if you have a soft cloth with you when you're unpacking, you can rub them down and shine them up. Sometimes the little black spots will go away, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they're stuck on the pin and there's nothing you can do about it.

  • Contamination in the gold plating solution, which I spoke about before, has been the most common issue for me. They look tarnished, but to my knowledge, only pins with silver finish can truly tarnish. There are special things you can do to take care of tarnish for silver enamel, but I don't have a lot of experience with that. You can also get a silver polish cloth, so if they show up looking a little rough, you can try to polish. I think there are also some solutions that can help, but keep in mind that's silver versus gold. Do not use a silver polish on a gold pin because it could rub the finish off. Please don't do that.

  • Missing finish is also common. A lot of times it happens on the side edge. I'm not sure where in the process it happens, but sometimes it's just not there. In the example in the video the finish is just completely missing on edge. This can be hard to notice, because you're usually looking at the front of the pin when sorting, and might not even realize it’s damaged until you see the side while packing an order. That’s happened to me more than once. Derp. Definitely look at all parts of your pins to check for any flaws.

How to sell seconds pins

There are a few ways to actually sell your seconds pins. Make sure they're clearly marked as seconds with a quick explanation of what that means. You want to be very clear so you don’t end up with any disappointed customers. I like to mark mine down 50%. I know that's a lot, some people don't always go that low, but I see it as a service to my customers. They’re getting a discount because the product isn’t perfect.

What I like to do is have sales every two or three months, and I have the sale up for a weekend. That way there's some urgency on top of the scarcity and they’ll hopefully sell quickly because of this. I usually save up a bunch seconds pins so I have a big variety to offer. Once the sale is over, I hide the listing and if there are any left over, I'll save them for the next round. But a lot of times they sell out completely because people love a good deal!

Some artists set up charity loops with seconds, too. I know there are a bunch of folks, speaking of Sarena from Shoal, she organizes monthly charity sales with other pin makers and of the proceeds go to charity, which I think is amazing. They made tens of thousands of dollars for charity last year with seconds, which is really, really, great.

Another option for seconds is to just leave them up in your shop as another option to buy. So, if someone's browsing and they see that they can get a flawed pin, for six bucks as opposed to 10, then some people will do that. There's really no right or wrong way to sell a seconds pin, so just figure out what works best for you!