So you've got a great idea for a pin you want to produce. Maybe you've even got the artwork ready and are now looking for a producer. Whether you're looking to buy a large run to sell, or a small run just for you and your friends, here's some things to know first.
There are currently no pin factories in the UK or North America. According to PinLord, roughly 95% of all the worlds pins are made in China. This means you'll more than likely be sourcing a Chinese manufacturer.
There are Western companies you can use to produce pins, but they are merely brokers acting on your behalf, they do not produce the pins themselves. They do have good relationships with the factories though, and will do their best to ensure you get the best quality pins, but you're basically paying a premium for their services on top of the production costs.
That's not to say that you shouldn't use these companies. I've used them in the past and the quality of the pins has been excellent. But the price for pines was almost double what I pay when I go direct to a supplier.
However, if you're just looking to produce a single batch of pins, using a broker may be a less daunting option than transferring money directly to a random factory in China.
For the first batch of a pin design, you'll have to pay to produce a mould. This mould is used as a template to stamp out the actual pins, and typically costs anywhere between £50 to £80 depending on the factory and design.
This is why many manufacturers have minimum order quantities, and those that dont will charge a similar price for 1 pin as they do for 50. Even producing a single pin still requires that mould first.
A mould for an enamel pin being made. Source: Info GS-JJ
The good news is the factory keeps this mould for you, and any future runs of existing pin designs won't require you to pay that production cost again.
So although the cost of getting a design made up may seem high (especially when you order multiple designs at once) if it's a popular pin that sells well, you'll be able to get all future batches made up at a much cheaper cost.
Some factories advertise "no mould fee" but you'll find the cost of individual pins will be much higher than other suppliers to accomodate for this.
What's more, you'll be paying the same price for future batches as you did for the first. This means you're basically paying more for your pins in the long term than you would if you'd paid for a mould.
A sad reality of designing and selling pins is that there's a chance not all your pins will arrive perfectly as intended. It's not uncommon to find a few pins with wobbly stems, incorrectly placed colours, or even areas missing colour completely.
Here's a couple of my Kain pins that didn't turn out as expected. This one has inconsistent thickness on the linework…
…and this one has a whole section missing colour (obviously, I'm not offering this one for sale).
Errors may be inherent to the design or artwork, for example using linework that's too fine or not allowing enough space for the coloured enamel to sit. Or they could simply be a production error.
Enamel pins are hand-finished and even hand-coloured, so some human error is inevitable.
Thankfully any none-perfect pins can still be sold at a reduced rate as 'seconds'. This is a good way to liquidate the stock that you won't or can't charge full price for. It's also not uncommon to recieve a few extra pins than the amount you ordered, which also helps to offset the few that have defects.
However, if you order a batch of pins and recieve more than just a handful or 'seconds' then it's probably worth looking for a new manufacturer.
I can't speak for all countries, but 32bitpins is a UK-based seller, and if there's one thing the UK loves, it's taxing everything.
It's not uncommon to take delivery of a shipment of awesome pins and a few days later recieve a bill from the courier company telling me I have to pay a UK customs charge.
Whether or not you pay tax depends on the cost of the shipment you're receiving. This is usually a relatively small fee, typically a percentage of the cost declared by the factory when they shipped them.
One recent shipment cost me about £17 in import tax. Not a huge cost in the long-run, but it is an additional cost you need to prepare to pay and factor in when you price your pins.