Pin Identification

In this hobby there is more then meets the eye when it comes to knowing the history of the pins in your collection. If your surfing ebay, social media or at a local pinevent have you ever wondered what mesh, grid, eyeball, boxed. small print/large print or 4LC & 3LT meant? On the older pins that have the pinclasp feature on the back of the pin this terminology comes into play. There are many variations on pin backs & if your just starting in this hobby these terms may get confusing to you. Let's begin w/the different types of pin manufacturers & their designs.

Gift Creations Incorporation

American based company. At one time all HRC America /International & non-franchised locations sold GCI pins at their respective cafes. Early pins were made in Taiwan & later manufacturing came from China. Stampings on the back of these pins indicated their origin.

Eyeball back made in Taiwan
Grid back made in China

These pin back designs were the most common that GCI produced for pins being sold from the late 1980's to the mid 2000's. Eyeball, grid, mesh & weave were eventually replaced by the Hard Rock logo back design w/the pin clasp feature. In the early 2000's the tac back design was introduced & still used today.

Eyeball back - used in the early HRA/HRI days when some of the first cafes began to sell pins
Grid back - produced in various designs the grid back was used for many USA/Europe/Mexican/Asian based pins
Weave back - only found for select USA pins the weave design appeared during the transition from enamel to cloisonné pins
Mesh back - very common early design for USA/Europe based pins
Later in production GCI produced a common back for most of their pins & is HRC logo'd back

In addition to the basic design differences that GCI produced there were several other differences that can make identical pins (front view) collectible from what is stamped on the back of the pin. One element is the size of where GCI put their production information (known as a box) in.

From left to right: small, medium & large boxes

Of the five main design backs from above the grid has the most differences as far as the size & how close the pattern is to each other.

From left to right: small squared, medium, large & large open. The large grid (#3) has a tight pattern in comparison to the pin to its right where the pattern is very loose. For some collectors its very hard to figure out the difference from a medium to large grid

The HRC logo'd pin back also can be found in a few different variations w/the focus on how the box is presented. Some pins will have the box depressed, outlined, non-outlined or just a different size. Also pin manufactured from China can be stamped w/China or Made in China.

From left to right: boxed, non-boxed, large depressed box & smaller depressed box
"China" & "Made in China" 1LC's


The early GCI pins were produced w/the locking clasp back but later the tac back design has become the standard for today's HRC pins


Another variation is the amount of lines or text w/I the box itself. If the pin was made in Taiwan it is known as "T" & China made is "C". So if a pin has 2 lines of text & made in China it's known as a 2LC, 3 lines 3LC & so on. Most Taiwan produced pins have the 3LT stamp & generally known as early GCI produced pins.


0 lines
1 line or 1LC
2 lines or 2LC
3 lines or 3LC
4 lines or 4LC


Often were prototypes were produced no back stamping was made until approved

Even though Gift Creations made many pins for different HRC locations, they did not cover all areas of the world for pin distribution. Other manufacturers include FC Parry, Idea, Thorncraft, Hi-Tai, Pin USA & Zechovoy to name a few.

FC Parry

Based out of London, England, FC Parry (FCP) produced many of the early pins when HRC first began to sell pins at their cafes especially the London cafe as this was the very first cafe opened in 1971. Other cafes such as Stockholm, Tokyo, Dallas, Reykjavik & Cancun sold FCP guitar pins when these cafes first opened & sold pins to the public.

Known as a "large print" back due the script being spelled out is considered to be the older version of FCP pins
With the FCP info located in a small box this pin is known as the "boxed" version & very common


1 line w/a smooth back
Possibly a prototype type back design, the "nugget" back was never produced in large amounts
Very early FCP pins had this smooth back w/no script


FCP also made different back designs through out the years. Here you can see a smooth back (left) & their pebble back (right)


When FCP produced a prototype they stamped "sample" on the back. Many samples were made until approved by the cafe or FCP


Starting in 1993 Idea pins were produced for Mexican cafes. In early 1995 discontinued their relationship w/Idea for retail pins but still used them for Sterling Silver Staff pins.


Mesh back
Smooth back


Many of the early pins that were available at the Reykjavik Cafe were produced by a local Iceland company called Thorncraft. They were unique as they were all hand casted & painted

The word "Thorncraft" is written on the neck of the guitar

Canadian Pins

There have been many manufacturers providing pins to the Canadian cafes ever since Toronto opened in 1978. such as Mills, Shilo & Pin USA. Prior to 1997 Canadian cafes were not part of HRC International & had to use Canada manufacturers to supply pins for all of the country's cafes. This time was known as "preunification" for their logo was a different design then other HRC cafes. Then from 1997 to 2000 all Canadian cafes reached an agreement w/HRC International & pins were now made by GCI.

Mills pins were made in Ontario


Shilo produced pins from 1990 - 1996


Pins had a mesh back & either had one or two lines of text as well being dated


Made in Canada
Made in China


Starting in the late 1990's Pin Pals made many of the pins found in most HRC locations. It wasn't until the early 2000's that Pin USA took over as the main supplier for pins for HRC operations & Pin Pals was no longer used.


Pin Pals helped HRC is providing many pins when the hobby was starting to get popular with new collectors


Hologram's were first introduced from Pin USA to help cut down on the numerous fake pins being made


Different metal bases were introduced to help determine quantity made & if they were staff issued or not. London's 44th from retail (L) staff under 10 years & over 10 years of service

Hi- Tai

Several Asian HRC's used Hi-Tai as their producer. Early pins provided their phone number (right) on the back


Skyline produced some pins for Buenos Aires


The Israelian producer Zechovoy made pins for the Tel Aviv cafe in addition to some from Gift Creations.

One particular cafe used many different manufacturers in the late 1990's to when the cafe closed & the rumor that the Tijuana Cafe was producing a new pin a week for collectors

Idea, GCI & local manufacturers produced large volumes of high quality pins until the cafe closed in 2008