Will Pins Set Off a Metal Detector: Dos and Don’ts of Decorative Pins

  • By: Chris
  • Last updated on January 20, 2023
  • Time to read: 6 min.
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Decorative pins serve many purposes. 

Lapel pins have historically expressed an individual’s personality or fashion sense. 

They’ve been worn to identify club members, church groups, and employer associations.

Pins are also a prominent collection or trading piece many take part in for fun and friendly conversation. In fact, it’s estimated that close to a billion or more lapel pins are sold each year.

Which is why I’m going to speak on your suspicions.

Yes, a pin can set off a metal detector because of the materials used to make them. But aspects related to the pin and the metal detector make it hard to know for sure.

Since assorted decorative pins are manufactured differently, let’s get into the particulars and see if your pin will set off a metal detector.

What Are Pins Made of?

what are pins made of
Pins can be made of several different materials, but metal is always included.

Pins can be made of different materials, including enamel, metal, and plastic.

The metal used to make pins can vary from gold, aluminum, copper, silver, nickel, brass, iron, or an antique metallic color.

Even if you have a pin made of plastic, the butterfly clutch is most likely constructed of metal.

The metal found in a pin is significant for its electrical conductivity, which is the primary characteristic a metal detector actively searches for.

Do Enamel Pins Set Off Metal Detectors?

Enamel pins are just another kind of decorative pin with an aesthetically pleasant protective coat over the existing metal plating.

While the enamel of an enamel pin isn’t conductive, the metal base underneath does set off a metal detector if the conditions are right.

I’ll get into those conditions in just a moment.

What Are Enamel Pins Made of?

what are enamel pins made of
Enamel is a substance that will harden on the surface of a pin to seal it.

So we can avoid any confusion, I’ll be specific about enamel pins.

There are two kinds of enamel pins made; hard enamel, also known as cloisonne, or soft enamel.

Both enamel pins are made with a chosen metal base and the enamel surface.

However, hard enamel uses an enamel powder, heated until it liquifies, and hardens into a veneer. 

Soft enamel, which is favorably used, is a paint applied over the metal base and slowly warmed until it solidifies into a finish.

Can Pins Go Through a Metal Detector?

The main point you should be taking away so far is that each pin has some metal used in the base or butterfly clutch.

can pins go through a metal detector
Don’t bother removing your precious pins. Whether they set off a metal detector or not, they’re allowed through security.

Each metal has its own level of detectability. And the majority of the metals used in making decorative pins are good conductors of electricity, which make them easy for a metal detector to find.

But here’s the catch.

Pins are so small that a single pin, maybe one or two more, generally won’t be enough to set off a metal detector.

The size of the metal in the pin is one of the conditions I mentioned earlier.

The other is the settings of the metal detector.

Hobby metal detectors are looking for small items in the ground like a lost ring, some ancient coin, or…an enamel pin.

But walk-through metal detectors found in schools, courthouses, or airports don’t want an alarm going off for every spare penny.

a penny setting off school alarms
A penny causing such a problem would make security’s day long and hard.

For this reason, the sensitivity of these metal detectors is set to detect metal at a level where familiar threats, like guns or knives, generate a larger magnetic field.

So, a few pins may not set off a metal detector. But an entire lanyard of pins will.

Does TSA Care About Pins?

Here’s a fun fact!

TSA doesn’t care about pins you wear, collect, or travel with. 

They have no guidelines limiting or restricting passengers from taking them on a plane or in their checked baggage.

Even scissors, considered far more dangerous, are permitted by TSA as long as they’re less than four inches from the pivot point.

does tsa care about pins and scissors
Your pins are fine. If you can fly with scissors, then pins are practically nothing.

But hey, I know it can be nerve-wracking when it’s you doing the traveling. You start to think your situation is unique and could cause a problem no one’s experienced before.

So to set your mind at ease, I’ll answer the many questions travelers ask about flying with pins.

Can You Take Trading Pins on a Plane?

Trading pins symbolize a shared theme experience that collectors trade for financial motivations, enjoyment, or personal significance.

Currently, the TSA has no restrictions to taking trading pins on a plane, regardless of how it’s transported.

So whether you’re carrying a trading pin booklet, wearing them on a lanyard, or packing them in your luggage, you’re safe to travel with them.

Can You Bring Disney Pins on a Plane?

can you bring disney pins on a plane
Who would want to prevent the happiest pins on Earth from flying?

You can bring Disney pins on a plane like every other trading pin.

Disney pins are a trendy collectible that adults and children aim to acquire through purchase or trade.

Usually made with enamel, Disney pins have a sharpened post traditionally capped with a rubber Mickey Mouse back.

Since the dangerous part of the Disney pin is so short, you can bring them on planes without consequence.

Can I Travel With Pins on My Backpack?

There are far more dangerous things you could travel with on a backpack other than decorative pins.

If you’re concerned about TSA stopping you from your stylish accessories, don’t be.

can i travel with pins on my backpack
Your fashionable collector’s pieces are A-OK on your backpack.

You can travel with pins on your backpack as long as you submit it for security screening.

But some fair warning… 

The conveyor belts at an airport or on the x-ray scanner could cause some pins to come loose.

So be on the lookout for missing pins when you get your hands back on your backpack.

Can You Have Pins on Your Carry-on Bag?

Whether your carry-on bag is a purse, backpack, or rolling suitcase, you can decorate it with pins and still fly without issue.

The TSA has no restrictions on flying with pins on your bag.

In fact, the only potential problem would be the dimensions of your carry-on. An oversized carry-on bag could prompt a TSA officer or flight attendant to ask that you submit it for cargo storage.

Are Pins Allowed in Hand Luggage?

are pins allowed in hand luggage
Keep them on your hat, on your coat, or in your handbag. The choice is up to you.

You could keep pins in your hand luggage as an alternative when traveling.

There are no FAA restrictions for carrying decorative pins in your hand luggage as opposed to its exterior.

For your safety, ensure their backs or clasps are all secure and store them in a protective case.

The last thing you want is to prick your finger while reaching for them.

Enjoy Your Flight

I think we just about covered every scenario.

Was I clear enough?

Ok, ok, one last time.

Yes, your pins can set off a metal detector. But there’s no reason you can’t travel with them.

Wearing them on your lapel or around your neck and pinning them on purses or backpacks is entirely acceptable in the eyes of airport security.

So keep pinning and enjoy your flight.

Oh, and if your wondering about your safety pins, generally, the same rules apply.

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