What does selling for “pin money” mean?

I know several bead pattern sites and designers that give permission to sell what you make from their instructions for pin money. I want to look at some definitions and talk about what they mean because my fear is that beaders may underprice their work because of this wording.

Dictionary.com defines it as “any small sum set aside for nonessential minor expenditures” and formerly “an allowance of money given by a husband to his wife for her personal expenditures.”

So basically it means pocket money, or spending money. I also feel like this can mean different things to different people.

I’ve seen beaders comment on forums that it means to “pay for your hobby.” Bead Patterns Boutique defines it as “You, as in the person that has purchased the pattern, may make and sell the project that was completed using the pattern as a guide. You may not employ others to make or sell for you as this constitutes commercial use.”

I like the idea of everyone covering their costs and that BPB’s definition is a little broader.

Then, I searched further into the origin of “pin money” and found this story via sacklunch.net: “Catharine Howard, wife of Henry VIII., introduced pins into England from France. As they were expensive at first, a separate sum for this luxury was granted to the ladies by their husbands. Hence the expression “pin-money.”

My opinion is colored by the fact that I have the mindset and the goal of making a living as a bead artist. My hope is that others selling their work for “pin money” do not equate that to mean “cheap” and ask a fair price for their work. The phrase started out meaning a separate sum for a luxury item, and I believe a beautiful piece of beadwork falls in that category.

What do you think? Do you have another perspective as a beader or designer? Please share with us in the comments below. I know people are passionate about this topic, so thanks for keeping it constructive!

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • avatar Rosebudlia October 4, 2011, 8:19 am

    I find the expression “pin money” almost insulting to those who sell their crafts and use this expression themselves. Pin money undervalues the creative talent, dedication and hard work to make each item. As an example, I have seen people selling beautiful knitted cardigans for prem babies .. for almost nothing. It is shameful. Crafts people must not see themselves “dabbling in a fun hobby” for a bit of spare cash, they should see that they are creating something that someone somewhere falls in love with and will treasure.

    Each crafts person plans their item in their day dreams, they may draw it out or make a pattern, they have to buy the supplies, they use their hands, eyes, brain, taste buds even where food is concerned … they do the best they can, and it should be valued accordingly.

    Never undervalue yourself, or your item ….. :)

  • avatar Mandi Ainsworth October 4, 2011, 8:58 am

    Thank you for commenting :) I know that some people only want to sell to cover the costs of their hobby, but I still want to encourage them to ask for what their work is worth.

  • avatar Glenda October 4, 2011, 6:03 pm

    The term pin money to me sounds like “mad money” that is set aside for little extras. I am a little mixed on this one. I want to charge for my work what it is worth, but there is no way you can charge for your time taken to make the item. This is a problem I have on all my work. I live in a small town and people generally won’t pay what I think it is worth, so I need to come up with some magic formula for my beading! Any ideas?

  • avatar Mandi Ainsworth October 4, 2011, 7:35 pm

    Thanks for commenting, and I like your comparison to mad money :) You have a great question, and I will be writing more about pricing next week. It can be a complicated topic, so we’ll break it down a bit.

  • avatar Rosebudlia October 5, 2011, 3:37 am

    Glenda is right – crafters can’t charge for time because we would then be in the realms of silly money lol. But what do you do and how can we appeal to the customer’s sense of a fair price for a hand crafted item?

    I have been in the hand made business since 1981 and I remember even then that people seperated shop prices and craft prices. I have been asked to “take some off”, I have even been asked if I would take items from their craft in a part exchange – but I am not expensive and I have even been told to put my prices up!

    Maybe (from the advent of quick credit) the consumer society is programmed for concepts like disposable, mass produced, uniform, conformist and so on, so anything different is out of their “comfort zone”?

    The crafts person is different to the non crafter because they have vision and art and design within their soul so I wonder then if the crafter starts to make their item according to the perceived wishes and financial restraints of the consumer/customer?

    This is like therapy lol! Maybe with this analysis we will find an answer 😉 x

  • avatar Ralonda October 6, 2011, 6:29 am

    I have found over the years from making “product” and not getting even a fair price for any of it- or even selling it at all that you are just gambling on what people want. I say “screw it”. I am going to make art not product. I have made such beautiful garments that people didn’t even believe they were handmade by me, then turn around and tell me $40 for a it was too much. If you want it then you can pay “art” prices for it. If not, then I will happily keep it or gift it to someone who deserves it. “Jaded?” Why do you ask? This is no longer about money to me but about the attitude people are taking towards creative handmade endeavors that can’t fit into a mass produced product line on the shelves of your local Target. Folks who undersell are lining their fellow artisans up for the firing squad. What an attitude we have created.

  • avatar Rosebudlia October 6, 2011, 7:53 am

    Ralonda, a fabulous comment! I agree and so eloquently said! :)

  • avatar Michelle October 6, 2011, 1:00 pm

    I have two responses to this discussion. The first is about the use of the term “pin money.” That’s too vague, and I find it irritating that any website would use it. I like the definition put forth by Bead Patterns Boutique. I think that definition makes it clear that you can price your good at whatever you want as long as you aren’t mass-producing by employing other people or somehow copying the pattern by machine.

    My second response is about the idea of underpricing what you make. This post (http://totusmel.blogspot.com/2008/05/you-want-how-much-for-that.html) helped me really think about this issue carefully. I think this person is right about the marketing, and that’s the main difficulty with crafting. It’s difficult to reach a “market” (people) who appreciate the time and quality put into a handcrafted item. It can take a lot of time and effort to connect to that market, and sometimes, depending on your resources and location, it can be impossible. But if circumstances are such that you cannot connect to that market, or if you are just unwilling to put the time in to marketing your work to people who will appreciate it, then you’re going to have to settle for underpricing or giving your work away to friends. I know that’s tough, but I’m afraid that’s the reality of it. My parents did craft local craft shows with wonderful woodwork for years, and they had a hard time getting a good price for their work. It was heartbreaking, but I think that’s just how things are now.

  • avatar Katherine Cooper October 11, 2011, 1:05 am

    What an interesting discussion I followed my friend Rosebudlia and found this. I have a bit different take on it. I think their is a world of differance between the artist and the crafter. A crafter takes a pattern that has been represented by someone else or from a book, or something they see already made up, and makes up the item, certainly requires skill and dedication.

    An artist will use her/his artist gut instinct, a piece of her tourtured soul hee hee :) and vision to come up with something that is an expression from the heart and psyche. Heres the difference the market will pay the money for an artist piece of work, but not a crafter, why? I feel that a person will view crafting as something they could do i.e. follow the pattern if they had time or the inclination. Therefore they don’t value their time and money and won’t value the crafters.

    Pin money is rife here in the Uk as people try to supplement offen meagre incomes. Women have been known for generations to use their wit and their talents to make extra money that their family needs, and a whole industry has grown out of it.

    The artist to me operates on a different realm from the craftsperson. As an artist I would never do a craft show, I could not think of anything more soul destroying. Taking the time to find the right venues and places to sell your peices where you will have an established clientelle that does appreciate how much work goes into a piece is a large part of being successful and charging the right prices for your works xX

  • avatar Rosebudlia October 11, 2011, 6:48 am

    Katherine, you are right of course, there is a world of difference between the crafter and the artist.

    As for craft shows, oh please, don’t remind me, I was hoping to forget! Recently I did two, not because I wanted to, oh no, NEVER! I attended because my mother was selling her knitwear and she wanted me to join her. I tried arguing but I got “the look” and thought it easier to give in than face her wrath lol. Both were total disasters. People couldn’t even muster a brief glance as they walked past my table. I will neve runderstand how people can walk past something so sotally different and not “see” what’s there! … Anyway …

    On both days I sold nothing. I swore to myself, never, ever again.

    Today I bought a glass chopping board so I can scalpel through plastics and cut metals without damaging my work table further. I will sew, I will tie, I will bead, I will thread, I will get sore fingers, I will sit close to daylight .. I will put my heart and soul into a piece – and I will not sell it for Pin Money.

  • avatar Mandi Ainsworth October 13, 2011, 5:44 am

    Michelle, Thank you so much for sharing and linking to that great article. There is a tough reality to this and there are ways to face the challenge and succeed. Hope to talk more about that soon.

    Katherine, Thank you for sharing your take on this. I was that tortured soul until I started sell my art jewelry at art shows. I know in recent years the lines between art and craft have blurred b/c of all the amazing things I’ve seen people make. If you’ve taken your craft to a level of art, it’s extra important to find the right shows for you.

    Rosebudlia, Thank you for adding so much to the discussion. I love your declaration at the end, “I will put my heart and soul into a piece – and I will not sell it for Pin Money.: Beautiful.

  • avatar Rosebudlia October 13, 2011, 6:31 am


  • avatar Jennifer April 7, 2014, 12:37 am

    I don’t understand why the term “pin money” is used. It is too ambiguous. I have tried to sell my hand made unique scarfs with little interest even from other crocheters. My partner does lovely wood work. A Co worker offered $20 for an item once. I stepped in and advised them that the wood alone cost $50. I don’t think the public knows the value of the raw goods let alone the thought, time, power etc costs.

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