An AP pin typically has an "AP" mark stamped on the back side of the pin. Stamping the letters "AP" on the back of a pin is an extra step that the manufacturer does once the pin has been created. There is no difference between a retail pin they sell in a merchandise location and its AP cousin except for an "AP" mark that will be found on its back stamp. Artist Proof pins, however, are not sold in the stores.
Once "AP" pins are produced, they are sent to Disney Theme Park Merchandise headquarters where they are used for a variety of purposes. One of every pin created is kept in a permanent Disney Pin Archive at Disney Theme Park Merchandise headquarters, and one pin is sent to the Walt Disney Archives at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. The remaining AP pins may be used for trading or may become part of auction lots featured at Disney Pin Events. You never know where you may find an AP pin for trade.
Depending upon the manufacturer, the "AP" stamp will appear in a variety of locations. There are very rare occasions when an Artist Proof pin may not include an "AP" mark on its back stamp. We have seen some AP pins in the Disney Pin Vault from the early days of Disney Pin Trading that did not contain "AP" marks. If such a pin is included in an auction lot, it will be described accordingly - "This is an Artist Proof pin but does not contain an "AP" mark on its back stamp."
Below are some examples of "AP" marks and where you may find them on the back stamps of pins:
Do you have any in your collection? Are you seeking to find any?