Pokémon Cards have been around since 1998 and have been a phenomenon all across the world ever since. However, naturally their popularity has inspired millions of counterfeits, and sometimes it can be hard to pick them out from the real thing. In an attempt to make this easier, here is a simple and to-the-point guide of ways to identify a fake. It is highly unlikely, if not completely impossible, that you will find a counterfeit that does not have at least one of these signs!
Before you start checking your cards, it is strongly recommended that you buy some cards from a reputable retailer so that you have at least a few cards that you know for certain are real, as at least to begin with you will need to compare to draw accurate conclusions.
Weight & Thickness
This is the very first thing that will alert a keen eye to a fake card 95% of the time. I'm yet to be shown a counterfeit that feels just like the real thing in thickness. Hold a genuine card in one hand and the suspected fake in the other. The difference will often be noticeable before you even attempt anything else. Try to gently bend the card. Is one more flexible than the other? Provided they are both crisp new cards (or at least have not been used and played with excessively) they should be equally firm. Any noticeable difference without any sign of natural aging and weathering is a sure sign of a counterfeit.
If your cards pass the first test, move on to feeling the surfaces of both the front and back of both cards (the real and the suspected fake). Is one card rougher or smoother than the other? Often you'll find that counterfeit cards are particularly smooth where they have been coated to make them look real, while sometimes in order to avoid this the producers skip this step altogether and the card will feel quite rough. Also, does one side of a card feel more or less smooth than the other? If the front of the card seems to have a significantly different surface texture to the back then it is likely to be a fake. This is as a result of the manufacturer spending more time and money on making the front of the card look real and neglecting the reverse.
This test is best when you have two cards that are the same (ie: a real Pikachu and a suspected fake Pikachu). Look at the cards closely to see if the colour density is the same. Most fakes have a slightly more faded or washed out look about them, particularly on the reverse. Once again, this is a sign of more time spent on making the front look real as this is mainly where people make their judgement.
While you will not find translation errors on all fake cards, if you do find any error then the card is 100% fake. If you are not sure if something is meant to read the way it does and you do not have a definite real version to compare it to, there are many websites you can use which show pictures of each card, which will show you for certain whether the text is either misspelled, mistranslated or in the wrong place on the card. Unfortunately due to eBay regulations I'm not allowed to post links to such websites in this guide, but if you search for something like "Pokémon card scans" in a popular search engine you will be able to find what you are looking for.
These days, manufacturers of counterfeits can even produce fake "shiny" or holographic cards. These card be particularly difficult to identify as extra time and money has been put into them to make them look real, as they are potentially more valuable to the sellers. However the holographics are never as good as the real thing. With holographic cards that pass all the above tests, the only other test would require an authentic version of the same shiny card for close comparison. Flaws and imperfections are surprisingly easy to spot when you can make this comparison, although obviously sourcing the authentic holographic (and thus rare) card may be a mission in itself!
Sometimes, even with all the above pointers you may still not be sure. While I'm not expert, I'm more than happy to give my informed opinion on your cards. If you scan your card (front and back) into your computer I can do my best to make a judgement, or decide that it is inconclusive from what I can see. In most cases I will be able to tell you pretty quickly. I am also happy for you to send your card/s direct to me if you want me to take a look, provided you enclose a stamped addressed return envelope so that I can get your cards back to you as quickly as possible.
You will likely find that the ideas suggested above are applicable not just for Pokemon cards but for any collectable trading cards, however I know little about identifying any other type of fake cards. I am still happy to offer assistance where possible, so please do not hesitate to message me with any questions you may have.
I hope you have found this guide useful, but please do not hesitate to send me an eBay message if you need any further help.
Best of luck fighting counterfeits!
Pokémon Cards - How to Spot a Fake!
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14 April 2009
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