Avoiding fake / counterfeit Game Boy Advance cartridges

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There are throngs of fake Game Boy Advance game cartridges offered on eBay – more fake than original.
And eBay doesn't have resources to filter all the fakes.
Therefore you have to be sharp-eyed to protect yourself from stealing.

I've been "hunting" for some Game Boy Advance games in the recent year, checking the best offers several times a week. I've seen a lot of cartridges (won some fakes...), and I would like to share my experiences with you for you to be able to discern and make favourable deals.

Some Introduction

As Game Boy Advance is region free, you can play games from all regions on your great handheld console. You may long for originality, thus like to play a game in Japanese, or you can get your favourite game from another region cheaper.

Counterfeit games are bad, by them software pirates are stealing from you on the one hand and stealing from the game's developer and publisher on the other hand.

1. Stealing from you, because you expect, that you will get all the benefits what the developer and the publisher of the game planned thoroughly and carefully to give to the customer, and satisfy him/her, e.g. nice appearance and finish, and flawless operation after all.
2. Stealing from the designer and the publisher because of a quite obvious reason: they were spending hundreds and thousands of hours, and others get the money for it.

(And because of these great developers - and even consoles - and much fun can disappear.)

First of all, it's the most frustrating for the buyer, when he/she discovers, that he/she have received a counterfeit game. The most common and disturbing failure is, that the game doesn't save, but there are other problems prevailing as cartridges sticking in the machine because of lazy case design, and blurry card and pictures among others.

It can be bad for the seller too, because he/she jeopardises to loose money when the buyer recognises, that the game is not genuine and reclaims the money, and his/her reputation too when selling such an item.

Sure, there are other guides dealing with this matter, but still I have some thoughts, what are not written in these. I recommend to read them too.
The best in my opinion:

The next two are great as well (not about DS games only):
Fake Pokemon Gameboy Games GBA / Avoid Counterfeit Game
How to spot a fake Nintendo Ds Game

Other two:
How to Spot Fake GBA Advance Games
Spotting Game Boy Advance (GBA) Fakes Including Pokemon

How can you identify a counterfeit Game Boy Advance cartridge?

First, I will write about how you can identify a fake by the auction's photos.

When there's a photo of the cartridge with it's front sticker in the listing, that's a good starting point. Examine the photo of the cartridge. A blurry, too dark or too light photo is not a good sign.

Determining genuineness is the easiest in the case of European cartridges. Why? For some reason pirates like to copy the US versions of the games – they might think, that the market is the largest there.
So, when on the cartridge's sticker there's a CE mark, that's a genuine European one.
That's it.
The CE mark looks exactly like these:

When the cartridge sticker doesn't have CE mark on it, than it's either a US, or Japanese or counterfeit cartridge (except when the cartridge is a genuine one, but the owner has stuck a fake sticker on it, but that would be odd. ^_^ ) Be aware with such cartridges!

When the photo of the cartridge is clear, you may see the code of the game on it's front sticker in small capital letters, numbers and dashes. With that you might determine, what is the region of that game. This code starts with AGB-, then four letters and a dash, and after that one of the following endings (what I met so far):
EUR : European - has CE mark
UKV : UK version - has CE mark
NOE : North Europe? - has CE mark
JAP : Japanese version
USA : US version

When this ending is USA, that should raise your awareness, that can be a fake, especially when the text is black with white surrounding (“glow”).

An another fine method to determine - not always easy from a photo, though - is, to check the "Original Nintendo Seal of Quality" on the front sticker. On a genuine cart its image is crisp clear, on a fake it's blurry, because it was created by an inferior printing method. Note, that the shape of the seal on the US cartridges is egg-shaped or oval, and on European carts is circle - this difference is normal.

I would NOT recommend buying or bidding in the following cases:

- First of all: I haven't seen any genuine game offered by sellers from China, Singapore, Hong-Kong, Taiwan, Thailand or the Philippines. I don't say, that there aren't any.
- The front sticker is tilted or misplaced on the cartridge – e.g. it's edges are not parallel with the cart's sticker imprint, or the sticker's edge is out of the plastic imprint.
- The image on sticker looks to be distorted, has often a dark tone, looks a bit blurred, or you have the feeling, that parts are missing from the image. Like this:

- The seller hasn't uploaded a photo of the cartridge to the auction, uses a stock photo, or a photo of the box only. When the box looks to be new, but there's no seal on it, it's almost sure, that it's a fake. Especially that the latest original Game Boy Advance games were published in 2006 – 2 years ago –, it's almost impossible, that anyone would stock up hundreds of copies of even earlier games, and offer them for a couple of $s or £s . (If anyone has a really new, sealed genuine game, that is way more expensive – can cost more than it's initial price.) A tricky seller can put in a picture of a genuine cart of a game, though...

When there's a stock picture or a box photo only, and you still think, that it can be genuine, you can ask the seller before you buy or bid to confirm, that the auction is about a genuine copy of the game. If the seller doesn't answer, doesn't state the genuineness of the game clearly in the reply, or doesn't understand your question, forget that auction.

In an other guide it is written, that when the seller offers to flatten the box, that's not a good sign - I don't agree with this. I don't like, when the box' side breaks during posting, so I ask sellers to flatten the box of the game to preserve it's original shape as much as possible.

Final Test

Then, when you've got the cartridges finally, you can identify it's genuineness for sure when checking it's contacts. There you have to see a Nintendo imprint, like this:

When you realise, that you've received a fake game, contact immediately the seller, and tell him/her your concerns supported by the facts you've discovered! You can refer to eBay's policy regarding counterfeit items: https://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/policies/replica-counterfeit.html

If you have a tri-wing screwdriver, you can even take apart the case of the cartridge and check it's iterior, however I don't recommend to do this, as in the case the cartridge is a fake, the seller can say, that he/she won't take it back and give back your money, because what you did with the cartridge.


First, www.mobygames.com is an invaluable resource for images of genuine cartridges of different regions.

I won three fake cartridges on eBay so far, because that time I didn't heed all the aforementioned warnings. One of them I could arrange with the seller. I still have two of them, and I won't sell them of course. Here are the photos of two of them, so you can see the difference.

Sonic Advance 2
Genuine above or to the left, fake below or to the right.

Note, that the white Nintendo imprint is missing from the fake printed circuit board, and that the fake seal is way more blurry than the genuine, it's not that my hand has tottered. By comparing the two front sticker image quality, you can see the fake being more blurry and the sticker image is like a crop of the original, as I wrote about such earlier.

Kirby's Nightmare In Dream Land
Genuine above or to the left, fake below or to the right.

Here the fake seal is not that blurry as at Sonic Advance 2, but still more blurrier than the genuine.

The Sonic Advance 2 could have been identified, if I knew these facts. The fake Kirby's Nightmare in Dream Land is a very good quality one though, it couldn't be identified before I have got it. Only it's colour is odd a bit, but on a low-resolution and often bad quality auction picture this couldn't be seen. Both of the fakes are claimed to be US versions, of course.

You can see the Nintendo print on the Printed Circuit Board, what you have to see on a genuine cartridge next to the contacts.

I'm sorry, but due to eBay limiting the allowed number of pictures to 10, and resizing the uploaded pictures, the details can't be seen that clearly, but just send me a message, and I shall gladly send you the larger versions of those by e-mail.

Closing words

I hope this will help a lot of you to avoid buying counterfeit Game Boy Advance cartridges, and that their true value will be respected by the help of this guide.
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