How to Spot Fake Pokémon Cards (Fast!)
How to Spot Fake Pokémon Cards (Fast!)
There are thousands of Pokémon cards officially printed by The Pokémon Company (TPC), and some of them are very unique. On top of that, there are other companies that have printed officially licensed cards that look nothing like the cards from the trading card game (TCG). There are even cards that a long-time collector may not recognize, as they are so different.
Sometimes, these unique or odd cards may be deemed as fake, simply because they are different. But the truth is, most fakes mimic the mainstream cards that are commonly bought, sold, traded, and sought after. Sometimes fake cards are nearly identical to the official prints, and this leads to people getting ripped off or scammed.
In this article, we aim to go over every aspect and take a deep dive into fake Pokémon cards. Keep reading and become an expert at spotting fake Pokémon cards.
What are fake cards and why are they made?
Pokémon is the largest franchise in the world. Of course, this includes video games, films, toys, games, the trading card game, and more. The cards first came out in Japan in 1996, and in North America in 1999. Since then, there hasn’t been a single year where hundreds of new cards were not printed. Over the course of these 25+ years, some vintage cards have become very, very valuable.
But even modern cards can be worth a lot. TPC sometimes prints very exclusive and limited cards that do not meet the demand. Furthermore, the hobby experienced a massive supply and demand issue around the time that COVID19 hit, heavily restricting the supply chain. With supply low and demand high, prices sky-rocket.
Enter fake Pokémon cards.
The folks who print fake cards prey on uninformed customers (usually parents purchasing them for their kids). With retail store shelves empty and scalper prices over-inflated online, people turn to third-party sites where they discover Pokémon cards for a ridiculously cheap price.
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t it obvious though? To you and me, yes. But to a parent or grandparent who has never taken the time to hold a card and look at it, maybe learn about it, no.
These fakes are often made in China and are found on websites such as aliexpress.com or amazon.com (yes, Amazon). The good news is that these fakes are easy to tell apart from real copies, so most of the time people get burned for $20 and learn their lesson.
However, there are fakes out there that are nearly identical to the originals and only a keen eye can tell them apart. We’ll get to these soon.
Before we get into fakes again, let’s review Pokémon card authentication. Authentication is the process of confirming that the card is, in fact, authentic. If you want to get a card professionally authenticated, you’d have to submit it to one of the many grading companies such as PSA, CGC, or BGC. This isn’t the same as grading; an authentication does not include a grade or the card being encased in a slab.
However, when you have a card graded it is also authenticated. Most of these companies do not grade a card unless it’s authentic.
Fake booster packs and booster boxes
But it can’t be fake, I opened it straight from a pack!
There are fake packs. There are fake booster boxes, too. Most booster packs can be identified very quickly simply by checking the cut of the crimped ends. For more info on fake booster packs, we have a whole article to check out. How to Spot Fake Booster Packs.
Obvious and common fakes
The first fakes we will be looking at are obvious fakes. This includes cards that fool only people who have no experience with the hobby. These also include joke cards and custom cards.
Here are some joke cards originally printed in a 1999 issue of Mad Magazine. As you can see, they emulate the look and style of an official card. Although these are technically fake, they were never sold with the intent to fool anyone.
A note on Base set fakes
The North American English Base set printed in 1999 only had first edition stamps on shadowless cards. If you ever see a first edition stamp on a base set card that is not shadowless, it is fake.
An exception to this rule is the foreign language prints of the Base set. These include: French, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, Korean, Japanese.
Less obvious fakes
A less obvious fake is a card that, at first, will be perceived as real. These cards will have minor tells such as an incorrect holo pattern, unique font, spelling errors, or other small details. However, they won’t fool the average Pokémon card hobbyist.
Here is a fake Pikachu EX card (left) compared to the authentic copy (right).
We’ve circled three critical errors on the fake card. As you can see, the Pokémon’s name is incorrect, there is a grammatical error in the attack description, and the rule box on the lower right is missing the background effect. In addition to these, there are multiple more errors on the card.
It is, however, not a bad fake. The biggest tell is the incorrect name of the Pokémon. Other than that, the card could be passed off as authentic at a glance. These types of fakes often make their way into children’s collections, as they do not yet know how to look for these smaller details such as typos and grammatical errors.
Another quick tell for fake cards is the holo pattern or etching of the card. This Pikachu example doesn’t demonstrate this so well, so let’s take a look at this Lapras.
A fake Lapres V (left) compared to the authentic copy (right).
“Lapras” is not outlined in white, the star graphic is dim, the copyright is in the wrong position, and does not include “Pokémon/ Nintendo/ Creatures/ GAME FREAK”.
You can probably spot a few more eros on the fake card. The authentic Lapras V is an etched card. Etching is a texture that you can feel with your thumb or finger. The fake does not have any etching.
Fakes with etching
Only recently have fakes with etching come into production. It’s unfortunate that this feature is being reproduced by the fakers, but simply spreading awareness is the first step to fighting back.
The etching on the fake Sylveon VMAX is not consistent with the authentic copy. When authentic cards have etching, it is usually very precise and detailed. As you can see, the fake copy has one pattern repeated throughout the card and the etching is much larger and less intricate. However, most fakes do not have etching, so this could fool someone as long as they don’t notice the obvious glaring issue in the top left…
Good fakes may fool a casual collector.
Over the years, Pokémon cards have become more and more intricate and detailed. The etching of a card is just one example of a detail that makes reproduction difficult for bootleg manufacturers. But older cards, specifically the Wizards of the Coast era, are simple in terms of card design and can be more easily faked.
A Charmander (left) compared to the authentic copy (right). Note: Brightness and clarity are due to the photo taken, and do not accurately represent the actual card.
As you can see, the font is the quickest way to determine if this Charmander card is a fake.
An expert-level fake can fool an expert. One recent example we have here is a card that isn’t entirely fake, and that’s what is so deceiving about it.
Butticards on Instagram has done something very interesting. As an experiment, they printed first edition stamps onto non-first edition cards using a UV printer, and as you can see, they look nearly indistinguishable from authentic stamps.
Next, they sent one of the cards into PSA, expecting it to be rejected. However, it was graded and authenticated. PSA did reach out to butticards on their Instagram, and if you look up the slab number, the submission has been deactivated.
Butticards did not invent this method either, they’d heard about it elsewhere and decided to give it a try. It is honorable that they posted this to Instagram, to bring it to light. But the question is, how many fake first edition cards are already out there?
The Pokémon TCG includes many fascinating and unique cards. For example, Ancient Mew or the lenticular Deoxys. However, other companies have also received official licensing to print Pokémon cards as well. Topps is one of them. It’s important to note that although these cards are unfamiliar to most, they are not fake.
Pokémon is the biggest franchise in the world. As cards continue to grow in popularity, fakes will continue to be produced. It’s important to stay on top of the hobby and know what to look for. It’s also important to share knowledge with your friends and community, to mitigate the purchasing of fake cards.
This is a ‘living’ article and will be updated and expanded over time. Check back often for more tips and tricks to spot fake cards!