Counterfeit Pokémon cards have been around since before the authentic cards were released in America; they appeared shortly after the TCG gained popularity in Japan. There is big money to be made in counterfeit items, and these cards are no exception. In the late 1990s, in New Jersey, law enforcement seized 500,000 fraudulent cards from a warehouse. Since then every single set has been counterfeited in the 20 years that Pokémon has been in our world.
There are four cards at the top of this blog. After you’re done studying the blog, take a hard look at them (we’ll put them at the bottom, too). Can you determine which, if any, are real – and which are counterfeit? The answers are at the bottom!
There are a few things you should know before we get into determining if a card is authentic or counterfeit. Let’s clear up some definitions.
This is a card (or item) that is made for the sole purpose of making money through deception. The counterfeiter wants to confuse or fool you and will not tell you the card isn’t authentic. By the time you realize your card isn’t real, it is likely too late.
This is a card that is created by someone without the intention to make money via confusion. The people who make these cards are not counterfeiters, and they are not doing this to deceive anyone. They enjoy creating their own Pokémon cards and will tell you the card is created by them, and sometimes even tell you how they were made. This is their form of art, and they are proud of their work. If they sell their cards, they are honest about it.
How Counterfeiting is Done
Today, it only takes a few minutes to counterfeit a card. Photos can be taken from the internet, edited and printed. Cards are scanned and printed. You can protect your card photos by taking them at a slight angle. There is something off about each photo I take and post. That way, they can’t be perfectly cropped, printed, and sold.
A Note on Descriptions
Always, always read descriptions of things you find online. Card creators will tell you that they personally created that card that is for sale. If you are unsure, send a message to the seller asking for more photos or information. Look the card up in your search engine to see if it was made by The Pokémon Company. If you are still unsure, ask someone that knows Pokémon cards (like Sean and I).
Prices of Cards
Where we live, a booster pack is $4.18 plus tax. We’ve come across and bought boosters for $1.00 a pack at flea markets. These packs are not real. Some stores offer BOGO sales with packs at $3.99 each, but these are licensed Pokémon dealers. There are some amazing vendors and distributors who sell authentic product in bulk deals, but no private person sells single authentic booster packs for that cheap. They’d be losing an immense amount of money that way. It is the same with singles online. eBay sold listings is your key here. Look at the cards you want to buy and see what people recently paid for them. If you see that a card recently sold for $200, but a seller is only asking for a $60 “buy it now,” there is a problem.
Sean and I have acquired counterfeit cards in various ways, but we always knew what we were getting when we bought them. Because we collect everything Pokémon, counterfeit cards fall into that broad category. We have had situations where people sold them to us without telling us they weren’t real, and we have had cases where they knew they weren’t real and let us know.
A short time ago, I asked Gemr Family Member skitty325 to go on a mission for me. I needed more counterfeit cards for this blog, and she knew the perfect place to get them. She sent me an envelope packed full of them. This is a case where both of us knew what we were doing. Thank you, Skitty, for doing that for me and your contribution to this blog!
There are many ways to determine the authenticity of your card. For each of the following photos, the counterfeit card is always on the left-hand side unless stated otherwise. I recommend finding a picture online of your card to compare as you determine what your card is.
The card on the left is the real Chinchou (and we tore that one because it was already in bad shape). You can see the layering that gives Pokémon cards their durability. The card on the right isn’t real, and only has a top and bottom layer, making it thin and flimsy.
The HP of a card is usually a great way to tell if that card is real. It will be done in a thinner, smaller font than the authentic card, like these Chinchou cards from Sun & Moon. The Pokémon name is also faded as is the card text.
If the Pokémon on the card is an evolved form (stage 1 or stage 2), the card will tell you which Pokémon it evolves from. Incineroar evolves from Torracat. On the counterfeit card below, there is a picture of Torracat in the upper left corner, but it states that Incineroar evolves from Eevee. You can also see the differences in the HP and card text font.
The spacing of words and sentences is something to look for. Sometimes these cards are made so fast that they don’t take the time to make sure the spacing is right, or they do it on purpose. This Lapras GX shows spacing issues.
Look at the coloring on the card. While Pokémon cards know for bright, bold colors, sometimes counterfeiters take it to the next level and make their cards even bolder. This Mega Blastoise EX and Gengar EX show the boldness on a counterfeit card vs. how Pokémon uses color. You can also see scan lines on the counterfeit cards where the original card was either scanned or printed from an online photo.
There are cases where you may come across a nearly perfect and compelling counterfeit card. This Umbreon GX is a very good counterfeit. However, it scratched easily and is peeling. The holo is very different from the authentic Umbreon GX, and the eyes shine differently.
And sometimes, counterfeiters don’t even try or are in such a hurry that something like this Pikachu EX happens. It doesn’t have the holo EX background (it is yellow), it is exceptionally off-center, and there is some sort of hand symbol on the Pokémon portrait. This card is unusually thick and feels waxy. The coloring is also very different from the authentic card.
Holo cards are worth more and more sought after than normal cards, so they are counterfeited often. This Joltik was done in an attempt to use the cracked ice holo style. It also has the random hand on the Pokémon portrait, and the Pokémon name and HP are written in gold, not black, as it should be.
This Goodra card is my favorite counterfeit, and it is everything that could be wrong with a card. The entire thing is holo, the Pokémon name and HP are written in gold, the coloring is very off, the random hand is there, and the counterfeiters didn’t bother to remove “pokebeach.com” from the lower right side of the portrait. It also says “2017 Pokémon” on the bottom left, whereas the real card says “2014 Pokémon.”
Trainer cards are also counterfeited as they are crucial to the TCG. This Captivating Poke Puff card is completely holo and has ink marks all over it. It says “2017 Pokémon,” whereas the authentic card says “2016 Pokémon.”
There is just so much wrong with this Vulpix and Ninetales, where do we begin? The cards are thick and waxy; the holo covers on both of them; they’re very off-center; the color is wrong; the font is incorrect; the energy symbols are off center and bloated; the copyright year is wrong; Ninetales is about to be slapped by yet another random hand; the set number is wrong; there are small ink splotches; and Ninetales is an uncommon rarity, not a black star rarity like it should be. That was a lot!
Check the Back
Look at the back of your card. While Pokémon cards can have slight color discrepancies on the back (just a tad lighter or darker), the counterfeits are much more noticeable. They can have very light or very dark borders – to the point that on the upper left corner, the dark blue inside will fade into the outer border. This counterfeit doesn’t show that fading; it shows the uneven border where it looks like the card was cut wrong. The Poke Ball isn’t crisp and shiny like the authentic one. The word “Pokémon” is outlined in dark blue instead of a lighter blue like the genuine card.
In the past, a way to determine authenticity was to look at the blue shading beneath, “…mon” on the card. Checking that shading was one of the main ways to do assess authenticity. However, counterfeiting has become more sophisticated over the years, and more effort is put into making this shading correct.
What to do if you Find a Counterfeit Pokémon Card
You have a few options here. Do not try to sell it. Don’t give it away, either. As collectors, while some of us (like me) do collect these cards, we absolutely do not want them in circulation. We don’t want our fellow collectors getting deceived into thinking they’re getting a real card. When we acquire them, we keep them separate from our authentic collections, and clearly mark that they are not real cards. We do not trade, sell, or give them away. We keep them off the market. Each counterfeit off the market is one less card that will deceive someone.
Please, please do not give these to a kid to take to school. Kids trade cards all the time, and you don’t want your kid trading a counterfeit card for a real card. That is not fair to the other kid involved, and if it were reversed and happened to your kid, you wouldn’t be happy. If you give it to your kid to play with, do not let it leave your house, even to take outside to show someone. If your kid comes home one day with a counterfeit card, I ask that you do not lose your mind.
Chances are the other kid involved really didn’t know they traded a counterfeit Pokémon card. You can replace the counterfeit with a real one or buy a new booster pack. It’s very likely that the other kid involved, and their
You can destroy the counterfeit. Cut it, tear it, make it into confetti, possibly some kindling. If you chose to keep it, make sure it is away from the rest of your collection and marked, so you remember which cards are frauds. You can put it in its own soft sleeve and write on it that it isn’t real.
With this information, you should have an easier time determining if your card is real. If you are still unsure, ask someone that knows how to spot counterfeit Pokémon cards (like Sean and
Can you Spot the Counterfeit?
Gyarados and Leafeon EX are real! They are both from Generations, one of our favorite sets, and went from pack to sleeve when we pulled them.
Absol EX and Eevee are counterfeit! Absol EX came in a collection that we purchased a while back. The seller did not know the card wasn’t real, he didn’t try to add it in as a real card, he genuinely didn’t know. Eevee came from a counterfeit Sun & Moon pack we bought at a flea market for $1.00. The vendor was all too happy to sell us several of these packs with a massive grin on his face but never said a word about them being counterfeit.