You are hereFake Merchandise Guide
Fake Merchandise Guide
What is the goal of this guide?
The goal of this guide is to educate fans and collectors about counterfeit merchandise and how they can protect themselves from being fooled by those selling counterfeit products.
This guide was written with video game character collectors in mind, but a lot of the material will also apply to collectors of anime or other character merchandise.
What are different types of unofficial merchandise?
Collectors tend to break up unofficial merchandise into four categories:
Counterfeits: Copies of existing items intended to fool customers into thinking it is the official product. These range in quality from very poor replicas to almost exact duplications. They can often be difficult to differentiate from the real thing, especially if the buyer is not very familiar with the original product. Counterfeits are VERY harmful to the collector's market and lower the value of official products, as the general public often does not know the difference. These products also take money away from the rightful IP holder (Nintendo, Namco, etc.), as well as the company who created the official product (Banpresto, Sanei, etc.), as they receive NO compensation for counterfeits sold using their characters and designs.
Adaptations: These items take the design of an existing product and modify or adapt it in some way to either make another type of product, or make changes so that a design resembles a different character. Examples of this would be using the design from an official item, but making it into a cell phone holder or keychain. Oftentimes you'll see color changes, such as taking a Mario design and painting it green for Luigi. These items are not quite as damaging to the collector's market since they are not exact duplications, but can be harmful because they do still closely resemble an official product in many ways. They also still aim to mislead customers into thinking they are official products, often by using the same hang tag that you would expect to see on a legitimate item. Like other counterfeits, they are also damaging to the original IP holder and designer, as they still get no compensation for these items.
Unofficial or Unlicensed Items: Unlike adaptations, these "unofficial" products do not use an existing design stolen from a legitimate product, but use an original design. These items are not very damaging to the collector's market because they do not usually take value away from an existing product, and may even be sought after by collectors to fill a gap in the market when no official item exists of the character. However, these items generally try to make a profit off of a property that the manufacturer is not licensed to produce, so the IP owner does not receive any compensation. These "unofficial" items are different from fan-made items in that they are mass produced and are sold to make a significant profit.
Fan-made or Custom: Fan-made items are just that, pieces made as craft projects by fans of the property. They vary in quality based on the skill and experience of the artist. Unlike the above categories, these items are hand-made and not mass-produced, and are either one-of-a-kind or made in very limited quantities. Custom artists are even commissioned by fans that lack the skill or the time to create these pieces. Because of this, the IP owner usually does not have a problem with the existence of these items. If a fan item is sold, it is often to compensate for the time and materials the artist has put into the piece rather than to make a significant profit. These pieces may be of value to certain collectors, especially when filling a gap in the market by creating a character that has not been made into an official product.
The information on this page mostly applies to the first three categories, as they are the ones that try to deceive customers into thinking that they are official products. Fan items are usually labeled as such, and are generally considered to be a type of fan art.
What’s so bad about counterfeits?
Financial losses - None of the profits from the sale of these items go toward the IP owner or the designer of the original product, causing significant financial damages to the company that created the original product. Instead profits are often used to fund crime organizations and even terrorist groups.
Health and safety - These products have lower standards of quality, and will often break more easily. They are more likely to contain unsafe materials like lead-based paints or in the case of plush toys, be stuffed with unsafe materials (flammable or unsafe particles that can be inhaled). They may also contain pins or other sharp items. If official items are found to pose any of these risks, they would be recalled, but counterfeit items would not. [For these reasons, we would suggest NEVER giving a known counterfeit item to a child.]
Working conditions - The working conditions in the factories where these items are made are not subject to the same health and safety regulations that would apply to more reputable companies, and it is not uncommon for these places to rely on child labor and have generally poor/dangerous working conditions.
Collector value - Apart from the above moral issues surrounding counterfeit items, this merchandise brings down the collector’s value of the items that are being faked. If a once rare and out-of-production product suddenly floods eBay, and suddenly no one knows the difference between the real item and fake, the demand for the original lowers significantly.
How can I tell if an eBay auction features a counterfeit item?
Counterfeit items can be identified through a number of warning signs, however, keep in mind that each one is a little different. Some are very easy to tell from the original, and some are very difficult. One warning sign does not necessarily indicate that a product is a counterfeit, and some counterfeit items may exhibit none of the warning signs. When in doubt, one of the best things to do is to consult other collectors who may have more experience with identifying counterfeits. Our forum community is very friendly and will be glad to give you their input!
Tips and warning signs:
- Most of the items are coming from members based in Hong Kong.*
- On Ebay, the item is extremely cheap, and shipping is very high.
- Stock photo is used for item (a common occurrence, but this can also be used to hide defects in counterfeits).
- Item has wrong hang/tush tag or stamp. For Super Mario Bros, the current most-faked tags are a yellow New Super Mario Bros. tag and the Blue Mario Party tag.
- Hang/tush tag is turned over or hidden behind plush or item to hide that it is the wrong tag for that item.
- There is no hang/tush tag on an item being sold as new.
- An item that has been out of print and is expensive/hard to find suddenly floods eBay in large quantities and with low prices.
- Small details on an item seem off, such as being sold as a keychain when that was not its original purpose or having a suction cup attached to it. Characters may look slightly different and details are missed.
- Certain items are easier to counterfeit than others. Sometimes part of a set will be counterfeited, and part will not. If you see that certain parts of a set appear on eBay more than others, this may be because they were easier to fake.
- The more popular an item is, the more likely someone is going to try to make counterfeits. When looking for items from a popular game series such as Super Mario Bros. or Final Fantasy, it’s best to do your homework before making a bid.
- If you suspect that an item may be counterfeit, but aren’t sure, check the other items they may have up for auction to see if any are known counterfeits.
- Keep in mind that just because a seller claims that a product is official merchandise, this does not necessarily make it so. It’s really not too hard to lie on eBay.
*Note that just because a seller is located in Hong Kong does not automatically mean that they are selling counterfeits. Some import stores are located there due to low corporate taxes and customs duties. Also, just because the seller is based out of the US or another location does not mean that the item is not counterfeit. However, most of the counterfeit items found on eBay seem to originate from Hong Kong, so to be safe I would recommend further investigating the item/seller to make sure the item is legitimate.
Thanks to SoulDreamX of www.rainknight.net for writing the original document that was been adapted for this site.