Counterfeit Encounters: How To Avoid Buying Bootleg Figurines

August 03, 2017

boot plus legs equal to sad face

Fake goods: no longer just a designer brand problem. With the increase in popularity of major movie franchises and affiliated merchandise, the amount of fake toys on the market seems to be rising as well. And to make matters worse, counterfeit figurines appear to be getting more and more sophisticated, which makes it harder to tell them apart. Even experienced collectors become victims of dodgy retailers, especially if buying online. The good news is that there are measures you can take - which I unfortunately had to learn the hard way myself. Fake goods are copies or replicas of legitimate merchandise or products, made cheaply to take advantage and cash in on the popularity. Although some replicas are obviously fake, think “Star Knight Darth Vader”, “Spader-Man” and “Robert Cop”, inadvertently buying a counterfeit can happen to anyone, both rookie and experienced collectors.

My first encounter with a fake toy was when I just started collecting. I never imagined figurines could even be counterfeit; replica Rolex watches and knock-off designer bags, yes, but toys?! According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), toys shockingly rank 6 th in the top 15 industries with respect to their propensity to suffer from counterfeiting. So how can you make sure you’re buying the real deal?


1. Source
Rule number one: only buy your figurines from trustworthy sources. Make sure that the physical and online stores and individuals you purchase from are officially registered businesses or at least reputable sellers. But how to judge? Some collectors go as far as saying to ‘never buy from eBay’, whereas others simply avoid sellers from Hong Kong and China. The latter might seem prejudiced, but unfortunately it’s a hard fact that most fake goods originate from China (63%) and Hong Kong (21%). Do however keep in mind that sellers of fake goods can be found everywhere, including those that don’t even know they are selling fakes. When shopping online, take a look whether the description of the toy is accurate and complete, and pay attention to the level of communication with the selling party. If a seller doesn’t respond quickly or accurately to your inquiries, move on.


2. Quality

Typically, fake toys are considerably poorer in quality. But there are different levels of fake, and the higher the price, the better the quality tends to get. One of the biggest disadvantages of buying toys online is obviously that you can’t examine the toy up close to spot irregularities. For example, fake figurines regularly show bad paint jobs: flaky paint, drips, smudges or simply inaccurate colors. Take a close look at the face too: if it looks slanted, with crossed eyes or faintly painted eyes or lips, chances are high it’s a bootleg. Other common quality issues are ill-fitting parts and inflexible joints etc.

3. Packaging
Counterfeiters don’t just fake the toys themselves but the box, instructions and tags a well. Similar to the fake toys, these boxes are usually of poor quality as well: made of thin carton and plastic, and with blurry printing, muted colors, faulty names and logos, and missing labels or insignia. Other packaging details that should set off the alarm bells: No barcode, trademark and/or ISBN number Licensed manufacturer’s seal or (hologram) stickers are missing Awkward wording that seems ‘lost in translation’.

4. Price
When it comes to pricing, use your common sense. When something seems too good to be true, it probably is. To swiftly cash in on the success of a franchise, fake merchandise is usually cheaply manufactured and sold accordingly. Real deal toys are expensive for a reason. You pay for the quality, from immaculate detailing to basic safety standards of the design and materials, that are put through rigorous health and safety checks. However, retailers of counterfeit toys are smart and many sell their products at a more realistic, seemingly credible price to trick buyers into believing the product are real - ‘for a price that high, it must be genuine, right?!’