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3 Easy Methods for Detecting Fake Pokémon Cards & What to Do if You Have Purchased a Fake

Chill Clinton is a trading card enthusiast and investor who operates an online trading card store.

Pokémon cards aren't cheap, and individual cards (singles) can be even more expensive on the secondary market.  Don't get scammed by fake cards.  Learn these methods for quickly spotting fake cards.

Pokémon cards aren't cheap, and individual cards (singles) can be even more expensive on the secondary market. Don't get scammed by fake cards. Learn these methods for quickly spotting fake cards.

Someone Will Try to Sell You Fake Cards. Be Prepared to Spot Them.

Earlier this year, I ordered a Platinum: Rising Rivals booster pack for what appeared to be a fairly good deal.

But when the pack arrived in the mail, I found to my dismay that it had clear red flags: a crimp line running along the seam and dried glue on its back. At the very least, it had been resealed, if it was even a legitimate pack to begin with.

Fortunately, I used a reputable trading card marketplace with buyer protections, and I was able to get my money back from the fraudster. But without the knowledge to spot the fake pack, I might have opened it, and then my refund would have gotten a bit more complicated.

But way before I became an expert in spotting illegitimate packs, I learned the basics: how to spot a fake card.

How to Identify Fakes

If you're just getting into Pokémon card collecting or investing, it's absolutely crucial that you have the tools for identifying fake cards. Not only are fake cards completely valueless, but selling a fake Pokémon card can land you in hot water with your online marketplace or trade show venue, and it's technically illegal.

Check out these three methods for spotting fake Pokémon cards so you can protect yourself on your mission to "catch them all."

  1. Look at the Edge of the Card
  2. Look for Oversaturation of Colors
  3. Check to Make Sure the Fronts of Modern Ultra Rare Cards Are Textured (Not Including Vs)
Look at the edge of the card to find the black ink layer, present in every Pokémon card. Image by Jess Searcy.

Look at the edge of the card to find the black ink layer, present in every Pokémon card. Image by Jess Searcy.

1. Look at the Edge of the Card

Every legitimate Pokémon card is printed with an extremely thin layer of black ink between the two layers of card stock, making up the front and the back of the card.

The easiest way to determine whether the ink layer is present is to rip the card, but of course this is not an option when evaluating a potentially valuable card (especially one you don't own).

However, if you were to rip a legitimate Pokémon card, you would see something that looks like this:

A legitimate Pokémon card with a thin black ink layer, separating two distinct layers of material that make up the front and back of the card.

A legitimate Pokémon card with a thin black ink layer, separating two distinct layers of material that make up the front and back of the card.

Fortunately, you don't need to rip a card to detect the presence of this black layer.

Instead, look closely at the edge of the Pokémon card. A legitimate Pokémon card's edge will appear to be made of two distinct layers, separated by an extremely thin film of black ink.

A fake card will most likely appear to be one solid piece of card stock, showing no separation between layers.

It may sound like a tough distinction to catch yourself, but once you're familiar with the uniform nature and distinct design of the edges, you should be able to confidently detect when you're looking at the edge of a fake Pokémon card.

A legitimate Pokémon card on the left compared to a fake Pokémon card on the right.  Note the over saturation of colors in the fake Pokémon card. Image from user jadeazora on Tumblr.

A legitimate Pokémon card on the left compared to a fake Pokémon card on the right. Note the over saturation of colors in the fake Pokémon card. Image from user jadeazora on Tumblr.

2. Look for Oversaturation of Colors

Often times, fake Pokémon cards are produced using images that are scanned, and are printed on card stock that is often more glossy than legitimate Pokémon cards. As a result, the colors on fake Pokémon cards will often appear darker and bolder than the colors present on real cards.

Typically, it's easiest to detect these indicators in the front and back borders of the cards, where the colors are darkest on any Pokémon card. Often times, the yellow border on the front will be almost golden, bordering on orange, while the back border, typically a shade of blue similar to some of the darker accents present in the design around the Pokéball, can be distinctly darker, sometimes taking on a purplish hue.

It can also be helpful to look at the rest of the card and take note of any elements of the design that seem oversaturated, while other elements appear to be washed out. This can be one of the easiest ways to tell if the fraudsters printed the card using a scanned image of the original design.

For ultra rare cards, look for the presence of textured patterns on the front.  Fake cards generally do not feature any texture even if the card is "ultra rare".  Note this fake card, lacking appropriate texture. Image from u/A70guy on Reddit

For ultra rare cards, look for the presence of textured patterns on the front. Fake cards generally do not feature any texture even if the card is "ultra rare". Note this fake card, lacking appropriate texture. Image from u/A70guy on Reddit

3. Check to Make Sure the Fronts of Modern Ultra Rare Cards Are Textured (Not Including Vs)

Ultra rare cards including VMAX cards, Full Art Supporter cards, and Secret Rares now feature textured fronts. The pattern of these textures varies from card to card, but the most common texture among modern cards coming out now appears to similar to small ridges—not unlike the appearance of a fingerprint.

If you run your finger over this pattern, you will find that you can actually feel these ridges as well, but be very careful! Running your fingers across the surface of a card can leave oils, and even scratches.

It's always best to use another method, such as looking at the edge to find the ink layer, rather than trying to detect texture through touch. But being aware of this indicator can be one more tool in your belt when it comes to spotting fake cards, especially when you're, for example, purchasing a card online, and can't necessarily inspect the edge yourself.

What to Do if You Purchase a Fake Card

If you purchase a fake card, you do have recourse to get your money back.

Hopefully, if you find yourself in this situation, you used a reputable buying platform with protections, such as TCGPlayer or Ebay. Admittedly, the former is better equipped to negotiate instances where trading card legitimacy is in question, but Ebay may also be able to help you.

Be sure to take a series of detailed photos, pointing out your concerns, and reach out to the seller. If the seller is unable or unwilling to help you, file a formal complaint with a customer service representative who can help initiate a return in many circumstances.

By escalating your concerns to the customer service department, the seller may be more inclined to work with you in order to prevent their account from being banned on their chosen platform. Hopefully this is the result of escalating the claim, since getting your money returned by the platform can take weeks, and might even require you to send the cards off to be evaluated by the marketplace itself (at least this is the case when using TCGPlayer).

*Of course, it goes without saying that you should never abuse this common loophole for fast tracking refunds. Legitimate online card retailers work very hard and are regularly fighting fraudulent claims from customers looking for partial or full refunds by claiming legitimacy or condition problems where none are present.

If you purchased your card locally, via Craiglist or another method, you may find it more difficult to get your money back. However, selling fraudulent items that violate copyright law is technically illegal, and while it would be unlikely that your local authorities would take interest in pursuing criminal charges against the fraudulent seller, you can pursue recourse in civil court.

That being said, between hiring a lawyer, paying fees, and the time necessary to pursue a civil case, legal recourse may not be worth your time. This is why I encourage folks to become extremely well trained at spotting fakes before spending any significant money on cards in unregulated cash deals.

Unsure Whether Your Pokémon Card Is Real or Not? Ask the Internet!

In this article, I've given you what I believe are the three best methods for spotting fake cards, but with thousands of fraudsters out there, constantly trying to push fake products, some fakes have become sophisticated.

You might find yourself in a situation where you are 99% sure a card is real, but there is just one nagging element that has you second guessing your evaluation.

If this happens, I highly encourage you to take to an online community for the Pokémon trading card game and post a picture of the product with your concern. In my experience, community members are often eager to help.

If you're looking for an active community where these posts are accepted, I encourage you to check out the PokémonTCG subreddit!

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