Fake Pokémon cards are more abundant than you might have expected, especially if you’re looking at older copies.
Many can sell for thousands of dollars, or even more if you’re planning to get them graded afterwards.
Given the massive market for singles, we’ve put together an extensive guide looking at fake Pokémon cards, from what to look out for with the original base set, to tips and tricks for identifying modern cards.
Why are there so many fake Pokémon cards?
Why do so many fake Pokémon cards exist? In a word; money.
Pokémon cards are real assets in 2022, and many are more than worth their weight in gold if you happen to be looking at pristine versions. In the eyes of scammers, it’s just a piece of cardboard, and the internet makes it easier to sell fake cards.
Collectors and investors are snapping up lots of 1st Edition copies, and they’re not being as careful as they could be when checking for potential red flags.
Fake Pokémon cards: What to look out for with the 1999 base set
The famous 1999 base set is a great place to start when discussing fake Pokémon cards.
For one, it’s where you’ll find some of the highest prices in the TCG hobby, so you’re always going to find a couple of suspect items for sale.
Here are some tips for what to look out for with the 1999 base set.
Looking at them through light
If you’re able to inspect the cards in person, the first thing you should do is look at them through light. Your phone camera will do in a pinch.
As Pokémon cards are multilayered, they’re thicker than many of the imitations that have made their way onto the market. If you can see through the card, you’re looking at a fake copy.
Another way is to check if the card is bendy, or feels weaker than a normal card.
This would indicate that it lacks the middle sheet. The holo is also another place to look, as it’s hard to duplicate the exact shiny effect.
Age and texture
Tying into the point above, it’s worth inspecting the card stock with a loupe. Check the font and the text quality.
Remember, the 1999 set is now almost 25 years old, and it’s hard to replicate the age and weathering accurately. If in doubt, don’t feel pressured to make a purchase. There are always more cards, and more opportunities.
Card Images & Mistakes
Some fakes are easy to identify. Take this ‘shiny’ Cubone seen below, which is also apparently a ‘3rd Edition’ card.
However, the same can’t be said for this ‘1st Edition’ German Maschock, which had the 1st Edn stamp added with a UV printer afterwards. It even made it through PSA grading, earning a 9. (The card itself is real, but the stamp isn’t.)
Rest assured, you should be able to feel the stamp above the card if it was added with a UV printer.
Fake Pokémon cards: Graded copies
Graded copies are where it gets a bit more difficult.
Most grading companies are experts when it comes to judging Pokémon cards, which is part of the reason why slabbed copies always sell for a premium.
However, I have heard that they’re not always 100% accurate, and they could be caught out every so often as with the Maschock seen bove.
Given they grade thousands of Pokémon cards, it’s almost inevitable that some will slip through the cracks.
However, it’s highly unlikely that any graded copy you’ve picked up will be a fake, unless the slab itself has been tampered with.
You’ll also be able to check out the certification number with many services, to ensure that it matches up to the card you’re looking at.
Overall, it’s clear why graded copies will always sell for a premium price compared to normal singles.
Famous fake Pokémon cards
There have been a number of infamous stories involving fake Pokémon cards, sometimes for eye-watering sums of money.
For instance, YouTube personality Logan Paul spent $3.5 million on a sealed box of first-edition base set Pokemon cards, but what he actually purchased was a bunch of GI Joe packs when he opened them up live on stream.
However, the follow-up to the story is that the seller who sold Paul the fake Pokemon cards eventually refunded the $3.5 million.
It wasn’t the first time Paul was associated with buying old 1st Edition boxes which turned out to be fake, after his advisor Jake “JBTheCryptoKing” Greenbaum was burned for $375,000 in 2020 in a similar situation.
Fake Pokémon Cards: Tips and tricks
There are a number of things you can do to try and ensure that you don’t end up purchasing fake Pokemon cards by mistake.
One method would be to stick with graded copies, as we’ve mentioned above.
Genuine Pokémon cards are made by layering semi-opaque paper and plastic in the middle of the card.
This means you’ll be able to perform a rip test as a last resort. However, there’s no point in ripping a card if you’re planning to keep it as part of your collection.
We’ve also mentioned the light test, as well as inspecting the card stock and the text and font closely.
Avoid anything that seems too good to be true, especially if it seems shady for any reason.
Fake Pokémon Cards Guide: Conclusion
There are lots of fake Pokémon cards on the market at any given time, so be especially wary of grabbing a cheap Charizard without checking out the seller, along with the card itself.
Red flags include blurry images that try to hide the card, or a lack of previous sales within the hobby. Don’t agree to pay for a Pokémon card if you’re unsure if it’s real or not.
Graded copies are a good way to avoid any stress when buying cards, but they do come at a significant premium.
If you’re not worried about the condition, dinged copies are generally affordable compared to gem mint cards.