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Recently, I have obtained many Pokémon cards, but I do not know how to tell if they are real. For example, some seem more shiny on the back then others, and there seem to be many typos like Caterpie EX for Charizard EX. Any ways of differentiating?

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The best way to tell a real Pokémon card from a fake one is to compare it to one you know for sure is real

The YouTube web series "Bootleg Zone" did an episode on bootleg Pokémon cards and compared them to real ones. Consider this picture of a Professor Oak card. One of the English ones is fake and the other is real. Can you tell which one?

Professor Oak bootleg Pokémon card - Bootleg Zone

The middle one is the bootleg, but it's a pretty good imitation. By comparing it to the real one, you'll notice that the color is off a bit, but without knowing the correct shade, you can't tell. The bootleg also has some blurry text at the bottom, but that's tough to spot.

Of course, sometimes it's painfully obvious to any Pokémon fan.

Gyarados and Mewtwo bootleg Pokémon cards - Bootleg Zone I especially love how Gyardos is a Fire Horse Pokémon, and that these are rare 2nd Edition cards!

The full video shows lots of other examples, but the difference between a real card and a bootleg really ranges between "blatantly obvious mistake" or "almost imperceptible difference from the original". Some examples of tells were:

  • Slight miscolorations
  • Blurry text
  • Text in a different font
  • Text with different line breaks
  • A different card feel (paper quality, etc)
  • A different style of holographic film, especially one that goes all the way to the edge of the card (most holographic real cards are only on the Pokémon portrait)
  • A different card size
  • Being part of a set that it wasn't originally part of (e.g. a card with the Neo Genesis icon when it was really part of the Jungle set)
  • Blatantly wrong information (e.g. Bellsprout evolving into Mewtwo)

In most of these cases, comparing it to a real card is the best way to tell if it's fake. There is the official Pokémon Trading Card Database, which will help you spot any text or stat differences, but isn't great for differentiating colors (since your monitor may not precisely match the colors a printed card would appear in your room), and of course it can't help you with determining the feel of the card.

That said, if you got a pack of cards and some of them have obvious typos, I'd be surprised if the rest were legitimate.

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  • Since I am at school, I do not have access to YouTube. Could you do a list of anything in the video that is useful? Thanks – VortexYT Mar 15 '17 at 21:03
  • @simplest_mathematics You are playing with Pokémon cards at school? They were banned when I was in school! ;-) There isn't really any telltale sign that something is fake (otherwise, someone would make a fake without that sign). The best fakes seem to only have subtle differences like a slight miscoloration, which I covered in my answer, or a different feel. Both of those can only be compared by having the real cards available. – Thunderforge Mar 15 '17 at 21:16
  • @ikegami, as the others said, feel free! [Personally, I was going to ask the question myself, but you can have it! ;-) ] – VortexYT Mar 15 '17 at 22:04
  • @Thunderforge , yes, you ARE CORRrect! We ARE Now allowed to play cards at scHOOL! wE Even have our own club for it! Sorry for the faulty CAPS LOCKS! Was fine a moment ago... – VortexYT Mar 15 '17 at 22:06
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    @Malachi Thaf’s why I said “most holographic real cards are only on the Pokémon portrait”. If it was never officially released as a Reverse Holo and you see one that looks like one, then it’s a bootleg. – Thunderforge Mar 23 '18 at 13:14
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You may want to keep in mind that just because something fits some of the criteria for a fake card doesn't mean it is a fake, it could be a misprint.

some of the things that @Thunderforge listed can be the result of a misprint, in which case the card may be worth some money because these are very rare.

But a lot of things are blatant signs of forgery.

  • Card Size is Different
  • Paper Quality difference and Paper Thickness, but this depends on the set too I think, because they may change the paper stock that they use depending on cost of materials

you can also ask a Pokemon Professor, they may have insight into fake cards entering the market and be able to give you pointers in spotting fakes.

you can find a Pokemon Professor just about anywhere that there is a tournament or a league scheduled.

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