Chinese Authorities Bust 7 Tons Of Fake Pokemon Cards

Published: November 23, 2021 11:25 AM /


Pikachu sleuthing out some fake Pokemon cards (not really, it's a shot of him in the Detective Pikachu movie)

Chinese authorities have hauled in over 7 tons of fake Pokemon cards intended for the Netherlands. The haul represents one of the largest fake IP busts in recent years and consists of around 20 boxes of counterfeit cards.

If you're interested in the economics of cards in gaming, we've got a few primers to get you started, such as Magic: The Gathering Cards, Digimon Cards, and Pokemon Cards.

What do we know about these fake Pokemon cards?

This news comes to us via Yicai Global, a news outlet affiliated with the Chinese government. In a tweet posted by the outlet earlier today, it confirmed that 20 boxes of counterfeit Pokemon cards had been intercepted at Pudong Airport in Shanghai. In total, the haul weighed 7.6 tons. The cards were apparently on their way to the Netherlands, where they would presumably go on to be sold by unscrupulous resellers looking to make a quick buck. 

There's a good reason counterfeiters might want to be involved in Pokemon cards: they're pretty big business. In December last year, a rare Pikachu Illustrator card was traded for several other rare cards, with the total trade value estimated to be an eye-watering $900,000. Earlier in 2020, a first-edition Charizard Pokemon TCG card sold for a staggering $220,000. It's also worth remembering that according to Serebii, more than 10% of all Pokemon card sales have happened since March 2020, so it's fair to say that the market for these cards is huge. That's without even factoring in the Netflix collectibles show, which is slated to prominently feature the Pokemon TCG. Catch 'em all indeed.

How can you spot a fake Pokemon card?

Fakes are pretty commonplace in the Pokemon TCG world, for obvious reasons. As such, if you're going into trading these cards, it's a good idea to go in armed with knowledge of how to spot a fake. Some fakes are really, really good, but there are almost always telltale signs you can see if you look closely enough. Reading text and looking at symbols closely is important; grab a Pokemon card you know is real and look for differences like shading, spelling mistakes (obvious, but sometimes fakers are audacious), and printing errors. That's the difference between cards that are rare and those that are fake; while there may be differences, professionalism dictates that rare variants will almost certainly still have pristine printing and visuals.

Pokemon TCG Online, a digital variant of the card game
Virtual versions of the Pokemon TCG probably don't have fakes, but the real game does.

Real Pokemon cards use a specific font, so you should make sure it's consistent between a real card and one you've just bought. Fake cards can sometimes be thicker due to their manufacturing processes, and you may also notice surface damage that wouldn't be present in real cards. Some people have advocated using a light test to determine authenticity, but this isn't entirely reliable; different manufacturers have made totally official Pokemon cards which differ in thickness, so you can't always tell an official card from how much light passes through it. The final, last-resort test requires ripping the card to see if it contains layers in the middle, which counterfeiters often don't include. Obviously, this last test should not be your first port of call.

What else is happening in the Pokemon world?

It's a big time for Pokemon right now, both in the TCG and elsewhere. While a new Pokemon TCG Live app has been delayed to next year, the franchise is still going strong in video games, with Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl released recently to solid reviews. Mobile AR game Pokemon Go recently held a new Community Day with lots of events and extras for players, too.

Piplup facing off against Bidoof in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are remakes of the Gen 4 games available for Switch right now.

There's plenty to get on with if you're a Pokemon fan right now, luckily. You can grab Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl from the Nintendo eShop, and you can download Pokemon Go for your mobile device for free. There's also Pokemon Legends Arceus, an open-world RPG heading to the Switch early next year. Thankfully, none of these games are likely to contain fake Pokemon cards anytime soon (although that could make for a fun Team Rocket-style storyline).

Have you ever encountered a fake Pokemon card? Let us know in the comments below!


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More Info About This Game
Learn more about Pokemon Trading Card Game
Release Date
October 1, 1996 (Calendar)