By Nora Berger
If there is one thing for Pokemon card collectors to have anxiety over, it is related to counterfeit cards. Especially on the internet. Nine times out of ten, a buyer mentally questions the authenticity of the cards for sale or the integrity of the card seller, himself. After all, the images of the cards might not be a scan of the exact card that a buyer will eventually receive. Even the internet seller could be unaware that the card in question is a fake. Regardless of the circumstances, there is no denying it: counterfeit Pokemon cards exist.
But what about cards that are not for sale on the internet? What about neighbors who sell cards? Tag / Estate sales often feature kind faces. The sellers are sometimes kids who believe that they have outgrown their Pokemon card collections. I am a kid so I trusted Cole* and his “kind” face. I was duped.
Cole had lots of his Pokemon cards for sale. He had Blaine’s Arcanine (Gym Challenge #1/132). Cole had Sabrina’s Golduck (Gym Challenge #30/132) with slightly frayed corners. He had Rayquaza ex (EX Dragon #97/97) , Charizard ex (EX Fire Red Leaf Green #105/112) although it had creases , Kyogre ex (EX Crystal Gaurdians #95/100) , Raichu ex (EX Sandstorm #98/100) with some minor creases , Venusaur (Base #15/102) not mint but close , Blastoise (Base #2/102) that had some wear on the edges , Karen’s Umbreon (VS #91/141) with a bent bottom right corner , Giratina Lv X (promo DP38) , Dialga Lv X (promo DP37) , Darkrai Lv X (promo DP19) in a damaged condition , Dialga Lv X (promo DP17) , Palkia Lv X (promo DP18) , Kangaskhan (Jungle #5/64) that had some minor scrapes , and Alakazam (Base 2 # 1/130) with some damage on the left side. All are English except for Karen’s Umbreon. I saw these cards and I could tell that they were real. I was not too concerned about the condition of the cards; I am not too finicky. My mother and I bought the cards with my own saved up money for about $12.00.
But that was not it. What I was really looking for was a Torterra Lv X (Diamond & Pearl #122/130) card or the Black Star promo version. Cole stopped for a moment and then said that he had one. He flashed it quickly. I was only able to see it long enough to know that it was, indeed, a Torterra Lv X card. He wanted $10.00 for Torterra, alone. It was about the same compared to what ebay sellers charged then but minus the shipping cost so it seemed worth it. I was psyched!
At home I looked over my fruitful purchase to put the cards in my binder. The first thing I noticed about Torterra Lv X was that the edges of the card were just silver without any of the little bubbly looking features that level X and ex cards typically have. My card had the artwork for the Diamond & Pearl set, yet the DP symbol was replaced by a Black Star promo symbol. The actual Torterra Lv X card that had the Black Star promo symbol was supposed to have different artwork. I was still in denial. So I look at the back of the card. The back had less shades of blue than a regular English card. There was a light blue patch just to the upper right of the red top of the PokeBall. On the real cards, there are intricate detailed illustrations there. On the Torterra, it was just a blue blob. Finally, the retreat cost energy symbols were “bloated”, meaning the five points of the star in colorless energy symbols are enlarged without any room for the white circle.
My friend, Jake* confirmed my suspicions. My Torterra Lv X was a fake. I was devastated. I had never been scammed before (or at least that I am aware of!). I trusted Cole when he looked me in the eyes to assert its authenticity and lied to my face. I cannot say exactly what someone else is thinking, but in retrospect, Cole’s hesitation and quick flash of the card should have tipped me off. I still feel like an idiot.
If I had bought the fake Torterra Lv X card from a hobby shop, maybe I could ask for a refund. If I had bought it on, say, ebay or Amazon then perhaps the seller would grudgingly return the money (assuming he was unaware of the fake). But tag sales are different. Ordinarily, the buyer never sees the seller again. I am as confrontational as a slice of wheat bread. My mother, on the other hand, probably would have gone back to Cole and pitched a Primape-esque fit so I kept my mouth shut.
Etiquette, or not, having been duped by a kid just like myself, leaves me a more cynical and a less naïve consumer. I am, however, undeterred from buying Pokemon cards. All collectors should remember this phrase if something does not sound kosher: “Buyer Beware”.
About two months later, I pulled a Torterra Lv X card from a Pokemon Diamond & Pearl booster pack. You can only try to imagine how ecstatic I was; bouncing off walls and the like. It is a reminder that everything happens for a reason.
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