By Masa Nakamura (translated)
Its happened to alot of us! You buy a Pokemon plushie and there is something just not right about it. You bought it on Ebay, so you think you are safe from counterfeit or bootleg plush toys. BUT, you were wrong! In fact, I see more bootleg Pokemon plush and figures than real ones on Ebay. It kills me to even look at Ebay. Right now I can see over 20 bootleg Umbreon plush toys on ebay as I write this. It has become so common to see bootleg plushies on Ebay, that most people don’t even notice or they can’t tell which ones are real and which ones aren’t. I will give you some helpful tips so that you don’t buy a fake plush and regret it later.
It is not easy to tell which Pokemon plush toys are real and which ones are bootlegs. The manufacturers have gotten very good at reproducing them to look almost perfect. For parents, this can be especially hard because most parents don’t know what an Umbreon or an Eevee is. This link is from the Pokemon community regarding bootleg Pokemon plush. Its very helpful
Here is a perfect example of a FAKE UMBREON Plush currently on Ebay.
As cute as this plushie is, it is 100% FAKE!!!! This Umbreon was never sold in Japan and was not licensed by Nintendo. It is 100% counterfeit. You will see quite a few of them on Ebay with several unsuspecting bidders who are about to get burned. An easy way to spot this bootleg is the fact that every seller that is selling it is either from Hong Kong or China. There are no sellers in Japan selling this plush because it was never sold in Japan. Actually it was never sold anywhere. It was completely made at a factory as a bootleg. Another way to tell is that the seller intentionally doesn’t show the tag in the picture (probably because there isn’t even one). Also another hint is that all the sellers selling this Umbreon are using the same 1 or 2 pictures. A dead giveaway that they are selling the same fake product that probably came from the same factory in China or Hong Kong.
Here is a few guidelines to follow that should help you when buying a Pokemon plush toy.
1. If it seems to be a “steal” of a price, then it probably is too good to be true. This may sound like an old cliche, but it still holds true. You will see this on auction sites a lot. A beautiful Umbreon Pokedoll for $9.99 buy it now price.
Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, you probably just got taken and you don’t even realize it. But if you think about it, common sense says don’t buy it. If the Pokemon center in Japan originally sold them for $10 (now about $13-14 with the current exchange rate) and the Pokedoll has been sold out for 2 years and all the other sellers in Japan are selling them for $50-$90, then you should know that something is wrong. More than likely you will receive a cheap knockoff, counterfeit, fake or factory reject plush toy. I have to admit, some of the knockoffs are pretty good these days. Sometimes you cant really tell the difference. But, a lot of times it will have poor stitching, different fabric, or even missing parts.
2. NEVER buy items directly from Hong Kong or China. And I mean NEVER. This may sound prejudice, but these two countries are notorious for bootleg Pokemon products. It is true that all Pokemon toys are made in China, but they are not allowed to be sold in China. If you read the tag on all Japanese Pokemon products, it will say on the tag that they are “ONLY SOLD IN JAPAN“. This can be hard to read when its in Japanese, but trust me, its there. If you really think about it, how does a seller in Hong Kong or China buy these toys for normal price (Pokedolls for example are ONLY sold at the Pokemon Center and there is no way to buy them at wholesale prices. Everyone must pay the same retail price), then pay for shipping from Japan to Hong Kong or China, and then sell them for less than they cost. It doesn’t make sense. There is just no way it can be done. There is only one way this can be done. They are bootlegs!!!! And whats more, they seem to have an endless supply. If a seller has for example “more than 10 available” of the Umbreon Pokedoll, guess what, they are fakes. This usually occurs when Some of the factories where they are produced make too many or have some rejects that don’t measure up to standards and are discarded. These rejects or extras are then bought for almost nothing and sold on internet sites as legitimate products. Most of the time there will be poor stitching, no tag (and I dont mean the small white tag that is sewn into the plush toy. There should be another tag (usually red or blue in color) that is attached to the plush by a plastic wire.
You will also notice that one day there is no “Umbreon” pokedolls (for example) on ebay and then all of a sudden there are 20 different listings for Umbreon. All the sellers are in China or Hong Kong. This is because they just got a new fake shipment in.
I have lived in Japan all my life and I have been to both of these countries many times. Its unbelievable how big of a problem its become. You can go to any of the famous “imitation” tourist areas in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, or Taiwan and see thousands and thousands of fake Pokemon items. They are sold everywhere and nobody says anything. Everyone knows they are bootlegs and most people who live in these countries don’t buy them, but somehow they make their way to the buyer who is unaware of where they came from. I have many good friends from both of these countries and they say the exact same thing. Bootlegging has become so common that its not even looked down upon.
3. Check how many identical items they have for sale This can be really a really good idea to follow. Although I cant say that this applies to all sellers, its a good idea to check how many identical items the seller is selling, especially if it is a rare Japanese Pokemon plush toy. If the seller has 10 or 20 of a very rare Pokedoll and selling them for half of the price of the Japanese sellers, then you should be suspicious.
4. Check the sellers feedback, but DON’T RELY ON IT
Check the sellers feedback, but don’t look at how many positives they have or what percentage of positive feedback that they have. Normally it would be true that sellers with 5,000 positive comments and a 99% positive feedback rating are legitimate. THIS IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE THAT PEOPLE MAKE!!!! Instead, read their negative or neutral comments. If you see comments like “The plush didn’t have a tag”, or “The stitching was bad”, “The color was different”, “There was something not right with the plush”, “I think I got a bootleg”, or anything else that suggests that the person is not legitimate, then DO NOT BUY FROM THIS PERSON. You will almost positively get a bootleg. The biggest problem with the feedback on Ebay is that when most people buy a counterfeit plush, they don’t even know it. They then give the seller a positive feedback. So, the seller gets thousands of positive comments, although laughing the whole time that he is ripping people off. Also, be aware that some sellers manipulate people into giving them good feedback. I have heard story after story about sellers in Hong Kong and China who will give a refund if the buyer complains, BUT only after the person changes the feedback to positive. So, many feedbacks that would be negative get recorded as positive.
5. Make sure the item you want to buy shows the tag in the picture and not just a generic “stock” picture.
Several years ago, the easiest way to tell that the item was a bootleg is that it didn’t have a tag. The pokedolls are the most commonly counterfeited plush toys. They now come with a blue star shaped tag that has a matching picture of the character on the tag (ex. Snivy has a picture of Snivy on the tag). Most sellers who sell counterfeit items do not show the tag in the picture (as most of the bootlegs don’t even have a tag). But now, the sellers have gotten a little smarter and put tags on them. Although, they are not always the correct tag. They figure a tag is better than no tag at all.
Counterfeiters will use whats called a “stock” photo which means they took the picture off the pokemon website, or some other place. Stock photos usually don’t show the tag. they just show a picture of the plush Pokemon toy. This is an easy way for the counterfeiter to show the product without showing the actual “real” picture of the item.
6. Stick to sellers that you know if possible
If you have bought from a seller before and you have had a good experience with them, then stick with them. Its better than taking a chance on a seller that you don’t know. If you do have to buy from a seller than you don’t know, I highly recommend that you buy from a Japanese seller. I’m not just saying this because I am Japanese, but because Pokemon is a Japanese copyrighted product. There are no fake Pokemon toys sold in Japan. You are almost 100% sure to get an authentic product when buying from a Japanese seller.
7. Use common sense
The best advice I can give is that use your best judgment. If the item seems too cheap to be real, than avoid it. If you do buy it, you run the risk of buying a toy that contains lead (as most of the fake bootleg figures do) or harmful chemicals in the fabric dye which is hazardous to your health. Plus you are supporting sweatshops that force children to work long hours with little pay. You may think that you are getting a good deal and nobody is getting hurt, but look at the bigger picture and you will see that there is more too it than you getting a cheap price. In the end you will be happier if you buy a nice, authentic, quality product that will last a long, long time instead of falling apart soon after you buy it.
Unfortunately there isn’t much that can be done to stop the people who are selling the counterfeit Pokemon plush toys. I have tried numerous times to contact Ebay, Nintendo, trade associations, etc. and nobody seems to be able to do anything. Ebay is the worst as they don’t care what people sell as long as they are making money. The best way to stop bootlegging is to inform everyone you know. If people don’t buy these items, then it will put these people out of business for good.
8. List of KNOWN BOOTLEGGERS
This is a list of Ebay sellers that you should NEVER buy from under any circumstance. They have had complaints about them, or have sold bootleg products in the past. This list constantly changes as most of the sellers keep changing their usernames to avoid people catching on.
If you have any other known bootleggers to report, please email Pokezine and let them know and they will update the list. Also pass on this article to your friends and post it on Pokemon blogs, sites and chat rooms. Alot of people have no idea that they are buying bootlegs. Lets puts these losers out of business forever.