Real vs. Fake Pokémon Cards: How to Tell the Difference

Trying to catch 'em all? Think twice before buying cheap Pokémon cards from unverified sellers—scammers are out to make a quick buck by selling you a fake.


Jesse Sumrak
Updated 26 April 2021
Real vs. Fake Pokémon Cards: How to Tell the Difference
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United States Counterfeit Goods Statistics


$1.3 billion in counterfeit items seized each year
$200 billion yearly loss to businesses

$959 billion (estimated value of the counterfeit market by 2022)

Source: Library of U.S. Congress

Sections on this page
  1. What Are Fake Pokémon Cards?
  2. Where Are Fake Pokémon Cards Sold?
  3. How to Spot Fake Pokémon Cards (11 Ways)
  4. Identifying Fake Pokémon Cards By the Listing
  5. What to Do If You Purchased Fake Pokémon Cards
  6. Where to Buy Real, Authentic Pokémon Cards
  7. Frequently Asked Questions

The Pokémon trading card game has been around for decades, giving scammers plenty of time to fine-tune their counterfeiting craft. Today, it's more difficult than ever to tell a real from fake Pokémon cards, but there are tell-tale signs if you know what to look for.

Pokémon cards have received renewed interest in recent months, with eBay claiming an 83% increase in Pokémon card sales in 2020.

"With nostalgic favorite Pokémon celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, revisiting childhood memorabilia has proven a popular form of entertainment during lockdown," says Priyanka Patel, a senior trading manager at eBay UK. "As a result, we've seen a significant growth in the category and, in turn, a huge demand for more lucrative, limited edition cards."

Unfortunately, scammers noticed the trend, and they're upping their tactics to steal money from innocent buyers. Whether you're planning on buying a Pokémon pack or a rare limited-edition card, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know to avoid getting scammed.

What Are Fake Pokémon Cards?

Fake cards are counterfeit versions that scammers make to imitate real Pokémon cards. While it's not illegal to make Pokémon cards, it is illegal to sell them.

Pokémon cards have real value, and a single card can be priced as high as $125,000. That's why it's essential to make sure you're buying the real deal whenever you make an online purchase or from a local seller.

The value of Pokémon cards comes from their authenticity and rarity. When a card is fake, it's practically worthless. If you compete in tournaments, you could face penalties and even permanent bans if you're found using these cards.

Where Are Fake Pokémon Cards Sold?

Scammers notoriously use e-commerce sites like eBay and AliExpress to sell fake Pokémon cards. Legitimate sellers use these sites, too, but you'll need to approach everything with a degree of caution.

However, even seemingly legitimate sellers can be selling fake Pokémon cards. For example, Chris Camillo (an investor) live-streamed opening a $375,000 deck of first-edition Pokémon cards, only to find out that they were fake. The third-party seller went unnamed, but it had to be someone Chris trusted if he was willing to set aside close to half a million dollars for the purchase.

How to Spot Fake Pokémon Cards (11 Ways)

Fake Pokémon cards come in various forms. Some are obviously fake with typos, incorrect titles, unrealistic HP values, and more. Others have subtle details you'll have to look keenly at to discover. Then, there are the master counterfeit cards, and these take a trained eye to detect.

Here are 11 things to pay attention to when looking for a fake.

1. Foiling

Original Pokémon cards never had a heavy foiling over the entire face of the card. Some of the images were holographic, but this didn't cover the rest of the card—and the foiling was minimal to maintain readability. Fake cards are often very shiny to mimic the rarity and value of holographic Pokémon, but they tend to go a bit overboard and include the foiling over the text boxes.

2. Size of the Card

Most fakes are smaller than authentic Pokémon cards. When in doubt, hold your questionable card up to your standard Pokémon cards (like energy cards) to see if it's the same size. Authentic Pokémon cards are all the same size, so if there's any disparity, the card in question is fake.

3. Clarity

Fake cards often have blurry text, especially in the smaller characters within the Pokémon action descriptions.

Real vs fake Pokémon card (blurry)
Fake Pokémon cards will have imperfections, including blurry images and text.

4. Coloring

Check the back of your Pokémon cards and look at the blue border. Real Pokémon cards use a deep, rich blue color, whereas fakes often use more vibrant blues.

Real vs fake Pokémon cards
The back of the Pokémon card should have a rich, deep blue color.

5. Bend Test

If you slightly bend a genuine Pokémon card, you'll hear an audible snapping-like sound. That's because they're printed on rich, higher-quality paper. It's also harder to create a crease when you bend a genuine Pokémon card.

When you bend a fake Pokémon card, it hardly makes a noise because they tend to use cheap, low-quality paper, and it will be easy to crease.

6. Light Test

Shine a flashlight on the card. If the light passes through easily, there's a good chance it's a fake. Real Pokémon cards have more than one layer, making it difficult for the light to pass through.

7. Border

Fake cards often have borders with unequal yellow borders around the edges. Real Pokémon cards have the same yellow border width around all four sides of the card.

Real vs fake Pokémon card (border)
Fake Pokémon cards will often have uneven borders.

8. Pokémon Characteristics

Check your Pokémon's health and attack attributes. At 340 HP, Snorlax VMAX has the highest HP of any Pokémon card. If your card's HP exceeds that number, it's a fake. The same goes for points of damage. Shadow Lugia is the only Pokémon with an attack of at least 1,000 points of damage. If your card in question exceeds that, it's a fake.

9. Weight

Real Pokémon cards are slightly heavier than fakes due to the extra high-quality layers used to make the card. The difference is minimal, so this is a difficult way to test, but it's a simple red flag to get you to look closer at other indicators.

10. Misspellings

Scammers will sometimes get the spelling wrong for the Pokémon's name and actions. For example, the fake card here uses the name "Wartortleh" when the Pokémon's real name is "Wartortle."

11. Evolution Errors

Fake Pokémon cards often get minor details wrong. Check the genuine card information on the Pokémon website to make sure your card is legit.

Identifying Fake Pokémon Cards By the Listing

Before you even take a look at the card, analyze the product listing to detect if it's a scam. Scammers use the same tactics across industries, making it easy to spot some red flags:

  • Seller Discrepancies: Does the seller's listed name match up with their contact information?
  • Fake Reviews: If the product has thousands of 5-star reviews for a limited-edition Pokémon card, you can be confident it's a fake.
  • Bad Reviews: If other buyers fell for the trap first, they may have left a descriptive review with images. Always take a look to see if there are any scam reports.
  • Copy: Check the product listing and description for any typos or grammar errors.
  • Images: Ensure the images used in the product listing are actual pictures taken by the seller and not photos they've taken from off the internet.

What to Do If You Purchased Fake Pokémon Cards

If you think you've been scammed, take immediate action to stop the scammer from tricking anyone else and attempt to recover your money. Available remediation will depend on the platform you used for the transaction.

Here's what to do if you purchased a fake Pokémon card:

  • eBay: If you bought a fake Pokémon card off of eBay, contact eBay's Resolution Center. eBay doesn't tolerate fraud or counterfeit items—they'll honor your Money Back Guarantee if you convince them the items are fake.
  • Craigslist: There's little protection if you've been scammed on Craigslist. Still, it's essential to protect yourself and others from future scams, so report the issue to the correct party via Craigslist's contacts.
  • Amazon: Do your best to solve the issue on your own first—that means contacting the Amazon seller, explaining the problem, and requesting a refund. If you're not satisfied with the seller's response, then escalate the situation with Amazon customer service and file an A-to-Z Guarantee to request a refund.
  • Police Department: Report the scam to the FBI's digital division.
  • Credit Card Company: If you purchased fake Pokémon cards with a credit card, contact your credit card company and request a chargeback.

Credit Cards Offer More Protection

Many credit cards offer decent fraud protection coverage and will either reverse the charges or refund you the amount you were scammed out of. 

Where to Buy Real, Authentic Pokémon Cards

The best place to buy authentic Pokémon cards is at a local game store or a reputable seller. It's always going to be hard to guarantee a card's authenticity when you're buying from a seller you don't know on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or an e-commerce website.

Here are a few reputable stores where you can buy legitimate Pokémon cards:

  • Pokémon Center: The Pokémon Center is Pokémon's official line shopping destination, so you can trust any purchase you make here.
  • TCGPlayer: This is a reputable online shop for buying any card collectibles.
  • Troll and Toad: Troll and Toad sell authentic card packs for everything from YuGiOh to Pokémon to Magic: The Gathering.
  • Local Game Stores: You can trust just about any local brick-and-mortar shop that sells Pokémon cards.
  • Gamestop: Some Gamestops sell original Pokémon cards.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if my Pokémon cards are fake?

There are many tell-tale signs of fake Pokémon cards to look for, including the card coloring, misspelled words, foiling, and the size and weight of the card.

Where are fake Pokémon cards sold?

Many online stores and classified websites have fake Pokémon cards for sale. Be especially wary when buying cards from sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay.

What do I do if I buy a fake Pokémon card?

If you accidentally purchase a fake, you should report the seller to the site you used to buy it and contact your bank or credit card company to see if they can reverse your charges (if you paid by card). 

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