004.10 Ways to Spot bootleg toys

Disclaimer: I do not own the images which are credited. Those pictures which are credited are taken from sources elsewhere to supplement or support this article for educational purposes only.

Welcome Comrade,

In an idealistic world, each one of us should have our own set of 1:1 scale figure crowd our room. When we wake up in the morning, there's nothing more we would want most than have our life-sized figures greet us. In an idealistic world, we would be given an allowance to spend solely for our toy collection. But hey!

*Snap Back to Reality*
In the cold, dark reality of the world, we don't have the luxury of buying 1:1 scale figures, nor do we have a lot of space to begin with, no? So we just do our best with what we have. We buy hot toys figures every once in awhile, we pepper it with neca, mezco toys to fill our empty spaces in the glass cabinet..Maybe once in 1 year, we'll try to afford a 1:1 scale bust or some really expensive statues. But we keep it to a minimum, to avoid bleeding eardrums from spouses and parents. So we curb our spending.
When the time comes for us to spend, we spend big don't we? Imagine spending big on a toy, statue or bust only to discover it is bootleg?(if we ever discover it).
Source: Doomkick.com
That's exactly my reaction. I've listed links to other bloggers or websites who point out bootlegged items.
Don't fret though, most of the netizens are here to help us with distinguishing the real from the fakes. Before we go into details, let's take some time to figure out why pirates make bootlegs of toys in the first place...
For the simple reason that they are opportunists:
This reasoning can sum up pretty much their whole operation. Why is this important? Well, Bootlegs don't want to waste time manufacturing toys which have lower cost. Lower cost = lower profit margin. Makes sense? The time and effort to make the toy/figure etc isn't worth the profit.
Take for example, NECA's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series. A few factors contributed to it being highly sought after.
  • The toy is highly flexible and has a lot of articulated joints
  • It is well made
  • It's production was discontinued by NECA
  • Item is in high demand, and you could re-sell those for up to quadruple the price
Read Fwooshs' review of the bootlegged TMNT(Scroll up)

Bootleggers must've smelled the opportunities here. The market is still there...and it's hungry. So while NECA stepped out from the stage, the bootleggers stepped in their shoes, being the supplier. They took advantage of the market, and boy did they earn.
Which leads me to three key points, which can be a bootleggers motto in how they execute their mission to take over the market...
  1. Bootleggers mass produce.
  2. Bootleggers want to produce fast, fast, FAST!
  3. They don't really care about the packaging           
Ok. Firstly, Bootleggers mass produce their stuff. I'm not trying to say that legit toy manufacturers don't, but toy manufacturers usually release only a limited amount of toys...Bootleggers carry on from there. Once bootleggers' ascertain there's value in the toy, They start to mass produce. Often times, their factory line makes use of cheap labor(did I mention child labor?). These laborers paint and make the toys from moulds. Which brings me to the Quality triangle. Cheap, fast, good. You can only pick two.

Good & Fast>Expensive. Fast & Cheap>Crappy. Cheap& Good>Slow
There is very little room for attention to details. The painting is almost always more sloppy(mass production time constraints). If you would compare the original and the bootlegged copy side by side, the latter has a somewhat orange/yellow tint.

Credit: Counterfeitreport.com
Also, in case you are wondering, they don't make their copies from scratch(that would take too much trouble and time, refer back to "bootleggers being opportunists"). Bootleggers mass produce the toys from moulds, usually, if not their own(based on original copies), they would steal the moulds from the original manufacturers. (I heard) Original manufacturers change their moulds every once often, while bootleggers don't. This leaves the possibility that toys further back in the assembly line gets diminished features, inevitably.
Oh, and more often than not, chemicals used to make the bootlegged copies are hazardous, which leaves a telltale smell. Usually lead-ish chemical smell. This though, is not to be confused with the smell of fresh box packaging.mmmhmmm...nice.
Secondly, Bootleggers want to produce fast. Once they catch on the wave of opportunity, they hit the ground running. Why is this so? With toys, there's downtime and peak period. Resellers like me get our toys in bulk during downtime because it's much cheaper, keep one or two, to love and to care for, while reselling the others at peak time(so when I buy the next exclusive-talk-of-the-town toy, I don't have to donate my liver*peace out*). Heh. Bootleggers though, would want to make sure that the wave is high before they dive into manufacturing their own fake goods. And you can see it in their works(as mentioned in the points above).
With that being said, Keep a lookout for hastily assembled parts e.g. loose joints, sloppy painting or even unmovable parts on bootleg figures, whereas the original is movable. Good areas to check are usually armpits, crotch, neck, toes and areas where two different kind of fabrics meet(where bleeding of paint onto another occurs).

Bleeding of paint on the shin. Credits: picchar.wordpress.com
Last of all, Packaging is usually neglected. Usually, if they are mass-produced, the packaging is the tell-tale sign. The reason is because they print out from the sample original packaging itself. By doing so, some colors are 'lost in translation'. Original Manufacturers print their boxes from digital documents/files, hence the colors of the print, is exactly how the ori manufacturers want them to appear. Keep a lookout for areas in the original packaging where there is a holographic sticker or a shiny segment. These cannot be replicated through mass printing. Also, freebies found in the packaging, like booklets, or back card inside the packaging is usually neglected.

Color print of packaging diminished. Credit: picchar.wordpress.com

The safest way to check though, is to compare the item in question beside an original. Or simply scour the forums for bootlegged version of the toy. Just like antivirus software, you have to keep yourself up to date, because bootleggers will always come up with new ways to make their product look real.
Ok so: Let's gather all the bold sentences and form a summary of: "10 ways to Spot Bootleg Toys"
  1. Usually, lower cost toys are not worth the bother for bootleggers. They are always looking for cheap alternatives to widen the profit margin.
  2. Making use of cheap labor means sloppy work
  3. Painting are generally with a yellowish tint
  4. Diminished Features
  5. Strong chemical smell
  6. Hastily assembled parts leading to loose joints
  7. Where the original features moving parts, the bootlegged one doesn't
  8. Bleeding of paint across surface
  9. Packaging colors are more dull as colors are "lost in translation"
  10. If the original has a holographic sticker or shiny parts on the packaging, keep a lookout for that.
Where the real figure uses magnet, the bootlegged version uses the cheaper peg to prop up the
figure. Credit: Tomopop.com

Here are some ebay rules to avoid bootlegged stuff:
  • Ask seller to provide more photos other than the ones displayed to prove that the item is legit. Legit seller or re-sellers wouldn't mind
  • Bootlegged items are usually too cheap. Too good to be true
  • Steer clear of listings tat never provide the original pictures(taken by our amateur selves), or are using the commercial photos of the item plucked from the net.
I hope this helps. And if you have other prevention-methods, feel free to leave a comment below, so the whole community can benefit from it. Thanks!



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