Fakes and Counterfeit Magic Cards – How to identify them!

How to detect fakes and counterfeit Magic: The Gathering cards

Author: Thomas Preyer

In today’s article you will learn how to distinguish fake from real Magic cards. The good news: It’s not that hard!

Do you have to fear the fakes?

First things first: You do not have to fear to get flooded with counterfeit Magic trading cards. We sell over 200,000 cards a year. Almost all of them we buy from our customers.

During the buying process, we identify fakes and use them to train our staff. The number of counterfeit cards we find is pretty low. The main reason: Really good fakes that pass the eye test are almost non-existent.

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But, since the early days of Magic: The Gathering, fakes and counterfeiters got a lot better. If you ever have any doubts if your card is real or fake you should try some or all of the tests in this article.

There is no ONE best test

Sadly there is no single best test that will guarantee the authenticity of a Magic card. One of the reasons is that some MTG cards are really old. During the time Wizards of the Coast used all kinds of different printing techniques and materials. Also, counterfeiters got better and heightened their skill in creating those cards.

The field is pretty complex, but we’re not aiming for a full coverage. Rather we want to provide you with simple and actionable tips and tricks.

Test through an MTG store or vendor

Your vendor of choice will very likely be able to make some tests and verify a card for you. But, take into consideration, that not every retail partner will be savvy in this are. We already had a professional seller identify a card as a fake that eventually turned out to be genuine.

At Three For One Trading we are happy to share our knowledge and answer all your questions about this topic. Send us a message. We are happy to help.

The 3 most important tests to identify fake Magic cards

The cornerstone tests for checking the authenticity of the MTG trading card are: Weight, Print Quality and Light.

1. Weight of the Card

For this test we check the cards weight by using a precision scale. An authentic Magic: The Gathering trading card should weigh between 1.7 and 1.8 grams (about 0.06 ounces). A slight deviation in both directions is possible and okay.

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Weight – Above: Fake, Below: Authentic

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So called “rebaked” cards will not pass this test. For the very first fakes counterfeiters used Collectors’ Edition and International Edition cards to creat copies of Beta cards. Due to the glue that was used those fakes were noticeable heavier than real cards.

This test will also reveal most fakes that were made in more recent years, as counterfeiters are not using the same paper. Those fake cards usually weigh around 1.9 grams (0.067 ounces).

2. Print Quality of the Card

You will need a magnifying glass for this test. An authentic Magic: The Gathering card has distinct features. Those have not been replicated yet. MTG cards are industrially printed. In a first step all colors are printed dot by dot and layer by layer. All those dots and layers create the picture of the card that you know.

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Print Quality – Above: Fake, Below: Authentic

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This kind of print is unable to print sharp edges, straight lines and text. Therefore, the black frame and text of the card is printed in a different print type that is not usually used with fakes and is visible with a magnifying glass.

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Green-Dot Test  – Above: Fake, Below: Authentic

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2.1 Green-Dot Test

Within the green dot on the back of the card you can find a yellow spot. Within this yellow spot there are four red dots in an L-shape. In addition, the green dot has to be surrounded by a saturated black circle. Also check the previous test about print quality.

2.2 Print Layer

We have learned this before: Cards are printed in various layers and you can see those with your magnifying glass. The black card frame on the front, the mana cost of the card, the set symbol and its text are printed at the end of the printing process.

2.3 Rosette pattern

The pattern of the printed dots has to be even and not blurry. Again, the type of print used can be seen with a magnifying glass.

3. Light test – direct & indirect

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You have to compare the card in question with a similar known authentic card. On the one hand you check how opaque the card is and on the other hand you check the reflection with a black light.

It is important to compare the suspected fake with a card from the same set and color. Skipping this step can easily result in a false positive.

Black Light Test – Left: Authentic, Right: Fake

3.1  Light permeability

The suspected fake should, if real, let through the same amount of light as a genuine MTG card. The light cone should be even and show both sides of the card in it. A lot of fakes are opaque and almost let not light through. In some, but a lot rarer cases, the fake lets through more light than an authentic card. In both cases the fake fails our test.

3.2 Reflection using black light

Magic: The Gathering cards are printed on paper that responds to UV-light. Meeting a UV-light source will make it shine. The only exception to this rule is the so called “Alternate 4th Edition”. This set was printed on a different, non UV-light responsive, paper.

To conduct this test you compare the questionable card with an authentic one. In a high percentage of cases a fake card is not responsive to the black light at all and fails the test.

Conclusion

If you have a card that you own for quite some time or you just bought a card you unsure with, just reach out to us through the contact form. We are happy to help!