I never thought fake Pokémon plushes existed, until I came across another person’s review authenticating his purchase. Now that I think about it, with Pokémon’s huge perpetual international popularity, who wouldn’t want a piece of that pie?
Fake Pokémon plushes are also referred to as bootlegged or counterfeit plushes. They are either factory rejects (small defects like bad stitching or missing parts that are not supposed to be for sale) or made by unlicensed vendors in unsafe factories. You may think buying a fake Pokémon plush doesn’t seem that bad, but the ripple effects may be more far-reaching than you think. Firstly, the profit from these bootlegged products will drive the unlicensed companies to make more inferior plushes. Secondly, legitimate sellers can’t sell their product (since fake ones are normally cheaper), the creators of these plushes don’t get their rightful amount of reward, which leads them to raise the prices to offset the loss. Lastly, with some of the dangerous factories, there may be glass or needle pieces in the stuffing (puncture hazard?), or the substandard fabric or paint may cause dermatitis, or the plushes may even contain environmentally harmful hormones? (I used Google translate?). It looks like there are 3 major companies licensed to produce Pokémon plushes – Pokemon Center, Tomy, and Banpresto/Bandai. Each of them with their own collection and designs. (There are also fan-made plushes which you can normally find on Etsy.)
After much research, there were a lot of information, pictures and sources on this topic. So I decided to summarize and compile them into a list for ease of access and reading. I hope it will be helpful for you when making future purchases.
- Inspect the design and workmanship – most fake Pokémon plush are fairly apparent…
- disproportionate design (The left bootleg looks like it has a big green pompom for that little tuft of green in front of the chest, and the green sprout on top of the head is stitched dead on instead of standing, the ears are small in proportion to the head; the right bootleg had a plastic surgery disaster where the eyes are below the nose? and an inflated head) *on a side note, apparently, the Eeveelution series are the most commonly bootlegged plushes, so if you’re an Eeveelution fan, better check thrice before you buy*
- missing parts (For the fake one on the left, the middle leaf spike on top should split into three parts not however this one did its math, it has a huge nose and there’s no line on its feet to indicate the claws)
- the colour is just off, loose threads or wonky seams or even hot glue to tack it all together (I did a ebay search for lapras, despite the seller trying to look more legit by pasting the Pokémon logo on the photo, the ebay one has the wrong purple colour for the shell, the curled ears and the horn looks very sloppy, the water drop marks on the side of the body looks like random blue skin problem. This one just has no craftsmanship at all and missing all the details and intricacies that a legit Pokémon plush should have.)
- if you’re buying online, many sellers will use stock photos which would all look the same. In that case, I would look through the reviews for buyers’ pictures or ask the seller for another photo.
- Insufficient stuffing or incorrect stuffing – plushes should be plump with stuffing, some may even have beans in them to help them sit upright. (Lumpy stuffing in a substitute plush’s tail)
- If the price is too good to be true, it probably IS too good to be true – many listings on ebay are very cheap and much cheaper than the official site, that’s because they are NOT REAL. Now, the opposite does not hold true though, just because the pricing of an item is within the normal range, you should still double check everything else.
- How the plush stands – Huffington Post said most plushes will stand on its own without any support to lean on because they are “designed with balance in mind”. (My vulpix is a perfect example of that, it has beans in it’s paws to help weigh it down properly)
- Where the seller is located – many reviews and sites report that the majority of the fake Pokémon plushes come from China and Hong Kong since they to have easy access to the designs and rejects. This may not always be true, but if the seller ticks off multiple points on this list, then I’d steer clear of that seller. Amazon might not be any safer, as it still boils down to the individual seller.
- Check the tag – a lot of counterfeits lack the details in the tags. The tush tag date should match the date on the paper hang tag, and that date should correspond to the official release date of the plush, where you can find on the official website. There are exceptions when they re-make certain plushes and the date on the tush tag won’t match the tush tag. Sometimes, the tush tag might miss the acute accent on the “e” from Pokémon, or have spelling mistakes or have different languages on different sides. (The right Pokémon tush tag is missing the accent on the e of “2013 Pokemon”)
- And apparently, this commonly seen tag was no longer used for pokedolls after 2007. So be wary if you see this tag on pokedolls made after 2007.
- Buy from the official makers Pokemoncenter, Tomy, and Banpresto, or buy from licensed vendors such as otakumode. If you can not, do a search for the Pokémon plush you want, and compare the details with the original website – I find Pokévault is a legit website to buy from and they actually provide very detailed description of the Pokémon merchandise (ie. what year it came out, what’s actually on the tag, what’s in the plush if anything special), so if you bought yours off ebay, you can compare with their description to see if yours is authentic.
Do you have more tips? What was your experience? How did you find out the authenticity of your Pokémon plush?
So, is my Alolan vulpix from Aliexpress fake or real?
Alolan vulpix from Pokemoncenter
My Alolan vulpix looks great and feels super soft, and every detail seems matches to the pictures on Pokemoncenter (which I will be referring to as the original) at a glance…until I looked more closely at it. I noticed a few loose threads here and there, but that’s no biggy, I can just trim them off. Hmmm, I don’t know if it’s the lighting, but the colour of the curled locks on top of its head is a darker shade of blue than the pale sky blue in the original. And the bangs of the original is more curled up than mine, mine looked like a half-done curl and the curling iron ran out of power. There were clear demarcation for the front legs in the original, where mine lacked. And in comparison, my Alolan vulpix appears to have orbital hypertelorism in the picture, but she still looks freakin cute right beside me?.
My final verdict is that my purchase is a bootleg?. Thought it might be factory reject at first with the loose threads, but with all the other differences…?. But I gotta say, for a fake, this one is trying really hard to be official. It has good fabric, mostly clean embroidery, even stuffing, and looks all around cute. The tags look legit too! Well, it does look like all the other Alolan vulpix confiscated in that South Korea article, I hope mine doesn’t have hazardous hormones?.
These are the resources I used – pkmncollectors, huffingtonpost, pokevault, and 火蜥蜴1029, and I’m sure there are many more out there. I think it’s great when people post pictures of their bootlegged plushes, it is very helpful when you can actually see where the differences are.
I’ll just end off with this really random funny pikachu picture I found, looks like it’s so fat that it’s starting to melt down?.
*DISCLAIMER: most of the images do not belong to me and are the property of other people. If you see an image here that belongs to you and you would like me to take it down, please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will gladly do so! The vulpix ones are mine.