Spotting fakes

Today's topic is a little different than usual. Most of the examples and the pictures that I write about today have been taken from the page Apathy House (, but I feel that everyone should be aware of the basics on the topic, so I summarize it here. For some more info on tests and such, see the post Spotting fakes part II.

93/94 is a format with very expensive and rare cards, many which fetches sums up to and above a thousand dollars. A friend once said that even though there were only 4300 black bordered Lotuses ever printed, and that a lot of them may be lost to time, there probably exists more than 4300 black bordered Lotuses. Faking magic cards is both easier and more profitable per unit than faking e.g. $100 bills. So how do we spot fake cards?

There are two obvious rules we can start with. First; fake cards tend to be in very nice condition, as it's both harder and less profitable to fake a card in a worn condition. Second; fake cards are pretty much always cards that have a secondary market value, you don't have to worry about your Giant Sharks being faked as it's simply not worth it.

Very good fake Ancestral. Example found at
After that, most bets are off. Even real cards may have different looks, especially the older ones, as the printing procedure wasn't always perfectly similar even in the same sets at Carta Mundi. Maybe they forgot to clean the presses between printings; a gloriuos example of that are the Tempest Medallions, which in some cases have signs of Peanut Comics in the text boxes ( A well known fact, from the days before you had to play with sleeves, was also that the first printings of Mirage was far more glossy than other sets (same with some printings of Antiquities), which made Mirage lands sough after by semi-cheaters who wanted to be able to see if the top card of their library was a basic land. I was concerned about my alpha Demonic Tutor I got a year back, as the back of the card was slightly brighter than other alpha cards. After some rigorous testing I realized that the card was real, but probably simply had been slightly bleached on the back by lying in sunlight for a period.

One way to creating fake cards is to start with a real magic card, and then make it look like a more expensive version of the card. This is most commonly done by inking the borders to make a newer card look like a beta card, or by 're-backing'. Inked borders can be spotted fairly easily, as beta cards have a kind of 'double border', where only the out-most part of the border is completely black (there's also a white dot in the lower corners of the card between the borders). Re-backing is done by taking e.g. a Collectors edition card, cutting the corners, peeling of the back of the card, and then gluing a backside from a legal card to the CE card. If you have a card with a worn front, but a NM back, odds are that it has been rebacked. Re-backed cards tends to be slightly thicker than a regular card, so they can usually be detected via a bend test. Also, real cards tend to have thin blue line through the middle of the edge. When a counterfeiter have access to a high quaility printing press, things get a little harder though.

A clumsy attempt to black-border a Revised card. Picture from
When I get a new, expensive, card, I start by comparing it to other cards that I know are real from that same set. Printing differences may actually be fairly obvious by just holding the cards next to each other. Magic cards are printed using four colours; black, cyan, magenta and yellow. If you look closely at a card you can see a pattern that resembles rings that all blend into each other to form the colors on the image. They are not dots, and they are not lines.

Fake to the right. Picture from Apathy House.
Second, I do the light bulb test. Real cards are slightly see-through in bright light, and a fake card can be spotted by noting that it lets through to much or to little light.

Real Armageddon to the left, fake one to the right.
Speaking of light-bulbs and things like that; real magic cards will illuminate under a black-light. If you have a black-light (they are usually very cheap), you can easily spot some fakes by looking at the cards under the light (note that Alternative 4th Edition cards will fail the black-light test however).

Fake card to the left, real one to the right.
Finally we have the bend test. All real magic cards can be bent from end-to-end without creasing, while a fake card may crease or completely break. A big issue is however that even real cards will be strained after to many bend tests. Any non-foil card should be able to handle at least 10 bend tests, but as you usually won't know how many times a card may have been bend-tested before, I urge some caution before you bend your Alpha moxes.

Bend-testing a Mana Leak. As usual; picture from Apathy House.
In 1998, a series of very convincing fakes of sought-after cards from Beta, Unlimited, Arabian Nights and Legends was distributed on the Internet. Here are some examples of how to spot them:

Fake to the left. The real card has very defined black edges around the Magic logo, where the fake blends together.
Fake to the right here. Again note how the borders around the text is much more defined in the real card.
That's it for today! As the subject may be a little heavy, I'll end by posting a sweet blue aggro deck to lighten up the mood:

4 Lords works well even without the Pearl Trident crew.


  1. Aaaaaw yeah! My shoes in the pic! /Kungen

  2. Internet famous shoes :D Thanks again for taking all the pictures!

  3. Honestly, the bend test is archaic, should die - seeing that current fakes pass it, and real cards have always had the chance of failing it... on top of the fact that there are other, more conclusive ways (like using a loupe to check the dot patterns, etc)


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