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Spotting Counterfeit Magic: The Gathering Cards

To identify fake Magic: The Gathering singles we should first understand how they are printed. Magic: The Gathering cards are printed on a card stock consisted of several special layers of paper that have been glued together with specific thickness and weight. They are then printed through a method called offset printing using 4 colours known as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) with each colour separately rolled on. A final layer of black is also printed on which provides the crisp clean black of the borders, text and symbols. They are then finally cut using a die press. This process is expensive to replicate and therefore counterfeits have identifying features that stand out compared to authentic cards.

Force of Will from Alliances. One of them is a fake.

Important Notes:

It is important to note that counterfeits have been improving and some of these methods may not be dependable in the future.

  • Vintage and recent Magic: The Gathering cards also use different card stock.
  • Variances in colouration, tint or sharpness are not guaranteed to be fake.
  • Alpha cards have rounder corners.
  • There are now counterfeit blue core cards.
  • New fakes have very similar Rosetta patterns to authentic cards.


Best Methods

These methods are always our go-to tests whenever we encounter a suspicious card. They are non-destructive and generally easy to use.

Light Test

Magic cards are semi-transparent when held above a light. You should see and be able to read the text on the reverse side and the rough textured waviness of the blue core paper for authentic cards. Vintage cards will not have the rough textured blue core paper but will be semi-transparent. Counterfeit or re-backed cards do not or let very little light to pass through. Many fakes we come by tend to have a glossier/shinier texture as well.

Authentic MTG cards let more light through, enough to read the text on the other side.


Loupe Test

A loupe is always a key tool when checking for collector items’ authenticity and we always have one handy when sorting our cards. Using a loupe or microscope can assist with identifying the different printing pattern that counterfeiters have yet to fully replicate. Here are some characteristics to look out for.

Authentic cards have a clean, pure black text, artist name, mana cost and border.

Authentic cards have four red dots in the shape of an “L” in the green dot on the back of the card.

Weight & Thickness Test

Weight and thickness tests are only great for checking re-backed cards. All cards are approximately 0.305mm thick and 1.73g(with variances of ±0.02g) unsleeved with foil cards being slightly thicker and heavier.


Other Tests

Black Light Test

Authentic cards will glow under a black light.


Bend Test

Authentic cards can bend to the point where both short ends of the card touch without creasing or leaving a permanent crease (Note that repeating a bend test on any authentic card will cause it to crease the card). Authentic foils are likely to crease with this method so it is not recommended for foil cards. We attempted this test and both authentic and fake passed so we do not recommend this method.

Water Test

Authentic cards are quite resilient to water. Using a damp q-tip and gently wiping it on the surface can cause some fakes and inked cards to bleed. We don’t recommend this method for foils as if you get water under the foil it will cause it to wrinkle.
As we tried the water test we noticed the fake had a more rough texture as if it was unpolished compared to the authentic. The q-tip on the authentic seem to glide and did not soak up the water as much. After a few gentle rubs, nothing happened so we applied more strength to it and ended up scraping the top layer off and getting some weird yellow gunk (Presumable the poor quality ink) on the q-tip. The authentic card’s ink remained unchanged.


Rip Test

We choose not to use this method as there are counterfeits with blue cores in circulation now and obviously the card is destroyed in the process.

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