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Helpful Merch Information Repository - Updated 1/15/16

Discussion in 'Pokemon Merchandise' started by emeraldellie, Jun 22, 2015.

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  1. emeraldellie

    emeraldellie Δ Staff Member Admin

    Last edited: Jan 15, 2016
  2. emeraldellie

    emeraldellie Δ Staff Member Admin


    Pokemon Merchandise Glossary

    Banpresto – The company that makes items exclusively for UFO catchers and arcades in Japan and have no set price because of it, though it is still possible to buy and import them. Mostly plush items, including Roly Poly style plush, but prizes range from hand mirrors to drinks glasses

    Canvas - A series sold only at Pokemon Centers of plush and other items that feature Pokemon drawn in a canvas sketch style. Canvas plush tend to use lighter tones in an almost watercolour style.

    I <3 ____ – Banpresto prizes dedicated entirely to a particular group of Pokemon. Promotions so far:
    I <3 Eevee - Features Eevee and its evolutions. The first waves excluded Sylveon, but future waves won’t
    I <3 Marine - Features water types like Wailord, Buizel, Manaphy, both Shellos, Lapras, Mantine, Marill and Slowking
    I <3 Gothic - Features 'gothic' Pokemon like Weavile, Litwick, Chandelure, Gengar, Absol, Espeon, Umbreon, Zorua and Croagunk
    I <3 Pikachu - Features Pikachu
    I <3 Pikachu+ - Features Pichu, Pikachu and Raichu
    I <3 Mew - Features Mew

    Kids - Small, hollow, fingerpuppet-like figures from Bandai. These are sold in many places in Japan, like supermarkets. Each comes with a candy and a sticker detailing the Pokemon. Some versions of kids have a shimmery look to them, while some older sets had rarer “clear” versions which use a semi-opaque plastic. There are also official shiny versions of some Pokemon that were only available via a giveaway. These are more rare and expensive.

    Marshmallow Sticker - Stickers that are much thicker than a normal sticker and tend to be a little squishy.

    Mascot - Small plush (about 3 inches tall) that tend to be on a chain or hook of some sort

    MPC – Banpresto prizes, stands for My Pokemon Collection. A series of small, detailed and fairly accurate keychain plush that feature a wide range of Pokemon. These are the only plush that exist for some Pokemon. They are typically released in a group of 5 once a month, sometimes based on themes such as type or evolution method. There are also special sets based on the Pokemon featured in the year’s movie.

    Pan stickers - Pokemon-branded bread rolls with different fillings come with these reappliable stickers

    Pokedoll – Small-ish plush that feature Pokemon in a sort of deformed/’chibi’-like form with unique tag art drawn in the same style. Larger, smaller and keychain mascot versions of certain Pokedolls also exist, but some can be more rare/expensive.

    Pokemon Center – Where the magic is! These are dedicated Pokemon stores in Japan with exclusive stock that circulates relatively rapidly. There are some kiosk/vending machine-type places in the US that offer a much more limited selection in comparison. There's also now an online pokemon center in the US, which does not have quite as much as the Japanese centers.

    Pokemon Petit - A line featuring chibi-style Pokemon that includes many different types of merchandise such as figures, keychain plush, and stationary. This chibi-style is different from Pokedolls

    Pokemon Time – Merchandise made by a separate company that features cute simplified art of Pokemon with a unique style

    Pokemon With You - A promotion formed to help raise funds after the 2011 Tohoku disaster. Many wristbands, and badges of all sorts of Pokemon with the phrase ‘[Pokemon] with You’, are produced and sold. All profits go to relief efforts. A new promotion titled Melody of Hope will start in future with other items.

    Takara Tomy – They make a lot of figures and plush that are sold in Pokemon Centers and other stores.

    Type Focus - Promotions the Pokemon Center holds that feature two Pokemon types. Each features a pattern with select Pokemon of those types.
    Promotions so far: Bug/Grass, Fire/Electric, Water/Ice, Psychic/Ghost, Fairy

    Zukan (‘Pokedex’) – Very small single or grouped figurines distributed through capsule machines that usually feature full evolution lines made to scale. Larger Pokemon like Wailord, Lugia and Ho-oh were distributed via a lottery and sell for high prices. These can be found outside Japan as well.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2016
  3. emeraldellie

    emeraldellie Δ Staff Member Admin

    General Buying Guide/Tips​

    The world of Pokemon plush, figures, and other merch can be a difficult place to navigate. Keep the following tips in mind to make sure you don’t get stuck with a piece of fake merchandise, overspend, or be limited to common items:

    0. Don’t support fake merchandise. Many people don’t care if the merchandise they buy is fake in the first place. What you do with your own money is your own choice, but bootleggers hurt people who make legitimate merchandise by taking away profits and making it harder to find legitimate items. They also tend to be far lower-quality and will break easier, and can even be made with unsafe materials since they are not regulated like real merchandise is. Reports have come out of plush stuffed with glass or needles and figures painted with lead paint. This does not necessarily apply to custom merchandise from Etsy and similar places, this is mostly for unlicensed merchandise trying to pass itself off as licensed. That being said, you should make sure that any custom merchandise is high-quality before buying from anyone who makes custom items, and make sure all copyright laws are being followed.

    1. Keep all of these tips in mind for physical locations too. It’s easy to think of bootleg merchandise as an online-only problem, but it happens in physical locations as well. Mall stores, conventions, and other places are prime targets for fake items. You have the benefit of looking at all angles of an item and feeling it to see if it is durable or not, so use that to your advantage when buying at a physical location.

    2. Check the reputation of the seller. This is probably the easiest way to find out if the seller has problems like fake merchandise, misleading information, overcharges, bad shipping times, and other problems. Googling the name of the website/seller can help a lot, as well as checking feedback ratings if it is a 3rd party seller on a website like Amazon or eBay. If they have any negative feedback mentioning serious problems, don’t buy from them. Remember to check any neutral feedback and to read the comments on all types of feedback (negative, neutral, and positive), and don't buy from them if there is any mention of bootlegged items. Keep in mind that on these websites there are hundreds of sellers that sell fakes with stock photos, and they may not even get in trouble for doing this if they do not explicitly say it is legitimate merch. We have a list of good and bad sellers here, but this is not comprehensive.

    3. Shop around. There are many websites that sell legitimate merchandise, but charge far more than they should just because they can. With very rare items you obviously don’t have much of a choice since it may be ages before you even see another one, but for more common items you should price compare at all of the major trusted websites and check eBay/Amazon for any listings by known legitimate sellers. If there appear to be quite a few listings of that item, you should also try waiting a few days to see if you can snag a lower-price one. If you don’t care as much about condition, an item without tags may cost you far less than a mint item with all tags attached/in the box/etc.

    4. When you can, preorder. Within reason, of course. You shouldn’t preorder everything you may possibly want, especially from Japan (see the International Buying Guide) if you can’t afford it. But if you know it’s an item you really want, you should order it as soon as you find a price you can live with, since they will almost always go up in price and very rarely will go down. Most Pokemon items are limited-run, so once the initial shipment sells out, it is gone for good, and then you will have to deal with aftermarket sellers which are a minefield of bootlegs and inflated prices. Many import shops will also start charging more for their items as they sell out. I personally bought a Raichu plush last summer for $40 from a trusted site, and at that same shop as I type this, it has gone up to $80, and that is not uncommon. Sometimes items do get a later international release or a second run, but I would not count on that happening if it's an item you can't live without.

    5. Use credit cards when you can. Or Paypal if you must, though a credit card through Paypal is the most preferable. If an issue happens with something you buy, you should contact the seller first, since it will let you get it resolved more quickly. If they are on a third-party website like Amazon or eBay, contact the site itself if the seller does not help you. If neither are cooperative, these methods give you another way to get your money back. Credit cards will let you do a charge back if you don’t receive an item or there is something wrong with it, and it is very easy to do; usually all you need to do is fill out a fraud report and give them all the information you have, so don’t delete any communication. It also adds an extra layer of protection if your information gets stolen, which makes your life a lot easier than if you used a debit card or Paypal. Paypal can also help you get money back if you get scammed, but they take longer, often don’t refund the full amount, and often make you send the physical item back, so credit cards are preferable. A credit card through Paypal allows you to first request a refund from Paypal, and then from your credit card company if Paypal does not help you, so that gives you the most options.

    If you are doing a high-value trade with someone, then use Paypal and pay each other whatever the item(s) are worth (be sure you select payment not gift, because gift gives you no protection). Paypal takes out a small fee, but think of it as insurance, since in a trade your only option if you get scammed is law enforcement. If it is an amount of money you can't afford to easily replace, the ~3% Paypal takes away is worth it when you have to trust people on the internet. I would also recommend when using Paypal you take your money out and transfer it to a real bank immediately, since they have been known to freeze accounts and/or take money for no reason, and it’s very difficult to get it back if this happens.

    If you get scammed, be sure to leave negative feedback and tell us here so we can add them to the bad seller list. Whatever you do, don’t just give up and let them get away with it, since you could be helping other people in the future not get scammed.

    6. Ask to see additional pictures of the actual item. Real sellers will not have a problem with this and if the item is fake this will often make it more obvious, since most bootleggers either use a good angle or stock photos. If someone refuses, that is a great way to know that they are either scamming or are just a bad seller.

    7. Avoid items that only use stock photos. While some trusted sellers do this, if it is a seller you know nothing about, I would be extremely cautious. Most legitimate sellers want to show off the exact item they are selling, and stock photos either show the seller is lazy or has fake things that don't look as good as the stock photo. This is especially important if you are buying cartridge video games, as most (though not all) fakes can be spotted easily from a picture.

    8. Make accounts early and often. If you are anticipating buying an item that may sell out quickly, you should make an account as soon as possible, long before the item is up for sale. Many websites take quite a bit of time to set up an account, and if an item only lasts 15 minutes, that could be the difference between getting one and not getting one. If you are given the choice of creating an account or checking out without an account, you should almost always create one. It makes it far easier to find your information if there is a problem with your order, and many offer loyalty points or other benefits for buying things on the same account. Collecting merchandise is an expensive hobby, and every little bit helps cut costs.

    9. If the price seems to good to be true, it probably is. Should be common sense, but is important to keep in mind. If a deluxe figure cost $80 at launch and now retails for around $100, and you see one listed for $40 that isn't damaged or anything, it is almost definitely a fake.

    10. Pay attention to the number of items available. This is not always an issue, as there are some legitimate sellers that buy in bulk. However, combined with several of the other issues discussed in this post, it could be a sign of fake merchandise. If you see a rare plush that sold out 5 years ago, and a seller has 10+ available, that should set off some alarm bells. They are also likely to be scalpers, which you may not want to support for other reasons.

    11. Avoid buying things from China. Not all Chinese sellers sell fake things, but most fake things come from China. Sometimes they will have an address in the US to appear legitimate, but it is still coming from China, so pay attention to their user page and feedback for that. If it comes with a box/tags, also check those to make sure that they look right and are the right ones for that item.

    12. Items that are new without box/tags are very likely fake. Especially if they are coming from China. It is more difficult for them to print good-quality boxes, so they will often claim something that normally comes in a box is new without the box. Legitimate sellers should list anything out-of-box as used, not new.

    13. Even on good feedback accounts, beware of unusual activity. Occasionally eBay/Amazon accounts or even whole websites get hacked. One common thing for hackers to do is list impossibly good deals on items the seller has sold in the past (common one I've seen is brand new game consoles for $20) in order to take your money, banking on the good reputation of the account they hacked. Then they hope you never bother to file a claim to get your money back. It's not hard to get your money back but if you're tight on funds it could tie up that money for a bit, so make sure you're extra cautious if it seems too good to be true.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2016
  4. emeraldellie

    emeraldellie Δ Staff Member Admin

    International Buying Guide​

    Many items are only available in certain countries, particularly Japan, and Pokemon merch is no exception.

    For actually finding items you want, Chrome has a built-in translate function, which can help immensely when navigating websites where you cannot read the language. Also, while some items are romanized (amiibo comes to mind), other items will be listed in the language of the website you are purchasing them on, so be sure you search for items properly. Look at how it is written on sources that have the official name to determine whether words are romanized or written with katakana/hiragana.

    Many websites do not ship internationally, so you will need a forwarding service/middleman and/or a shopping service to obtain these items. A forwarding service/middleman is a website that gives you an address to use in the country of your choice. You order items on foreign websites just like you would on domestic websites, except you use their address instead of your own. Once the item arrives, you ask them to ship it to you. A shopping service, on the other hand, allows you to put in what items you want (and give them money), and they will buy it for you and ship it to you. It is more convenient for websites that have more restrictions or are difficult to navigate, but often have higher fees. We will have some guides for specific websites listed here. There are others, but be sure you verify that the website is trustworthy before using one. Keep in mind that you usually forfeit any rights to return items when using a shopping service (unless it arrives damaged, which you may be able to discuss with the service), so you need to be extra careful to vet the sites/sellers where you purchase foreign items. If you use a forwarding service, you can still try to dispute your transaction (for the item itself, NOT the shipping cost from the forwarding service) with your credit card company, but if they request that you send the item back, you will have to eat the cost of shipping all the way to Japan/wherever else, so it may not be worth it unless it was a very expensive item. Luckily, fakes are far less common in Japan than the US, but they have started creeping up on YJA lately.

    If you plan on ordering from an international website in the near future, you should set up your account now, because the verification process may take several days. Because Japanese laws are different, on some sites you need to submit some sort of proof that you live at that address before you are allowed to ship items there. Tenso requires this, but not all Japanese forwarding services do. I used my driver’s license, and keep in mind that they do not need every piece of information on that license, so I blocked out my license number and photo before taking a picture of my license, and they still accepted that. You don’t want to keep pictures of your ID around if you can avoid it.

    Once you are verified, your forwarding service will give you an address, and you must use that address when you are shipping the item. Be sure you type the address correctly because if you make a mistake you may not get your items. Also, sometimes using forwarding services does not work when websites have a 1 (or more) per customer limit, since the forwarding service only adds an ID number to identify you, so it may still count as the same address and thus bar you from purchasing the item. You can usually pay for items using any regular credit card (though some websites only accept credit cards from that country, in which case you are out of luck unless you have one), but they may have extra fees for foreign transactions. Check with your credit card company for further details on that.

    One last thing to keep in mind for buying internationally is cultural differences. In Western countries, you are usually allowed to do things like cancel a preorder at any time before the item comes out, return things with no questions asked, etc. Japan is not the same. They take preorders and other sales seriously, and you are committing to buying an item as soon as you finish the transaction, even if it is just a preorder. It’s much harder to cancel preorders and return things for no reason to Japanese websites, and you will often get banned from the site for doing so, so be sure to think carefully before making a purchase. Of course, if you do actually get screwed over with a purchase, don’t be afraid to use the charge back option on your credit card, just know that you probably won’t be able to buy anything from that site again.

    Here are some guides on using specific forwarding/shopping services:

    Note: If you sign up with my link, you will get 1000 free points (1 point = 1 yen) to start you off.

    FromJapan is one of the easiest shopping services to use for Japanese websites. By default it allows you to search from popular websites including Yahoo! Japan, Amazon JP, Rakuten, etc, but you can also use it to buy from any Japanese website you wish.

    Before you can actually buy anything, you must have enough points on your account to pay for the item and any associated fees. You can either add points directly from your Paypal account or a credit card. You can put as much money as you like down for a deposit, and it is charged immediately. If you do not end up using the entire deposit, it will automatically be refunded to you in 7 days for Paypal or 20 days for a credit card. You can also manually refund your deposit at any time. Keep in mind any additional fees that Paypal/your cardholder may charge you, and the fact that you will have to pay separately for shipping to your country once your item has been received.

    Let's get the worst part out of the way now. As it is a shopping service, rather than a simple forwarding service, FromJapan charges fees on top of the listed price.
    Charge 1 Form (pay when ordering):
    Item Cost: The amount the seller charges for the item or the amount you wish to bid on an auction.
    Commission: 200 Yen flat, with a ceiling of 800 Yen per day from the same seller (i.e. if you buy 10 items from the same seller on the same charge 1 form, rather than paying 2000 Yen [200 x 10 items], you will only pay 800).
    System usage fee: 5% (this is not charged on FromJapan points)
    Charge 2 Form (pay when shipping to your country):
    Shipping Fee: Any fees the seller charges to ship the item from their warehouse to FromJapan's warehouse. When shipping, you can choose a safer or cheaper shipping to potentially change this cost. Note that if a seller offers free shipping, you must chose cheaper shipping to get it for free.
    Bank Transfer Fee: This usually is not applicable, but any fees that your bank charges buy from FromJapan.
    Additional Fees: Any additional fees they decide to add for special/oversize/etc items.
    Overseas Shipping: Depends on the type of shipping you choose. I would recommend any method that includes tracking, but even Surface Mail has arrived to me okay. They also charge you more for extra secure packing or for light packing. I would not choose the light packing option; all of my standard-packed items have already arrived packed lightly enough to be economical, but do choose the secure packing if it is something VERY fragile. I have never used the secure option and none of my items have broken, but I also tend to order plush which will naturally cushion the package.
    System usage fee: 5% (again, this is not charged on FromJapan points)

    Late fees: FromJapan also charges late fees if you take too long. You have 30 days from the item's arrival to FromJapan to tell them how to ship it, and then 3 days to pay Charge 2 once you have received a notification that it is ready.

    Bottom line: FromJapan charges a lot of fees that can add up quickly if you are not careful, so try to do some mental math before buying. A few tips are to buy items sold in lots rather than individually (e.g. a seller selling 5 items for 1500 Yen vs 5 different sellers selling each one for 250 Yen; it appears the 5 separate ones are a better deal at first, but you get hit with fees on each item sold, so the lot is better), combine multiple things for cheaper shipping shipping (unlike Tenso, combining packages is free as long as you do it within 30 days), and pay careful attention to your email to know when to pay things.

    The feature I use the most on FromJapan the ability to bid on Yahoo! Japan lots. In order to find items to bid on, you would search for the item you want (remember to check if it should be romanized or written in hiragana/katakana) and follow the steps to bid on it. On many lots you can "Buy It Now" for a certain price or place a bid on the item. Buy It Now works like buying an item from any other store; you pay FromJapan for the item and they will buy it for you within minutes. Not all lots allow this, however. Lots that are strictly auction-only have the option of either a standard bid or a sniper bid. A standard bid will be placed a few minutes after you order it. A sniper bid will be placed a few minutes before the auction ends. The sniper bid does not cost anything more than a standard bid and is useful for getting the best price for an item. FromJapan will also email you if you have been outbid (either regular or sniper) so you can log on and increase your bid.

    Shopping Service
    In addition to auctions, you can also use FromJapan to buy items listed on any Japanese website. There are a few that will show up from searching, but you can also manually input the URL of any Japanese website you wish. This is useful if the website is difficult to navigate or has restrictions on who can buy items. All you need to do is find the exact URL of the item, type the name, and how many you want, and they will buy it for you. It will then be added to your "group" of items along with your auctions and can all be shipped together.

    Sales and Points
    One bonus of using FromJapan is their point system. Every purchase you make earns points (depending on the promotion going on), and you can use those points to pay for items you want to buy. If there is something you want that has stayed a consistent price for a long time, it is a good idea to wait until a sale is going on. They frequently have 5% off/extra 5% back in points (depending on whether it is a shopping cart item or an auction item), and this will help your points add up even more. You can also earn a % off Fedex or EMS shipments based on how much you buy within a year, though you do have to buy a fair amount of things to get the best discounts.
    Tenso is a popular forwarding service because it is fairly inexpensive and very easy to use.

    When you sign up for an account, they will immediately give you an address to use for ordering from Japan. In order to proceed, however, you need to verify that you actually live at the address where you want your items delivered. A driver’s license with the photo and ID number covered up works fine, though be sure your name is listed exactly as your legal name on your license, middle name included if you have one. They will let you know once you have been verified, and all you need to do is use the address they give you when you check out at a Japanese website.

    Once the item arrives at Tenso’s warehouse, they will contact you and let you know what your shipping speed options are and how much it will cost. They do consolidate items, for a fee, so if you have a few items from different merchants coming at once you can send them in one package. If you are ordering from a single merchant, however, you should try to have those sent to Tenso in one box so you don’t get hit with the consolidation fee. Do note that you only have 30 days to consolidate packages, so make sure you time things properly if you want to consolidate. You also have 60 days to pay for a package to be shipped to you (consolidated or not). If you go past this, they reserve the right to throw away your things.

    Once you pay them, you can sit back and wait for your items to arrive. You can also have something shipped to a different address once you have one thing sent to your verified address.
    Last edited: May 1, 2016
  5. emeraldellie

    emeraldellie Δ Staff Member Admin

    Good and Bad Seller List​

    This is a list of known websites and sellers that have been confirmed as good (sell legitimate merchandise, don't try to confuse or bend the truth with customers, don't overcharge, etc.) or bad (sell fake merchandise, won't give refunds for legitimate issues, charge way too much, etc.). If you think something should be listed on either list, pm a moderator of this forum with justification why. If something is listed on the "bad" list and you would like it to be removed, you may also pm a moderator why, but keep in mind that lists on the "bad" list have often had many, many issues and we don't take this lightly. Do not pm us asking to have your own site/seller name added to the good list or removed from the bad list; these should be decided by the staff and community, not by people trying to advertise.

    Note: Some of these links will be referral links. They will either not affect you at all or, in many cases, you will receive a bonus coupon or points for signing up with these links.

    Good Websites
    [​IMG]GameStop Lately has really increased their selection of collectible merchandise and has quite a few Nintendo items. Things often go on clearance so you can find great deals there, and they often have other coupons. You can also use Ebates for a little extra money back.
    [​IMG]Hot Topic Always has some sort of coupon/sale going, so be sure to check the internet for codes, especially when they have Hot Cash going. You can also use Ebates for a little extra money back.
    [​IMG]Play-Asia - Mostly video games but has some merchandise as well. Will not allow cancellations and ranges from okay prices to very overpriced depending on the item.
    [​IMG]PokeVault -Really overpriced for the most part, but has a huge selection. Be sure to get the coupon code from their newsletter for 10% off
    [​IMG]PokemonCenter.com - Official Pokemon Company retailer in the United States
    [​IMG]Amazon JP Pokemon Center - Official Pokemon Center merch. It sells for the same MSRP as the Japanese Pokemon centers and gets most of the same items, but it requires a forwarding service to ship outside of Japan.
    [​IMG]PokemonCenter-Online.com (Japanese)Official Pokemon Company retailer in Japan. Has some exclusive items, including most of the same items physical locations get, but requires a forwarding service to ship outside of Japan and is not particularly easy to use if you don't know any Japanese.
    [​IMG]AmiAmi Japanese import shop (in English), so once you (pre)order something you commit to buying. Combining orders into a monthly order helps save on shipping costs. Do note that they only seem to have three box sizes, so shipping (from Japan) can cost more than other comparative import sites.
    [​IMG]Tokyo Otaku Mode They almost always have coupons going so look those up before you make a purchase. I'd recommend buying $100 worth of merchandise at once for free shipping (doesn't matter if it's preorders), pick an item that gives you free shipping (most figures) or wait for a free shipping coupon. Shipping is usually direct from Japan and can be quite expensive if you don't get it for free.
    [​IMG]HobbyLink Japan One of the few Japanese sites where you are free to cancel preorders whenever you want. They also allow you to store items in their warehouse and choose when/how to ship up to 60 days later, so you can group things together to save on shipping costs. The 2 downsides of this are their relative lack of selection and the fact that a preorder does not 100% guarantee you will receive the item if you order late.
    [​IMG]BigBadToyStore - A bit more expensive usually but offers a good selection and the pile of loot option allows you to save on shipping costs
    [​IMG]Nin-Nin Game
    [​IMG]Nippon Yasan (no personal experience with this one, but it is safe and has decent prices)
    [​IMG]Tokyo Taku Toys
    [​IMG]Hobby Search Very similar to AmiAmi
    [​IMG]Entertainment Earth Little Pokemon/Nintendo items, but it does get some from time to time. Watch for sales/coupons.

    Good Sellers
    [​IMG]egamestar (japanvideogames.com)
    [​IMG]videogameforless (japanvideogames.com secondary account)
    [​IMG]hobby_japan - NOT the same as the HobbyLink Japan website
    [​IMG]animeraro_com (AnimeRaro.com)
    [​IMG]brianjapan (PokeVault)

    NEW: Star ranking system. This is based on my and the other merchandise forum staff's personal opinion(s) of the site.
    [​IMG]Gold star = best option for purchasing
    [​IMG]Green star = good option for purchasing; may require a forwarding service, be just a little bit more expensive in exchange for convenience, or have a very small selection
    [​IMG]Blue star = decent option for purchasing, usually it is a bit overpriced or annoying to use, but if you want a more obscure item and they have it, it's still a good choice

    ANY of the sites listed above will be safe to use and give you what you purchased. This is just a guide if the item you want is common enough that you have options. One other thing to note is that if you can't (or don't want to) use a forwarding service, some of the small verified sellers may be able to purchase specific common items for you, so give that a try if you need it.

    Bad Websites and Sellers
    Amazon.com (when fulfilled by Amazon) - Some sellers on Amazon are good. When you buy from an individual seller, you are buying directly from their personal stock and can determine if they sell good items. However, anything that is fulfilled by Amazon is combined with all of the items fulfilled by Amazon under that SKU, so you have no idea if the item you bought came from Trustworthy Tim's stock or Bootlegger Bob's stock. You can still buy some things on Amazon (I have had good luck with newer things like these that are also sold in brick and mortar chain stores), and if you end up getting a bad item it is easy to get your money back (be sure to also report them even if accountability barely exists). Having said that, I would avoid anything plush, old, expensive, rare, or originating from outside your country. For example, this is something I would definitely not buy. Or for something that doesn't look quite so bad, this is also not a good choice. It's not worth the headache and can often be found for a better price elsewhere anyway with a little bit of effort.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  6. emeraldellie

    emeraldellie Δ Staff Member Admin

    Fake Merchandise Guide​

    This guide is intended to assist you in detecting fake merchandise. While it is certainly not comprehensive, following the advice in this guide should help you avoid some of the most common fakes. Remember that buying from sellers listed in our Good Seller List will almost always guarantee you legitimate merchandise, but sometimes they may not have the item available or it may be too expensive.

    Before you do anything else, read the General Buying Guide. Many of these tips apply to more than solely fake merchandise, so here is a summary of the tips to help you avoid fakes:
    • Avoid items that only have stock photos shown (when not buying from trusted sellers)
    • Don't buy things listed as new without box/tags if it's supposed to come with a box/tag (real sellers should list this as "used")
    • Be wary of things that seem too good to be true (extremely low price, a large amount of an old/rare item available)

    You should first check out the seller. Even if they are not on our good/bad seller guide, others may have information about them. Check their feedback, google their name, and check any other sites you know of. Any hint of bad experiences means you should probably steer clear of them. Also, try to avoid brand new sellers. Many of the long-time bootleggers will keep making new accounts to circumvent bans or excessive bad feedback.

    Although I have said above that you should avoid stock photos, some sellers who are legitimate will use them anyway. If this is the case, and they do not appear to be a bootlegger from checking feedback, you should ask them for pictures of the actual item they have in-hand. If they refuse, avoid this seller.

    Once you have the picture, you should make sure it actually looks like a legitimate item. Often times bootleggers will take an existing item and change it enough to make it different to stand out or be unique (or they just don't know enough or care):
    The colors of these figures are completely different from any official merchandise. Other common tactics include changing an item that the character is holding (for example, changing a Pikachu holding a Pokeball to holding an apple instead), changing outfits slightly, and other minor alterations. Some people like these types of unofficial merchandise, but be warned, they are usually poor quality and could even be made with dangerous chemicals or stuffed with glass/needles/etc. A cool cheap piece of merchandise is not worth your safety.

    Next, compare it to known fakes of that piece of merchandise. VGMM has a growing collection of pictures of fakes. You can also try simply googling the name of the item or some other words about it if it's specific enough. For example, "Figma Pikachu fake" would probably turn up some pictures of fake Figma Pikachu figures, or an uncommon item like "Buneary plush fake" would help you, but simply "Pikachu figure fake" won't give you much since there have been hundreds of Pikachu figures created. If you are not picky and just want a simple item of a common Pokemon, like any old Eevee plush, Lucario figure, etc, rather than a specific one, you should just stick to verified sites. It'll be much more difficult to suss out fakes without having a specific model name to look at, unless it's a Pokemon that has only had under 10 pieces of merch made.

    If that passes, look at the overall quality of the item:
    I'm sure most of you can tell which of these is real and which is fake. There is not exactly one specific detail that jumps out at you, but the overall quality of the fake plush is far shoddier. Most licensed merchandise is fairly well-made and should not look like it was used as a chew toy.

    If you are questioning whether an item is supposed to look how it does, try the above googling method mentioned above, except look for real items this time. If the item you are interested in looks significantly different from others' real-life photos (i.e. not stock photos) of legitimate versions, that means it is probably fake.

    If the item you want appears to look right, it's time to look for small details.
    What's wrong with this picture? Immediately you should notice it's missing the Good Smile Company logo that is in the upper right corner of all legitimate Red Nendoroids. Small misprints like that are extremely common on bootlegged items. It's also common for any boxes/tags to be lower-quality than legitimate merchandise (think less glossy cardstock, less bright colors, blurry lines, etc). You should also compare any tags (hang or tush) to legitimate ones. Sometimes the same item is released multiple times, so your tag could differ slightly from someone else's and still be legitimate. Different years,different promotions, or Japanese/US/International releases can make a difference in the exact look of the tag. But incorrect years, colors, font styles, and other changes are very prevalent in bootlegged items.

    If you've thoroughly checked the item using all of the above methods and you trust it, you can probably safely order the item. As anyone who has ordered online items before knows, sometimes it is difficult to really examine the item with pictures, so you will need to check it again when you receive the item. Check all of the things mentioned above first. If you have an other items in the same series (Pokedolls, Figmas, etc), compare your new item to your existing ones. Items in the same series will typically be of a similar quality in terms of paint jobs, fabric used, consistency, etc, so if your new one is significantly different it may be fake. Finally, check out smaller details like paint, loose threads, etc. No piece of merchandise is perfect, but official companies have quality control to ensure their items all look good.

    Hopefully this guide will prevent people from falling prey to bootleggers. Remember, if you do get a piece of fake merchandise, don't simply write it off, even if it only cost a few dollars. Fight with the website/PayPal/your credit card company to get your money back, as it will count as a strike against that merchant. Leave feedback anywhere you can and report it to us so we can add them to the bad sellers list.

    Happy shopping!

    Credit to Kirby's tumblr post on fake Koopalings for giving me some of the ideas, Amazon user Squishy Witch for pictures of the Sylveon plush, iconraven on Livejournal for the fake figures, and Good Smile Shop for the Nendoroid Red bootleg image.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
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