Fake or Real?
Overview: We will discuss the variety of imitation LEGO for the purposes of identifying counterfeit parts / minifigures. A brief history of the famous plastic brick and minifigure. Some examples of imitation LEGO items that we will compare with genuine parts and tips to identity false or imitation brand parts. If you want to skip some mumbo jumbo and scroll right to the pictures, feel free. :)
History... Maybe your the type to snicker when you see fake or false Lego in the stores. Or perhaps you even look it at is an awesome alternative. Globally the world recognizes the famous brick and minifigures with the likes of other giants such as Coca Cola, Honda, Nike for example but not as far reach as those three companies... LEGO did start as a wooden toy company and in the mid-fifties, the father-son combo of LEGO travelled to England where they would purchase a injection moulding plastic machine, from another company called Kiddicraft. Kiddicraft started in the mid 1930's with the first approval for a patent in 1940. Kiddicraft had the initial intention of creating a toy that was cleaner and safer than wood. Now at this point I do not want to bore you with the details of how two people started making plastic toys roughly at the same time and Lego was basically the second to start. Lego just grew much quicker. Lego eventually acquired the rights to Kiddicraft in 1981 and after doing so, apparently wiped out as much history as possible in regards to Kiddicraft. So, look at it how you want. Lego is an awesome company but even the roots of the wooden toy company can be questionable to some. Some particular brands that I will not go over in depth are, one being from my home country Canada (I will mention the name once further on) and the other being, well.. I don't even know to tell you the truth. All the power to the two companies in particular for going up against Lego as being the brick giant everyone knows. Although the minifigure by Lego is patented, the extend of this discussion is to aim at the people copying the characters that hold a value and which are licenced appropriately. You just can't do that. Now the LEGO Group does have a production factory aimed specifically at the Asian market. So now that we've established a little history on what we're talking about, let us aim the discussion at who, where, what and why. Then we will compare two nearly identical minifigures which have different monetary values. At the end of the day this is all about money. One end some one is trying to save money and the other end is trying to supply someone saving money, while clearly making money at the same time. Some people could call that business. What we would like to expose is in my opinion bad business, unethical, criminal, wrong and I could go on and on. As long as Lego has a value in their products, companies like this will exist and exploit Lego and the secondary market, it is inevitable. What you see in the above two pictures are actual licenced Lego facilities and worker. That is cool. What is not cool are the people who are copying that. Again, that facility was built to facilitate the demand of the Asian market for Lego.
Who? Mainly overseas where labour and materials are cheap. Well in this discussion I will not be saying anything negative about Legos competitors but I will throw the book at the counterfeiters. Now in my opinion there are two types of alternatives to LEGO.
1.Competitors such as Mega Blocks (Canadian company as mentioned before eh) , Cobi where the companies actually research, pay licencing fees and compete with LEGO. Nothing wrong with that. They deserve lots of credit, I just don't deal with the them. These guys are an affordable alternative to Lego. Some sets can get pricey in the secondary market but nowhere near the pricing and popularity as Lego. However, we have people in the world that don't follow rules and poison the public with no regard. That is a different ballgame because now you're dealing with theft on potential multiple levels. Although I have never actually purchased a box of either, or do I remember 100% correctly but I am also pretty sure the "minifigures" of these two companies are slight variations of the minifigures in question.
2. Counterfeiters, all coming from overseas and more in particular Asia. Labour above all is super cheap in these regions. Materials are also as cheap as possible with not being able to allow the finished item to be exposed in the sun or water. Well that covers about 99% percent of the Earth. So what the hell are they making over there? Well, that is being pursued by the Lego Group as well it should be as it is illegal to copy products and also characters. Now one guy is literally worth pennies and the other is worth say $10. They are both made from "roughly" the same materials. They can afford to sell that same guy at .30 cents because they didn't research anything nor did they pay any proper licencing fees or royalties to the proper parties. Why buy a minifigure that is worth $200 when you can get him for .30? Well now that is the next bug-a-boo. Instead of the counterfeit market offering every minifigure at the same price, say .25, they actually change the pricing according to the pricing of the real minifigure. So, why Mr. Gold for example can't be found in the fake market for .25? He runs on an average of $50 because the real one is worth thousands of dollars. What balls on these people. A lot of people think $50 for one minifigure is a lot of money, nevermind thousands for one minifig. So are the really offering everyone a cheaper alternative? I'll let you decide that.
Where? Overseas brands have nowhere near the same quality control, quality parts, nor do they pay licencing fees. With the increase in value of rare LEGO minifigures, counterfeit replicas are being reproduced at an alarming rate with no control. Of course some people are after the overseas cheap brands, this is understable due to the increasing value of some rarer minifigures and parts. These pieces are literally produced for pennies and although they may seem legit, they're not.
What? The name of the game is to supply a demand for people who are not willing to fork out big bucks for sets and minifigures. Offer a cheaper alternative that you really can't say no to. The ultimate idea is to imitate the most expensive pieces by getting there as cheap as possible. Then allow the large groups such as LEGO to all the global research, engineering / designing the sets, artwork, production, etc while they buy the completed set and make molds of all the pieces they are missing and photocopy the instructions. About 98% of the sellers of fake Lego come from China, Hong Kong, S. Korea, Thailand, and most Asian countries with the previously mentioned being the predominant in the counterfeit market. The most obvious and above all is the price. You will always notice it is about %75 cheaper than the real deal.
Why? Money. Recent years, approximately 2014, with the introduction of Mr. Gold and SDCC characters, the overseas market saw a new market to exploit. Obviously selling what a lot of people can't afford for pennies on the dollar is easy. LEGO has fortunately started attacking back with the governments in such Asian countries assisting LEGO in the court system with stiff penalties. Again, I actually give credit to the companies that do their own research, due diligence, design and engineering, etc. An example would be Cobi. Now, again, on our site we do not sell anything other than Lego products. Cobi although went through the effort to make an impressive tank collection which is pretty cool. You'll have to search for that stuff on your own as we don't want to have anything literally to do with brands other than Lego.
Compare - It's okay to be incorrect when distinguishing fake or real as these guys are trying to fool you!
Every minifigure you purchase will consist of LEGS, TORSO or HEAD - most likely. So ideally you want to look at a few things to distinguish if your item is real or fake. This particular counterfeit is the best I have seen to date for a few reasons that I will discuss. The studs on the legs are very close to the real thing where other imitation brands aren't even close with the spacing and overall look. The painting and graphics are similar and decent for the replica but the printing on the Lego version is overall printed with more graphics and detail, crisper lines. Now without giving it away incase you still don't know, look on to understand what to pay attention to.
First, look at the hips, legs/feet.
On to the torsos, arms and hands.
Now if you are familiar already with which side is real and fake, you can notice right away now when you look at the top of the head stud. They were silly to print the front and back of the torso I assume not knowing the chest gear would cover it rendering it a complete waste. However, it also shows how cheap they can print something with low costs.
Flip your torso over and take a gander inside.
Now let us take a quick look at the heads.
For whatever reason the counterfeiters made their own head. Which is fine but that costs more money. Almost makes you wonder why Lego didn't also do it as the rest of the lineup in Toy Story including the pizza planet alien has an altered head. Its a waste of money and if Lego didn't do it, they probably had the mold sitting around for another BL figure they made and just utilized an extra mold. Who knows. But it shows the lack of knowledge on their end.
Over to the accessories.
Not every single piece has "LEGO" stamped on it. Like the hands. So you want to allocate all the major pieces that do show it to prove authenticity.
Throughout the guide I didn't want to explain look for the "LEGO" stamped on every piece. I wanted you to learn it on your own rather than just looking at pictures. Surprisingly, not many people that I showed these pieces knew that if you look super extra hard, you too can see the LEGO stamp that is cleverly placed in locations that aren't easy to duplicate. What you can see is LEGO goes through long, expensive processes to attempt and secure the pieces they create from counterfeiters. When trying to decipher if you have real or fake LEGO, it is always best to find their trademark located on the crucial pieces that make up a minifigure as show in our guide here. I have fortunately had the opportunity to touch 100,000's minifigures, torsos, pieces. Maybe even pushing a million now that I think about it. But for the people you haven't I hope with some simple analyzing of your pieces in question you can now determine what your working with.