Counterfeit Cards – A “survival guide” – part 2

Edward Zinger L1, Greece 

Edward Zinger L1, Greece 

Edward is a L1 from Athens, Greece. One of the longest standing community member and an avid legacy player, Edward has largely helped shape Athens’ player base and has been invaluable in kickstarting the Greek judge conferences, back in 2015.

Edward has been tracking and reporting on counterfeit cards for years and in the Europe East community he is considered the expert on the topic. His presentation on fakes during the Europe East conference, 2018 received the highest rankings across all (!) categories rated.

Test 1 – Hands on experience – understanding factory differences

Required: Access to multiple cards.
Expected result: Firsthand knowledge of factory printing standards and variations.
To evaluate fake from real, get hands on experience with a lot of real.

This is by far the most important test. And the most vague as there is no specific example… Most cards can be made to look like the real thing, but people that have handled many original cards and paid attention to how they look and feel, understand the difference by experience. If one has seen enough Revised cards, one knows what to expect to find. How most of those cards look, smell, feel.
As it was mentioned above, while there is a general guideline, this is not set in stone. It is not as strict as it is with banknotes. One knows that the newer cards printed in the US have a different texture than the ones printed in Belgium or Japan. One knows of certain batch errors, such as the double-printed Zendikar cards… And so on.


Two foil cards, side by side
American foils in Guild of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance have a “transparent” watermark that the foil layer shines through, whereas Belgian ones have the watermark being “opaque”



3 "Ritual of Soot" cards with colour variation
The left two cards were from Standard Showdown packs printed using the Japanese cardstock. The right one is from Europe. The texture feel in the Japanese stock is matte and the colours are more washed out compared to the European card, which has a “satin” varnish and more pronounced colours.


Two kaladesh masterpiece cards with foiling differences highlighted
Distinct printings of Kaladesh Masterpiece cards. All original, all different

So for this “test” one that wants to be good at identifying fakes, the best thing to do is to acquire a “sample” of each of them. If you have 1-2 common cards from each set, you generally know what to expect when seeing cards of the same expansion. The more you have available for comparison, obviously, the better.


Test 2 – Light test

Required: LED torchlight (or a cellphone with camera torchlight).
Expected result: Light passes with a bluish hue. Card’s art shines blue though the other side of the card.

Magic cards are printed on “blue core” paper. The stock has changed throughout the years, but the same principles are applied in its production. It is a three-layered cardstock that has a blue layer in between. That blue layer can be seen if one takes a torch and shines through the card. (A simple cell phone camera torch does the trick just fine). From the front of the card, the back shines through, showing the Magic logo. From the back, the card’s artwork shines though. The middle layer is distinctly blue. Fake cards are usually black or white core, and either don’t shine through at all or the colouring is not blue:

The "light test" through a mox sapphire

Light tests through legacy cards


This article is part of a series: Counterfeit Cards – A “survival guide”
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