Counterfeit Cards – A “survival guide” – part 3

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 3 – Weight test

Required: Jeweler’s scale (0.01 gram precision).
Expected result: Normal card weight 1.7-1.8 gramms. Foil card weight 1.9-2 gramms. Numbers are different for each expansion.

If you happen to have a precision scale, you can weigh the cards. Most Magic cards weigh around 1.7-1.8 grams. The new “proxies” circulating the market usually weigh more, around 2 grams. Keep in mind, foil cards weigh more, around 1.9-2 grams. Each set has different expected exact numbers, usually to 0.03 grams, so if you happen to know the target number, this test becomes more accurate.

Precision scale with a Black Lotus


Test 4 – Rosette test

Required: Jeweler’s loupe.
Expected result:
• The cards should have a rosette pattern.
• The text, lines and black elements of the expansion symbol should be flat, without a rosette pattern.
• The green orb in the card’s back should have an “L” pattern with 4 red dots.
• Other unique characteristics of cards, depending on the expansion and batch.

From here on, things get more technical. To understand this test, one needs to understand the printing process of Magic cards. If you inspect the cards closely, you will notice a printing pattern. If you have a magnifying glass or a jeweler’s loupe you can see a more detailed picture:

Rosette pattern on ZEN and Event Deck

As you can see, this pattern is unique for each set. It is almost impossible to replicate the exact thing. However because of that, even every batch of cards produced differs from each other. As such, the fact that a card has a different rosette pattern than another of the same set, is not necessarily an indicator that it is fake – it can simply be from another batch. But then, why the rosette pattern is important? More on this below.
First, here is an example of how a “rosette” pattern is created:


Rosette pattern overlaid




Cards are printed using layers of different ink colours. Each layer has a specific angle in which it is applied and has a dotted pattern. The mixing of those layers creates a “rosette”.
Throughout Magic’s history, there are some parts of the cards that stayed the same. Namely, the back of the card. Despite changes in how the front is printed, the backs have stayed the same all these years. There is a spot that usually is different in fakes: The “green dot”. At the back of the card, there are five orbs representing the five colours of Magic. The green one has a very specific colouring and an “L” pattern inside it made by the magenta dots:

Another spot, true for old cards is the mana symbols and fonts. As we saw above, the rosette pattern is created by mixing different colours. However, the early mana symbols and fonts were monochrome:

Notice how the rosette pattern changes in the “0” casting cost and becomes “checkered”. This is because only the black pattern is used there.

The same is true for the gray fonts:

Here is another example. In this Tundra, notice how the blue mana symbol becomes checkered as only the blue ink is present, compared to the rest of the card:

The second reason we look at the rosette pattern is because if you notice from all the previous photos, the text is solid. It does not have any pattern in it. This is because it is a separate layer that requires a different press to be achieved. Most fakes “replicate” the rosette pattern on the whole card. As such, the text does not appear as crisp:\

Note: There are some authentic cards that do not have a rosette pattern as they were printed using a different technique that does not create a rosette. Such is the case of the Alternate Fourth edition that uses stochastic printing instead of the conventional offset printing. See below: 

Test 5 – UV light test

Required: UV light.
Expected result: Magic cards, depending on the expansion, fluoresce in a specific way.

Real Magic cards fluoresce under UV light (there are exceptions, such as the alternate 4th edition, but those cases are extremely rare and pass most other tests mentioned above, which is why I left this test last). This is the least reliable test, though, as many new counterfeits pass it, and different sets and batches of cards fluoresce in different ways. It should only be used in addition to all the other tests, and it is preferable to use a card from the same set as a side by side comparison:

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

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