Are Your Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards Bogus? How to Tell The Real Ones from the Fakes

On January 26, at the start of a counterfeit trial in Los Angeles federal court, trading card company Upper Deck agreed to an undisclosed settlement with former business partner Konami Digital Entertainment in a suit involving counterfeit Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards. What piqued our interest about this case was not just that Upper Deck, who had been accused of producing the fakes, was formerly the U.S. distributor for the popular game, but that the counterfeits were sold at Toys R Us.

Yu-Gi-Oh! cosplay at Anime L.A.
Yu-Gi-Oh! cosplay at Anime L.A.
Shannon Cottrell

We spoke with Yumi Hoashi, Vice President of Card Business at Konami, who told us that typically, Yu-Gi-Oh! cards sell in nine-card packs for $3.99. The counterfeit versions were packaged as official Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, but were sold in sets of three packs for $6.99, a heavily discounted price.

This isn't like buying something out the back of someone's car. If you're a kid buying Yu-Gi-Oh! cards at a major toy store chain, you probably have every expectation that the cards are legitimate. If you're a collector, the legitimacy of the card is important, so what do you look for in a card? We asked Hoashi how they could tell that these sets were counterfeit. The answer is in the details.

Yu-Gi-Oh! cards have "security foil in the right hand corner of the card," which reads "Yu-Gi-Oh!" in small, horizontal script. On the fakes, the lettering was vertical. Another major difference is in the color of the foil. Konami uses silver and gold for the trading cards, with gold indicating that something is a first edition or limited edition. The first and limited edition counterfeits featured silver foil. Other differences on some (but not all) of the cards included use of a darker font and thinner paper.

Konami officially filed suit in October of 2008. Over a year later, a U.S. District judge found that Upper Deck was in violation of trademark and copyright laws. The trial that was just beginning at the time of settlement was to determine damages. As part of the settlement agreement, Upper Deck can no longer distribute Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.

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