Article summary: This will be a list of tips for telling original toys apart from their China-made imitations. Since toy geeks and hardcore collectors will obviously know these things already, the article will cater more to non-collectors, such as mothers or girlfriends buying toys for Christmas presents.
Here’s an email interview from a student back in 2009, the interview is for his thesis about the art of toy collecting and also about original toys and buying bootleg toys. I can’t remember the student’s name, I accidentally found my old word documents stored in my 2009 folder, I’m publishing this now in my blog in order to shed more light about fake toys and its harmful effects to humans.
Full name: Azrael Coladilla
Profession/designation/description to be used in the article: (may include affiliations with collector groups or with toy stores) one of the event organizer of the annual Philippine Toys, Hobbies and Collectibles Convention, and pop culture blogger.
Toy collections: Transformers, Vinyl toys, Marvel-DC figures, vintage action figures.
Collecting since: 1990 up to present
What are the toys whose China imitations are available here? (I only know of Transformers.) Of these toys, what particular lines/series are commonly imitated?
There are a lot of China made toys and imitations that are being sold in our local market and every time that there’s a new and hot toy item coming out in the market , expect a fake, bootleg or knock off toys
(KO) after a few weeks or months. Most popular toys that are being produce illegally and sold are Transformers, Gundams, comic action figures, anime figures, LEGO, Barbie dolls, GI JOEs, and movie /cartoon characters.
Where are these imitations commonly found? If you buy from retail stores like Toy Kingdom and Toys R Us, are you guaranteed that the toys you buy are original?
Most of the knocked off items are being sold outside malls, like in tianggees, palengkes, specialty stores, bangketas, but I noticed that our local toy stores now carries some knocked off and unlicensed toys like Gundam robot that transforms into a battle tank or a Spider-man riding a motorcycle.
sample of a bootleg Transformers toy
a bootleg set (source)
What’s the difference between a reissue and a knockoff?
Reissue toys are newly distributed toys that are popular or a hit in the past, toy makers and distributors planned this well to make re-issue toys just like Transformers who had their vintage toys style with modern parts, and GI JOE figures with old and new moldings of body and parts. Knock off toys are fake toys or imitation. An actual / exact / bad copy of the original toy with poor packaging, bad quality of plastic and a threat of lead paint poisoning to young children who plays with it.
Why does one need to know how to tell the real ones from the knockoffs (besides likely being ripped off)? For example, are the China copies unsafe for children because of lead content?
It was a big issue already about toys containing lead chemicals and I’m glad that toy manufacturers are now aware of it and have a concern in recalling all toys containing high lead content. Buyers should know the harmful effects of lead content and this is present on all items (not only toys) that are produced and sold illegally in the open market. Knocked off toys are unlicensed items that didn’t passed product test and quality control, and since its an imitation or copy and illegally produced, these items are being sold cheap and carries a low quality material.
Let’s say one collects toys but isn’t really hardcore, or isn’t very meticulous or “geeky” about it (for example, more to play with them rather than collecting). Is buying an imitation as good as the real thing? Perhaps you can answer from a collector’s point of view and a non-collector’s POV.
I really don’t recommend buying knocked off toys for playing, especially for your kid. If you want to receive a good quality toy, then pay the right price for it rather than buy a fake toys that can bring more financial burden to the individual who will be at risk of lead poisoning. There are other collectors who add imitation toys to their collections, but it is only the best and semi-perfect toy and they handle it with care and responsible in storing it away from kids.
On a related note, for Transformers (I’m not sure about other toys), there is a whole universe of knockoff toys and some hardcore collectors also get these toys. What are the types of knockoffs that collectors buy and the types that collectors avoid?
Semi perfect or accurate imitation of toys are mostly being bought by collectors, some toy collectors do sculpting and toy customization, its an addition to the hobby in making their own toy characters. They buy imitation toys to add more effects of the custom toy character they created, like they need the head of the toy, the arms, accessories like guns or shoes. Because of its accurate look, it will be perfect in embedding this to their toy creations. And semi perfect toys are rare in the market and mostly seen in specialty toy stores.
Barbie original dolls
original WWE figures
original Gundam model kit figure
Please share tips on spotting the difference between original toys and fakes. I’ve included some aspects as a guide you can use, but please feel free to add/replace.
Let’s say that we will use a Transformers toy as an example
|Packaging||High quality packaging in box or blister packs||With low quality carton box and soft blister packs|
|Logos||Exact logo label as we know it||Copied logo design in perfect style but added more subtitles that made it so ridiculous like placing a Spider-man logo and the figure is a Batman figure with pink body.|
|Paint||Paint job on the toy is good||Mis match and wrong color painted on the toy. Like seeing a full color red Optimus Prime from head to foot.|
|Stickers||Some toys don’t included with stickers. While others has their own stickers for you to put on the toy. There are manuals and guide on how and where to place this sticker to your toy just like in Gundams||No manual, stickers are already embedded, and wrong logos are placed everywhere in the body of the toy. Like having an Autobot logo to your Megatron toy gun with colors Green.|
|Size||There are many sizes and shapes, but these are shown via catalogs found in toy stores, magazines and internet. And they are official.||Unofficial sizes are produced. With wrong body parts produced in different sizes.|
Any other tips?
1. Try to search on the internet for official and actual look of the toys, go Google it or watch commercials in YouTube.
2. Visit official toy makers website like Hasbro, Mattel, Matchbox, Bandai, LEGO and etc for press release of new toys coming out and an online catalog of official toys that are being distributed globally
3. Ask some toy collectors for advice in choosing the right toy
4. Visit specialty shops like in Greenhills, Festival Malls, and other malls for a market survey of toy items and also ask the people there to determine the original and fake toys.
5. Always check the label found in the packaging of the toys, look for the official logos of the brand, toy manufacturers (Hasbro, Bandai and etc.), this is a big factor in knowing if the toys are original or fake
6. In malls, toy stores inside the mall has their own shelves, area and even sales person. You can ask them directly about the toy and they will assist you, especially in buying original toys. While knock off toys are placed away from the shelves and has no sales person beside it.
7. Don’t buy toys to your kids that is not right for their age. Buy something that they can appreciate the toy’s playability rather than buying toys that they will just break it after a few minutes of unboxing it.
8. Try to educated your kids on how to handle and store their toys properly at home.
9. Introduce them to the toy collecting hobby.
10. If you have fake toys on hand already, just store it away from your kids and replace it with new ones that is original.
11. Attend our Philippine Toy Convention events every month of June, for your research about toys and the hobby of collecting it.
A good quality toy will make the kid enjoy more of their childhood years