Fakes, Frauds and Facelifts

How to identify counterfeit and altered Magic cards

I've been maintaining this guide since 1997. All text and images are my own creation and I'm grateful that it is still used 20+ years later! A lot of other sites have used this site as reference for their own guides, including using my images. Some credit me, some don't, but this is the original. What's important is that the information in this guide is readily available to the MTG community so everyone can remain informed about the risk of counterfeits and how to spot them. Thank you all!

1.0 There are fake Magic cards???

YES! In fact there are quite a lot of them. I have no official statistics or anything, but this web page is a result of me seeing one too many.

1.1 Why in god's name would anyone make fake cards?

Many people make them just to play with when they don't own the real things (or enough of them). These are called proxies and usually aren't even close to the real thing. They are usually cheap inkjet printouts or color copies pasted on to another card.

However, Magic is a very profitable and lucrative market, and some people create very convincing counterfeit and altered cards as a way to scam money or other cards out of people. This FAQ will focus on how to spot these cards.

1.2 What is an altered card?

Altered cards are real cards. They have just been modified to either hide their true condition or make a card appear to be an earlier print than it really is. Later in the FAQ are some examples of altered cards. I do not consider cleaning the gunk off a card or flattening a bent card as altering it. What I'm talking about here is modifying a card by adding something that wasn't there before.

2.0 Am I in danger of being scammed?

Sure. We all are. Although there are a lot of things that increase the risk such as where you live, where you play, where you buy/trade cards and what cards you usually deal in.

2.1 When/Where should I be the most cautious?

Most counterfeits are found in the cities and/or on college campuses. If you are near any sort of printing school or business be especially cautious. If Magic is very popular in your town, it is more likely counterfeit cards will show up. Most frequently these cards will turn up at tournaments or conventions, and sometimes at other large trade gatherings that are open to the public. It is less likely to find one on the shelf at the local store or from a large mail order company since they should know of the danger and inspect all their cards closely.

2.2 I was ripped! What do I do???

There's lots of things you can do, but this goes a little beyond the scope of this FAQ.