A few days ago, we received a package in the mail that was equal parts exciting and startling. In it, we received a bunch of Magic: The Gathering cards – two copies of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, two foil copies of History of Benalia, a Gaea's Cradle, a few original Revised dual lands, and a Mox Diamond from the From the Vaults: Relics release. It seemed too good to be true, as these cards together must be worth thousands of dollars altogether. Perhaps it was that a fan of Bleeding Cool wanted to thank us for nearly a year of continued tabletop writing on the part of Josh Nelson, their writer for the subject, who is about to celebrate a year working with the site. Perhaps, but when we say it seemed too good to be true, it is because it truly was too good.
These cards – each and every one of them – is a counterfeit, and here's how we could tell:
Counterfeits have had a presence in Magic: The Gathering since the game's inception, and they're getting harder and harder to spot from a distance. However, to an untrained eye that needs an indicator as blatant as the upside-down Poké Ball from the Pokémon Trading Card Game's original fakes, these counterfeit Magic cards could easily be seen as real. In the image above, we have placed two real cards among the decidedly-fake Teferi cards, and shuffled them up for about two minutes, and picked out what we thought were the fakes in three repeated tests of this. It did not matter – each time we found the fake Teferi cards.
How did we do it? Simply put, the backs of all of the fake cards sent to us were a shade or two lighter than the real cards. Above, the first and third cards are the fakes, and there's only one good solution to that problem:
The top card, a foil copy of History of Benalia, has a black core inside of it. Contrasted against a Naturalize from Gatecrash, which has a blue core keeping it together as with all modern Magic cards, the Saga card was also much harder to rip in half, and had a bit of tug to it when attempting to rip it up. Yikes! We also strongly suggest you exhaust all options when discerning whether a card is actually illegitimate before trying this test, because it's the difference between $3.00 and $300.00.
Remember, counterfeit Magic cards are getting more and more realistic with each passing day. However, if Magic: The Gathering gets as expensive as it may be headed towards getting, counterfeiters may actually be more incentivized to create quality fakes for public use. If you see a subtle fake in an official capacity, call it out if you feel so inclined to, because that's a problem for Wizards of the Coast to crack down upon. But also, recognize that there must be a reason why someone has a fake, and instead of jumping right to ripping it up, inquire why it exists. Communication is key in any situation, and there is no exception here.
Stay vigilant, friends! Below is an in-depth look at other methods of checking for counterfeit Magic: The Gathering cards, in the form of a YouTube video by Da Basement Games, a store out in Brooklyn, NY. If you feel like this is an important issue for you, feel free to discuss it in the comments below.