This article will focus specifically on Nendoroid bootlegs, but many of these principles apply to Figma etc as well. If you don’t want to read this whole article, there are bold bullet points at the bottom, please at least read those.
First of all; if the Nendoroid seems too good to be true as far as price is concerned it probably is. The only exceptions for this are AmiAmi pre owned where figures value might be decreased tenfold by finicky Japanese collectors. See my dark precure review to see what I mean, I got her for very little but she’s still in great condition despite her ‘C’ rating. Other reputable sites like HLJ might have some good deals that certainly won’t be bootlegs.
Secondly and very importantly be very careful when buying any figure from Ebay. Amazon I find is almost always safe, and by following information I’ll attempt to impart you should easily detect the rare bootleg on Amazon. Ebay is however a whole other kettle of fish, as it is used by small independent sellers and not actual manufacturers or companies.
If it says ‘China Version’ or anything similar, it is a bootleg. Here are some examples of such text relating to bootlegs:
The circled parts above are tell-tale signs. That Yoshino photo is of a genuine Nendoroid but it is used on multiple sellers of that ‘Nendoroid’ and is stolen from a GSC blog. A genuine Ebay seller will almost definitely not provide photos used by another seller. Things like price range and where the product is shipped from are also important factors. If the the seller is in China or Hong-Kong that seller is not genuine. China is brutal on importing items so it’s more affordable for Chinese collectors to create and buy bootlegs, they also make a huge profit on exported goods as the Chinese economy is dependent on exports and keeping their currency cheap. You may think this isn’t all that important but you can see why almost any Chinese seller is not genuine from this information. By this information you now know that any Chinese site that sells figures (or really any item produced outside of china) will be selling bootlegs, whether that be AliExpress or TaoBao. If the figure is not designed and produced by a Chinese company and is being sold by a Chinese seller it is a bootleg. A Chinese shop simply could not make a profit selling imported items to western countries, their import tax is too high.
A quick look through Ebay’s Nendoroid listing allowed me to find these. Indeed I would advise any person new to Nendoroids (or any other figure) not to buy from an Ebay seller. You might feel you won’t mind the quality because it was so cheap but it’s not worth it. This is not elitism, it’s not wasting your money.
Western companies can make a huge profit from selling bootleg items to gullible people so even if that much desired figure is in box in a Manga shop, don’t take for granted it’s genuine. Bootlegs often come in boxes similar to the genuine figures box, in a range of qualities and accuracy. If any stickers that should be on the box are simply printed on it is not genuine, those stickers are GSCs certification of a genuine product. Other tell tale signs are (obviously) if the box doesn’t look like the box that comes with the genuine figure or is poorly designed. Good Smile put quite a lot of care into their packaging and if the colours are off or the packaging graphics don’t look very good it’s likely not genuine. You might want to get a good look at a genuine Nendoroids box in real life if you plan on making this distinction in shops on the high-street.
The same economic principle applies to sellers on Amazon but as they have to use their own photos and pretty much declare the bootlegged nature (though of course phrased much more kindly) in the product description they’re much easier to spot. Here are some examples I managed (with comparative difficulty in regards to Ebay) to find. Keep in mind that I am from the UK and therefore there may be slight differences for US sellers though I assume the general principles are the same.
I would hope these images speak for themselves. Reviews call it a bootleg. Before ordering off Amazon, check the seller and product reviews, check whether bootlegs were ever made of the figure or indeed if that particular figure was ever made. You can do this using http://myfigurecollection.net/. Finally, check around to see whether the price seems right, if it doesn’t it isn’t.
Lets get down to the figure itself. Bootleg Nendoroids are often made of a shiny plastic. This is one of the first signs. A real Nendoroid will almost always be matte. Certainly faceplates and hands will never be shiny. If a you can see a figure is almost greasy looking as far as skin is concerned, it’s simply not genuine. Newer bootlegs are increasing in quality so the faceplates may be matte. The paint applications still are done by hand however and will differ from the real product in quality.
Next give away is the ball joints used in Nendoroids. Genuine Nendoroids have (again) matte ball joints that match the skin tone of the Nendoroid they are attached to. If the ball joints are; shiny, yellowy, or mismatch the skin tone of the Nendoroid in question said Nendoroid is not genuine.
Face plates (as well as being shiny) will not be moulded very much as far as the figures expression is concerned. The expression will simply be printed on a semi flat face.
Paint applications will always be shoddy and often off colour. The paint will be grainy looking and occasionally blobby.
A good way to tell is eye placement on the faceplates, as quality of plastics and to some extent paint applications improve the above mentioned factors may not always apply. If the eyes of the Nendoroid look off however, it’s not genuine. The decals hand applied by the bootleggers won’t always be correct.
Finally and most importantly as far as figures are concerned: it won’t fit together properly. You’ll find parts hard to squeeze on, or falling off, the stand may be loose and wobbly and prone to collapse, there may be parts that simply will not properly connect, and gaps will be left between parts.
Here are some examples of a bootleg. Also pictured is one genuine Miku and 2 faceplates from genuine Nendoroids for comparison. What these pictures can’t capture however is how the figure smells (bad), feels (mildly greasy) and falls apart every time you try to play with it.
Now, you may be purchasing bootlegs because you feel that if companies can sell them for that cheap the genuine figures must just be overpriced, but this is not true. A genuine figure has planning teams, artists, sculptors and painters working on it. The license for that character also has to be obtained. This costs money. Then the actual difference in quality you have seen mentioned above also increases production costs, down to the plastics used. Genuine Nendoroids are also painted in Japan, where labour is much more expensive than China or Hong Kong. Bootlegged Nendoroids are so much cheaper because the license is never bought, the sculptors and artists are completely overlooked because they simply copy the figure they are bootlegging, probably by making moulds from all the parts. Finally add to this the exchange rate for Chinese exports and the cost of labour in China. That is why bootlegs are sold for so cheap, it’s not worth buying them to annoy the supposed corporate machine of Good Smile because they actually price their products pretty reasonably considering the production costs, bootlegs don’t. They actually are making their products over priced because it’s still less than a genuine Nendoroid thanks to the exchange rate.
If in doubt, don’t risk it. It’s disappointing to have a figure that doesn’t properly assemble or has sloppy paint applications. They stand out terribly from genuine Nendoroids (or any other figure) in your collection. Stick to AmiAmi, Amazon, Mandrake and HLJ and you should be okay. I have also seen Jungle recommended. It is both a site and a chain of shops. Thank you for reading!
A List Of Basic Pointers:
- AmiAmi, HLJ and Mandake will never sell bootlegs. Ever.
- Any seller in China or Hong Kong will almost definitely be selling bootlegs.
- If the stickers are just printed on, or there aren’t any, or the box art looks shoddy or unlike that which you see online it’s a bootleg.
- If the skin plastic is shiny or greasy looking, it’s a bootleg. (Some more recent bootlegs are matte, but older ones won’t be)
- If the Nendoroid will not fit together properly it’s a bootleg.
- If the paint is sloppy and missing in places, bootleg.
- Yellowy or mismatching ball joints are also found on older bootlegs.
- If the eyes don’t seem to be in the right places it’s a bootleg.
- If it’s being sold really cheap on a website that isn’t an official seller like HLJ or AmiAmi, it’s a bootleg.
- If it says ‘China Version’ or similar in the description it’s a bootleg.
- Avoid buying from Ebay, and take caution when buying from Amazon.
- If you want to be absolutely certain read this whole article, please.
Finally, why not read or have a look at this link, it’s a GSC official page and will help you.
Good luck, and happy shopping!