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Comprehensive G1 Counterfeit / "Knockoff" ID Guide

LAST UPDATED: 12/20/2016

Zhong Jin ID Guides:

    • Red Alert
      • Real US Red Alert says "Transforms from Fire Chief's Car".  Counterfeit says "Transforms from Race Car".
      • The grey grid lines in the background are thicker (like you see on most of the counterfeits).
      • "Transforms from [...]" and "Autobot Warrior" are the wrong fonts
    • Sideswipe
      • Counterfeit has an extra-wide grid square (double sized) to the right of Sideswipe's name
      • The grey grid lines in the background are thicker (like you see on most of the counterfeits).
      • "Transforms from [...]" and "Autobot Warrior" are the wrong fonts
    • Smokescreen
    • Sunstreaker
      • The counterfeit has "Ages. 5 & Up" instead of "Ages: 5 & Up" on front of box--it uses a period instead of a colon.  This is the same difference as on Mirage and Wheeljack's boxes.
      • Check out Dan's loose Sunstreaker ID guide.
    • Wheeljack
      • See e3nine's guide for box differences.
      • The toy is missing its the factory applied stickers, including the obvious "539" sticker on the door.
      • Early runs of this counterfeit have problems with the legs locking in place.  Later runs don't have this problem.
      • See coolyooyu's toy and accessories ID guide.
  • Cassettes:
  • Combiners
    • Abominus giftset
      • Comes in easilly identifiable English language giftset box, which never was released in the 1980's or any other time.
    • Computron giftset
    • Defensor giftset
      • Artwork is missing a detail from Defensor's crotch:
    • Decepticon Jets:
      • Cyclonus and Scourge
        • See these ID guides:
    • Dinobots:
      • In General:
        • "The Counterfeits used the "TM" moldings, stamped Instructions, but issued them in "R" copyright boxes. That's the reason for the "Slag" box with NO yellow box indicating "Transformers" on the front lower left (they copied the "TM" graphics), and the amputated NO Hasbro copyrights on the bots themselves. The original TM bots, like these, ALL exhibited "Takara 1984" (and then some Japanese characters) ONLY on [the toys]. Again, NO mention of Hasbro anywhere [on the toys themselves]."  (Tip contributed by bendrixx--Thank you!)
      • Grimlock
      • Slag
        • On the original, it says "TRANSFORMERS" above Slag's name on the front of the box.  The counterfeit is missing this.  (There is a real Slag box variant that is missing the little "TRANSFORMERS" logo, but it has "TM" on the big logo, instead of the "(R)" that the counterfeit has, so you can still use this tip to tell the difference.)
        • In early batches of the counterfeit, all parts on Slag originally silver are gold, except for his mane.  This includes his jaw, the chrome parts on his ribs, and his gun.  Later versions are silver like a real Slag.  Reportedly there is also a variant of the counterfeit with a red jaw.
        • Some versions of the counterfeit include a silver chrome sword, other versions include a red sword like a real Slag would have.
        • Early versions of the counterfeit have a plastic film over the first holes.
        • Slag's dino face is completely translucent on the counterfeit, whereas the original is very slightly opaque.
        • See coolyooyu's toy and accessories ID guide.
      • Sludge
        • See e3nine's guide.
        • See coolyooyu's toy and accessories ID guide.
          (Corrections to coolyooyu's guide, courtesy of Transformerland: The image comparing the rubsign area on the dino neck: early production US Sludges did not have the raised rubsign square, instead placing it on the right chrome panel near the base of the neck. Date stamps: The Takara/Kanji only stamp is present on early production Sludge, the Hasbro line was added later in 1985.)
      • Snarl
        • On the counterfeit's box, the black bar above his name is not long enough--the real one lines up with the bottom yellow box.
        • In early batches of the counterfeit, the clear plastic is too dark.  Later versions correct this problem.
      • Swoop
        • See this ID guide:
  • CORRECTION: Legit Swoops can have the perforation
    • Also, for loose Swoops, here are some helpful differences:
      • Factory applied stickers are not applied.  They come on a sticker sheet instead.
      • Early runs of this counterfeit had many problems:
        • Toy itself is relatively low quality.  Soft plastic was used, the toy doesn't fit together well, and it's generally lose.
        • The red paint on the diecast chips very easily.
        • The head it comes assembled with is not painted.  Subsequent runs included an extra painted head in the package that can be swapped out with the unpainted head. 
        • Some of the initial run comes with Grimlock's sword instead of Swoop's sword.
      • Many of the problems mentioned above were resolved eventually in later runs of the counterfeit.
      • The launchers do not fit on one of the wings.
    • Gnaw
    • Headmaster Warrior Giftset (6 HM Warriors + heads for Fort Max, Grand Max, Scorponok, Black Zarak)
      • Easy to identify in package, because the HM Warriors were never released in a gift set.
      • Out of the packaging, KO Headmaster Warriors do not have copyright markings
      • See Brr-icy's comparison photos
    • Headmaster Mindwipe
    • Headmaster Skullcruncher
    • Headmaster Weirdwolf
    • Insecticons (Bombshell, Kickback, Shrapnel):
    • Minibots (Beachcomber, Brawn, Bumblebee, Bumper,Cliffjumper, Cosmos, Gears, Hubcap, Outback, Powerglide, Seaspray, Warpath, Wheelie) :
      • General ID Tips:
        • All Minibots, except Bumblebee: Holepunch is in center, but original's holepunch is shifted toward the right.  This is easiest way to tell that the Minibots are fakes.
        • All Minibots, except Brawn and Outback: Bubble is too far away from edge.  Original release's edge of bubble touched edge of card.
        • Most Minibots: Have abbreviated copyright info on the back of the card, like the Chinese release--i.e., "manufactured in (Country) under license from Takara" is missing on the back of the card.
        • Some loose ID tips from AC Toys that use the sprue cut locations.
      • Specific ID Tips:
        • Beachcomber
          • Has wrong sticker on his chest.
          • Has typo on back of card.
        • Bumblebee:
          • Since Bumblebee's holepunch isn't centered (an obvious giveaway for the other Minibots), look for the abbreviated copyright info on the back of the card.  That's a clear giveaway.  (See "General ID Tips" several lines above.)
          • Sometimes has Decepticon rubsign on his chest.  Rubsign is sometimes up-side-down.
        • Cosmos:
          • Arms assembled up-side-down.
        • Hubcap: See e3nine's guide.
        • Seapray: See Fighbird's ID guide
    • Optimus Prime
      • See e3nine's guide
      • The grey showing above the trailer's window is probably the most obvious tell.
      • The earliest run said "Made in France" on the trailer, while later runs said "Made in Japan" instead.  Real "Made in France" Optimus Primes are pretty hard to come by.
      • There is also a black version counterfeit and a gold-instead-of-silver version counterfeit, which imitate expensive limited edition Japanese reissue releases.  Of course, the originals did not come in U.S. boxes, so that is one obvious tell for the counterfeit.  Also, the gold-instead-of-silver counterfeit does not have the gold stickers of the original.
      • The red paint on the diecast chips very easily.
    • Reflector in mail-away box
      • Almost impossible to distinguish from the original MISB.
      • Does not come with factory stickers applied.  They are on a seperate sticker sheet.
      • The missiles of the original come attached on a 4-sided rectangular plastic tree.  On the counterfeit, the tree is missing its left side.
      • Tips contributed by iceman (Thank you!):
        • The factory tape is old. Regardless of storage, especially being on a white box, its impossible for the tape to stay perfectly clear over all these years.
        • KO Reflector box cardboard is slightly thinner than original.
        • Inside the box:
          • KO comes with an extra decal sheet for unapplied factory decals.
          • The polystyrene tray is made of less-dense foam/poly cells, in otherwords its a cheaper grade.
          • On official g1 poly/foam tray inserts, they all have many many circles stamped on them on the top side. These circles have 6 lines running through them. Counterfeits including reflector do not have this pattern. This is an instant give-away on foam trays, but is often hard to see in photos with alot of lighting and are better viewed up close.
          • Spyglass has a darker blue paintjob on his metal chest.
          • Viewfinder has a big giveaway. Viewfinders arms are of course grey/silver plastic. on an original, viewfinders forearms have perfect plastic mix and colouration consistancy. On a ko, the plastic isnt mixed as well and you can see a wash in the plastic.
    • Shockwave
    • Soundwave
      • See e3nine's guide.
      • Knockoff has no grey insert, so you see a lot of white styrofoam through the window.
      • Knockoff appears to come with a random cassette, not necessary Buzzsaw.
    • Triple Changers

    CAT-TOYS ID Guides:

    • Predaking Gift Set - Japanese packaging, but back of box says "CAT-TOYS" in lower right, along with smiling Autobot symbol and bow tie wearing cat images.

    Kidi Toys ID Guides:

    • Devastator
      • See these two ID guides:
    • Metroplex
    • Metrotitan
      • Comes in counterfeit Metroplex box with the sticker "Emulational Robot" on it, so use the Metroplex guide for the box.
      • The red plastic is much pinker on the counterfeit.
      • The counterfeit does not come with Metrobomb (the Micromaster) or the docking piece to connect Metrotitan to the other Micromaster bases.

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    Encore is an official re-issue line from TakaraTomy with boxes that are -easily- distinguishable from the originals; toys, too (stampings, for one).

    There's no Encore Scourge, either.

    And Here's an Ebay LINK to the Authentic "TM" Dinobots

    Just found examples of the very rare 1st edition "TM" Dinobots! As you can see, they came with the 84' catalogs, DARK gray bubbles (like the cars), The "TM" stamped boxes (over "The Transformers" on the top flap), the "TM" stamped instructions, and had slightly more saturated box colors. The Counterfeits used the "TM" moldings, stamped Instructions, but issued them in "R" copyrigth boxes. That's the reason for the "Slag" box with NO yellow box indicating "Transformers" on the front lower left (they copied the "TM" graphics), and the amputated NO Hasbro copyrights on the bots themselves. The original TM bots, like these, ALL exhibited "Takara 1984" (and then some Japanese characters) ONLY on them. Again, NO mention of Hasbro anywhere.

    Item Numbers for "TM" Bots:

    230418711581 (Slag)
    230418653504 (Snarl)
    230418715390 (Grimlock)
    230418723609 (Sludge)

    This, to me, blows the doors off the "reverse engineered" theory. Unless, somehow, the countefeiters got a hold of the original "TM" molds. I guess anything is possible, but I would assume they would just re use the late 80's, early 90's Chinese Issued Transformers moldings (that is, if any "reverse eningeering" were going to be utilized).

    More on Counterfeit Dinobots

    I actually own BOTH versions of the Original Dinobots including the "TM" early early issues, and the later "R" trademarked versions. The Sludge box is a very VERY tricky one. Here's what I found. The counterfeit box still exhibits the closer than normal tech spec on the left edge of the box and cut off artwork no matter what, BUT the pictured statement of alternate tech readings = KO on Coolyooyu's breakdown of the Dinobots Sludge and Slag are INCORRECT. They may be 1 indicator, but do NOT use these as a sole indicator as some have been doing. Look at the artwork on the front of Sludge's box, where it is cropped and the artwork on the back and the left margin where it is cropped again on the KO's. There are LEGITIMATE Dinobots that have that ALTERNATE tech reading (again Slag and Sludge included). A definite example is a SLAG I own with the "Colon" after ages _ and up", correct colors, copyrights, etc, yet its box exhibits the same KO tech reading as Coolyooyu's, BUT the bot and ALL other characteristics of the box are correct indicating it's totally authentic and legit. Also, the Swoop box CAN say "ages 6 and up" and STILL be 100% legitimate. I also noticed on the bottom of one of my authentic "R" trademarked Gimlocks's feet, the screw hole pattern is identical to Coolyooyu's pictured counterfeit under-foot's pattern but without the silver screws. It's riveted like the it's the same NUMBER of screws as the counterfeit, but with the black plastic rivets of the pictured originals.

    I'm going to get a detailed comparison up soon between the "TM" and "R" trademarked bots and run those against E3nine and Coolyooyu's comparisons. I think what we're going to find is that some of the "TM" copyrighted molds were reverse engineered as opposed to the later "R" molds, and that there may be 2 or MORE original "R" trademarked molds that were used that can be considered legit. This probably translates to some of the legitimate box and bot similarities to the bootlegs. But I'm noticing my originals still exhibit MOST of Coolyooyu's comparisons to authentic G1 bots, regardless of "TM" or "R".

    We DO need a final reference on these though as they're causing more confusion than ever.

    Re: More on Counterfeit Dinobots

    Good info! I'm looking forward to the detailed comparison.

    re: Dinobots

    Ok, so I got a bunch of photos of the "TM" Dinos up on Ebay last night after grading and inspecting them for our online business as part of an Ebay auction. The Sludge I spent a LOT of time on comparisons. Very, very interesting stuff on that one. You can see the bootlegs used the "TM" HASBRO amputated copyright info like the original TM molds, BUT, neglected to use the same "open side-pin" molds for the grey plastic, and also used the cheaper rivets and brads to hold the dino together. The "TM" appears to be identical to the later "R" release, with the exception of the amputated copyright info, and the missing "oval" cut out on Sludge's under belly. This suggests to me (IMHO), that the bootlegs reverse engineered the Sludge from an original "TM" but also cut a lot of corners on the Dino mold and hardware. I also found it fascinating that the bootlegs used the TM instruction booklets (again suggesting reverse engineering froma loose set of bots), but then the "R" boxes...which are MUCH more common and easy to find than the "TM" stamped 1st release Dinobot boxes.

    I'm covering "TM" Grimlock in more detail soon (another interesting one). That toy exhibits all the characteristics of the authentic toy shown in the guides here, BUT it's copyright info is the lighter square stamp, like the the bootleg, again telling me the bootlegs were likely reverse engineered from "TM" molds for several of the Dinobots.

    Ebay listing here: 200406677705

    More on Dinobots...sorry! Keep finding new stuff.

    Ok, I relaize this is getting ridiculous, but I found some important comparisons, this time on Grimlock. On the "R" issue Grimlock, he comes with the extra/additional screw pattern (like the KO) on the bottom of his feet. UNLIKE the KO, he does NOT have silver rivets/screws in each hole. The "TM" issue Grimlock has the lesser screw hole pattern like the authentic one listed on the Chinese comparison site. The "TM" issued Grimlock does have a slightly LIGHTER copyright pattern on his left leg, than the "R" issue Grimlock, but the stamps are identical. ALSO on the "R" issue Grims, he has an additional "Hasbro" stamping on the inside of his RIGHT leg. The "TM" does NOT have this additional stamping. The "TM's" head line/mold pattern on the top of his noggin' is slightly longer and slightly offset, unlike the 'R" version, which has a better aligned pattern
    and appears to be a bit fatter/wider line pattern. Most interesting, on the "TM" Grimms, his break apart 2-piece grey chest secion with the arms attached, that reveals the head does NOT have a plastic lock pin to hold it shut like the "R" issue Grimms does at the bottom corner. it's completely absent, and the head snapping onto the top is the only thing holding the TM's 2 sections together until it is un snapped and flipped up.
    The Rivets and hardware are identical, from what I can see on both the "TM" and "R" and are a LOT higher quality than the "KO", which uses pressed, or "star pattern" rivets for most of the connective areas. The inside mouth patterns and inside flip out grey plastic pieces (with the arms attached) patterns for BOTH "R" and "TM" Grimms are also identical, and completely UNLIKE the "KO".

    The last thing I'm very concerned with though is an un explored topic here thus far, and that is the introduction of ANOTHER Dinobot Slag which has the CORRECT silver parts and silver lower mouth. Now, I BELIEVE that piece was made the same way as the gold colored 1st release and lacks the copyright info on the right leg like the "TM" and "R" originals...but I need to see one up close to be sure. Will post on that one if and when I can find one MISB as I want to be sure it's a direct new KO I'm looking at for direct comparisons.

    Pics coming soon! I'll get a web link up as well with those.


    Thanks MG!...working on it. don't know where i could score a set of boxed complete reissue Dinobots do you? i see they're $289.99 for the set on Ebay sealed, but I really just need them to do a side by side comparison with my "R" copyright and early "TM" copyright bots to hopefully help end all the confusion once and for all. If I have to, I'm going to pick them up off Ebay, but if you know anyone that could donate them to "project real Dinobot" for a week or 2, it would help greatly!

    Spotted another difference on SWOOP.

    Hi there!
    First of all, just want to say i love the website. Really useful stuff, it's websites like this one what make the Internet a wonderful place.

    Now, comparing my vintage Swoop box with the counterfeit, i have just spotted a little difference.

    In the front, the original says: AGES: 5 & UP
    and the counterfeit says instead: AGES: 6 & UP

    I thought it should be fun and nice to share it with you guys.

    BTW, another difference: The counterfeit box seems something like 3 milimeters narrower, wich explains the artwork touching the right edge and some milimeters of artwork missing at the left edge in the back of the box.

    If you need pics, just ask.

    I hope it not one of that things that everybody knows, hehe... Just trying to be useful.

    Greetings from Spain and KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! ^__^

    Re: SWOOP

    Actually, some real ones have "AGES: 6 & UP" too! It was a running change. Still, at least you know you're safe with "5 & UP".

    Thanks for the tips, and sorry for the delay approving your post. (I had to moderate all the posts because spammers try to make posts here.)

    KO Swoop?

    Ok, I am looking at this Swoop (link below) on Ebay and it has the "5 and up" age thing, it doesn't have the "extra wide grid" on the front of the box and the grid doesn't "fade too much" into the background. I also don't see the perforation in the background. The one problem is I don't see the rub sign n the wing. Any idea if this is legit?

    The box appears legit to me,

    The box appears legit to me, and it's sealed, so I'm thinking it's a Hasbro/Takara factory mistake that the rub sign is missing.

    Comment on KO Swoop

    Hi. I found your page today and (naturally) started checking my figs to see if I had managed to come by any knock-offs. When I checked my sealed Swoop, I found the rubsign on the correct side, the artwork not touching the border, the narrow grey border, factory stickers applied, no blending of the grid into the red background, and no wide column. So far so good. However, mine has perforations. In fact it has three of them - two vertical and one horizontal - visible through the front.

    I had a Swoop as a kid, and I'll admit, I was a bit anal. I still have it, along with the original box and bubble. Although I threw away the backer, the top layer of it came off with the bubble when I removed it 24 years ago. The odd part is, there are perforations clearly visible in the same spots as my sealed figure. There is even a fourth vertical one on the right side (which can't be seen in the sealed fig). Here's where it gets even more interesting - I checked the 24 year old box to see if any of the other "KO" indicators were there. Sure enough, the character artwork goes to the edge, and the grey border appears wider. However, it does not have the wide column, and the grid doesn't blend.

    If I had to guess, I'd say that the printing and/or die-cutting processes used to make the original boxes was not as precise as we'd like to think it was. A small shift in the positioning of the box stock as it was being cut or printed could easily create the illusion that the character artwork was shifted to the right and would also account for a wider grey border area.

    I can send you pics of all these things if you'd like to see them, and if my camera will cooperate thru the cello of the sealed fig.


    Encore Scourge

    Since the front of the boxes look the same, how can you tell the difference of a true vintage Scourge and and Encore version? Would that manufacturer's stamp date simply be different on the back?