Introduction to G1 Counterfeits
Introduction to Counterfeit G1 Transformers
Fake Transformers have been around since the beginning of the Transformers toy line in 1984. While some fakes TFs used strange colors and sizes, others attempted to create much closer fakes, such as the often almost dead-on Taiwenese "Meta Morphs" copies from the 1980's. But no matter how close to the originals these fakes might have been, collectors could count on two things almost always missing from them: (1) The "Takara"/"Hasbro" copyright stamp, and (2) The "Transformers" and "Hasbro" trademarks. And so, for 21 years, if it didn't say "Transformers", "Hasbro", or "Takara", it was a fake. Those were simpler times....
Unfortunately, all of that changed in 2005, when Zhong Jin released their first high end counterfeit Transformers. These fakes are extremely difficult to tell from the originals. Not only did they have the copyright stamps on the figures, but the boxes looked almost identical, complete with "Transformers" and "Hasbro" trademarks. The collector market was not ready for the Zhong Jin counterfeits, as demonstrated by AFA (the big toy grading company) grading several fakes as originals (see AFA graded fake to the right). To make matters worse, a slew of these have been released in the last half decade, making it extremely difficult to keep up with what has been counterfeited and what has not.
That said, it is possible to tell the fakes from the originals--most of this web site is dedicated to providing collectors with, or linking them to, counterfeit ID guides. If you're not sure if what you're buying is real or not, go through the steps in the ID guides to figure out if it's fake. The ID guides are a mix of my own and those provided by other Transformer collectors, such as e3nine from TFW2005 and CoolYooYu of the Chinese Transformers message boards. I highly recommend the CoolYooYu guides where available, despite the language barrier, as the photos are extremely detailed and often delve into differences in the toys that the other ID guides lack.
Since the initial release of the Zhong Jin fakes in 2005, a few notable things have happened with them. Several years ago, a second company, Kidi Toys, produced three high quality counterfeits (Devastator, Metroplex, and Metrotitan), but they stopped fairly quickly. Also a few years ago, it appeared that Hasbro was making some copyright and tradermark enforcement attempts, clearing up the glut of these that were on Ebay. However, as of 2011, Zhong Jin continues to produce new counterfeits. Sites like "ioffer" and "kotoys" continue to provide a marketplace for them, and they appear to be slowly finding their way back onto Ebay. A very recent development is that individuals have begun commissioning runs of high end counterfeits of some of the smaller rare G1 Transformers, such as the Japanese Headmaster Warriors and the rarer cassette Transformers. There seems to be no end in sight for high end G1 counterfeits at this point, unfortunately.
I should also mention that many Zhong Jin counterfeits have also been made in several different unique color variants, like various clear versions, black versions, white versions, chrome versions, etc. Here are examples, a red Mirage and a clear black Mirage:
Lastly, I want to mention the licensed 1990's Chinese Transformers reissues. Before the Zhong Jin fakes were made in 2005, there were rumors and fears that knockoffs had already been made in China for years, complete with G1-style boxes and copyright stamps. These rumors proved to be unfounded, and what people used to call "Chinese Knockoffs" were in fact a run of G1 Transformers done mainly for the Chinese market just a few years later than their Western counterparts. If your Transformer box has a little sticker in the upper right corner with a few Chinese characters on it, you have a licensed 1990's Chinese reissue, not a knockoff.
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