The Evil of Counterfeits

Cliff Daigle • August 22, 2018

Hello everyone and welcome to Trading Posts! My name’s Cliff, I’ve been playing Magic off and on for 20+ years. I’ve bought and sold a lot of stuff, and I will be drawing on this experience while writing about finance here regularly. My goal is always to spend as little as possible on Magic, as it’s very very easy for the prices of things to get out of hand.

Much of what I will focus on here is going to be on buying low and selling high, but since the topic is hot this week, let me take a moment and explain not just why counterfeit cards are bad, but what to do when you encounter them.

First of all, Cardsphere has been aware of this problem for some time. More than a year ago, this piece was published and it’s a succinct recipe for what you should do. I’d like to think that most people don’t know they have a counterfeit, for a bunch of reasons. Sending it back and refunding the value is a polite step and a way to build community around this game we all take so much joy in.

Counterfeits will kill our beloved game dead.

The Reserved List won’t, a high price for duals won’t, even cheaters won’t kill Magic the way that counterfeits will. Counterfeiting money is among the most serious crimes, in a government’s eyes, because you’re making their money worth less.

Literally, worth less. It’s not worthless, but the value goes down significantly. For Wizards, it’s even more straightforward. They make their money on booster packs. I can’t speak to what might happen to MTGO, since that’s based on a combination of boosters, play points, and tickets. It’s all tied to that simple booster of Core Set 2019 for $3.99 that sits behind the counter.

Counterfeits that can’t be distinguished from the originals mean that everyone who resells cards is going to go out of business. If the market for duals or RL cards gets flooded, that means the counterfeiters move on to Modern, and drive those values into nearly nothing. Next up is Standard, and we’re not talking Teferi and Karn, but $5-$10 cards. Counterfeiters will be able to print to order, so getting your set of Cube lands will be super cheap, super easy, and super mega illegal.

Let’s do a thought exercise. You find an unethical printer online, and they agree to print 20 cards for $2, and charge you $3 on shipping. An even quarter per card. You have now made each of those cards cost a quarter, and cut the bottom out of every individual, vendor, or store selling those cards for more than a quarter. This process is going to continue, not just for you, but for every other evildoer out there, until there are no stores left, just printers. Wizards can’t even sell boosters for $4, because that’s more than the price the printer charges. You’ve now stopped paying the people who make the game. No more expansions, no new legends, no more new mechanics, no fourth silver-bordered set, nothing.

I said ‘evildoer’ a moment ago. I meant it. If you want to convince me that you’re not an evildoer, there’s a very easy way to do that.

This is a solution by TheProxyGuy, someone who I’ve been acquaintances with since the MTGSalvation forums, and this was his brainchild on the forums for proxies/alters.


Do you see it?


How about now?


Can I make this any more obvious?

If you add NOT FOR SALE on the card, and then obey that simple rule, everything is legit. You’re not trying to say that your card is an actual copy of that card.

If you refuse to add those three simple words to your card, then I have no patience for you. Your arguments about value and accessibility ring hollow to me. You are seeking to connive people out of their money by creating a copy of a real item, but it isn’t the genuine article.

Magic: the Gathering is, by many metrics, the best game ever created. (I’ll listen if you want to talk Rock-Paper-Scissors though.) It’s got nigh-infinite room to expand, built on a color pie and a randomized deck. You don’t need to spend any extra money on the game if you’re just playing with friends, or unsanctioned events. The first draft of my cube was about 40% printed paper on top of lands, as I figured out what was good and what was weak.

Legacy is a fun format, and the barrier to playing competitive, sanctioned Legacy is real. My LGS gets around this by allowing ten proxies per deck and making it unsanctioned, and everyone has a great time! Their proxies run a gamut from printed alters to marker-on-land, and no one has to tear their hair out in frustration.

My point here is that the financial implications of counterfeits are far-reaching. You may want to paint me as an evil speculator, someone who is part of the #mtgfinance cabal. I admit it, too. I paid for a transmission in 2001 by selling a Mox Sapphire for $150, a set of Tropicals for $100, and I can’t really go on because it hurts.

Maybe you have a collection that’s worth six figures, or barely $100. Doesn’t matter. Magic represents a confluence of economic pressures and a really great game to play. I like lots of games, but very few board games will appreciate in value, and every electronic game is going to go down. Is someone going to pay you $50+ for your NM Fallout 2?

Please don’t counterfeit cards. Don’t encourage people who do. Check all of your cards that you didn’t pull from a booster. Understand that if you won’t mark your counterfeits as counterfeits then you’re participating in a crime, which may include all the penalties for mail and/or wire fraud. If you deliberately arrange a transaction on Cardsphere, planning to send a counterfeit, here’s an example of the FBI penalties.

The good news is that Cardsphere has has less than 25 counterfeits caught, which hopefully means people aren’t deliberately trying to cheat other users. Makes me happy, makes me proud.

Finally, on a personal note, if you’ve got a foil French Murder (Especially if it’s the current promo!) reach out to me. I’m offering 400% on that.