So, I think by this point in the series of articles of Sonic merchandise I’ve hopefully proven a point: there is a helluva lot of Sonic stuff floating around out there. This is especially the case now that we live in a day and age where we can buy and import goods from across the globe fairly easily thanks to internet shopping and the likes of good old ebay. Unfortunately, as much as this opens a door for sellers as well, it also gives the forgeries and bootleg market a whole new audience to rip-off. Even I, one of the mighty hoarders of stuff, have fallen victim to some of this fraudulent activity.
If you type in Sonic on ebay these days, you will be absolutely inundated, and I mean swamped, with bootleg T-shirts, transfers, stickers, wall charts, chocolates(!?)…the list goes on. Not only does this drown out all the decent Sonic stuff, it also presents a potential merch mine-field, as a lot of this stuff is home-made. The trick with T-shirts is usually simple; if it’s not a photo of an ACTUAL shirt, i.e. it’s just a picture of the design, be cautious. Sometimes the seller may even offer you a variety of sizes (although sometimes sellers may have bought in ex-warehouse stocks etc) – usually if the seller has got a genuine article, they only have one, and in one size. Sometimes a good indicator of a genuine T-Shirt is a usual design that goes onto a sleeve (like the SEGA logo or a Sonic title), or a front and a back print – these are more expensive to reproduce.
Sometimes you get something really kooky like in the thumbnail…Sonic the gangsta? With the buck-teeth, dread-lock hair and enough bling-bling to sink the Epson Valdez, this is probably an easy fake T-Shirt to spot, but even so, there must have been some effort went into making this!
Plush toys are another branch of merch in which it is really easy to produce a lot of knock-off goods to sell on at seemingly bargain prices. In particular Sonic X plushies seem to have taken the brunt of this in recent years; I for one have seen a large number of these in claw machines and UFO catchers at theme parks and amusement arcades. The Shadow plush is the real indicator here – if he doesn’t have his white patch of manly chest hair – avoid! The other real tell-tale sign is the tag. Even if they have a Sonic brand tag on them – check for the glorious SEGA logo. If it’s not there, beware!
Remember the rather awesome Sonic Adventure figures with the E-102 Gamma action figure? Well, it looks like someone in the Far-East managed to get hold of some of the moulds for these figures, as they are now all over the place. It seems that all the series 2 figures : Gamma, Amy, Big and the rather curious Sonic with Skis (what, no snowboard?) have now been pirate-produced in mass. Easy way to check up? Well, if the figures are loose and don’t have any accessories, you’ve either got a very clumsy owner, or more likely, they’re shoddy reproductions. Check out the paint jobs in the picture too – they won’t be up to the usual Resaurus standard.
I think the most difficult bootlegs to tell apart are music CDs and soundtracks. I’ve been caught out a few times with these too. There are a few naughtly little companies over in Taiwan who are in the business of producing very convincing bootleg CDs. They’ve bootlegged the Several Wills Vocal album, the True Blue best of album, and the Sonic Adventure 2: Multi-dimensional albums. Apart from general design, which unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, the quality is so good that you can’t differentiate between the these and the official stuff. There are ways though! The real giveaway with these is the spine cards – look for the record label, which should be Wave Master Entertainment (WME) for the more recent Sonic albums (it’s sometimes on the back of the album cover too).
Finally, here are a few last tips on buying merchandise off ebay:
Always look for an official SEGA stamp or brand – don’t be fooled by fake tags or bootleg companies!
- See if you can find the item elsewhere on the net if you’re unsure – it’s useful to check to see if there are any good pictures of the item you’re wanting to buy either on the producer’s website, so you can check for differences.
- Be wary of companies on ebay shipping from Hong Kong, China or Taiwan! Not only are you going to pay a lot for postage, you’ll be even more upset if it’s a bootleg, and a lot of them come from here.
- ASK! Be cunning; if you’re unsure about an item, ask questions such as “Could you please tell me the name of the record label on the album?” or “Could you send me a photo of the plush’s tag?”. Try not to be rude by asking things like “Is this a bootleg item?” as it may cause offense – even the seller might not know if it is genuine or not.
So, happy merch hunting kids, and remember to shop safe!
Had any bad experiences? Let us know! More merch-madness next week!