Pokémon TCG: How to Spot Fake PSA Cards

    The Pokémon Company released their latest and last booster set for the Sword and Shield Series: The Zenith Crown series, and Pokémon fans are excited to get their hands on the new cards that the pack has to offer. 

    But a new set also means one thing: PSA Graded Cards. Lots and Lots of PSA Graded Cards. That also means another thing: Lots of fake PSA Graded Cards. Most of those who falls victim for these scams are people who are new to the world of collecting or have no general idea on what a genuine PSA Card looks like.

    A guide on how to spot fake PSA Graded Cards.

    As a collector who started to collect Pokémon cards since December 2021, I decided to write this post as a way of raising awareness to everyone, especially to those who are new to the world of collecting graded PSA cards. Even with the new security guarantees introduced by PSA since 2017, scammers and criminals are still relentless in their campaign to steal people’s hard-earned money for their own benefit; in particular, they target first-time collectors or for those who just started to enter the scene of collecting PSA Graded Cards.

    As always, the best way to stop and avoid those scammers and criminals would be the tried and tested method: arming yourself with knowledge on how to spot a PSA Graded Card Slab to determine which one is real, and which one is fake.

    I’ve posted a set of photos in this article. I want you to look at the Graded PSA 9 Mint FA/Gallade Card and compare it to the graded Dark Raichu Holo card.

    PSA Pokemon Cards Gallade and Wally Mint 9

    PSA Pokemon Cards Fake Example

    At first glance, especially for those who just started to collect Graded PSA Cards, the differences aren’t obvious. This is something that happens a lot, especially if you’re unprepared. So, with that said, here are the many examples on how to spot a genuine and fake Graded PSA Card.

    Example #1: The Embossed PSA Logo:

    This is a little detail that most wouldn’t even think of checking, but this is crucial, just like with every detail in the examples that is posted here. On the bottom right of the Grade PSA Card, you’ll notice that there’s a small logo of the PSA embossed on the bottom right of the slab. This is present in both the front and back part of the slab.

    PSA Pokemon Cards embossed logo

    Fake PSA Cards do not have these embossed logos, and thankfully, these criminals still can’t replicate this simple, but effective deterrent. So, if you see a Graded PSA Card and all looks well, the first thing you should look for is this embossed logo. If there is one, then there’s no need to worry. But if the embossed logo is missing, then you should sound the alarm.

    Example #2: The Front Label:

    This is important to note, as the upper front label of any Graded PSA Cards will ultimately determine the authenticity of your graded slab (other than the first example above).

    Let’s go back to the Dark Raichu PSA Slab. It looks simple enough, but just like the first example, there’s a lot of details that makes the front label stand out.

    First, there’s the Fugitive Ink Graphic pattern. It’s not an obvious pattern, but if you look close enough, you’ll see some swirly patterns akin to that of a fingerprint’s that’s all over the place. This Ink Graphic is placed to prevent label washing. The logo of the PSA is also slightly visible in the background.

    Second, the classic PSA Red Trim. It’s a very small detail just like the embossed logo, but it’s also an important one. The red lettered ‘S’ connects with both the P and A. Fake ones have close imitations, but the red lettered S does not connect with either of the alphabets.

    And third, there’s the PSA Lighthouse Logo. This Lighthouse logo has a printed illumination effect that can be turned on and off by pointing it at your nearest light source. An additional detail to this logo would be the grainy texture that comes with it. Fake PSA Graded Cards does not have any of these features, as hard as they may try. So, it’s best that you aim it in front of a light source to check if its effects are functioning or not.

    Example #3: The Back Label:

    The Back Label of the card has the same features as the one in the front, except for two things.

    First is the UV Logo Pattern of the PSA’s Logo. This UV Logo Pattern, when aimed at your nearest light source, illuminates to reveal additional smaller PSA logos on the back label. It is an upgraded security measure installed by the PSA in order to make it stand out and to assure the buyer and seller that the label is 100% authentic.

    Last but not the least, the QR Code. Before, PSA Graded Cards only came with serial numbers which can be faked by crafty criminals. To address this issue, they added a QR Code that, when scanned, will allow anyone to check the Graded Card’s authenticity by redirecting them to its registry site that shows the viewer the details of the card and other information related to it.

    Check that all of the information listed on the website, including certification number, condition, and any special designations such as first edition, corresponds to information on the label.

    Unfortunately, just like the serial number, QR Codes are also being hijacked by criminals by simply copy and pasting them onto the back label to give unassuming collectors that the fake PSA Graded Card is ‘genuine’.

    Example #4: The Price:

    Ever heard of the saying “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”? Well, this is the one thing that you can also use to determine if a PSA Card is genuine or fake. For example, my FA/Gallade PSA Card is valued at $15-$20 (it also depends if you bought the card on auctions and PSA grading).

    If you see a listing of the same Mint 9 FA/Gallade PSA Card being sold for a price of, say, $5, then it’s most likely too good to be true. When in doubt, listen to your gut feeling. It is something that can help you avoid these too good to be true listings, and in turn, saving you your hard-earned money for a genuine PSA Card.

    Example #5: Check the Quality of the Plastic Holder:

    Now comes the plastic slabs that holds the cards. Some counterfeit PSA Slabs are created using similar techniques that criminals will use to make it seem like it’s the same as the real thing, while others come in the form of tampering of legitimate PSA Slabs. After tampering, they will replace the real card with either fake cards, or even worse versions of the original card.

    Fortunately for us, PSA has a very specific quality of plastic that they use for their Graded Slabs which is impossible to recreate and they’re also tamper-proof, so both counterfeiting methods are easy to spot.

    These PSA slabs are sealed with the ultrasonic bonding, a common practice used in commercial plastics production, though it isn’t easily accessible. This process uses high-frequency sounds to apply pressure to either side of the slab until a seal is created. During this process, the seal is rendered so airtight that the once-flexible pieces of plastic making up the slab are completely rigid.

    So, if a slab is sealed without this process, like using glue or manual pressure, the seal will not be tight enough to harden the plastic slab. Additionally, if anyone cracks a legitimate PSA slab, the plastic will again become flexible and cannot be returned to its previous state except through ultrasonic bonding.

    Last but not the least, remember the first example. Always check the bottom right corner of a PSA Slab for the embossed PSA logo. If there’s no embossed PSA logo on the bottom right, then you know the drill.

    Additional Tips:

    Especially with incredibly rarer PSA Graded Slabs, it never hurts to bring another experienced card collector with you. Legitimate sellers can and will understand your apprehension when you’re potentially spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on a PSA Graded Slab.

    They will not take any offense to you, and they should allow you and your friend a very close examination to ensure that the Graded Card is authentic. If a seller refuses you to let you handle and inspect the slab you intend to purchase, then consider that as a major red flag.

    Unless you are experienced at identifying PSA slabs, do not, and I mean do not, EVER, purchase them in cash deals via transactions set-up in Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Etsy, or other platforms where you are not provided with even the most basic form of buyer’s protection.

    If you’re purchasing a PSA Graded Card online through sites like eBay or, always make sure that the seller has clear pictures of the front and back of the PSA Slab and try to verify the authenticity of the labels to the best of your ability before making a purchase.

    One last thing, always use a credit/debit card so that you can put up the charges under dispute charges with your credit/debit card provider if you were sent a fraudulent item.

    Final Note:

    Each Graded PSA Card Slabs are one-of-a-kind item that can add immense value and collectability to your trading card collection. But before committing yourself to buying a Gem Mint Graded PSA Card Slab, you have to know the risks that comes with collecting PSA Slabs. It is an obligation for any card collector to study the risks first.

    Fortunately for us, the PSA company has provided an outstanding number of security features that can help us in distinguishing and weeding out fake slabs from the crowd of genuine slabs. Features such as digital certificates, certification verification database, their intricate and elaborate labels, and tamper-proof ultrasonic bonded slabs, are always there to help you.

    Therefore, it is imperative that you, as a collector, gain experience by observing these traits so you can become an expert at quickly spotting fake Graded PSA Card Slabs and never lose your hard-earned money to those deplorable criminals.

    With that said, always be vigilant, and Happy Collecting!

    Stay tuned to Final Weapon for more guides, features, and updates!

    This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

    CinderArts is a full-time video gamer and an artist at heart. With a passion for video games, CinderArts is a huge fan of PC and Nintendo Switch games, accompanied with a strong interest in art as a freelance artist.

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