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The Most Expensive Fakes In Gaming History

From the outside looking in, the market for collecting retro video games and trading cards can be a pretty intimidating place. Understanding why anyone would pay double or triple what a game cost when it was originally released can be baffling, let alone the idea that single cards from "Pokemon" and "Magic the Gathering" can be worth over $100,000.

In recent years, the expansion of the speculative market for retro game prices has caused spiked and bubbles, like the "Pokemon" card craze of 2021. Of course, with any market so unpredictable and valuable there are bound to be counterfeits and scammers. It can be difficult to identify fake games — and the rarer the item, the harder it becomes to verify. A lot of people have fallen for fake concert tickets (per CNBC), but the following game collectors and YouTubers lost serious amounts of cash on counterfeit games, consoles that never existed, and falsely advertised cards.

Logan Paul bought $3.5 million in fake Pokemon cards

Logan Paul is one for making headlines for questionable and shady reasons, and the latest is a Pokemon card scandal that cost the YouTuber over $3 million.

As noted by Den of Geek, 2021 saw a return of "Pokemon" fever, in the form of a boom in the trading card market. Rare and first-edition cards are going for up to six figures these days, and the rush is not letting up any time soon. Logan Paul recently spent $3.5 million on a collection of six sealed first edition booster boxes of Pokemon cards. Unfortunately for him, they turned out to be total fakes.

Experts within the "Pokemon" TCG community first alerted Paul to the fact that the box of cards was a phony. Fansite Pokébeach and YouTuber Rattle found numerous red flags based on what Paul posted on social media, including a shady eBay seller and weird inconsistencies in the barcodes and plastic wrap on the set Paul acquired.

After going meeting up with authenticators from BBCE, who confirmed those fans' suspicions. Paul was dismayed to learn that Wizards of the Coast box containing the cards was, indeed, a fake. Opening them up revealed stack after stack of "G.I. Joe" cards. According to a BBCE employee present at the time, this added up to "the biggest fraud in the entire history of 'Pokemon.'"

Someone else in Logan Paul's social circle was duped by Pokemon cards

Now, you might think Logan Paul could have seen this year's dupe coming, because in 2020, his "personal Pokemon advisor" bought fake cards. Over that summer, a group of digital creators over at the Dumb Money YouTube channel — Dave Hanson, Chris Camillo and Jordan Mclain — decided to buy a box of first edition cards for $375,000 from Jake "JBTheCryptoKing" Greenbaum, a crypto speculator and friend of Logan Paul's. He had bought the box for $200,000 before flipping it to Dumb Money (per Polygon).

Planning to make a Las Vegas fundraiser out of the box opening, the YouTubers at least had the sense to cracking open the set to verify the cards' authenticity. Once they did, Hanson and Camillo saw that some packs had been opened already and that the box itself was clearly fake.

Greenbaum later denied any knowledge of the fact the cards were not sealed first-edition as promised. However, Greenbaum later posted a reminder on his Twitter that collectors should always buy professionally-graded cards.

A re-sealed copy of Yoshi's Story for N64 sold for $1,750

In the retro video game collectors' market, the difference between a game that has been opened and one that is sealed can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. If you were to find out that the sealed game you just bought has been used before, you have a right to be shocked and more than a little upset. That's what happened to YouTuber and retro game collector Phoenix Resale when he dropped $1,750 on what he thought was the most expensive game he'd ever encountered.

In 2021, the rare game expert encountered what he believed to be a mint condition sealed copy of "Yoshi's Story" for the N64. A few months later, he released a follow-up that revealed the N64 game he'd purchased was actually resealed, meaning the plastic wrap had been taken off and then replaced. This meant that the game had significantly depreciated in value. In his first video about "Yoshi's Story," Phoenix even says while scrolling eBay that a resealed copy isn't worth even $500.

Based on Phoenix's follow-up video, it seems there is no ill will between the seller and the YouTuber. Sometimes, these things really do fall through the cracks with no malicious intent, especially with a game as rare as "Yoshi's Story," with which neither involved party had much experience.

Fake Ge-Force RTX cards went for over $3000 on Amazon

When graphics card shortages were really starting to be tangible to the consumer in 2021, console manufacturers and fans alike scrambled to get them (per PCMag). The electronic chip shortage made Ge-Force RTX cards, a particularly popular and powerful brand, especially hard to find. Demand grew to the point where knock-offs of the biggest retail size graphics cards were being sold as the real thing to anyone who didn't know better.

Fake NVIDIA Ge-Force RTX graphic cards were being sold on Amazon over the summer for (ahem) competitive prices. Listings for ZHIMIAO-branded cards began popping up, with images of the NVIDIA retail box tweaked to fit the knock-off company's logo. At the time, the ZHMIAO GeForce RTX 3060 boasted a list price of $3,858.99, a solid thousand dollars above the price the more powerful 3080 was going for at the time. The ZHMIAO 3080 and 3090 cards were going for $6,619.99 and $7,981.99, respectively, until Amazon eventually put and end to the scam.

Some game stores will pay $200 for a fake Magic card

"Pokemon" trading cards aren't the only ones that can be worth a good deal of money. For years, old and rare "Magic: The Gathering" cards have sold for high prices, provided they're in good condition. For instance, certain editions of the Black Lotus card from the 1990s can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Some of the rarest "Magic" cards have been around for quite a while, which is why some collectors will spend hundreds of dollars on a card, just to rip it up. Why? To see if it's real or a fake.

Writing for Vice, Matthew Gault spoke with board game and trading card store owners and employees about how to test the validity of a full card collection potentially worth thousands: by first buying a single card off someone for $200 and ripping it up. Legitimate MTG cards have a blue core sheet in the middle that is extremely difficult to replicate. This is an almost surefire way of knowing if someone is selling you valuable collectibles, or a pile of useless paper.

"If you can eyeball a collection and assess it's worth $4,500... you buy one of their Volcanic Islands [cards] at full retail price," one card shop worker explained. "You'd be foolish to turn down $200 for [that]... So we'll pay them and then rip the card."  It's a pricey way to check, but it can save thousands in the long run.

PS5s that never even existed were sold in bulk

More than a year after the launch of the PlayStation 5, it is still nearly impossible to buy one for MSRP from first-party retailers. Amazon, Walmart, and all the usual suspects still go through stock in a matter of seconds whenever the companies get new consoles in. The PS5 reselling market has allowed people to flip the consoles for upwards of $1000, twice the retail price. Scalpers have made an astonishing amount of money from PS5s, so it's no surprise scammers turned to selling fake PS5s. 

One particularly egregious example of counterfeit PlayStations never even existed in physical form. YouTuber Glitching Queen explained that she found scammers operating through e-commerce supplier site Alibaba. Multiple accounts were offering PlayStation 5 consoles for low-ish wholesale costs (a few hundred dollars each), but made retailers buy them in bulk. 

As Glitching Queen discovered, the photos the company sent her were created using an augmented reality app that allows consumers to see what a PS5 would look like in their rooms. Another red flag came when these sellers told her they offered a model with a 2TB hard drive — which gamers know is not an option Sony offers for its console.  

Retailers selling fake retro games for over $200

In 2016, GameStop cruised into the previously mom-and-pop business of buying and selling retro games. Unfortunately, it seems that not every store in the company was doing its due diligence, at least at first. It became so easy to get a fake retro cartridge from GameStop that by 2018, YouTuber RGT 85 had to put his foot down. 

According to the collector, some stores were in the habit of buying and re-selling counterfeit retro games. He argued that the retailer needed to adopt a more thorough process in training employees to know when used games are legit. 

The example RGT 85 used to irrevocably prove his point was a listing in which GameStop was selling a copy of the N64's "ClayFighter: Sculptor's Cut" for $250. As was clearly visible in the product image, this copy of the rare Nintendo game was on a blue cartridge. RGT 85 pointed out that it is relatively easy to look up which N64 cartridges had blue variants — and the "ClayFighter" title in question was not one of them.