Bootleg By Definition

One of the most common questions I get in my “How to Spot Bootlegs” panel is “What is the difference between a ‘bootleg’ and ‘unlicensed’ merchandise?” The difference is massive, so I’m here to explain.

Throughout my time as a collector, I’ve noticed that “bootleg” is often used as an umbrella term for merchandise that is copied or created without a license. Regardless of the proper title, the merchandise is low quality and shares many common defects. Despite that, the term is actually a little more specific than the umbrella term it has become.

Bootleg

A bootleg is a fraudulent copy of a piece of existing merchandise made in mass production. This means that the licensing company has released or allowed a company to make a piece of merchandise and someone has created a copy of that item in an attempt to confuse the customer into buying theirs instead.

Some confusion created behind this is that sometimes bootlegs are made by the same factories hired to make the official versions. That is why some bootlegs are very convincing, but might not contain parts they do not manufacture like licensing company identification tags (holographic stickers) or the correct packaging. Bootlegs can also be made with stolen prototype moulds that are not destroyed when disposed of.

The manufacturers above do not have permission to create extra merchandise or use the disposed prototype moulds and are absolutely sneaky about the routes they take to sell this merchandise.

Common synonyms: knockoff, counterfeit, pirated (in reference to media with official releases that release copies)


So what about merchandise that does not fit the criteria above? Well, there are specific terms out there for that.

Unlicenced Merchandise

Unlicensed merchandise is an original product made in mass production based on an existing property that requires a license to sell or make merchandise. They have not gained permission from the person who owns the license to produce merchandise or paid the licensing fees, and therefore the merchandise is not official.

This can get a little confusing if a licensor allows a company to produce socks featuring approved artwork, and graphics, but another one creates unlicensed socks of their own design featuring original art. The unlicensed socks do not feature the same designs, therefore they are not copying the official socks and are not considered bootlegs.

Common synonyms: Unauthorized, Pirated (media with no official release/translation the unauthorized release takes the place of)

Where Do Fan Artists Fit?

Fanart can be a really big grey area when it comes to this conversation. The biggest difference is that most fan artists can not afford to mass-produce merchandise, therefore they are not typically viewed as unlicensed or bootleg. They are viewed as fanart. Mass production is typically considered to be around 10,000 pieces or more, and most artists can not afford or even store this much merchandise.

With that said, the creation of Print on Demand and Shop sites has somewhat changed licensors’ views on this. They do not provide much external view on how that item or artist sells, so it’s hard to tell if they do 1 sale per year or 1000 sales per month. So the overall view seems to be if you sell online you are fair game for a Cease & Desist.

Within the convention scene though, most licensors will consider an artist’s work a type of free advertising, except if they commit trademark infringement. That means situations in which an artist uses a logo, series name, or character name. There is definitely a little more to it, but these are the more common things event staff are asked to keep an eye out for. If you are an artist seeking legal advice I advise you to do your own research. This will not apply to all companies, and not many speak out about what they allow.


If you have any questions about specific words and what they actually mean vs how the community uses them feel free to drop them below. I’ll either tell you where they fit or include them in my post above.

My favourite places to buy official! (* include affiliate links)

Amiami.com
HLJ.com*
EntertainmentEarth.com
*
CDJapan.co.jp*
Mandarake.co.jp

How To: Remove Plastic Yellowing

The sad reality of collecting vintage toys is that even if you take the BEST care of them they can turn yellow. For some items it can be a chemical reaction in the plastic due to heat or simply age, for others it can be sun fading from being left outside or in a window space for too long. Even exposure to cigarette smoke can yellow plastics.

Today I want to talk about a process called Retrobriting (RB) (aka Retr0brite, Retrobright). It’s a process that appears to have been created by the tech world for removing the yellowing from old electronics. If you google or youtube it you’ll find pages upon pages of content featuring old computers, keyboards, Gameboys, and consoles, most contributing the problem to heat from the electronics inside. Oddly, I see very little happening in the world of collectable toys hopping on this bandwagon. In fact, I can remember dozens of posts asking about the sun fading over the years with zero response outside of painting to fix it.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why I see so few Sailor Moon collectors jumping on RB. It might simply be an age thing that now we’re older and less afraid to try these sorts of things on our expensive toys, or it might be that simply no one thought to try it? I’m sure I am not the first Moonie to do it though, and absolutely not the first (non-tech) collector. During my research, I found a Star Wars collector who restored vintage figures with this method, as well as a Polly Pocket collector who used a related, but slightly different method.

What is Retrobriting exactly?

The general consensus with RB is that it uses a hydrogen peroxide formula in combination with exposure to UV light to create a chemical reaction with Bromine on or in the plastic to remove the yellowing it causes. It appears to have not actually have been studied though, and this may not be the case. That article also believes it may just bleach your item, though I’ve seen the process work on coloured plastic, and I am personally unsure if that is what is happening.

Is Retrobriting Permanent?

Retrobriting is NOT permanent, but as the original process of yellowing is slow it should not return for a while. Remember, it took about 14 years for my wand to reach the condition it was in in the pictures at the beginning. This video shows a test where the repaired item was reexposed to sunlight for a full year, and certain areas were protected with different topcoats. While you could see some changes, even after a full year of exposure the shift was not that big.

Can Retrobriting Damage My Toys?

RBing is usually safe as long as you do not overdo it. This wand sat for 24 hours in 3% H2O2 without issue, so I don’t believe it’s easy to damage your plastics. It MAY be more dangerous if your plastic is already weak. Over doing it can make your plastics brittle.

What is the Process for Retrobriting?

RBing can be done with a cream or liquid. Neither is better than the other overall, but might be a better process depending on your access to sunlight, supplies, or even just targeting a specific part of the item.

I will not be covering the cream formula in this article as I have not tried it yet, but there are plenty of resources online for it.

Liquid

For this tutorial I practised on my clearly yellowed Sailor Mini Moon Pink Moon Stick from Irwin Toys in 2001. That wand is exactly 20 years old this year and the common complaint about it is that the soft pink handle often turns yellow. This happened to my wand, even though it has only been removed from the box a couple of times (I got it sealed even), and has lived most of its life in a basement. It was even pink when I bought it.

Clearly, the pictures are taken under different lighting and there’s some harshness to the second image that isn’t in the first, but the second picture above has been edited to pretty accurately shows the colour of the wand I started with this week, in comparison to the same wand on the left. These pictures were taken 4 years apart. The left picture was taken in 2011, while the picture on the right was taken in 2015. The pictures below will have been taken this week.

What you’ll need:
*UV LED Lights [I used these] ($23 CAD)
*Hydrogen Peroxide 32 fl. oz. – 3% – 12% ONLY ($4 CAD)
*Aluminum Foil ($10 CAD)
Duct Tape ($4 CAD)
A clear container big enough for your item (Mine was $4 from Value village)

Total Cost: $45 CAD

*Cost will depend on the amount you need and the size of your container.

Safety Notes – IMPORTANT

When working with H2O2 please wear gloves and eye protection.

Do not use higher than 12% H2O2 for this project. Doing so risks damaging your item, and may be corrosive and too dangerious.

The UV light will heat up the H2O2. This is a part of the reaction, but should be monitored so that it doesn’t heat up enough to damage your plastic.

Always request and read the Safety Data Sheet of any chemicals you work with for the first time, especially if you are using it in a different way for the first time.

MSDS ONLINE – H2O2 Health and Safety

Building your system:

Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures of building my system because I didn’t think I’d keep it, but it seems appropriately sized for most projects I’ll ever do for now.

For my container, I chose a tall, round glass vase I already owned and placed the completed set up in a plastic bin in case of leaks or spills.

Travelling the outside of the container I used Duct Tape to tape the LED lights in a spiral up to the top. I am still unsure whether this container will remain or not, so I didn’t trim off the light strip (they can be cut at specific points).

Once the lights are secure, wrap the aluminium foil shiny side facing in around the full container. Be sure to include enough to fold under the bottom, or cover it with a different piece later. Secure it all in place. For the top, I cut off a small section and just hand-folded it over to get the shape. The foil acts as a reflector for the UV light.

Pour your H2O2 into the container and plug in the lights to test it!

The rest of the images below have not been edited

Remove all of the screws and components from your item so that just the parts you want to RB are free from other parts. For this wand I just want to RB the handle pieces. The rest is actually in really good condition with the exception of the plastic backing for the holographic heart sticker. Unfortunately I don’t feel I can safely remove the sticker, but luckily that part is not visible, so it’s okay if I don’t treat it.

TIP: When I know I’ll be working on something like this for a while I bag all of the parts in a ziplock bag for safekeeping. I am absolutely the type of person to lose the screws.

Once the items are dropped into the H2O2 you can cover it with the lid and check back to see how it’s doing. This project took approximately 24 hours by the time I was happy with it and decided to say it was satisfactory. See some process updates below.

The 24 hours WAS broken up over 2 days. I didn’t want to let it sit overnight unattended until I had confidence in the lights as the plug kept getting very hot.


Final Results

The final result looks BEAUTIFUL. I’ll be honest, I had to take it outside into natural light before I realized it WAS turning back to pink. If you compare the process pictures they don’t appear to have a lot of change until you see this one in the natural light.

Overall this was a relatively painless project and it did GREAT things for my original wand in a short couple of days. I’ve already started working on a couple of other pieces I own to improve my collection.


Moon Healing Escalation!

If you’re looking to remove damage from your collectible and afraid to do it yourself feel free to contact me.

Other Examples of Retrobriting I’ve Done đź’•

Left: Before, Right: After
Top: After; Bottom: Before

Quick Guide: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Bootlegs

Before I start I would like to say that this is not an anti-bootleg post. For some people they’re all you can afford, and sometimes you simply did not know any better. Some collectors buy exclusively weird and funny bootlegs. The creator of Sailor Moon, Naoko Takeuchi, collected bootlegs of her franchise in the 90’s because she thought some of them were funny.

This post is to act as knowledge so that you know where bootlegs come from, what sort of risk they can pose, and why, in the end, you’re better off saving for the official item instead.

As a toy collector I’ve pulled my knowledge from other collectors, discussion with industry members, documentaries on the bootlegging industry, and nearly 16 years in the manufacturing industry in a variety of positions. I also host panels at conventions discussing how to identify bootlegs. In short, I’m not talking out of my ass, and do feel I am qualified to discuss this topic.

Pay Creators

First of all, bootlegs do not pay creators. While in this industry we’re mostly talking about larger companies who are already established and doing well, bootlegs hurt small artists and newer companies as well. Regardless of size, bootleg sales hurt the companies you love to see new work from, and it adds up.

Value

From several perspectives bootlegs are not valuable. They’re made to be produced cheaper than their official counterparts, therefore their flaws often diminish their value straight out of initial purchase. This is likely only a concern if you are a collector, but gained value can be helpful in a pinch.

Quality and Safety

The quality and safety portions of my points severely need to be combined. They intersect, and can greatly impact your home especially if you have kids, pets, or intend on using a bootleg item for something like a cake topper, or overall food decoration.

Material – To cut the cost of making an item usually a lesser quality material that is reasonably comparable is used. Reasonably comparable does not mean sufficient. Every country and industry has manufacturing guidelines they must follow. Certain materials must be used at certain grades. For example, silicone items for the kitchen must be made using “Food Grade Silicone.” This ensures it is safe for certain temperatures, washing, stirring, and all of the things you’ll do with it. A lower grade might melt in the dishwasher for example, or start degrading while you stir your spaghetti sauce. This could leave chunks of silicone in your food, or leak toxins that are undetectable until you’re sick later.

For collectors, this usually means materials that are not strong enough and a figure may lean until it can no longer stand, or that the material is one that omits a foul odor that can be toxic in certain amounts, or just unpleasant in your home. For say, one figure, that seems harmless, but if you have children or pets it can make them sick easier, especially if it gets in their mouth. It can also leech into your food if you’re using it as a decoration in party food, a cake topper, or any other way you can imagine using it.

Paint – Bootlegs are known for using lead paint. It’s less heard of today, but 20 years ago merchandise was being pulled from shelves in retail stores for containing lead paint. Here’s an article from the Mayo Clinic on lead paint poisoning.

Visual Aesthetic – This is less safety, and more quality, but bootlegs are not often made to be art pieces. The paint jobs are bad, glue leaks are common, missing pieces are common, and I’ve even seen pieces attached backwards. Bootlegs are manufactured for a quick buck. Not to get you cheaper merchandise.

Unhealthy Ingredients – When I use “ingredients” I don’t just mean what it’s made out of, but what traces can be tested on the product, or on the box. I’ve read of perfumes made with human urine, boxes and product testing for rat waste and poison, and even product with mould growing on it. Suddenly that off brand perfume doesn’t seem as great.

Ethical Practices

This is… a whole article on it’s own that even includes EVERYTHING I’ve talked about above… So I’ll try to be brief.

Bootleg manufacturing can be linked back to the theft of prototype moulds from the original manufacturer, or even the shop hired to produce official product backstabbing their customer by producing the bootlegs in the same shop with cheaper materials, or small changes to avoid lawsuits or discovery. In merchandise like purses there can sometimes be zero difference from the official bag to the bootleg, but the tags are not included, or the stitching isn’t as carefully done. The unethical behaviour lies behind the shop stealing the design and reselling product the owner of the license does not know about. Essentially their product is stolen.

To make their unethical behaviour even more unbelievable, bootlegging has been traced back to low wages, slave labour, child labour, and financing further black market industries like drug dealing, and sex trafficking. It doesn’t matter if you’re purchasing a purse or an anime figure. These companies are not transparent about where their money is going, and it takes a real investigation to find out.

In short, purchasing bootleg merchandise might seem harmless on the surface, but you don’t know what you’re promoting with your own money. You rarely have enough information to know whether your bootleg was “just” produced using a stolen mould, or whether it straight up pays for a lot of really bad things.

Why Does This Still Happen?

This article isn’t really about this, but I feel it’s an important answer to provide.

Most companies do not bother taking down bootleggers because it’s very expensive, and the second one is removed, another pops up. While to maintain copyright and trademark ownership they must show that they’re putting effort into protecting their properties, it’s way easier to do that to product listings online. Sending out Cease and Desist letters is way cheaper than spending years in court and finding the proof to back up your claims. Honestly… Maybe even physically safer in some cases.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to think you’re just buying a copy of something, but the whole bootlegging industry is so much worse than that.

Please Note: This post is meant as a “quick guide.” In the future I will be posting longer, more in-depth posts with resources.

How To: Plushie Care and Restoration

It was requested a while ago that I do a piece talking about plushy cleaning, so I figured I’d cover plushy care in general. Cleaning and caring for your NEW plushies can be pretty easy, but if you buy something used and receive it in less than desirable condition you’re going to have some work to do to help it look new.

PLEASE NOTE: This blog post was written considering mostly Japanese Sailor Moon Crane Game plushies from the 90’s. Feel free to ask about specific plushies/issues in the comments, or do some research on the fabrics in your plushies and apply the appropriate techniques! There should still be a lot here to help you at least get started.

Dusting

Lint rollers are basically my life saver. I use them on my every day clothing, but I also use them on my fabric back drops, and plushies! The sticky won’t transfer onto fabrics, and they won’t pull apart plushy fabric. To get into those hard to reach places just pull off a clean sheet and manually clean the areas yourself. If the sheet is too big cut or tear pieces that will work better.

Makeup brushes are also a great way to pull dust out of tight spaces. They’re also soft enough to not scratch or rip fabric.

Pilling

Pilling is something that happens when the fabric is rubbed a lot in wear or use. It balls up into little puffs of fabric until the fabric wears away entirely and forms a hole. This doesn’t usually reach hole status in collectible plushies, but it’s common in a plushy that gets a lot of love, or underarm of knitted shirts.

There are tools for doing this. It’s a little blade connected to a casing that will suck up and hold the cut off bits of cotton, but shaving razors work just as well.

Washing Plushies

There are lots of things to consider when washing a plushy. First consider how the plushy is assembled. If there are elements that are hot glued it may be better to hand wash the plushy in colder water. How old is the plushy? If it’s old and fragile it might not make it through the cycles in a washing machine. Last, are there any existing damages that might push further if it is machine washed?

Remove any tags that can not be washed safely. If the plushy has a card board tag that has a plastic tab on it, bend the tab and slip the tag off. This shouldn’t damage the plush or tag, and it’s easy to put the tag back on: just do the exact same thing, except slide the tag back on.

Machine Washing

Once the plushy is tag free and you’re sure it’s washer safe put it into a washer bag. They’re typically for bras, but they will protect your plushies as well. If you don’t have a washer bag use a pillowcase instead, and tie over the end with a hair elastic. Set the washer to delicate or a setting you use for delicate items.

Hand Washing

There are multiple options for hand washing. Fill a washing pan or sink full of soapy water or can spot wash. Either way, if you use soap I recommend Dawn Liquid Detergent.

Sink: Fill with cold to warm water depending on dirty it is and add soap. Place plushies in water, let soak, and lightly scrub as needed with a wash cloth (preferably something microfiber that won’t leave bits of itself in your plushy). A kids toothbrush can also be soft enough to help scrub out stubborn stains.

Spot Wash: Dip a cloth into cold to warm water and only use the cloth on the area of the plushy that requires cleaning. Use clean, non-soapy water to clear off the area of soap or cleaners.

Drying

Most plushies will be better off air drying. Long furs, and plastic-y fabrics should definitely air dry. So should any plush with damage that weakens its integrity.

Air Drying: Lay flat in a safe, dry, and warm space.

Sun Drying: Be sure to flip it every hour until dry. Do NOT let the plushy sit in the sun for several days. You risk sun damaging it, more especially if it is old.

Blow Drying: Be cautious of the heat settings. Do not let it accidentally melt your plushies if they are made of synthetic materials. Game machine plushies are often made of felt or a similar fabric and can be heat sensitive. It is not easy to melt fabric with a blow dryer, but is possible on higher settings.

Spot Washing/Removers

Spot removers that are for clothing, or gentle on fabrics should be safe. ALWAYS test these in a spot that is not usually visible (bottom side of a skirt, under a tail, etc.). Be sure that the remover is safe for colours! Many of them contain bleach. Tide-To-Go pens are a popular choice and have a lot of good reviews. Just remember that they are a step previous to washing. If you do not want to wash your entire plush spot washing with a cloth is a good option after using the pen.

Lysol wipes are my FAVOURITE for spot washing plushies. It disinfects and removes dirt at the same time and won’t damage anything. This CAN be kind of wasteful if you don’t like the sheets. I invite you to buy the equivalent Lysol and a cleaning cloth.

For items I can’t get clean or stain hard and CAN go into the washer I LOVE Resolve Spray Wash. This stuff is AMAZING at removing stains. I recommend following the directions which is usually to spray the stain, scrub, let sit for 5 minutes, and wash.

I have used this product on synthetic products that do not leak dye and I’ve had no problem letting it sit longer on harder stains. If an item has dyed fabric I recommend being cautious doing that. The instructions warn that it could remove dye.

Repairing Plushies

Ripped Seams/Pieces that have come Unglued

Repairing a plushy will always depend on how the actual plushy was made to repair it to like-new state. Most of my modern plushies are sewn together 100% with some embroidered elements, while my older plushies from the 1990’s are a mix of sewing, hot glue, or a glue that resembles super glue.

Before moving forward, clear up the area you are repairing. Remove any loose threads, or old glue. Old glue can be removed with glue dissolvants that are meant for that glue. Goo-Gone is a good place to start, but I like to use 100% Acetone (aka nail polish remover). ALWAYS test that it won’t damage the plush first. Acetone is GREAT for removing hot glue from acrylic yarn and felt.

Glue: I highly recommend these glues for repairs:
Mercury M1100G Glue
E6000 Glue
Hot Glue
Fabric Glue

Seam Rips: These can be repaired several ways. I only suggest resewing the patch if you know how, or carefully fabric glue the section together. Be sure to follow the directions on the bottle. Not following the proper procedure WILL result in the fabric glue not holding well enough.

Sun Bleaching

Sun bleaching happens when an item fades in colour after long exposure to the sun. This normally takes quite a few days to years to happen in items like plastic, but it can take a few days on fabrics.

On fabrics there is no repair process for this without re-dying the fabric. Be sure to colour test swatches before dying a full section of fabric affected. If part of a panel is damaged do not dye just the damaged section. It will be less noticeable if the full panel is dyed. If the plush is intact use a paintbrush and mask off the areas you do not want to paint with tape so that it is easier to complete the job without mistakes.

While I highly recommend synthetic fabric dyes, in a pinch, watered down Acrylic paints CAN dye fabrics, but I recommend not calling that a repair, as it can harden the fabric.

Maintenance/Display

Bagging

A lot of collectible plushies will come in bag plastic wrapping. If the bag does not obstruct any part of the plush that you want visible it’s worth keeping it in the bag just to avoid dust contamination. If there IS an issue with how the plush is bagged it should be okay to open it and adjust things. The bags do not really affect their worth the same way an open or sealed box affects a figures value.

A small collector secret is Cling Wrap! It’s not the most attractive way to protect a plushy, but it’s cheap, and it CAN look good if you apply it properly. This was a method my parents used with my china dolls when I was a kid. They created a small bag out of the wrap, and while the outside of the cling wrap yellowed with smoke the doll stayed perfectly clean and did not turn, even after 20 years.

When looking for replacement bag options avoid bags (and cling wrap) meant for freezers. These can sometimes have chemicals in them meant for protecting food and can yellow collectibles over long periods of time.

Display Case

Plushies can be easy to maintain in a display case. This can range from things like shadow boxes to full on book shelves with doors. I even use a china cabinet to display dolls and plush in, and this keeps out a lot of dust.

detolf

For large displays I have used the Ikea Detolf. It’s a great tempered glass display shelf that’s compact, but has just the right dimensions to play around with. It’s easy to wrap something like cling wrap around the front display and pile plush behind it so they don’t fall out when the door is opened.

Book shelving is one of the more obvious answers, but I am tossing this in in 2021 as an update to the post. I have since sold my detolfs in exchange for shelving because I maxed out my detolfs in the space I had available. When I moved out I was broke af and went with the Ikea Gersby shelf, but a couple years in and I think my next move will be to upgrade to Ikea Billy shelves. The Gersby shelving is great and uniform with their unadjustable shelves, but that has greatly hindered my ability to display larger items, or keep items in boxes. I can also upgrade my Billy shelves in the future with doors

If you DO buy a Billy shelf with doors be sure to anchor it to the wall no matter where you live or if you have earth quakes. The doors make the shelving front heavy and unreliable as free standing.


If you’re looking for more tips on protecting your collection view the category linked here.

This post is a living document and is updated with my favourite products from time to time.
Last Updated: March 13, 2021

Moving with Gashapon

So the time has finally come. I’m moving out.

At the ripe old age of 26 I have found an amazing man who accepts my collecting (probably because I accept his lol), loves me to pieces, and wants to share a small living space with me. I’ve tried to warn him. I really have. But he still insists that that’s what he wants. *shrugs*

I thought it’d be helpful to document how I plan on moving my gigantic collection (and maybe his, though most of his collection is in book form). I’ve seen a LOT of questions on both my blog, and in passing through the internet, about how to pack and move a collection. In my case it’ll be a wide variety of items as my collection is diverse, so there should be some unique information.

These posts will be included under my Collection Care tag and category.

For my first moving feature…

Gashapon!

Gashapon are frustrating to transport because they are often small and lower quality. This means they can break easily, small parts are easily lost, and paint transfer is hard to avoid when they immediate instinct is to toss them into a box and forget about it. This… would have been a nightmare to unpack, so I decided to pack each piece individually, and take as much care as I needed.

To start, I found a box I felt would fit my entire collection. I’ll be honest, I went through 2 boxes. The first filled up MUCH faster than anticipated, but my entire collection of gasha eventually fit into 1 bankers box.

DO be aware of the weight you’re putting in your box. Heavy sets of items, or larger items in general, should go on the bottom. Fragile sets should go near the top. Figures that assemble should be taken apart if any of the parts could potentially bend, warp, or crack off.

Ziplock bags will become your best friend here. Organize the parts of your gashapon into ziplock or sandwich bags. 1 gashapon item to a bag, or sets together if possible.

When picking what items will fill what bags consider if those items run the risk of paint transfer together.

If you plan on using long term storage be sure to avoid using freezer bags, bags meant for long term food storage. The chemicals used in those bags can be harmful to collectibles over long periods of time

I’ve also organized things like wrappers, stickers, tags, and handkerchiefs into bags corresponding to similar items. These will be helpful to cushion layers of the box, and keep items together for organization later.

Feel free to ask about specific items/types of items and I’ll be sure to feature it in one of my posts!

Identifying S.H.Figuarts Sailor Moon Series Bootlegs

THIS GUIDE APPLIES TO ALL BOOTLEG S.H.FIGUARTS SAILOR MOON LINE FIGURES,
but specifically uses Sailor Moon as a baseline.

Price Tags & Listings

If an S.H.Figuarts Sailor Moon figure is a bootleg chances are you’ll see her priced very low ($17.99 seems to be the magic price as of December 12, 2013). The seller may also state that the figure is the CHINESE VERSION instead of the Japanese version. “Chinese version” is a huge red flag, as there’s no such thing in this line. There are international releases, but those are signified with an alternate TOEI sticker, and no change to the box or figure. There is no specific Chinese release.

Be sure that if the seller uses official photos that they note whether the manufacturer is Bandai, or if they’ve left out that detail entirely

Box Identifiers

Boxes
Left: Official First Release; Right: Bootleg (Pic. Credit)

It’s harder to tell online because photo editing, and picture taking conditions can vary, but try to identify if the box colour differs from an official box. Note how in the photos above the bootleg has a red tone.

Physically the only box difference other than the colour is the international Sailor Moon logo that appears on the bootleg box, but not the official box pictured. THIS IS ACTUALLY OK! This logo DOES appear on some boxes, and appears to be something signifying international release vs Japanese release. They’re all manufactured by the same people, in the same place, and distributed from Japan, but the international release has it’s own release date outside of Japan.

On the window of the box for the First Edition release of Sailor Moon specifically should be a sticker that reads:

FIRST EDITION BONUS
2 Interchangeable Face Parts-
Winking and Crying
Expressions
Included

The second press of this figure DOES NOT have this sticker, or the bonus parts, but the bootleg of the first press figure neglects to recreate this sticker, and therefore it is missing. If you have no sticker in the window, but bonus parts your figure could be bootleg.

The bootleg is also missing the TOEI sticker outlined in red on the bottom portion of the box. This sticker is normally located in the same location pictured, or above the 20th Anniversary logo between Sailor Moons legs.

Parts

Bootleg joints on this figure are skin tone. They should be WHITE or the appropriate colour of that joint, but ALL of the bootlegs are skin tone.

ii7i5jmu

Check the paint colours in both her eyes and mouth on the faceplates. The official versions appear slightly darker, and it appears more obvious in the mouth. The official face plates also have thicker and darker tiaras. The bootlegs are faded looking, and the eyebrows are the wrong colour.

The Crescent Moon Wands seem to be the give away here though. One of the more impressive features of this official figure is how well the wands are moulded and painted. The bootlegs look horrible. Their sculpting and paint jobs are VERY messy.

Body Sculpt & Paint Job

Riesz1384916317

This image gives a clear look at not just the skin tone arm joints, but how poorly painted she is as well. Take note of her skirt, choker, and Odango covers. It also appears that her bangs try to make use of the transparent plastic, but it appears a little dirty. This COULD be caused by the black background though.

In most of the photographs found for this bootleg ((mfc link)) it appears that her joints are pulled out to make her appear longer. You can see her joints sticking out under her skirt and at her arms. Her head also appears pulled forward too far, or up too far.

Also note the seam lines along her body side, shoulder pads, and the prominent neck joint. These details are trimmed or avoided on an official piece.

Assembly

Though I have no pictures to offer one of the biggest complaints from people who have been stuck with a bootleg version of Sailor Moon is how easily she falls apart at the waist and arms. THIS SHOULDN’T BE AN ISSUE**. While some factory defects escape inspection your figure shouldn’t easily fall apart.

** This has since changed. A common problem with the S.H.Figuarts Sailor Moon is that her torso detaches from her bust and needs to be popped back in.


If you have any questions, or tips for spotting a bootleg S.H.Figuarts Sailor Moon figure please comment below!

PURCHASE OFFICIAL

Purchase her on CDJapan

Purchase her on Entertainment Earth

Purchase her on HLJ

Storing & Moving your Collection

Chances are when you have a growing collection you’ll find yourself storing boxes, items of lesser importance, or items you just can’t display right now. It’s difficult to know exactly how you should do that when you’ve never had to before, so hopefully I can provide some tips you didn’t consider.

As storing and moving can go hand-in-hand I’ll attempt to cover specific products/methods individually. There are no rules… these are just things I’ve done myself, or have read about.

Manufacturer’s box

Funny enough, one of the best ways to store your item is exactly how you received it! In the manufacturers packaging. As most of the packaging will probably be cardboard I recommend storing your items in a cool, dry place. You can stretch wrap the box, or tape paper towel around it for extra security from dust or spills (use the stretch wrap).

This is not a permanent storage solution for figures! PVC and ABS figures are known to “sweat” in their boxes. The plastic will feel oily or sticky. This can be washed off with a damp cloth, but be sure to take extra care. If the figure is not custom made you can wash it in cool to warm water. Do not use hot water.

ZipLock bags

smallziplocks

Zip Lock baggies are PERFECT for small items with multiple parts like gashapon. They take up very little space, can be flattened, and contorted to fit into small spaces, plus they can be sealed in order to keep the contents in the bag without difficulty. They’re also available at the dollar store in standard sizes, or various sizes online for very cheap.

Be sure to choose a Zip Lock bag that is not meant for freezer usage or mentions anything about preserving food for long lengths of time. I’ve read about acidic properties in the plastic causing damage to the paint and plastic of figures that are stored for long periods of time. As regular Zip Lock bags shouldn’t be an issue, I imagine it is the bags with special preservative properties that are the problem. A bag designed to avoid freezer burn, or other issues could have additives in the plastic that protect something like food, but damage plastic or paint.

For safest, and flattest storage be sure to disassemble your gashapon or item (if possible).

Towels

Sometimes you’ve got nothing else! If you haven’t saved your manufacturers packaging use a paper or cotton towel to wrap, stuff, and secure the small areas of your merchandise. Tape around them when you’re happy with the amount you’ve wrapped and secured it.

Paper towel is great if you’re moving or storing for long periods. Cotton or regular towels/blankets are fine temporarily, mostly because you’ll probably want that in the shower eventually.

If you clean your items before packing them away you can even reuse the paper towels.

Stretch Wrap

Stretch wrap products like Saran Wrap should be treated like zip lock bags. For long-term storage seek options that aren’t meant for preserving frozen food. For anything temporary it shouldn’t matter too much.

Stretch wrap is great for soft items like plushies, or even dolls. You can also wrap them in a single layer or two, pull it tight, and neat around the plush, and display them that way to avoid dust, and smoke damage. My parents use to wrap the plastic loose, but neatly around my porcelain dolls and create doll bags for them for the same reasons.

Storage Containers

RubbermaidRoughneckStorageBox

A perfectly acceptable choice of storage is, well, in a storage container. Rubber Maid makes a lot of great, sturdy choices, and I highly recommend using them. They will keep your stuff mostly safe from water and potential hazards.

To take full advantage of them either use the manufacturer’s box, or an alternative to safely secure the item (read above). Pack nicely into the box and there you go! I also like to stuff mine with cotton or paper towels to keep the items from bumping around, and denting or breaking things.

Beware, some containers have small holes for drainage in the bottom. Check before you buy to make sure you’re getting your preference.

If you can’t afford to pick up a bunch of containers at Walmart, try paper boxes! When we get boxes of paper at work from Staples I ask to keep the box if it doesn’t rip. I use them for craft storage and box storage at home.

Do not underestimate how much a shipping tube will protect your posters and what can fit into them. I have over 50 of those plastic anime posters rolled into one of these, and it saves me both space AND damage when in storage at home, or moving to a new location.

Mothballs

Mothballs are a bit questionable. They SHOULD be ok to store in your containers to keep your boxes safe, but there are many controversies over the potential health risks of using mothballs. If you are someone who uses them I recommend it, but also recommend researching the risks (especially if you have pets or children).

Books/Comics

If you’re into comics you probably already know about, or have seen comic boards and bags. These are standard comic sized boards you place behind your comic, and then place into the accommodating (but sold separately) sized bags. This not only protects them from damage, but makes them easier to store on shelving, or in a comic box.

But did you know that these same items exist for standard books and manga? They don’t typically need back boards though, since they’re usually sturdier. You can buy manga, book, and comic bags here, or most likely at your local comic shop.

For books that you can’t buy a standard size bag for you can also use shrink-wrap! Shrink-wrap can be purchased at most local hardware, or office supply stores (my Staples carries it!). If you’re worried about the glue in your books it should be fine. My local stores shrink wrap manga all of the time using a hair dryer or heat gun at safe settings.

A shrink-wrap system can cost a lot of money, but for long-term storage it’s a good solution, AND it can be used for more than just your books.


Have questions about the items you own? Comment below and I’ll respond with a suggestion, as well as add it to the article.