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.


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)*

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.


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 💕

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

Sailor Moon Shopping

If you’re unsure how to get your Sailor Moon collection started, try with the links below! These are my favourite shops, or shops that are safe to purchase from.

I’d like to make this guide with zero need to acknowledge the elephant sized virus in the room, but due to Covid-19 some of these shops may not be able to ship to your location due to their access to shipping services delivering at the moment. Once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted things should be different.

This post will be living and periodically updated.

Last updated: December 1, 2020

Japan (second hand) (US & Japan; second hand)

These Sites Require a Japanese Proxy: (P-Bandai US exists, but rarely gets Sailor Moon merchandise and is only accessible to Americans) (second hand; This site is GLOBAL, and a collection tracking site with sales built in. Beware and do your homework)

North America (Canadian) (Second hand)


I don’t typically purchase from other countries unless the shops are already shipping to Canada. It keeps me in-line LOL. If you want a good guide on how to get your hands on items from countries not typically shipping to whereever you are I highly recommend Ochibawolfs guide below.

Fan Merchandise

These are some of my favourite artists to purchase Sailor Moon from! Check back for more later.

Celestial Prism
Gilles Bone

Some links contained on this site are Affiliate links in which I earn a small percentage of the sales. These links will not change the pricing of the item on the website. It’s just a small way you can help me keep my site running while still getting the items you’re looking for ❤

Sailor Mercury Denim Jacket

Hey there Sports Fans!

Turns out I was very busy while I was gone, and one of the hobbies I picked up was painting on clothing. I haven’t done a lot of it, but what I have done has lasted at least 2 years of very regular wear, and I consistently find myself reiterating the processes to friends and people on Facebook, so I figured… what the hell. Lets just write it down in a way that I can link it, and not explain the same thing 200 times. Of course, we know that now that I am doing this, no one will ever ask me again, and this post will never see the light of day.



First, I suggest thumb-nailing several design ideas and then picking your best piece. I have 3 pages of designs in my sketch book that came out of this initial process and I’ve kept for future ideas, but for this jacket I settled on the design above. You can tell I hadn’t decided what text I wanted on the ribbons, and I actually battled with that until the very end. Once I settled on the design I drew a couple refined versions [I can’t find anymore] to better decide on the bow shape, ribbon placement, and placement of the transformation stick. Once that was settled it was time to prep the jacket for painting!


To prep and paint your jacket you’ll need:

A hard surface that fits inside your fabric
Binder Clips
White Pencil Crayon
Paint (see below for type)
Paint Brushes
Your actual item you want to paint on


If you’re unsure what kind of paint to use you absolutely have options. The secret to painting on fabric is that it needs to adhere to the fabric, be opaque enough to be visible, and be flexible when it dries. My favourite two options for this are actual Fabric Paint and Acrylic Paint.

Fabric Paint

The clear starting point for anyone willing to spend the money is fabric paint. You can buy all sorts of different types: glossy, matte, satin, and even 3D or glowing paint! There are all sorts of metallics and pearls to choose from. All of these will come with their own instructions on use and how to bond it to the fabric, so if you go this route I recommend reading them carefully. It might also vary by brand.

Acrylic Paint

If you’re cheap and broke AF like me I highly recommend using Acrylic paint. Acrylic paint on its own can dye fabric VERY well depending on the quality of the paint you’re buying, and there are options to help your paint last longer. You likely also already have some in your craft supplies. There are all sorts of price point options from dollar store paint, to craft store options, student grade, and professional grade paint. You will also find seemingly endless shelves of tubes in thousands of colours, textures, and finishes. Honestly, I’ve had to curb my paint buying.

My suggestion is to buy what suits you best at the time. If you can only afford the $2 craft paint that’s absolutely fine. You just might need to put in a little more elbow grease to get solid coverage. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’ll work just fine.

Fabric Medium

Regardless of what kind of Acrylic you buy I recommend you mix a Fabric Medium (sometimes called a textile medium) into any paint that makes contact with your actual fabric, the base layer. This is not required, but will help your project last longer with more wash and wear. The layer of paint that adheres to your fabric is the only one that “needs” fabric medium mixed in. Everything else on top of that will be adhering to the paint below it, just like it would on paper or canvas. Fabric Medium essentially turns your paint into a fabric paint, helping it become more flexible and fixed to your project.

Prep Your Canvas/Drawing

Secure your denim to the board so that your painting area is flat and has as few wrinkles as possible. I used an extra shelf for a wooden bookcase I have hanging around. If your board isn’t big enough to show the full piece you want to paint it’s okay to work on it section by section.

I wasn’t intending on writing a tutorial when I made this jacket, so these pictures come from social media updates. The base layer I mentioned above is the white layer of paint I’ve laid on my jacket. It serves as the adhesive layer, attaching the paint to the jacket, as well as a colour boosting layer, so that the paint goes down on white instead of dark blue. You can achieve different saturation and easier coverage using different base layers to prep the surface. It’s most common to see white, grey, or black depending on what effect you’re trying to achieve. Depending on your paint, sometimes it’s impossible to build up to a level where your paint is opaque, and the dark fabric does not affect how your colour looks on the fabric.

You can see how the base layers I used affected the paint on top of it in this shot. The ribbons that are folded back are much darker than the other ribbons. I did not make those sections solid white, so it aided me in creating a shadow in those areas.

For the bubbles I took advantage of the lack of base layer to create a transparent look. Using a diluted paint and fabric medium mix meant I had better control over how much of the bubbles showed up.

For the light blue I had added fabric medium as I hadn’t yet discovered that I didn’t particularly need it. It made the paint blend INCREDIBLY well. The gradients I managed on the bow made me really happy. So that might be something you want to play with.

Setting Your Art

Setting your art is sealing your art to the fabric you’re painting on. Most fabric paint will have instructions for this, but acrylic paint will not. Do NOT wash your art before following those instructions.

For paints with instructions I recommend following them. If you use multiple I recommend using the one with the most work (longest dryer time, highest temperature, etc.). This will ensure all of your paint is safe to wash later.

If you’ve put a top coat onto your art set it after that dries, or re-set your art if you add to it. Acrylic paint does not necessarily need that for protection, but is fine if you are looking for a certain look (gloss, matte, satin…).

Final Art

This is my final jacket after about 2 years of wear. A close up will show some cracks in the paint, but nothing has flaked off. Slight cracking is to be expected on a fabric with some stretch. The fabric has many small gaps between fibers, whereas acrylic paint definitely does not. The less paint you need to use the better.

My only regret is my impatience with the text. It’s my own hand writing and I really don’t like my own writing. It’s also done in puffy paint, so extremely hard to paint over. PLAN THESE DETAILS OUT! I highly recommend penciling out your letters.

My hard work paid off though, because hot damn! Does it look good in person and worn. This picture is from a Super Heroes night at a hockey game. I dressed as a modern Sailor Mercury that was easy to “SailorMoonBound” last minute.

Identifying S.H.Figuarts Sailor Moon Series Bootlegs

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

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:

2 Interchangeable Face Parts-
Winking and Crying

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.


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.


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


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.


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 her on CDJapan

Purchase her on Entertainment Earth

Purchase her on HLJ