Counterfeit Comic Books

I’m currently doing a research paper on counterfeit activity on the comic book market. It may seem weird but it’s kind of an interesting topic. Anyway, I already got a lot of information, but still missing some important points, so I was wondering if anyone of you can provide me with some imformation about it.

What I’m most interested in knowing is:
– Are the fake comic books produced by amateurs? Or do you think some kind of illegal organization produced them?
– What proportion of the comic books in the market is estimated to be fake?
– Have there been important (e.g. legal) cases regarding this illegal activity?

And well, anything else you could provide me with would be of great value. From what I know most of this illegal activity took place during the boom of the 1980′s, so it doesn’t matters if the information comes from that decade or any other one. I know probably little official information is available regarding this issue (since it’s all illegal), but really anything would help: estimates, personal experiences, opinions, etc.

I would trully appreciate anything you could provide me with, and if you want it I could aknowledge your contribution within the final version of the paper.

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5 Responses to Counterfeit Comic Books

  1. Michael Tierney says:

    The only counterfeiting of comics that I’m aware of occured in the modern age with Cerebus #1 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 and #2.

    I’ve never seen a Cerebus forgery, but I have seen copies of the Turtles. They were easy to identify.

    I’d carried the Turtles from the very first issue after I’d seen an ad (i believe) in the weekly format Comics Buyer’s Guide. The concept sounded just crazy enough to work, combining all the hot concepts of the day: teen heroes, mutants, ninjas and funny animals.

    Later in 1989/90 counterfeit copies were printed (according to reports at the time) in Kansas. A few copies found their way to me, and were easily identified as forgeries because they were actually of better print quality and better paper than the originals.

    I think this was also true of the Cerebus counterfeit.

  2. Brent Frankenhoff says:

    At least one of J. Michael Linsner‘s Dawn books was also counterfeited, but a moire pattern usually gives those counterfeits away.

  3. Maggie Thompson says:

    The other classic case (and I think it’s virtually impossible to tell the forgeries from the originals) occurred with Eerie #1 from Jim Warren. Rushed out to lock in the title’s trademark, the material was black-and-white images printed on white paper. My guess is that the ease of forgery made the originals pretty much worthless.

  4. Agoir says:

    Thanks a lot for all your answers, I’ll try to incorporate the informationyou provided.
    Michael Tierney, do you happen to know where can I get more information or access to the reports that seemed to indicate that the counterfeit copies were printed in Kansas during those years?

    And, to everyone, do you think that counterfeit activity has decreased or increased throughout the years? For example, are there now more or less counterfeit copies produced compared to 1985, or 1995?

    I know it is hard to get an exact answer for this questions, but any insights would be helpfull.

    Thanks again in advance.

  5. Michael Tierney says:

    I’m not aware of any counterfeiting of comics after the Eighties.

    Brent’s mention of the the Linser forgery is the first I’ve heard of that one, which was probably in the Nineties. For those not familair with printing terminology, the Moire pattern he mentioned is an optical effect that occurs when making a screen reproduction of an image that has already been screened… which results in a checkerboard pattern of dots. It’s an easy identifier of a multiple reproduction.

    As far as the news source of the TMNT copies being printed in Kansas, that was probably the weekly newspaper version of The Comics Buyer’s Guide. That was before the internet, and the CBG has been my main source of comics news since the very beginning, back when founding publisher Alan Light used to send subscription copies out free of charge, boosting his circulation and making all of his sales from advertisers. That was way back in the early Seventies.

    Print reproduction has always been an expensive process. It’s not the type of thing that lends itself to the manufacture of a handful of copies. Any chance of a profit by a counterfeiter would be eaten up in printing costs. And any attempt at photocopying should be easily identified by an experienced retailer.

    However, there are cases where people have been conned with a reprinted comic, and they all involve mis-identification of legitimate reprints.

    When people come into my stores with any of the folloring, these are cases of what one my employees always refers to as “Bursting the bubble” of their expectations.

    There are copies of Marvel’s Fantastic Four #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #1 that were produced for inclusion with record sets back in the Sixties, and look almost identical to the real thing. The paper and letterpress printing match the originals. The only way to identify them is that they have no price on the cover and no ads inside. I’ve had sellers unsuccessfully try to con me with those.

    In the early Seventies, DC did some oversized facsimile reprints of their key First Issue books; Action #1, Dectective Comics #1, Whiz, Sensational and so on. They are identical to the originals in content, but are printed over-sized and on glossy (not pulp) stock, with an outer cardboard wrapper explaining that they are reprints. What happens here is the cardboard covers get ripped off and they end up in the hands of heirs who are sure ‘Uncle Bob’ had the real thing. They turn up on Ebay from time to time.

    The worst case of mis-identification that I’ve seen are jilted wives who think they’ve gotten their husband’s $5,000.00 Near Mint copy of X-Men #1 in the divorce settlement. But what they really got was the $5 Near Mint copy of the Amazing Adventures reprint of X-Men #1. I’ve seen this happen several times.

    Those cases could be considered fraud.

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