Counterfeit Card Alert: Pokémon Illustrator

Posted on 8/10/2023

This fake of a rare and expensive Pokémon card was detected during the CGC Cards' certification process.

Pokémon Illustrator is one of the rarest and most expensive Pokémon cards in existence. Thirty-nine contestants each received a copy of the card as a prize for winning a series of art contests hosted by CoroCoro Comics in 1997 and 1998. Two more examples of the card were later released into circulation by a private seller involved in the creation of the Pokémon TCG, bringing the total known to 41.

Meanwhile, examples of Pokémon Illustrator that cross the auction block go for incredible amounts of money. A Pokémon Illustrator certified by CGC Cards™ realized $672,000 in a Goldin sale in October 2022, and another Pokémon Illustrator realized over $5 million in a private sale in 2020.

It's no wonder that counterfeiters would want to cash in on the value of such a rare card. Recently, CGC Cards received a submission that included a purported example of the Pokémon Illustrator. While deceptive to the untrained eye, CGC Cards’ graders quickly determined the submission to be a fake.

A counterfeit Pokémon Illustrator (left) and a genuine example (right).
Click images to enlarge.

Some of the differences between this counterfeit Pokémon Illustrator and a genuine example are easy to distinguish. The font used in the counterfeit is different than that used in the genuine example, appearing smaller in size than on the genuine Illustrator. The set symbol in the bottom right-hand corner of the counterfeit looks larger than on the genuine copy, and the letters "s" and "A" in “Illus Atsuko” are too close together.

Under magnification, a stark difference can be seen between the colors and holo pattern used on the counterfeit Illustrator (top) and the genuine example (bottom).
Click images to enlarge.

When looking at a close-up of the card, it is apparent that the counterfeit's colors are duller than the genuine example. It's also clear that the holographic pattern in the background is quite different than the genuine example.

Examining both cards under infrared lighting reveals that the counterfeit (left) has a different holofoil composition that the genuine Illustrator (right).
Click images to enlarge.

To further help in the analysis of high-value cards, CGC Cards' graders sometimes use specialized lighting to analyze how the cards react under different wavelengths and types of light. When placed under ultra-violet lighting, the foil on a genuine Pokémon Illustrator reflects much of the light, whereas on the counterfeit, it appears much darker.

The counterfeit Illustrator (top) lacks the crisp detail that the genuine Pokémon Illustrator (bottom) has in its artwork.
Click images to enlarge.

When placed under infrared lighting, the counterfeit card appears very different from the genuine example. Looking closely, the artwork in the counterfeit Illustrator is lower than on the genuine example, with Pikachu's paintbrush not quite reaching the top of the art box. In addition, some details, like the way in which the torch reacts to the infrared light, are starkly different between the two cards. Note how the lines on the torch are visible on the fake, but not on the genuine example, under this specific wavelength of light. Also, the holofoil area appears gray and washed out on the counterfeit, while it is far darker and the holofoil pattern is more visible on the genuine example.

It’s important to exercise caution when purchasing ungraded cards, especially cards that are rare and valuable, like the Pokémon Illustrator. Every card certified by CGC Cards is guaranteed to be authentic and not overgraded under the CGC Guarantee. For more information, click here.

About CGC

Since revolutionizing comic book grading in 2000, CGC has grown to include certification services for many other types of pop culture collectibles. These divisions include CGC CardsCGC Video Games and CGC Home Video. CGC Cards provides expert card grading for TCGs, sports cards and non-sports cards. CGC Video Games is dedicated to video game grading for the most popular consoles, including Nintendo, Sega, Atari, PlayStation and more. The newest division of CGC, CGC Home Video, provides expert VHS grading in addition to other types of videocassettes.

Related Articles:

Stay Informed

Want news like this delivered to your inbox once a month? Subscribe to the free CGC eNewsletter today!


You've been subscribed to the CGC eNewsletter.

Unable to subscribe to our eNewsletter. Please try again later.

Articles List

Add CGC Card

Create a Set

Join CGC for free to add cards, track your collection and participate in the CGC Trading Cards Registry or CGC Sports Cards Registry.

Join CGC

Already a member? Sign In
Add to CGC Card Registry Example
Add to CGC Card Registry Example