What the…?! Is this something a fan made from back in the day? Where did this come from?? Well, I think it’s time for us to put on our Sherlock Holmes hat, grab our Sherlock Holmes pipe and take a snuff of Sherlock Holmes’ thinking powder, and get to the bottom of this mystery!

Recently a user on Twitter, @CinnamonBiscYT, asked me if a certain collection of bootleg cards they discovered might have come from PA!, or at least involved PA! in some way. In fact, this was something of a mystery for them for quite some time; Cinnamon had created a Pokémon bootleg card forum with another user named Eskizoide, and a forum user by the name of u/stewartisme posted some bootleg pictures they found in a magazine from back around 2003. After a bit of discussing, in the end no one at the forums could work out where it came from, and it reached a point where forum user u/Deamon86 thought maybe giving PA! a call to see if I have any clues about this.

Well, let’s take another look at the bootlegs themselves:

If you feel the cards are a bit too hard to read, lemme summarize them for you. Er, well, the ones that AREN’T a custom energy card.

Basic Pokémon
Hydrofire120 HP   Zm

Tank Pokémon. Length: 11′ 6″, Weight: 1,934 lbs.
(Length: 3.5 m, Weight: 877.25 kg)

ZW ZW ZW     Hydro Pump     40+
Does 40 damage plus 10 more damage for each ZW Energy attached to Hydrofire but not used to pay for its attack’s Energy cost. Extra ZW Energy after the 2nd doesn’t count.

ZR ZR ZR ZR     Fire Spin     100
Discard 2 Energy cards attached to Hydrofire in order to use this attack.

weakness
resistance   ZF -30
retreat cost   ZC ZC ZC ZC

Its twin cannon setup can blast any victim further than the eye can probably see.   LV. 56 #284

Illus. Keiji Kinebuchi — 8/18 — ★

Basic Pokémon
Construct120 HP   Zm

Tractor Pokémon. Length: 15′ 5″, Weight: 2,254 lbs.
(Length: 4.7 m, Weight: 1022.4 kg)

Zm Zm     Recharge
Discard 1 Zm Energy card attached to Konstruct in order to use this attack. Remove all damage counters from Konstruct.

Zm Zm Zm ZC     Bulldoze     80

weakness   ZW
resistance   ZF -30
retreat cost   ZC ZC ZC ZC

Developed to excavate land for housing and industrial plants. Its power tail can be fatal to any pokémon.   LV. 42 #283

Illus. Keiji Kinebuchi — ??/18 — ??

Just three quick notes:

  • Since the “Gear Energy” is totally made up, I’m using this icon to represent it: Zm
  • Because of the way the cards were laid out in the magazine, I don’t know Konstruct’s collector number or rarity.
  • Finally, yes, the word “Pokémon” was spelt with a lowercase “p” in Konstruct’s flavor text.

OK so now that we took a good look at the cards, and knowing what we know about fake card history… what can we figure out about these cards? Did these bootlegs and counterfeits come form the faking community?

Long story short… no. Why? Well, in my experience it’s mostly because counterfeiters and bootleggers are either (or both):

  • lazy and looking for a quick buck
  • ignorant about the world of fan-made fake cards

I mean think about it… we had READY MADE materials for counterfeiters and bootleggers to make their own fake cards and sell them, and we wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it. But what do they end up doing? Take a Pikachu card, slap Mewtwo’s picture over it, gave it 5000HP and made its attack ZL ZL ZL ZL ZL ZL ZL (but still only does 20 damage). Hell, they even went out of their way to download MY fake cards and printed them out to sell (Real talk tho: I would’ve LOVED to have found those in the wild…!):

So to me this just means they’re generally too lazy to make their own fakes. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises like the Hydrofire and Konstruct bootlegs, which were clearly made from scratch. But in that case, those almost always end up proving the second point: that most of the ones willing to put a little elbow grease into their bootlegs were still ignorant about the fake card community.

In this case, it’s clear to me that these cards were not made using PA!’s faking materials. Or, for that matter, any other online faking materials that existed back in the day, based on its 2003 design date. This can be worked out by simply comparing Hydrofire and Construct to, say, Fighting-type fakes and blanks that existed around then:

What we’ve got here are:

  • A “Fake Edition” Hitmonchan card using my very first blanks; I can’t seem to find an actual blank from this era…
  • A second gen Fighting blank
  • A third gen Fighting blank; this was what as most available on my site back in 2003
  • A Zeo Fighting blank, circa 2000… albeit pieced together from scratch since Zeo’s blanks have all disappeared (RIP in peace)

Using my SPECHUL EYES, none of these blanks match up with the backgrounds used in the Hydrofire and Konstruct bootlegs. One little give-away is that my blanks had this little white mark in the corner of the photo box border… but the Hydrofire and Konstruct bootlegs don’t seem to have them. So I think it’s safe to assume that whoever made these, they did it completely from scratch.

Here, if you want, you can watch this short little video where I quickly swap between the above Fighting blanks with the Hydrofire so you can see the differences between them:

Past that, there really isn’t much else to acertain from these bootlegs. For example, I thought maybe they might have based “Hydrofire” and “Konstruct” from Pokémon pulled from the classic Fakémon website, The Pokémon Factory… but, nope; the bootleg ‘Mon have Pokédex numbers of 284 and 283 (respectively), while The Pokémon Factory basically started their numbering in the 300’s. And the fact that they don’t have anything named “Hydrofire” and “Konstruct” to begin with.

Another thing worth noting is that the cards with visible collector numbers show them to be out of 18… which implies that, wherever these came from, it’s likely there are 15 other cards of this “set”. It’s clear whoever made these had some serious talent—afterall, anyone who can make their own blanks from scratch only to turn them into fairly authentic-looking cards has mad skills in my book!—so it would be a real treat to see the other 15 cards. That said, it’s a real shame that these cards were made for the purpose of deceit, based on the fact that all of the cards were credited to Keiji Kinebuchi… they wanted people to think they WERE “authentic” cards… and what was more authentic than a card with a 3D “Pokémon” illustrated by Keiji Kinebuchi, the ONLY artist back then to do 3D-CGI art on TCG cards (not so fast, Tomoaki Imakuni!).


So in conclusion…

So yeah, it’s pretty clear to me that these cards were made from scratch. It’s also clear that these were made to be sold under the false impression that they were “REAL” cards, instead of fan-made fakes. There’s nothing wrong with selling fake cards, as long as the cards themselves use 100% your own work (not even actual blanks and symbols, but everything you created on your own), and whoever buys is knows cleary well that they’re buying “fake cards”, not real ones. But, again, it doesn’t seem like whoever made these cared about that part and just wanted to fool unsuspecting buyers into thinking they were “REAL”.

But that’s about it! Hopefully that should give you a little more insight about bootlegs and counterfeits… both these ones and bootlegs in general. Fortunately tho these ones should be pretty obvious that they’re not “REAL”, but if you ever come across other Pokémon TCG cards and you’re actually not quite sure if they really ARE counterfeits or not, the PokéGym has a great article about how to tell what is a counterfeit or not. It’s a very extensive guide, so you should check it out when you get a chance.

Huzzah! Good times…