Don't Be Gligamesh!
Aigh! Someone just bought fake Final Fantasy Trading Arts minis from an eBay ad on one of my pages!* Let me show you how to tell fake Square-Enix Trading Arts figures from real ones, so you don't make the same mistake.
My method isn't fullproof: there's no guarantees when you buy something online. But this way you'll be able to spot obvious Chinese counterfeits.
*I can see what was bought, but not by whom. I earn a few pennies of commission from items bought through my pages, but I'm a fan, and I don't want fellow fans getting ripped off!
Final Fantasy Trading Arts Minis: Overview
So here's Tidus as a Final Fantasy Tradin Arts Mini figure. Ain't he cute? (I resist the urge to show mini Auron for this demo.) The eyes on these figures are adorable, the likenesses are superb in miniature, and tiny details like zippers (of course, it's a Nomura design), jewelry and stripes are picked out with exacting detail. Some even have hair highlights!
Amazingly, this photo is larger than the actual figure, which is only two inches tall.
Final Fantasy Trading Arts Mini figures were originally released in "blind boxes": you didn't know which figure was inside! Hence "trading arts": Japanese Final Fantasy fans collect and trade them. After a while, they are re-released in boxed sets: Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and so on. The boxed sets often contain a "bonus" secret figure, like Rikku from FFX-2.
Unfortunately, because these figures are tiny (barely over 2" tall) and all of one piece, they're much easier to counterfeit than the large, jointed Final Fantasy Play Arts Action Figures. I'm guessing that counterfeits are cast off originals so the details are just a little rougher, and pieces like Aerith's staff and Balthier's gun tend to be bent. Fake Trading Arts mini figures often don't fit in their bases. Worst of all, their paint jobs are far less detailed and accurate than the original.
Here's a Tidus figure I found for sale on eBay. eBay listings seldom have high-quality photos, but even this photo shows some telltales. Notice the details, especially the red "Zanarkand Abes" symbol on his pants leg-- whoops!
The more you look, the more you see: no stripe on the sword pommel's tassel, no bracelet, no zippers (designer Tetsyuo Nomura would have a coronary), no yellow shoes.
How to Spot Fake Final Fantasy Trading Arts Figures - Tips
- Use this link to search the web for official or fan photos of the figure you're looking for, and add the character's name to refine the search. Compare paint job details and look for "droopy" weapons (poles tend to bend). [ETA: I have most of them now; someone poke me to post photos when I'm home.]
- Pay attention to reviews and seller ratings.
- Buy in boxed sets with names like Vol. 1, 2, 3 (see below: I'll show which figures are in each set.) It's more expensive, but a little safer than buying "loose" figures. HOWEVER, watch out: if it says "Blind Box," it's probably just one figure from that series!
- AVOID any boxed set of ten. Final Fantasy Trading Arts Mini figures were never sold that way by Square-Enix, and that seems to be the most common way the fakes are sold.
- Be SUSPCIOUS of keychains. The Final Fantasy "Avatar Mascot" phone charms are Square-Enix, but if it's a keychain version of one of the Trading Arts figures, it's fake. (On the other hand, a third party Japanese company, Bandai, has put out keychains of some figures not in the regular Trading Arts lineup, and these are fairly good quality— see bottom of this page.)
- Don't be shy about asking a seller to snap a photo of the figure on his/her desk to help prove the figure is legit (although the seller may ignore you). If you can get what looks like a personal rather than official photo, you can use Tineye.com to see if the photo is posted anywhere else. If it is, it make be a fake.
- If you see THIS photo in the listing, run! These are all fake (notice Balthier's totally undecorated vest):
Final Fantasy Trading Arts Vol 1 - The Real Thing
Vaan, Gunner Yuna, FF7 Cloud, Rinoa (Penelo is Japan-only)
Here we go. If you see a "set of 4" boxed set, Penelo's not in it; try to find "set of 5" to get her.
I've got all of these except Cloud (wah!) The easiest way to spot a fake in this set is to check Yuna's skirt: on the counterfeit, it's painted a solid light blue with no white shading. Also, if you can see the tip of her insanely long ponytail, the tip down by her feet should be brown, not red.
Fake Vaan also loses the detailing on the sides of his hips and thighs, as well as his pectoral (chest necklace).
Amazon Listing: Vol 1
eBay: Buyer Beware
I've set this widget to search for "final fantasy mini vol 1" with a few qualifiers to keep out wrong results, but you never know how people will label their sales. Also, this is liable to turn up single figures from the boxed sets.
So take a look here for bargains, but be careful and follow my tips above.
This is actually how I picked up Vol 1 and 2. I found an honest seller with them packed in their original baggies, but not the boxes, so I got all ten. They are the real deal.
Final Fantasy Trading Arts Mini Figures Vol. 2
Amazon Listing: Blind Box Single Figure ONLY
I've set the search for this widget to look for "final fantasy mini 2 -kai -ffii -ff2" eBay listings.
Look for the different-colored beads on Auron's jug of nog, or the stripe on Tifa's gloves. The fake listings I've seen are missing those details.
My eBay widgets ONLY find "Buy it now" listings from Top Sellers, and only show the first result. There will be more listings on eBay, but you'll have to look for them yourself. Things to try, in various combinations
- Final Fantasy Mini figures Vol 2
- Final fantasy Mini Series 2
- Use one or more of these to exclude unwanted search results: -kai -ff2 -ffii (whatever's after a minus sign will be excluded from search)
Final Fantasy Trading Arts Mini Vol. 3
Aeris, Balthier, Tidus, Fran & Japan-only X-2 Rikku
Rikku is really, really hard to find. This is also one of the easiest batches for which to spot fakes.
I've already shown you the fake Tidus above, with the yellow "Abes" symbol on his pants and lack of yellow shoes. Also, fake Balthier's cuirass (armored vest) has zero detail, and his belt buckle is conspicuously absent.
Vol. 3 Amazon Listing
This may be the only way to find Rikku. As usual, watch out for fakes. If you can't see her yellow braids falling in two u-shaped loops over her blue headband, it's a knockoff.
Final Fantasy Trading Arts Mini Figures Vol. 4
Vol. 4 eBay Listing
I haven't seen fakes on these, but I'd guess that they skip painting the white hyacinth pattern on Yuna's skirt. I still need to add all of these (or at least Yuna and Sephiroth) to my collection.
By the way, check out this great close-up by collector Manveri. He/she has good photos of all the Trading Arts mini figs. Zidane, Sephiroth, Yuna — they all really come to life when you see them up close.
Final Fantasy III, IV, XI Trading Arts Minis
The FFIII and FFIV Trading Arts Figures are based the 3D remakes of these games, which I played on iOS; I think they originally were released on Nintendo 3DS.
These aren't on Amazon, but sometimes turn up on eBay. I'm guessing you're fairly safe from fakes; it's the more popular characters like Cloud, Yuna, Balthier, Tidus and Squall that get counterfeited.
Final Fantasy job classes
- Arc: Red Mage
- Refia: Dragoon
- Luneth: Freelancer/bare/default
- Ingus: Knight
- Refia: Devout
- Refia: Dark Knight (Japan)
- Refia: Magus (Japan)
Good to see Refia the blacksmith's apprentice gets a lot of the limelight— she's snarky and smart and my favorite character from the remake. Unfortunately, her Dark Knight and Magus figures don't come in the usual boxed set; they were Japan exclusives (found in blind boxes), so they're rare.
Final Fantasy IV Trading Arts Minis
Final Fantasy IV Trading Arts Minis include:
Cecil (as shiny paladin), Kain Highwind, Rosa, Rydia (when she was a kid), Edge, Cid (Japan exclusive)
They tend to be available for sale individually, but now and then you can find the whole set if you go to eBay and hunt. (Try searching for "Final Fantasy IV Mini Set")
Final Fantasy XI Tarutaru Minis
Ajido-Marujido, Star Sibyl, Robel-Akbel, Shantotto, Ark Angel (secret)
I'm afraid I don't know any of these little floofs besides Shantotto, hilariously voiced by Candi Milo (Lucil, Lady Dona and Pacce in Final Fantasy X).
Again, if you go to eBay and search for "Final Fantasy XI mini set," you may find all of them; for some reason my widget's being cranky.
"Bandai" Mini Final Fantasy Figures
There are several "Bandai" Mini Final Fantasy figures which are not exactly fake, in that it's a real Japanese company imitating Square-Enix toys, but they're not licensed and official Square-Enix products. And some are copies of Trading Arts Minis with poorer paint jobs.
On the other hand, Bandai has supplemented the "official" line of Final Fantasy Trading Arts Mini figures with Kadaj, Loz, Yazoo, Cloud and Tifa in Advent Children outfits, Nooj and Paine from FFX-2.
The Bandai figures are actually the source of most of the "Final Fantasy Mini" keychains. Some are pretty cute, even if the quality isn't quite as good as the official Trading Arts minis.
Amazon Listing: Yazoo
© 2011 auronlu
Guestbook - For Final Fantasy Fans
anonymous on May 22, 2013:
I appreciate you creating this because I was about to begin a collection of these figurines based off of some I received from Christmas last year, only to realize the 10 I have are all counterfeits. I'll be back to make sure I do not get anymore counterfeits so consider this page bookmarked :). Like the last comment, I would not have found this if it was not the first thing that came up on Google when I searched for these figurines.
auronlu (author) from Spira on March 28, 2012:
@anonymous: I'd be incredibly grateful for those photos, if you're willing to share them! I'm sure they would help people out (although we never know for sure when buying online, since sellers may upload product photos instead of their own.)
My email is katran (at) cox (dot) net, if you want to email them... or whatever you like! Also, would you like an image credit and/or link back to your site?
anonymous on March 27, 2012:
Great article - it has been really useful for me when purchasing these figure sets.
I bought Volume 1 boxed from a reputable retailer when it originally came out and loved the figures but to buy the boxed sets now are pretty expensive. Prior to reading this blog, I bought a cheap 10 figure ""fake" set from ebay out of curiosity, to see if the quality was up to scratch - I can assure you its not. I have a fake and real copy of each character in volume 1 (Vaan, Cloud, FFX-2 Yuna and Rinoa) and can provide photos of them side by side for your blog if you like - it'll really highlight the differences.
What I will say, is that the bootleggers appear to have obtained original moulds for series 1 and 3 - the plastic they use doesn't seem to be as durable (hence the droopy weapons on some characters) but otherwise the plastic is identical, the hairstyles etc. are all exactly the same. It's just the paint jobs that are different, but this is really noticeable. The skin tone on the fakes is orangy, the yellow used for blonde hair is quite garish and much of the smaller painted detail is missing.
Anyway, I'll check back here - let me know if you want some comparative photographs to put up. Your page appears on page 1 of Google Ranking when searching for Final Fantasy Trading Arts, so I'm sure you are helping out lots of people!