Can you tell which LEGO minifig is real and which is fake? [News]

Can you tell which LEGO minifigure is real and which is counterfeit? Because even some LEGO employees can’t. In a video interview with the BBC, LEGO’s General Manager of Manufacturing in Asia Richard Wong is asked to identify which of two minifigures is fake, but has some difficulty after a quick look.

The interview serves as a microcosm of a larger issue: copycat, imitation and counterfeit LEGO. While competition from legitimate companies like Mega Bloks is entirely legal and healthy, knock-off brands in Asia are copying entire sets, artwork, intellectual property, and logos directly from LEGO.

Counterfeit version of LEGO’s
Ghostbusters Firehouse Headquarters

In order to curb some of the rampant counterfeiting (among other reasons), LEGO recently opened a manufacturing facility in Jiaxing, China and is suing knock-off brand LEPIN in Chinese court. LEGO commented about the lawsuit in a statement: “We are committed to do whatever necessary to protect the LEGO brand and products against undue exploitation, and to minimize the risk of consumers being misled via improper use of LEGO Group intellectual property assets.”

It is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it remains to be seen if any of LEGO’s actions help prevent what essentially boils down to theft.

What are your opinions about counterfeit LEGO from China? Leave a comment below.

20 comments on “Can you tell which LEGO minifig is real and which is fake? [News]

  1. Gomek

    I first remember Lego fakes coming out shortly after Lego decided to make ultra rare figures like the SDCC Green Arrow, which based on the rarity Lego decided, started to fetch 300 to 400 US dollars. What Lego was unwilling to sell to fans for a reasonable price, Asian manufactures saw an opportunity and never looked back.

  2. Tommy Councill

    I’m so glad this is finally happening. I’d love to see some reviews of knockoffs as compared to real LEGO.

  3. Kremlingrasso (@kremlingrasso)

    if you don’t know what’s the difference between Chinese lego and the real thing, it’s that their plastic consistency is irregular and they are not made that precisely so they don’t hold well together. That and you probably should keep that 3rd piece in your mouth squeezing the other two apart (we are all guilty ages 3 and above), coz god knows what chinese plastic is. Guess it cost of globalization that companies can no longer adjust the price to the market because we’d all order it from there. I just don’t understand of their culture’s need to make cheap, crappy and poisonous copies of everything they can’t have that mostly end up as pollution in the ground and seas.

  4. Maizura

    We teach our kids to look at the inprint on each item to know its original LEGO or not. We used to buy fake lego when our kids started to play lego, just to see if they like it and they did and its help their creativity and learning skill. Since then, we bought the original LEGO and never turn back. Once you buy and try the original LEGO, you wouldn’t want the fake lego even if its free! Its sooo different and so stressfull for the kids to play with the fake lego, joining and dismantle of fake lego is so hard, it don’t fit well.

  5. KOW

    I think you do not have to worry about in this regard, although I am not an expert in this area, but after use will know that feel and quality is very big difference, you need to understand each other’s weaknesses and advantages, because even you They do not know, then how to make consumers better understand it!

  6. hassan

    this guy already blog about the differences for years now some pics might help you to identify them

  7. cblakeley

    Well I’m more interested in minifigs, which are more easily found on the secondary market already. So as far as that goes, yeah I’ll buy a knock off or two if the choice is a $2 knock off Deadpool on eBay or finding it for $20 minimum on Bricklink. And even if there’s a figure in a current line I want, I’m not keen to buy The Complete Set Of All The Things if I just want a figure.

  8. Alan

    There are a number of Chinese brands imitating Lego, and all with different quality. A skilled seeker on e-bay can find sellers directly out of China selling figures, and now even sets, from those various brands. Buyer beware, but some of them, such as Enlighten, and SY, are so good that they have achieved Lego quality. And, they have filled a gap which Lego seemed to ignore regarding figures – one can buy 20 Lord of the Rings figures (Rohan or Urukai), or recent Castle lines, or 20 WWII German Wehrmacht, or German Regular Army, figures for an amazing low price, and again, the quality is remarkably good. Also, the Super Hero characters, Nexo Knights, etc., can be picked up en-masse for $10, where that same amount only buys one in the States. Yes, these companies are profiting from Lego’s creation, but Lego seems to be pricing itself out of its own market and creating fertile grounds for these copy cats.

  9. B

    If you can’t tell the difference, why does it matter? If the imitation is indistinguishable from the real thing, I don’t really care where it comes from.

  10. Slim

    Got my son dinosaurs from china 6 for 10 or so dollars. You can tell they are not painted the same quality but everything else looks great and he loves them. Whats funny is the Trex is the same size all the vraptors. It is like a baby trex.

  11. Eugene

    A Lego minifig is about 5-10 pieces, all of them fairly small. So it “should” be selling for a US$1 or less. This suggests to me that Lego minifigs are very profitable, something like a 300% or more profit margin for a “collectible” fig.

  12. Thadeus Buttons

    I have never purchased counterfeit Legos though I have come across some at conventions here and there. I do like some of the third party sites like Brick Forge or Brick Warriors. They have unique pieces that Lego doesn’t make which is nice for D&D.

  13. A

    Until Lego starts selling a wide variety of minifig parts on Bricks&Pieces for reasonable prices (so the complete NEW minifig is $2-4 depending on the accessories and license, and this adequately drops the USED prices and eliminates the $50+ minifigs that weren’t even event-exclusive) – I support the Chinese with my $$$.

  14. Sidney Ventura Vega V

    I’ll but the old retired sets (modular line) because you can’t get them for a fair price, but other than that, I don’t support it. Now, one exception is if they come out with a set that is unique and not a cloned set. I avoid, but will buy only when I see fit.

  15. Pyroclastic

    The LEPIN clone brand is incredibly good. Its plastic and molding is nearly indistinguishable from actual Lego–enough that it’s a pretty good chance they’re using the same suppliers (plastics, dyes, paints, injection dies, etc). The only thing they don’t really match Lego on is part count QC. Many of their UCS/Modular clones will be missing pieces. I know someone that had to spend $15 on Bricklink to finish up their LEPIN UCS Falcon, but considering what he paid for it, it’s a bargain. I hear that only large pieces, like baseplates, have significant molding problems.
    The traditional method of IDing clones with their crappy plastic and shoddy molds is going by the wayside. If it weren’t for the lack of the logo on the studs, it’d be pretty hard to determine if a part is Lego or LEPIN. It’s not like Megabloks stuff or Best-Lock trash.

    Whether it lasts as long as Lego remains to be seen, though. Maybe they won’t hold clutch as long, or they suffer worse from UV damage.

    Also, Lego is at no risk of losing their trademarks. LEPIN isn’t copying their trademarks, just infringing on their set copyrights. And copyright is not affected by lack of timely defense. If they’re copying any new patents Lego has (the original interlocking bricks patent is long expired), that’s another issue.

  16. Chris

    I am a collector and have been for some time I will say that I enjoy it for the build not the value! I missed it on its original release and have been dying to get my hands on the Eiffel Tower that Lego had out a few years ago. I looked online and found that I would never be able to purchase one at the stupid prices that people were asking for it. One day while on eBay I was yet again searching for it to see if one was available at a better price and one was…but it was lepin. I took a chance and paid the 135 dollars and had it shipped here. As someone very familiar with Lego, I could tell the difference, however I have to say I was impressed. It all went together very well and is still standing in my basement now. The colour of the bricks is dead on when compared to the real thing and all the bricks have excellent clutch power. I won’t ever buy the knock off if the original is still available from Lego, but all the after market people with their over inflated prices have lost my business.

  17. Alan

    Just to add some additional thoughts, I received in the mail today a packet of 20 Rohan Knights (Lord of the Rings), by Enlighten. The quality was astounding. Due to the cost of the Lego version back when they were all-too-shortly in stores, I was not able to get more than four Rohirrim. I took a gamble, bought 20 of them on e-bay for $15. Side by side with the Lego, it is very, very difficult to tell them apart for printing, plastic quality, and clutch quality. I have made other such gambles with Sy and Sluban brands, such as with the “Nick” Knights (Sy Brand’s knockoff of Nexo Knights). And was impressed. I will admit that Sluban still needs improvement. I gambled once on Lepin Brand’s Star Wars and was disappointed. I do know that there are many other Chinese brands out there which steadfastly remain garbage, a true shame that the Earth’s resources were used to create them (I am thinking primarily of Block Tek, Teck… you will see it sold at Dollar General and Family Dollar stores in the states).
    Long story short, in my humble opinion and only slightly experienced learning, there have been some Chinese brands which have either evolved to be or started out to be astoundingly good, almost right there with Lego itself. And then, there have been some which continue to bring shame upon themselves. But, all of them offer their product at much lower prices than Lego. As a consumer, I am glad for a cheaper, almost equal in quality, alternative choice. As a fan, I do hope that this messy world of plastic bricks is cleaned up a bit, metaphorically speaking. But then, I also think there is room for others at this table, those who fill the niches which Lego refuses to touch, such as Brickarms, Cobi’s World of Tanks (very awesome), Oxford/Hasbro/Kre-o’s G.I. Joe (where were they when I was growing up?), and I am going to add, Enlighten’s non-Lego series, like their WWII series.

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