When buying anime figures it is very important to pay attention to detail and make sure that what you are buying is authentic. With many people making bootlegs of popular figures it can be a little tricky to know what your actually getting for your money. One of the most common ways to tell if a figure is real or fake is by the location to which the seller resides. Hong Kong and other parts of China are known to distribute the majority of non-authentic figures so be careful when buying from there.
In addition to seller location there are five things you need to look for in a figure. They are: seams/joints, surfaces, accessories, packaging, and pricing.
*Note: this guide uses Figma Brand figures as a primary example. The information provided however is universal for all figures where applicable.
They may not be very obvious on all figures but can be an easy way of spotting a fake when looked at specifically. Seams where one piece meets another, like arms or hair, can indicate either a fake or just a low quality authentic figure. However, the low quality authentic figures have more vibrant and even colours which set them apart. Joints on the other hand are fairly easy to spot, particularly in Figma brand figures. Below is an example of a bootleg Figma: (shoulder, hair)
As you can see the joints on her shoulder are not only clearly visible, but also discoloured. The hair joints are easy to see aswell when they should be hidden. This next image is a fine example of an authentic figure:
The authentic figure (above) has nicely crafted and hidden joints. This is what an authentic (Figma) figure should look like.
As odd as it may sound the surfaces of the figure can be a determining factor. Authentic figures usually have matte finishes on hair or skin to bring out colours. The figures clothes and/or outfits are usually glossy but vary figure to figure.
Even the bootlegs come with accessories but it is the quality of those accessories that matter. For example, Figma brand figures include a flexible stand that allows a figure to be posed any way you desire. This stand can be identified authentic by having a frost coloured base with "Figma" engraved on top and an arm that is crystal clear.
The air bubbles in the stands arm occur during the moulding process and are normal. Bootleg versions can have a variety of differences such as: misty clear finishes on the arm, screws holding the arm together instead of bolts, and the Figma name absent from the base stand.
Just like anything else the packaging of a figure can be hard to tell apart. This is mostly because the box any figure comes in is printed cardboard. Real figure boxes are consistent and some times have foil lettering or stickers that make them harder to fake and easier to identify. Very poor quality bootleg boxes can have faded colours, printer lines, mirrored images, misaligned boarders, picture shadowing, and even foul odors. If a Figure doesn't come with a box and is still being sold as new it is safe to assume it could be a bootleg. In this case further research and even questioning the seller are highly recommened.
Very much like seller location, the price of a figure can in fact indicate a fake. All of those $20 Miku figmas floating around eBay are bootlegs, most of which are from Hong Kong. So as always read the product description and even ask the seller about the authenticity of the figure if you are still unsure. Not everyone will be honest with you so you have to stick with your gut feeling sometimes.
If there is anything I can leave you the reader with it is that buying bootlegs not only hurt the market for authentic pieces, they also leave the buyer disappointed. So save yourself the trouble and always do your homework as it pays off in the end.