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Unlicensed Smurfs
Psssst....wanna buy a counterfeit Smurf? They're more common than you think! Learn about the hush-hush secret world of fake Smurfs. No longer relegated to the underground, mainstream collectors love these Smurf phonies!
What is an unlicensed Smurf?

Unlicensed Smurfs are Smurfs that have been produced without the authorization of the Smurf copyright holders. The world of unlicensed Smurfs is exciting for collectors, because these rare, interesting and offer bizarre creations allow us to expand our collection - with Smurfs that have "broken the rules".
What types of unlicensed Smurfs are there?

There are two basic types of unlicensed Smurfs, Knock-offs and Fakes.

Knock-offs are an attempt to make a figurine that looks like it came from a real, licensed Smurf factory. There are two types of Knock-offs: clones and uniques.

a] Clones are simply copies of an existing figurine mold. The clones attempt to be an exact duplicate of a standard figurine.
b] Uniques are Smurfs that don't exist as legitimate licensed figurines. Ie, there is no Schleich or Bully mold that looks the same as a Unique Knock-off.

Knockoff Smurfs include: Comics No Toxico and PVC No Toxico. They can also be sorted by country: Argentina, Mexico, Poland and Spain.

2) Fakes are figurines that are kind of like Smurfs, but clearly not attempting to pass themselves off as Smurfs - they just remind you of Smurfs.

Fake Smurfs include: Empire Smurfs, Trolls, Alfred J. Kwak Playsets, Alien Smurfs - Astrosniks and Underwater Smurfs - Snorks.
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How can you tell the difference between real Smurfs and unlicensed Smurfs?

It can be very difficult. The issues surrounding licensing can be murky, as well. For example, the
Argentina Minimodels were produced under license for a time (the figures with the MiniModel stamp), and then they were made as unlicensed pirated figurines. Aside from the missing Minimodels stamp on the base, these unlicensed Smurfs look physically identical to the licensed Minimodels figures, and were made in the same factory. In addition, more and more unlicensed figurines are being produced from what appear to be authentic molds - making it very hard to tell the difference between the licensed and unlicensed, even when side-by-side.

There are differences and tell-tale signs, however - many figurines are obviously unlicensed. Sometimes, the sizing of the Clone Knock-offs will be different from the original, and sometimes the painting can be different as well. The seams (where the Smurf is pieced together from two halves) are often poorly joined and trimmed on counterfeits. Unique or strange painting variations are another way to identify counterfeits - if the paint color choices are really "out there", there is a good chance the figurine is unlicensed. Another thing to check for is text clarity - the markings, such as the word "Peyo", should be very clear on a legit figurine - the text is sometimes blurry on the clones. Finally, if the price is incredibly low, and the figurines look too good to be true, they sometimes are! Getting ultra-rare figurines for a low-price should make you wary. Many figurines are valuable because they are truly rare. If you're thinking about buying something hard-to-find, ask yourself - how did the buyer get this rare figurine? Does he or she have more than one for sale? Consider provenance - thanks to a new generation of professionally counterfeited figurines, it is getting *harder and harder* to tell what is truly a "real Smurf" now that the Chinese fake Smurfs are flooding the marketplace.

Case study: After Minimodels Industria Argentina went out of business, their molds were sold off and rough clones were made by amateurs. You can clearly see that those Argentinean Smurfs are counterfeit because their seams - the edges of the figurine - are prominent and rough, the material they're made from is substandard, and the painting quality is quite low. In addition to these unlicensed Argentina Smurf figurines, counterfeit Mexican Smurfs, Polish Smurfs and Spanish Smurfs are often notable because of their poor seams/edges and painting.

Esoterica: One of the problems facing the collector when asking "Is my figurine real?" is the fact that different production runs from different manufacturers can make Smurfs using different methodologies. The operative word here is "can". Sometimes every issue of a particular figurine is constructed the same way. Sometimes, there are multiple manufacturing methods applied. For example, 2.0180 Pizza Papa Smurf, which is hard-to-find but not a truly expensive or rare figurine, has at least three different methods of manufacturing. If you forcibly remove the pizza server platter from Papa, you'll notice the tray is either "cut" with a tiny notch to fit around Papa's tummy (made in Portugal), or there is a little "peg" sticking out of the platter that fits into a hole inside Papa's stomach (made in Germany). As well, some models have Papa's hands holding the pizza tightly, some have a wide gap around the pie. This legitimate and licensed 2.0180 figurine is made in at least two completely different ways - and there may be other methods used, too! It is very hard then to say "Figurine X is fake because it was manufactured differently from a known sample". Quite simply, you could just have a legitimate version no one has seen before. As well, sometimes different manufacturers made different molds entirely, such as Schleich versus Bully - but despite their differences they are still 100% licensed products. On the other hand, some manufacturing techniques immediately tell the tale of a Smurf being unlicensed. For example, a run of quality counterfeit Easter Smurfs are all discernable from the real thing due to the multi-part molds they are made from. The real figurines appear to be made "solid", whereas you can see the different "parts" of the clone molds. If the Easter Smurf you have is made of two identifiable parts, then it is a counterfeit.

Tags: Schelich tags, which are the sticker tags that look similar to the ID you get when you enter a hospital, are found on both real figurines and counterfeits. There are sometimes small differences between the real and counterfeit tags, but by-and-by they look the same. One interesting thing to note is that some clones come with Schelich tags that never appeared on the legitimate figurine!
What are some notable phony Smurfs?

The more valuable a Smurf figurine is, the more likely someone is to copy it, in order to sell it for a lot of money. As mentioned above, there is an entire run of fairly high-quality Easter Smurfs available. The most interesting though, are the praying Smurfs. Some of the most expensive Smurf figurines are the Praying Smurfs Christmas figures. These praying Smurfs are so rare that counterfeits were made - and they're quite good quality. It is possible to tell the difference between the real Smurfs and the clones, though. First, look a the base of Praying Smurf and Smurfette figurines. The feet should have the "Peyo" stamp and related text in clear, crisp type. The clone knock-offs have blurry, harder to read text. The blurriness on the unlicensed figure is unmistakable, and makes the text somewhat illegible. Second, real praying Smurfs have a tiny injecting-molding mark on the left foot - look at the Smurf from behind to see it. The unlicensed figurines do not have this marking. Third: the seams. The seams on the real Smurfs are almost unnoticeable. On the clones, the seams are rough and very visible. The visible seams of the clones are a good, verifiable way to know immediately if your praying figurine is authentic or not. Fourth, the real figures are made of a harder PVC material than the clones, which are kind of soft and squeezable, and have a plastic-ish smell to them. Fifth, there are size differences. The real Smurfs have a broad, full face, and the clones have smaller faces. Finally, on the licensed figurines, the base material for the Praying Smurf is red and the base material for the Praying Smurfette is pink. Other notable counterfeits are the 2006 Halloween Smurfs Series, 2007 Native American Smurfs Series, 2008 Party Smurfs Series and the McDonald's '98 Smurf Series.
Is there a link between counterfeit Smurfs and eBay?

A lot of the clones for sale are not made by amateurs. They're made by professional counterfeiting operations, often in Hong Kong or China, and the forgeries are very good. The entire production runs of the 2006-2008 Smurf figurines have been pirated, complete with Schleich tags, in large quantities, and they're all for sale on eBay. These counterfeit Smurfs are fairly good quality, and will (and do) fool the majority of the buying public. Only "true" collectors - those familiar with the legitimate figurine - will notice any difference between the reals and the clones. In the years to come, when these "complete year runs" of professionally counterfeited Smurfs are mixed into large collections and sold, it will be harder and harder to know what is real, and what is a clone.
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