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Buyer Be Aware - Bootlegged Bandai Godzilla 2003 Theater Exclusives

By Richard Cox (2003)

Image featuring the Burning, Blue Spine, Red, Red Spine, White Spine, and Black Spine Bootleg Godzillas

It seems that about every year a new bootleg Bandai figure appears on the market from China, and 2003 was no exception. The theater-exclusive Godzilla 2002 (Kiryu-Goji) turned out to be pretty popular in Japan, as opposed to the lackluster performance of recent theater figures. And when you combine exclusive figures, a demand, and production in China, you're bound to get a bootleg; or in this case, many, many boots.

The figures first showed up on Yahoo Japan, with the false claim that they were foreign releases, which I suppose is true since they were bootlegged in China. In any case, these initial auctions were quickly shut down and for a time the figures vanished from Yahoo Japan-- only to reappear a couple of weeks later on eBay. By the time the figures initially made it to the U.S., there were two versions; blue spines and black spines. Finally, they returned to Yahoo Japan in force, with even more variations, which of course have in turn landed upon Western shores as well.

Fake Bronze Godzilla
Fake Bronze Godzilla
Used for purposes of review only.

The strangest thing about this series of bootlegs is the speed at which they arrived on the market; literally within months of the legitimate releases. Not only that, there are as of this writing no less than seven different versions of the bootleg; an amazing array, especially considering the short timeframe:

Of these known versions, two definitely bear a close scrutiny. Firstly is the blue spine version, which mimics the look of the theater-exclusive figure almost exactly. Still, it's versy easy to tell the differences once you know what to look for an can compare the figures. Obviously, the bootleg is not tagged, which is the most obvious indicator. The blue is a much richer color on the bootleg, and the paint is haphazardly applied. Secondly, the unpainted red bootleg is a dead ringer for the Itoyokado Dept. Store Exclusive, but it is missing a tag, which is of course key. All of the bootlegs, to my knowledge, lack Bandai © copyright markings. Really, the rule of thumb for identifying the real figures is to look for the tag.