I’ve came to a topic that is not looked upon lightly and is usually swept under the rug, because people feel like, if we talk about it, we might cause more problems, and while that might been true a few years back, it is now a huge problem that needs to be talked about.
So what are counterfeit dolls in the BJD hobby? They are more commonly known as “recasts”, but the term is a bit unspecific and does now have the weight of what counterfeit dolls are.
A very basic explanation is, that there are companies, that take the existing resin dolls, make a silicone molds out of said doll and then cast it. So far this does not seem too bad and many justify this method, but these companies do not have permission from the original sculptors or companies to do this.
There is a very good info-graphic that shows just how many steps are to making a doll and how “recasters” can skip those steps, meaning they can cast a doll more quicker and for less. Because they don’t pay the artists that make the original sculpts, not to mention they don’t have the master sculpt. A master sculpt is what the artists make as a base, it is the first dolls made and this is used to create molds of that doll. Oftentimes these are not resin, more like various clay or sculpty materials. Taking a mold is a very delicate work, there is a very high risk of the master sculpt breaking and getting damaged. This is less stressful if the artist uses 3D to sculpt a doll but none the less it is still hard work before a dolls get to the casting point. At that casting point comes the differences in an original cast or a “recast” or counterfeit doll.
Now I must say that this is not a guide how to identify a counterfeit, I have nowhere near enough information on individual dolls and what their recasts look like. I only have information about my own experience and what I gathered from reliable sources.
Sometimes paying less for a counterfeit doll is paying more with your health. I have no idea if this is still an issue at the present day, but when I saw recasts, their insides were not finished, meaning they were not sanded properly, and many times they had resin dust in them, which can be highly toxic. The first recasts were also made from a different, cheaper resin, that was less durable and also, toxic. I didn’t hear anyone using that for a while now but if you are looking at the second hand market, it is good to know about this.
The unfinished joints and lack of sanding was still present the last time I saw information about them, this is usually a good indicator, as well as many companies now add their logo inside the dolls, these logos are faded or non-existent in recasts. Glued-in logo plaques are also common in original sculpts.
Back in the days, counterfeit dolls were not common and could be identified just by looking at them. Because of casting resin, the original master pieces were bigger than the ones cast in resin, because during the casting process there is shrinkage. Now if you think about it, a recaster take a resin doll, that is already smaller than the master sculpt; the recasted doll will be even smaller, not just by height, but all it’s measurements. I must say here that if you buy a doll and the measurements don’t line up with what the company puts out as official measurements, do not jump into conclusions, because as a seamstress I have measured a good number of dolls, most of the time the company officials are close enough but not correct all the time. It’s also an issue that some official companie’s dolls have shrunk too, there are many instances where I had a Fairyland minifee in hand and the newer ones seemed thinner, bought from the company. So lets not jump into conclusions for second hand dolls until we have solid proof.
Shrinking is still present in recasts, this meaning that counterfeit doll are usually shorter than their original versions, but it also means they are prone to breaking more easely since all the resin parts are smaller. There is a new method that recasters started to invest in, and those are 3D scanners and printers, at least this is what I have heard through the grapewine of the bjd hobby. This means they can adjust the sizes, making it more difficult to identify their dolls.
So now, you are wondering; why all the fuss? Well, the fuss is, that since recasts are cheaper (this waries from company to company, some are significantly discounted and some are just a tad bit cheaper), and they are present on sites like aliexpress and alibaba, they became more popular among people that just looked at cool dolls. The thing is, if you now search the term “bjd” on google, a recast shop is the first result. And many of the cases are, people don’t even know what they are buying, they see this nice doll for a fairly cheap price and buy it before researching.
The problem is also, that recast companies thrive to keep the illusion they are producing original dolls. The most popular one is producing not just counterfeit dolls, but reproducing their full set clothes, mimicking the original company photos, faceups and even certificates and boxes. I have no idea why they do this, other than it is profitable, and you can say that “yes but everything has a fake version now”. Yes, I know. And I also think that making fake iphones and designer bags are bad. But we are talking about dolls right now, and in this industry, doll sculptors need to work really hard to make a profit and life from what they love to do. Adding counterfeits into the mix is adding a devastating and never-ending battle for them on top of this.
So, my point is, if you are interested in BJD’s, please do your research, ask for legit companies, I promise we don’t bite. And if you already own a recast, be it from deliberately purchasing one because of the price, or not knowing the difference when you bought that doll, I and many others are happy to help look for affordable, legit companies.
I know this is a pricey and luxury hobby but the sculptors are the backbone of it all on we need to support them so they can make many more dolls that we adore. I know legit companies are not always perfect either, some have quality control issues, some have huge wait times and etc. But that does not mean you have to buy counterfeit dolls, it means you don’t want to support that one company, so you bring your business to other legit companies that fit your needs.
Thank you for making it this far, and if you need help, feel free to contact me on any of my social media!