How to spot 'Ersatz' M.U.S.C.L.E.
Bootlegs, fakes, knockoffs, whatever you want to call them.. M.U.S.C.L.E. was a popular enough toy line to have many copy cats and cheap clones. I myself remember pumping quarters into gumball machines at the supermarket as a kid to buy some. Between discount stores and gumball machines, there are most likely Millions of Unusual Fake M.U.S.C.L.E. lurking about out there! This section of our site lays out a few basic ways to helps distinguish between real and counterfeit figures.
The most obvious way to tell if your M.U.S.C.L.E. is fake, is to look for The Y/S.N.T Trademark located on the back of the figure. If it's missing, you have a bootleg M.U.S.C.L.E. on your hands.
What does Y/S.N.T. stand for you ask? Here's a brief explanation..
The 'Y' stands for Yudetamago, which means 'Boiled Egg' in Japanese. It's also the pen name for the Japanese Manga duo of artist Yoshinori Nakai and writer Takashi Shimada, the guys who created Kinnikuman!
The 'S' stands for Shueisha, the company that published the Kinnikuman Manga in Japan.
The 'N' stands for Nippon, the TV network who broadcasted the Kinnikuman Anime.
The 'T' stands for Toei Animation, who actually produced the Kinnikuman anime series.
The 'B' copyright stamp stands for Bandai, the toy company that worked with Mattel to bring the toy line to America.
In many cases, molds were made directly from M.U.S.C.L.E. and Kinnikuman figures, so sometimes the Y/S.N.T trademark will show up, but it will be very faint or almost non-existent. Mind you, I've seen Trademarks that are very crisp and clear, but there are other indicators that can prove the figure to be counterfeit as you'll see below..
Color is an important factor in determining if your M.U.S.C.L.E. is the real deal. Legitimate M.U.S.C.L.E.'s are a pinkish color, not tan, beige, or any other color that's not listed on the M.U.S.C.L.E. color chart.
NOTE: Sometimes an authentic M.U.S.C.L.E might be up to, or just over a half a shade lighter or darker than the pinkish color you see above. This can be attributed to different reasons such as weathering, chemical exposure, water exposure, etc. As you acquire and handle more M.U.S.C.L.E., you'll quickly be able to better discern this for yourself.
Figures in the M.U.S.C.L.E. toy line are not overly flexible. They also have very crisp clean details and nice smooth edges. Notice the tags on the edges of the fake M.U.S.C.L.E. above. This comes from inferior molds, equipment, raw material, or all of the above.
Kinnikumen (the M.U.S.C.L.E. cousins from Japan) were made in a vast amount of colors. While they are generally a little more rubbery than M.U.S.C.L.E., the figures from the 80s and 90s always have the Y/S .N.T Trademark on their backs.
When you make a photo copy of a picture, you lose a considerable amount of quality. The same can be said when casting molds directly from a previously casted figure. The bootlegged figure on the left, is SO much smaller than the M.U.S.C.L.E. on the right, it leads us to believe a mold was cast from a shoddy bootleg to begin with. Kinnikuman also featured multiple sculpts for figures, so it very well could be a Kinnikuman bootleg, seeing as its arms are posed differently.
Above is a knock off pack of M.U.S.C.L.E. I used to have in my collection. The bootleg figures inside the package were decent as far as bootlegs go, and I for sure could get behind the concept of a M.U.S.C.L.E. 5 pack! The crazy card art and logo alone was worth having this piece in my collection.
Below are some other bootlegs I've come across when I actively collected and traded..
The red, orange and flesh colored figures in the center of the above picture are indeed bootlegs, but from the Japanese Kinnikuman toy line. The M.U.S.C.L.E. Man in the top left corner was an actual fake I bought from a gumball machine. His character was included in a Kinnikuman Manga story arc, and he has some sort of huge metal key attached to his left arm. The little guys in the bottom corners were knockoffs from a Japanese Kinkeshi super distorted collection.
The worst of the worst knockoff's I had in my collection. Most couldn't stand by themselves, and lacked a lots of sculpting detail.