Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of fake table tennis equipment knocking around these days. I believe that almost all of it comes from a handful of unscrupulous Chinese factories.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying Chinese table tennis equipment – they make loads of brilliant and well-priced products – but you should definitely stay away from all the fake stuff.
In this blog post, I will do my best to teach you how to spot fake table tennis equipment. I would like to point out that it is more of an art than a science and definitely something that you will get better at over time, especially once you have played with lots of different pieces of equipment.
I’ve seen far too many new players get ripped off over the years and it is my wish that reading this article will prevent that from happening to you.
The most common fake products
I remember a couple of years ago when I was coaching table tennis full-time in schools, a boy came up to me worried that his table tennis bat was fake.
“It says Tulpe on the handle but Tuple on the rubber” – he said.
This is the bat he was talking about. He was convinced that either the rubber or blade was fake and that the misspelling was the giveaway.
To this day, I have no idea whether it should be Tulpe or Tuple but I’m also sure that there isn’t a factory in China pumping out fake Tulpe (or Tuple) products. That just wouldn’t make any sense.
Counterfeiters focus their energies on the high-end and well-known brands – like Nike. As I’ve mentioned many times, the “Nike of table tennis” is without a doubt Butterfly. Therefore, Butterfly is the brand you need to be most careful with.
The biggest table tennis brand in China is DHS (also known as Double Happiness). They are another brand you need to be wary of, especially when the price appears to be “too good to be true”.
Perhaps fake Joola, Stiga and Donic products exist as well, but I haven’t come across them. Butterfly and DHS are two you need to keep an eye on.
Fake table tennis rubbers
The most popular and best table tennis rubber is undoubtedly Tenergy by Butterfly. At almost £50 per sheet, it is also the most expensive. The popularity and premium price of Tenergy has lead to a serious problem with fake Tenergy rubbers.
I have come across fake DHS rubbers as well over the years, but as they don’t usually demand such a premium price I believe the counterfeiters would much rather target Tenergy. Therefore, I will focus on the Tenergy rubbers in this section – although the same principles apply to checking any rubber to see if it is genuine.
The problem comes when you are searching for a “bargain” online and find Tenergy being sold for less than the current RRP. The thing is, Butterfly are very strict with their prices. So, you shouldn’t really be able to find Tenergy available at a discount. If you do, you should be very wary – especially if the product is considerably cheaper and coming from China.
Here is an example of fake Tenergy being sold on DHgate…
I think the temptation is to wrongly believe that genuine Tenergy is a lot cheaper in China and this is simply the advantage of buying your rubbers in a different market/currency. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. $35 for two sheets of Tenergy – which would have an RRP of $150 – should set off alarm bells alone.
How to spot a fake rubber
If you were to compare a real and fake Tenergy to each other, side by side, you should be able to notice some differences.
The packaging is one of the biggest giveaways. Butterfly deliberately add holograms to their packaging to make it easier to spot a genuine product from a fake.
On a closer inspection of the rubber, other differences also emerge. If you look closely you will often be able to see that the Butterfly logos along the bottom edge of the rubber don’t look so crisp and sharp on the fake table tennis products. Some even have excess space below the logo.
The other big difference is the sponge. Fake Tenergy rubbers are not using a high-quality sponge. Therefore, you should be able to see differences in the both the colour and the texture. Tenergy always has an orange sponge. If your Tenergy rubber has a yellow sponge then it is 100% a fake product.
If you have played with Tenergy rubbers before you will immediately be able to tell the difference once you start playing. A fake table tennis rubber will feel horrible in comparison.
If you don’t have this experience you could always ask another player at your club to try out your bat and let you know what they think of it. They will know straight away if something isn’t right.
As I mentioned earlier, when buying rubbers your best bet is to only buy from official retailers or reputable stores that you trust. And remember, if the price looks too good to be true… it probably is!
Fake table tennis blades
Blades are slightly different to rubbers mainly due to the fact that anyone can make a table tennis blade because it doesn’t have to be ITTF approved. You could even make your own at home if you wanted to!
Below is a photo showing an original and a fake Butterfly Zhang Jike blade. Can you tell which one is real? It’s not easy…
Ok, the blade on the right is the genuine Butterfly product. It does look a little bit nicer when they are side-by-side but imagine if you didn’t have the original for comparison. The fake table tennis blade would look pretty convincing.
Fake blades are as bad as fake rubbers. They are simply cheap Chinese blades that have been made to look like expensive ones in order to rip people off.
Again, remember that Butterfly products are always very expensive. If you see a brand new Butterfly blade on sale for 50% off the RRP then chances are it is a fake.
But what about “clones”?
You may have heard table tennis players talking about Chinese clones of some of the most popular and best-selling table tennis blades. This is quite an interesting topic.
Fakes are bad. We don’t like fakes. But clones are a different story.
A clone blade is one that is sold by a reputable Chinese table tennis brand (such as Yinhe/Galaxy) but that has been created to be as close of a copy as possible of another blade, both in materials and performance.
For example, here is a fake Butterfly Viscaria for sale on AliExpress for $20. This is not a genuine product but a cheap imitation.
On the other hand, Chinese table tennis brands Yinhe and Sword have both created their own blades that they market as being very similar to Viscaria. They are clones, not fakes, and from some of the reviews I’ve read are very good clones too.
There are lots of good clones available which means you might be able to save yourself a lot of money when you buy your next blade.
If you find an expensive and popular blade that you really like (something like a Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit) and spend a bit of time searching the table tennis forums for Chinese clones (I believe the new Sanwei F3 Pro is a good option) then you could be on to a winner!
Fake table tennis balls
Fake 3-star table tennis balls were becoming a big problem a few years ago before the switch from celluloid to plastic. Since the change, I haven’t come across any fake 40+ balls but I reckon it is only a matter of time.
Table tennis balls are extremely easy to fake. All you need to do is produce (or buy) a load of cheap blank training balls and then print the Butterfly or DHS 3-star logo on them. The balls cost peanuts – because they are rubbish – but can be sold on for much more to players who believe they are buying top quality balls.
If you don’t know what you are looking for you will be easily fooled.
I remember playing a local league match a couple of years ago at another club and the second we started knocking up I knew something was wrong. The ball felt horrible. It wasn’t round. It felt really soft.
I stopped to check the ball because I assumed we were playing with a cheap training ball by mistake. However, it clearly said DHS 3-Star. I got the other team to swap it for a different ball but all they had were these orange DHS 3-Stars.
It didn’t take me long to put two and two together. I asked the guy where he had bought them from and he said “online somewhere”. Fortunately, my team had some genuine 3-star balls with us.
Fake table tennis balls are a massive scam
If you think you are buying a 3-star for the price of a training ball you are probably buying a training ball that has “3-star” printed on it. You may even be buying a ball that is worse than a standard training ball!
Don’t fall for this.
As I mentioned, I haven’t seen any fake 40+ ball yet – and I reckon the seamless ones will be almost impossible to fake as only one factory in the world is producing seamless table tennis balls. However, I reckon it won’t be too long before fake plastic 40+ seamed balls start appearing in our clubs. Be on guard.
Fake table tennis shoes
I remember when I was younger loads of my friends used to buy fake Nike trainers from the local markets. Instead of paying £100 for a pair you could pick them up for £30-40. Sure, the quality wasn’t quite up to scratch, but they didn’t seem to mind – provided other people thought they had genuine trainers.
Table tennis shoes are different. You aren’t buying expensive table tennis trainers simply to show off to your friends – or at least you shouldn’t be. Your table tennis shoes are your connection to the floor. They need to be grippy, lightweight, supportive and allow for quick and easy lateral movement.
Table tennis footwear is different to normal sports trainers. The soles are low and quite thin, which makes it much easier to move around the court. If you have ever tried to play table tennis in astroturf football boots or bulky tennis trainers you understand how uncomfortable it can be.
A lot of thought and design has gone into creating a proper pair of table tennis shoes.
Butterfly fake shoes
The most popular and best table tennis shoes are made by Butterfly and Mizuno. Unsurprisingly, these are the two brands that suffer from fakes.
Fakes are no good at all. They may have gone to a lot of trouble to make them look like the originals, but the quality and materials used will be really poor.
Table tennis shoes actually take a really hammering as you quickly change direction and push off from one foot to the other. If you buy cheap knock off table tennis footwear don’t be surprised to see them fall apart very quickly under the strain.
Below is a genuine Butterfly trainer…
And here is a fake Butterfly trainer…
The counterfeiters have actually done a pretty good job at copying the design. But this is a cheap trainer and it isn’t going to perform as well as the genuine Butterfly product, or last as long.
If all you want are a pair of cheap indoor trainers then you may as well get a pair from any cheap Chinese brand. It makes no sense to pay more for a pair of fake Butterfly shoes.
Mizuno Wave Drive
The Mizuno Wave Drive is another popular and expensive table tennis shoe.
I’ve seen a lot of fake Mizunos being sold online over the last few years from Chinese factories. Again, it can be very difficult to spot the difference between real and fake table tennis trainers when looking online.
Also, some places are so dodgy that they will buy a real pair and take photos of those before sending out the fake pairs to customers. So just because it looks genuine in the photos doesn’t mean you are going to get sent a genuine pair of shoes.
Butterfly and Mizuno shoes are expensive. If you see them on sale somewhere for cheap, be careful.
Fake table tennis clothes
The last item I want to mention is clothing, in particular, table tennis shirts.
Again, Butterfly appears to be the brand that is being targeted the most. Do any search on eBay and you’ll discover loads of strange looking Butterfly shirts that you’ve never come across before. It can be difficult to distinguish between those that are genuine products from a different market (China or Japan) and the fakes.
Here’s an example of what I mean…
Is this a genuine Butterfly table tennis shirt or a Chinese fake? I have to admit that I’m not 100% certain either way. However, I feel like there is a good chance that this is a fake product and therefore I wouldn’t buy it.
Buying fake table tennis clothing isn’t as big a deal as buying fake equipment – it isn’t going to affect your performance – but I still wouldn’t advise it.
Have you ever bought a fake?
If you have ever fallen foul to fake table tennis products please leave a comment below and share your experience.
If we all join together and share tips it should be easier to protect ourselves in the future.