What is a Recast?
Are you old enough to remember getting a VHS tape with really bad tracking of a movie that was yet to be released for home video? No? How about Pokémon™ cards in the 1990's that felt too paper-y and not glossy enough? I'm dating myself aren't I?
"Bootlegging" has occurred for as long as humans have had the desire to make money and the technology to copy something of value. For dolls, even Kewpie and Barbies are prone to being copied. For BJD, the bootlegs are called "recasts" and their manufacturers called "recasters" due to the method by which they create their copies. A doll from a legitimate company is purchased, then a mold is created from the parts of that doll. The recasters then use those molds to manufacture and sell a doll they did not design or sculpt!
Recasts can be lower in quality, but recasters are growing more skilled in their "art". However due to shrinkage caused my mold making, many parts will not be the same exact size/shape as the original legitimate doll. Telltale signs of recasted BJD are paper-thin or overly thin ears and eyelids. However, some amateur or starting companies can have these problems as well, but this is becoming less common as 3D sculpting can problem solve thin molds before ever pouring resin.
Recasts can be sold heart on sleeve as a copy, and options given for resin colors, etc. The are also sold incognito via eBay and other selling platforms. These recasts are almost always sold with our any clothes or a face-up. Keep a lookout for deals that are too good to be true with no proof of their legitimate status.
What can count as proof? Around 2002 Volks included "headplates" with information that could be traced to the doll’s release. Other companies followed suit with this counterfeit precautions. However, eventually the recasters figured out how to copy these. Sometimes with the headplates, the information does not match the release information for the limited doll its copying. Certificates of Authenticity (CoA) are a long-standing tradition for doll manufacturers… which also means that counterfeiters have had a long long time to practice reproducing these. Typically, when a doll is split between a head and body through separate sales, the CoA goes with the buyer of the head, leaving no CoA for the buyer of the body. Doll boxes are hard to cop, but they are usually quite large, and collectors dispose of them to save space.
Around 2000-2001, Volks added internal branded molded stamps with thin carved lines that are hard to show up cleanly after a doll is recasted, and other companies also use this method. I would say the best way to tell if the doll is legitimate is the internal markings that are no longer clear… but not all dolls have internal markings, and the recasters are getting better at retaining details. A proof of purchase from an authorized dealer (screenshot or Bill of Lading) seems to be the modern best CoA, but would only be available to the original purchaser, and dolls can change hands many times.
So how can you tell for certain? Purchase your BJD directly from the companies or "Authorized Retailers". If you want to purchase a doll used, knowledge is your power. Look on remaster forums and groups and see if the sculpt you are interested in purchasing is currently or has ever been recasted. Ask the seller for some proof of the legitimate nature of the doll, but understand that the older a doll is, the less that will be available for proof.
I would say I expect the next step to be RFID chips in the dolls but… I've now seen people create re-programmable chips for the consumer market to trick Nintendo® systems into thinking you have a specific amiibo™. Once again, bootlegging will occur as long as humans have the desire to make money, and the technology to copy something.