Spotting a fake box or label

Another thread discussed using a black light to spot fake boxes and labels. Can someone tell me, briefly, how this is done.

Do you go down to Ace Hardware and buy a black light bulb? Do you simply put the bulb in a table lamp?

After you have a black light, exactly what do you look for? Does old paper and/or pasteboard look different than the new stuff? Can you tell Xerox printing from the old type set? How about the printing from a modern printer?

Any help would be appreciated.



When you use a black light on “new” paper, the paper wil give you a bright white light .
By old paper you wil see nothing.
By the old labels they used a printing stamp, the inkt was pushed into the paper by the modern
printing the inkt lays on top of the paper.


sorry in case I tell you what you already know. Black light is simply ultraviolet.

Here in Europe it once was heavily used for checking bank notes and it is quite easy to purchase some sort of ultraviolet lamp. I have no Dollar note handy, but Euros or Pounds look quite interesting under ultraviolet light.

Simply make a xerocopy (or scan and computer printout) of an old label and view both under ultraviolet light. You will immediately see a difference.

Thanks guys for that explanation. It was simpler than I thought.

Reference was also made to the actual printing and how you could see the difference. I’ve looked at all three types with a jewelers loupe and I cannot see any difference whatsoever. Is it my eyes or are their specific things I need to look for??


The reason black lights work is there are polymers in most modern paper. These reflect the light causing the glow. You can get paper that does not contain polymers, but it is hard to find.

For me, it iis very hard to see the print -vs- photocopy difference without looking at both sides of the paper. If you can see both sides, you would see a lot more ink bleed through on something printed on a press. This also varies with how much ink is applied to the head of the press. In rare cases, you can actually see the physical indent made by the press if it is a hard strike on the paper.

Another thing to watch for is that most modern printers use a dot matrix method to print. If you look at it under high magnification you can see that the images are comprised of many little dots instead of a continuous line. If you want, I can try and capture this in some photos with a macro lense. Once you’ve seen it, you will understand better.

Unless the counterfeiter is very cleaver, with a little experience, you can usually spot the fakes. Sometimes, just have to compare the real and fake side by side to be certain. For example, a llot of the fake combustible cartridge packets out there were made on polymer free paper and were printed on presses, you jjust have To “know” the difference.

I hope this helps,

with you jewelers loupe you look at the edge of the print, from an acute (low) angle with the light coming across the print, The light and viewing angle help show raised printing so you can see it the ink is actually in the paper as opposed to sitting on top of the paper.
The best light for this would be sunlight as it is less diffused, but the effect can be seen with normal room light, but might be hard to see in florescent lighting due to the built-in light scattering.

Any fixture of the proper wattage for the bulb of choice will work & as stated be in a dark room. Bring the bulb somewhat close to the object as the effect will be easier to see.

Thanks again guys. I’m going to buy a black light and do some playing around with it. After checking all of my old boxes and labels, I will be able to use the light at one of my disco parties. ;-) ;-)


FYI they make UV/blacklight flashlights. I bought mine at Ace, although I use it for finding scorpions rather than spotting fake labels. Amazon also has a pretty good selection with many under $10.