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Leave it on the Rack: How to Spot a Fake Rock T-Shirt

by Bryan Goodman and Jason T. Smith (11/04/13).

While out thrifting in the field, WorthPoint’s Worthopedia is an invaluable tool to research an item we aren’t sure about. Typically, using online research can help determine what to buy and then what price to sell. However, research can be just as valuable alerting you what to pass up, therefore saving you money and time. Most every article here in WorthPoint (including all of ours) is about what to buy, how to list it and what it should sell for. Now we are going to teach you what to leave behind.

Rock concert T-shirts can bring lots and lots of money, but they also can bring a headache if you try to sell a fake one. A vintage Slayer concert shirt from the ’80s sold on Sept. 4 of this year for $1,125.09. A week later, a vintage Talking Heads concert shirt sold for $471. You don’t need to find a super-old concert shirt to make some money. Many modern tour shirts will have a nice return in the secondary market. But how can you tell the real thing from the $15 shirt bought from underneath the jacket of a nefarious guy in the parking lot? Spotting a fake isn’t as hard as you may think.

We have been buying fake concert T-shirts at thrift stores for the past couple of years to educate others on what to leave behind. We spend money on junk so you don’t have to. As you look at the pictures and accompanying notes, you will see common points that happen over and over to indicate when the shirt is fake:

The fronts of the bootlegged Alicia Keys: Set the World on Fire Tour, Britney Spears: Femme Fatale Tour 2011, The Rolling Stones: No Security Tour 1999, The Reunion of the Century Black Sabbath Reunion and the Crosby Still Nash & Young: Freedom of Speech Tour T-shirts.

The backs of the of the bootlegged Alicia Keys: Set the World on Fire Tour, Britney Spears: Femme Fatale Tour 2011, The Rolling Stones: No Security Tour 1999, The Reunion of the Century Black Sabbath Reunion and the Crosby Still Nash & Young: Freedom of Speech Tour T-shirts.

1. Alicia Keys: Set the World on Fire Tour

The front and back images were pulled directly from the album. The color is so blown out on the front there is no way an artist would allow this poor quality shirt to be sold. On the back, they added a fancy red outline around her. The tour dates aren’t complete on the back, with three tour stops missing between Atlanta and Brooklyn. My thought is that those dates were announced after this initial date announcement and the bootlegger didn’t realize it. Also, a quick check of her website, you will see the actual tour shirt looks nothing like this.

2. Britney Spears: Femme Fatale Tour 2011

The front art is one of the best in the collection, but alas, not from a tour shirt. It was a marketing photo for the album Femme Fatale. The back art is the back cover of the album. There are missing tour stops on the list. But the biggest red flag is the picture of Nicki Minaj on the back. She was one of the many opening acts on this tour. There would never be a time when the headliner would have a picture of the opening act on their concert shirt for a couple of reasons. One is the headliner would have to give a cut of the profits to that opening act and another is that many times the opening act doesn’t perform on the whole tour, so it would be foolish to place their picture on the tour shirts.

3. The Rolling Stones: No Security Tour 1999

The front graphic looks good because the tongue logo is very simplistic. But the back graphic is horrible. A picture was copied from the tour poster, then the bootlegger removed all the background. The color is awful and the graphic is grainy. Also missing are some tour stops.

4. The Reunion of the Century Black Sabbath Reunion

The use of reunion twice on the front was the point that tipped us off. The addition of Pantera and The Deftones on the back is another red flag. Throughout this whole tour, Pantera and The Deftones only played together on two dates. It would not be cost-effective to print shirts for just those two performances. The image on the front is close, but the fake shirt has added a lot of green.

5. Crosby Still Nash & Young: Freedom of Speech Tour

The biggest red flag on this shirt is actually an orange flag. The picture does not do justice to show how orange their skin is on both the front and the back. CSNY look like Oompa Loompas.

The fronts of the bootlegged Bon Jovi: Have a Nice Day Summer Tour 2006, Carrie Underwood: Play on Tour 2010, Van Halen: A Different Kind of Truth 2012 World Tour and ZZ Top: Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers Tour T-shirts.

The backs of the bootlegged Bon Jovi: Have a Nice Day Summer Tour 2006, Carrie Underwood: Play on Tour 2010, Van Halen: A Different Kind of Truth 2012 World Tour and ZZ Top: Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers Tour T-shirts.

6. Bon Jovi: Have a Nice Day Summer Tour 2006

The first thing that stands out is how awful the decal is. Very thick and stiff. Also, as stated above, the headliner would never have the opening act on their shirt. And on this shirt, Nickelback gets half of the back.

7. Carrie Underwood: Play on Tour 2010

The majority of fake concert T-shirts are made by grabbing images off the internet and printing them on the shirt. When the image procured is very tiny and then blown-up large, the picture looks horrible—distorted and/or pixilated. Both pictures of Carrie are super grainy and the font used for the tour cities is so small, they’re almost unreadable.

8. Van Halen: A Different Kind of Truth 2012 World Tour

The front of this shirt is really good quality and really close to the real shirt. The back is where the magic happens. On this tour, Eddie’s son, Wolfie Van Halen, was doing bass duty and David Lee Roth was singing. The back of this shirt shows Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth. Why in the world would there be a tour shirt of a band and only show half of the band, especially when the two missing members are also Van Halens (Wolfie & Alex). In case you didn’t know, David Lee Roth was one of the best front man of all time and super narcissistic. There is absolutely no way he would approve of a shirt showing only his back with his arms in the air. As an added bonus, Las Vegas wasn’t a tour stop, but it is on the back of the shirt.

9. ZZ Top: Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers Tour

Once again, both opening acts are on the shirt, which wouldn’t happen. The graphic of the band is very grainy. The ZZ Top logo is actually two colors but because of poor quality, you can’t really tell. On the back, the words “Beer Drinkers Hell Raisers” are really distorted. They took a regular font and stretched the bottom and top of the letters, not the whole letter.

The fronts of the bootlegged Snoop Dogg: The Dogfather, Spice Girls: Reunion & World Tour 2007-2008, The Rolling Stones and Prince: Musically Tour 2004 T-shirts.

The backs of the bootlegged Snoop Dogg: The Dogfather, Spice Girls: Reunion & World Tour 2007-2008, The Rolling Stones and Prince: Musically Tour 2004 T-shirts.

10. Snoop Dogg: The Dogfather

This looks like a shirt promoting Snoop’s second album from 1996, but there are three major mistakes: the font matches, but not close enough; it is actually “Tha Doggfather”… they changed the “e” to “a” and left out a “g”; and the slant on the “th” slants the other way on the album cover.

11. Spice Girls: Reunion & World Tour 2007-2008

The front of the shirt has the correct picture, but wrong background and font. The back picture was stolen from the poster of their movie, “Spice World,” which came out 10 years before this tour. That is one of the big tip offs; using old artwork on a current tour. And the official name of the tour was the Return of The Spice Girls.

12. The Rolling Stones

Not a tour shirt but wanted to share the awful image on the front of the shirt. It doesn’t look like Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ron, it looks like a Rorschach test.

13. Prince: Musically Tour 2004

The actual tour T-shirt was very plain for this tour and only had text, no pictures. There was a point in Prince’s career when he went by a symbol and not his name. On this shirt, the symbol shows up five times. At this point, he was well into using his name again and wasn’t using the symbol. On the back of the shirt, the bootlegger went Photoshop crazy. The background is the cover of the album 1999, which was released in 1982. The main picture is from the cover of his Greatest Hits Vol. 1 CD, released in 1993. The smaller picture was from the Dirty Mind album, released in 1980. Finally, the actual name of the tour was Musicology Live 2004ever.

The examples given above, though very specific, can still serve as a guide for ways to be cautious while sourcing any concert T-shirts. Naturally, not every nuance of a tour shirt can be known while in the store, but the top three red flags to look out for are:

• The opening act pictured or named on the shirt*;
• Using old artwork for a modern tour;
• Distorted or poor graphics.

If you ever find a music T-shirt and aren’t sure if it is legit or not, join our free Facebook group, where we discuss topics like this all day, every day, and ask us.


*The exception when you may find more than one band on a T-shirt is when it is package tour, usually older bands, all at the same level. If Kansas, BTO & REO Speedwagon go on tour, they could have a shirt with all three bands on the shirt, splitting the profits equally. 


Bryan Goodman and Jason Smith are Thrifting with the Boys. They are motivational speakers teaching thrift store resourcing techniques at seminars throughout the country. They have a popular Facebook group devoted only to thrifting and have run thrifting excursions around the country.

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15 Responses to “Leave it on the Rack: How to Spot a Fake Rock T-Shirt”

  1. Jenny Young says:

    Thanks for the great information. I recently watched your video that you did in Philadelphia EOL. This article gives more specific things to look for with the detailed pictures as examples. Perfect information for the person who has no clue about Rock T-Shirts! Thanks Boys!!

  2. Greg Purdy says:

    That’s some really good information. If concert dates are added later but the shirt was purchased earlier in the tour, then it would make sense for there to be some dates missing. I guess shirts from concert tours that were cut short may hold more value, like maybe Fleetwood Mac from this year cancelling Australia and New Zealand. I would have loved to see Jason’s face when he found out his favorite Spice Girls shirt was a fake!

  3. Chris Green says:

    Great article, guys! So glad that you buy the crap so that we don’t have to. Thanks for providing all of these examples and continuing to set the bar high for providing great information to help people properly identify the real deals out there and avoid fakes.

  4. Victoria H says:

    Great article Bryan and Jason, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  5. Doug Shaw says:

    Excellent point about the opening acts which I would have overlooked myself. I have passed on some with suspicious artwork.

  6. This is an excellent article. Very informative and very helpful for future purchases. We appreciate all the time and effort put into this article.

  7. Myrna Carter says:

    Great article and information! Thank you for your time in writing it.

  8. Miles says:

    Great article with very valuable information!

  9. Thanks for another great article. I never would have thought to look up tour dates and city stops.

  10. Annie Haselwood says:

    Excellent article from these writers. So complete with well researched data. This will be my guide. Would love to see more by these writers. I bet they have lots more to share. Wow, they sure were generous with their expertise.

  11. Ann says:

    This is a great article. I love how its presented with detailed information about each shirt. The devil is in the details when spotting fakes so thanks for sharing your expertise and saving me $’s

  12. Alison says:

    Great article! I have only come across one concert tee (Van Halen) so far, but I have only been thrifting a month or so…will be keeping an eye out for more!

  13. Debbie says:

    Wow, I had no idea there would be so many bootleg concert tshirts. Thanks for the tips to look for, really appreciate the info. I’m learning a lot from Thrifting with The Boys.

  14. Paul Cole says:

    I wonder if just looking at the shirt’s tag/type of fabric could be enough to identify a fake concert shirt?

    If so, what fabrics/blends are giveaways? What brand blanks were used to print concert shirts in the 80s and 90s?

  15. Rick Smith says:

    Upset that I never hung onto some of my shirts from the 80s. You know- U2, Metallica, The Police etc. Excellent resource and thank you

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