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Break the Fake

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A character has recently bought an interesting or rare item from a shady seller, or perhaps has stolen a prized treasure from somewhere. Oh no! It's a fake! And you know what the first thing you do to a fake is, right? Smash it! Break it! Basically destroy it somehow. Used often with gems that turn out to be glass, because they make great smashy sounds or can be ground up in a powerful fist.

This is usually done to prove to a doubter that it is a fake, but can also be done by accident to reveal that it's fake, or simply done in anger after you find out it is. The most common aversion of this is with fake paintings, which never seem to be destroyed after they're revealed to be counterfeit, and are either kept by the owner anyway ("oh well, it still looks nice") or kept by the police as evidence, if the owner doesn't try to sell it on to the next naive idiot.

See It's All Junk. Has nothing to do with breaking a fake cutie.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: In the anime episode 137, after the arrancar Patros is defeated, the Hogyoku he stole from Lord Aizen breaks into pieces. Kisuke Urahara explains that Aizen let Patros steal a fake Hogyoku, because the real Hogyoku would never have broken so easily.
  • Inverted in Dragon Ball: a peddler sells the villains what looks like a genuine dragon ball, until it is accidentally dropped and shatters. Colonel Silver apparently deduced it was fake all along, however.
  • Averted in Gunslinger Girl when the fake antique kaleidoscope is damaged, but repaired, despite the fact that everyone involved suspects it's a fake.
  • Played with in Hunter × Hunter. An episode is dedicated to someone who makes counterfeits of rare artifacts. They come across an artifact at an auction: A sealed clay container for valuable jewels. The only surefire way to determine its authenticity is to break it and see the contents inside, but this would ruin its value as an artifact. The counterfeiter gets into a heated debate with an appraiser over its authenticity, both trying their hard not to resort to breaking the object. The counterfeiter ultimately convinces the appraiser that it's fake, but it's actually real — he can sell the jewels inside for a lot more money than he paid for the supposedly fake container.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Odion's fake Millennium Rod shatters when he's struck by lightning, confirming it was a fake and that he's not the Big Bad like they assumed.

    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd: During a routine inspection of the Dark Judges' containment unit, Dredd smashes the Crystal Orb containing Judge Death after noticing that the spirit inside it doesn't move. A rookie Judge instinctively draws his gun (not that it would have helped), but Dredd explains that the crystals were designed not to be breakable by anything less than a high explosive device, proving that the real orb was switched for a fake one.
  • Wonder Woman (Rebirth): Wonder Woman accidentally crushing the supposed helmet of Ares reveals that not only is the helmet fake, but so too are the Olympians and Amazons she was interacting with in Wonder Woman (2011) as the Olympians decided that merely altering her memories to hide Themyscira wasn't enough.

    Films — Animated 
  • Invoked in Flushed Away when Roddy smashes Rita's prized ruby to prove that it's fake. Rita, furious that she spent all those years trying to retrieve that ruby for her broken family, only to now discover it was a fake all along, attacks Roddy in a rage.
  • In Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life, Sheena tries to soothe Arceus' anger by returning the Jewel of Life that was violently taken from it. Arceus takes one look at the Jewel before shattering it, revealing it to be a fake as the real jewel cannot be destroyed so easily (in the original Japanese version) or is completely indestructible (in the English dub).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Schmidt breaks the fake Tesseract before finding the real one.
  • In Entrapment, Gin is sent by Mac to an antique dealer to obtain information about their next heist. The dealer gives her a vase, which she immediately identifies as a fake. He tells her it's better than the real one and demands payment. She gives him a credit card, but the guy wants cash. She takes a look inside the vase and then smashes it on his head. It turns out that what they wanted was a roll of film in the vase with the blueprints of the museum.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Indy breaks into the room where his father is being held, Jones Sr. smashes him on the head with a vase and then shows more concern over the broken relic than his own son. He then smiles as if finally recognizing Indy only to point out that the vase is a fake.
  • Octopussy: General Orlav smashes a real (in-universe) Fabergé egg, having been inadvertently tricked by James Bond, who switched the real egg with a forgery much earlier in the film. The jewelsmith flinches at the sight, but since Bond had planted a bug in the real one, it's not an entirely unproductive move on Orlov's part. Later when an audit exposes Orlav's scheme, an art expert examines the Romanov Star in a Soviet state archive, then smashes it on the floor. Smash Cut to Orlav showing Octopussy the real Romanov Star.
  • In Rush Hour 2, Carter purposefully burns a $100 bill given to him by Kenny who runs an illicit gambling parlor and took that money from someone Carter and Lee are trailing. The bill burns red, indicating that it's counterfeit as actual $100 bills burn black and convincing Kenny to name who gave that money to him in outrage over being swindled.
  • Done in the Russian comedy Shirly-Myrly by a man who wants to buy a huge diamond. The one really shocked, by the way, is the seller, who never let another man hold the suitca— Oh, Crap!
  • That Man from Rio: Three Mesoamerican statuettes are keys to an ancient treasure, and two have been stolen. archaeologist Catalan visits his old partner, industrialist De Castro, to make sure the third in his possession is safe. He quickly pronounces it a fake, and De Castro congratulates his perception, hurling it to the floor, assuring him that the real one is safely hidden.
  • In Trespass (2011), Kyle reveals that Sarah's "diamond" necklace is a fake (and that he sold the original).

  • In Equal Rites, spircles are a chameleonic gemstone, but can be distinguished from actual precious gems by the fact they dissolve in hypactic fluid. An assayer does this to confirm Esk's claim that the ultramarines Aschat was offered are fake.
  • John Rain: In The Detachment, Larison uses a hammer to smash the fake diamonds he's been paid off with. In the Mistakes section of author Barry Eisler's website, a reader points out that while diamonds are hard, they're not tough enough to avoid shattering when hit with a hammer, so this wouldn't prove anything.
  • One of the characters in The Joy Luck Club was the daughter of a woman who had been forced into concubinage. The wife gave the daughter a lovely string of 'pearls,' but the mother crushed one to show her that they were only glass.
  • Myth Adventures: In M.Y.T.H. Inc. Link, Skeeve has his dragon Gleep burn the consignment of comic books when he realizes they're fake. Justified because he doesn't want to let them be sold to gullible buyers, and is willing to catch flak for failing to protect the shipment.
  • In The Practical Princess, one of the Impossible Tasks Princess Bedella sets her Abhorrent Admirer is to bring her a cloak made of Fiery Salamander skin. When he apparently does so, she casually tosses it into the fire, and points out that salamander skin wouldn't burn in a mere fireplace.
  • In the first Sword of Truth book, Darken Rahl arrives at Queen Milena's court to obtain one of the Boxes of Orden. As soon as he receives it, he nods at one of his bodyguards, and the guy crushes the box into pieces. Then Rahl takes away the court wizard, who had to know the box was a fake, and therefore, where the real one is.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blake's 7: The Mineral MacGuffin in "Games" is a priceless stash of Feldon crystals. After the Villain of the Week fools everyone and makes off with them all, Vila proudly shows a necklace of Feldon crystals that he stole from the villain's lair. Avon just smashes it under his pistol butt, as it's a fake.
  • In the CSI episode "Suckers", Nick accidentally damages a samurai sword from a collection of Japanese artifacts, but discovers that it's a forgery because of what the damage reveals. The whole team then disassembles the entire collection, as it's all fake and taking it apart may provide evidence to explain the scam.
  • Leverage:
    • Nate Ford does this in "The Rashomon Job". A bejeweled dagger is being displayed in a museum, and at the end of a series of crazy events, Nate ends up with the dagger, confronts the curator with it... and breaks it, knowing it's really a fake (the real one was sold by the curator).
    • Happens again in the Leverage: Redemption episode "The Mastermind Job". Milton Friedlander, a former colleague of Nate's who is impersonating him, worked as a forensic accountant for an insurance company. When all seems lost, he spots the fact that the Zafir Scarab is insured for way lower than it should be. He quickly deduces that it is a fake and the real one must have been sold off long ago, smashing it on the floor to prove his point.
  • The Lost Room features a number of strange Objects with seemingly random supernatural powers, all connected to a physics-breaking disaster at a motel in the middle of nowhere that results in a room and its contents being shifted out of our universe (hence the title). The only thing the Objects have in common is that they were all indestructible, and therefore attempting to break, burn or tear something suspected of being an Object is a common way of identifying fakes. One character is shown with a dozen identical radios hitting each one with a hammer. When she finally hits the last one, she is visibly pained by it being the equivalent of punching a brick wall.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Craig thwarts a comic book dealer trying to pass off a reprinted Spider-Man #1 as the real deal by throwing a glass of water at him. That the dealer shields himself with the comic rather than vice-versa is proof enough that it's a fake.
  • An episode of Murder, She Wrote has Jessica's nephew Grady staying at Jessica's home (while she's out of the country) when three treasure hunters come seeking an extremely valuable artifact that had somehow been gifted to Jessica years ago. At the end of the episode, Grady accidentally drops and breaks it... and then his wife notices "MADE IN TAIWAN" stamped at the bottom.
  • Sailor Venus in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon carried a fake silver crystal in a crown, when the evil guys thought they got her trapped and where about to steal it from her, she broke the gem and the showed a briefcase with dozens of other crowns.
  • One episode of Scorpion averts the aversion with Walter walking right up to a painting on display in a museum and cutting it to reveal it's a forgery. The fact that he did it with zero warning and remained smug about it got the team in hot water for the whole episode, though, even after the restoration team confirmed Walter's findings.
  • Young Blades: Siroc examines what he believes to be a fake diamond. He smashes it into powder, proving that it is fake, because a real diamond wouldn't be so easy to destroy. (Much to the chagrin of the other Musketeers, who helped pay for what was sold as a real diamond, and planned to return it to the pawn shop after Siroc was done studying it.)

    Tabletop Games 

  • Exalted: One of the between chapter comics in the Scroll of Heroes shows a woman bringing in a piece of Magitek she recently bought to a store for help in getting it to work. The store owner looks at it a few seconds, then bites off part of the artifact and tells her that she's been had. Apparently, the crystals on the item were sugar.

  • In The Ring of the Nibelung, Siegfried destroys every sword Mime forges for him. Mime is seen working on one at the beginning of Siegfried, but Siegfried handles it for a moment, says, "Do you call this weak nail a sword?" and smashes it over the anvil. When Siegfried succeeds at precisely what Mime could not accomplish, reforging his Ancestral Weapon, he demonstrates its real power by cutting the anvil in half with it.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Gargoyles, Kings Arthur and MacBeth are fighting over Excalibur. Macbeth claims the sword from the dragon statue, but then eventually loses his grip on it. Arthur picks it up, and then smashes it, revealing it's a fake. He'd know how the genuine article felt in his hands.
  • Subverted in The Proud Family. When one of Penny's relatives comes to visit, she gives Suga Mama some diamonds. Suga Mama initially thinks they are fake and tests it on a window. The window cracks upon her scratching the window with it, causing her to realize that they actually are diamonds.

    Real Life 
  • PayPal requires unwitting purchasers of counterfeit (or allegedly counterfeit) items to destroy the item and send them a picture.
  • Numerous online examples, usually as a way of venting frustration with being ripped off.
  • Customs officers worldwide commonly do this with stashes of counterfeit goods they detect entering into their country.
  • Norbert Casteret wrote in his autobiography how he and a friend slipped another friend an "archeological finding" as a prank. After they told him it's a fake, he refused to believe and dared them to break it...
  • The Aranmula kannadi is an Indian copper-tin alloy mirror that is renowned for the fact that it is front-reflecting, and thus does not distort the image of whatever is reflected in it. It is also an auspicious item used in religious rites. Due to these traits, and the fact that its manufacture is a closely-guarded family secret, the mirrors are very expensive and thus an attractive target for counterfeiters, who tend to use pure tin to create fakes. In order to detect a fake, an easy way to do so is to try and break the mirror. As the alloy used in the mirror is brittle, this trope is inverted in that a genuine mirror will break easily, while a fake will not.