Backstage passes are rarefied rock n' roll collectibles. They are much scarcer than concert tickets, concert posters and concert programs, because they were only intended for a select few--stagehands, VIP's and those closely associated with the band or artist. But, as in many collectible fields, many so-called backstage passes have been counterfeited, due to the introduction of digital printing. The line becomes even more ambiguous when you have new sellers who actually aren't aware themselves that they are selling counterfeits and unauthorized reprints.

Because Right Brain/Left Brain™ uses the strictest standards of authenticity in selling backstage passes, we want to help you in your collecting, and help educate collectors in discerning the difference between authentic and fake. By collecting backstage passes wisely, you will help maintain their real value, rather than allow them to be devalued by the influx of fakes into the market. It is the buyer who determines the value of a collectible.

Many counterfeit passes and unauthorized reprints that have appeared on eBay over the years. Remember it is still a buyer beware market, and counterfeits abound on both eBay and Amazon. Collectors must inform themselves to be safe.

A couple of specific warnings. A longtime Queen roadie has told me that historically most of the Queen passes on ebay are counterfeit, and not even close to the originals. This comes from someone who toured with the band, and saved all his own passes from the various tours. In fact, an easy rule of thumb: if you see a Queen pass on ebay for $8.99, you know it's fake. When a real one is up, you'll know it, and you won't get it for $8.99! Several sellers further confuse collectors by offering "sets" of passes, usually 4-6 passes in a set with a publicity photo, or poster. These sets frequently contain one or more counterfeit passes.

In order to help you become a discerning collector, we'll attempt to simplify the process, and show examples for comparison's sake. There are basically three kinds of passes: cloth (stick-on) passes, paper (stick-on) passes and laminated passes. Each type has its own detection methods for determining authenticity.

There are a couple of generalized clues to detecting counterfeits, and these apply to both kinds of passes.

  • The printing type on fakes is hard to read, blurred, or crooked.
  • Colors are not bright, crisp and true.
  • The graphics are muddy or indistinct.
  • Same font for "Staff" and "Crew" on passes from different artists, different years.
  • The pass has the incorrect backing, which we will illustrate more in detail later.
  • The print registration is poor. Under a magnifying glass, or loupe, you can see an exaggerated dot pattern. This indicates the image has been re-screened.

    Remember that most artists have strict quality standards. They would not approve shoddy artwork, or poor printing quality.


    Laminated passes are the easiest and cheapest passes to counterfeit, thanks to the advent of digital printing, because the counterfeiter can scan and photoshop a color image and have it printed with little trouble. Many counterfeiters don't even take the precaution of copying an authentic pass, but will instead make up their own pass, using graphic images associated with the artist--from album covers, concert advertisements, posters, and other sources.

    OUTRIGHT COUNTERFEITS: The following passes never existed as authentic passes. They have been completely fabricated using unauthorized artwork.

    In real life, this CSN pass looks blurred, like a second generation copy.

    This Bob Seger pass also looks
    out of focus, like a copy
    of a photograph.

    The Alice Cooper pass is not only fake,
    the backing is incorrect.

    There was a Stevie Ray Vaughan laminated pass like the one above, but I have never seen an authentic one. The ones on the market are all unauthorized reprints (and poor ones!). The tell-tale sign is when you look at the pass under a loupe, you will see the dot matrix pattern on the red letters as well as the image. And the reverse side has a 1993 OTTO backing (even though the pass was originally printed for the 1986 tour).

    On the left, one of the most common fake Queen laminated passes on ebay! The authentic pass is on the right--completely different design, completely different size.


    Counterfeiters most often seek out the most popular artists when choosing which passes to fake. Be extra careful when seeing passes from artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Madonna, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Queen, among others. These are the ones most often faked. In some cases, like Led Zeppelin and Queen, authentic passes are rare, and this makes fabrication of fakes ones more attractive.

    Here are some examples of fake passes from the more popular artists:

    This one uses the familiar image from Pink Floyd's Animals artwork. However, this pass never existed on any Pink Floyd tour. This is 100% counterfeit.

    This counterfeit was very cleverly made, even using green foil printing for the "Pink Floyd" name, and borrowing the artwork from Pink Floyd's Division Bell. However, it is fake, and was never used on any Pink Floyd tour.

    Two Pink Floyd 1994 laminates below, one fake (on the left) and one authentic (on the right).
    Notice the artwork on the counterfeit at left is indistinct, muddy-looking, the color is off, and the reverse side says "No Stage or Backstage Access" (not shown). The authentic laminate on the right has distinct, crisp and true colors, and has the correct OTTO backing (not shown).

    This is a genuine Queen 1981 cloth pass from the South American Tour. I am showing what the backing looks like as well. This Guest pass was only issued as a cloth pass. Now, compare it the fake one at the right.
    This is the counterfeit version. Someone took the artwork from the cloth pass (you can see the cloth texture in the image), and placed bands across the top and bottom, for the words "Queen" and "Guest". Notice that even the backing is the wrong company. If you look closely, they didn't even cut out the woman's hand and whip very well. It's a sloppy cut. Also notice how indistinct and muddy the image is.


    I'll show another example for Queen. Counterfeiters LOVE Queen, and most of the time 100% of the Queen passes on ebay are fakes. Above is the original cloth pass for the Queen 1981 Japan and S. America Tour. You are looking at the front and reverse. The reverse side is dark brown paper with the MACbakĻ logo. This was ONLY issued as a cloth pass!

    Due to the ease of digital printing, the cloth pass was printed and re-made into a laminate by a counterfeiter. Remember that laminates are easier and cheaper to make than cloth passes, so be aware. Notice how muddy the laminated version image is, and how much darker in appearance. Even the backing is the wrong printing company!


    One more popular pass and its fake counterpart is this Motley Crue 1990 laminated pass. Notice how crisp the lines are, and how bright the colors are on the authentic one (on the left). Make note of the reverse side as well.

    The fake one here has low contrast, muddy-looking graphics, and the reverse side has been altered slightly.


    One key method in discerning whether a cloth pass is real or fake is, strangely enough, by looking at the paper backing. Fakes most often use generic backings, such as FASSON and STARLINER, because they are readily available. Official backstage pass printers' backings, like those from OTTO or Perri, are impossible or expensive to obtain or copy, so the readymade FASSON or STARLINER generic paper backings are the counterfeiters' preferred choice. Remember this simple rule: white FASSON and STARLINER backings were not used until 1982. This comes in very handy when collecting 1970s passes. There are countless fakes of 1970s passes with white FASSON or STARLINER backings. This is a dead giveaway. FASSON backings from the 1970s were brown until the early 1980s. So, needless to say, don't buy a pass that is supposed to be from the 1970s if it has a white FASSON or STARLINER backing.


    Here is an example of a Queen pass, along with its paper backing, that is supposed to be from 1978; however, the white FASSON backing was not in use until the early 1980s.

    And here is another fake--supposed to be a Fleetwood Mac 1975 pass; however, the white Starliner backing was not used until 1982. Go figure. Notice once again how muddied the graphics are, a tell-tale sign of a fake pass.


    This is a very rare Motley Crue 1984 Shout At the Devil Tour cloth pass. There are a number of differences between this and the fake one at right. They are:
  • Notice how much sharper the graphics are in the original.
  • The original has a white border, and the fake has no border.
  • The two passes are completely different sizes. The original measures 3 1/2" x 4 1/4". The fake one is smaller, measuring 2 3/4" x 3 3/4".
  • The paper backing on the fake pass is incorrect.
  • The color on the fake one is a cheaper-looking color.


    This rare authentic Lynyrd Skynyrd 1975 backstage is printed on a white background, and measures a larger than usual 3" x 5".

    This counterfeit version is much smaller than the original, and has a white Fasson paper backing (not shown). The paper backing alone is the giveaway. But, notice how crooked "Torture Tour '75" is printed. This is sloppy printing work. This one is also much smaller than the original, measuring 2 1/2" x 4".


    Counterfeiting passes is a thriving industry, especially on ebay. What keeps the counterfeiters going is threefold:

  • The buyer is uninformed.
  • The buyer wants to believe a pass is authentic.
  • The buyer doesn't care.

    Notice that "the buyer" is central to the equation, hence the expression, caveat emptor (Let the buyer beware!). Since ebay takes no official responsibility in policing counterfeit passes, no one can stop these people from selling fakes. So, it is up to you, the buyer, to educate yourself. And we are here to help.

    And remember, backstage passes from Right Brain/Left Brain™ are scrutinized, 100% authentic and carry a moneyback guarantee of authenticity.