Pokémon card heist goes terribly wrong… for the thief

Pokémon fans on the Internet have probably already seen the picture: a table full of hundreds, perhaps thousands of rare cards from The Pokémon trading card game, all neatly piled up, alongside rumors of theft and conspiracy. The image surfaced in a private Facebook group over the weekend before skyrocketing to the top Reddit.

The cards would have been stolen straight from the printer – how could anyone else get their hands on so many rare Pokémon cards? Some players believed that the theft prevented those valuable rainbow-colored cards from ending up in legally sold packs of The Pokémon trading card game‘s Fusion attack extension.

Polygon spoke to the people involved in the attempted sale of those rare cards to find out what happened.

The story begins in November 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has been raging for over a year, and The Pokemon TCG still released new sets of cards for an enthusiastic fan base. New and vintage pokemon cards had suddenly skyrocketed in value, thanks in no small part to fans like rapper Logic and influencer Logan Paul buying them up for astronomical prices. When the Fusion attack set was released just before the holiday season, fans camped outside stores across the country to crack a few packs before supplies sold out. In some places, the police were even deployed to deal with the crowds. The scuffle would eventually lead to one major retailer, Target, selling the pokemon security cards.

A few weeks after the frenzy, a phone call came in World of trading cards, a small independent retailer based in Dallas, Texas. Someone had Fusion attack cards to sell – lots and lots. In fact, there were so many rare cards that no one in the store could believe it. So they asked for a photo as proof.

“It took them a month or two [for the seller to] give a picture,” Scott Emer, co-founder of Trading Card World, said in an interview with Polygon. “When they finally did, we were like, Well this looks really weird.”

Emer had seen huge collections go up for sale before, but not all from the same set. But why was that such a big red flag?

pokemon cards, like Magic: The Gathering Cards, Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and cards from other trading card games are sold in sealed, so-called blind packs. No one knows what cards are in each pack, not even the manufacturer – that’s part of what makes opening them so much fun. But at least one card in each pack will be rare, and the rarest of these rare cards can be extremely valuable in the secondary market.

The seller who contacted Trading Card World had these rare and sought after cards in huge quantities, all from the same set of cards. To get that many rares, the seller would have had to open tens of thousands of packs. A much more reasonable explanation was that these cards had been taken off the production line before being blind-packed. That meant someone was trying to sell stolen goods from Trading Card World.

“I knew someone who worked at pokemon‘ said Emer. “I called her and explained what was going on, and suddenly we got another call. They gave us some options and said: This is what will happen.”

Emer was tasked with convincing the seller to send the cards to his store to be reviewed. When the cards arrived, a private investigator from The Pokémon Company met them at the store. He was the first to open the box and together the staff and the PI inventoried the shipment. The PI left with the cards. Emer said he has no idea what happened to them after that, but Trading Card World said on Facebook it was “asked to keep this information confidential while an active investigation is underway.”

During the process, Emer learned a bit more about what went on behind the scenes. The Pokémon Company knew that the cards were missing even before its call. It also knew, he said, who stole them. He was told that person was already in police custody. But until the cards were shipped to his store, no one knew where the cards had gone. Emer had helped put an end to what must have been a very sensitive situation for the issuer of the trading cards.

However, only one question remains: did the card packs come out Fusion attack sold in stores contain the right mix of rare cards, or were they stolen by a thief before they could be sent to fans? While Emer doesn’t know the full story, he does know how trading card game publishers do their jobs. He doubts fans have been shortchanged by rare chart hits.

Pokemon says, Hey, we’re going to print 50,000 of this card‘ said Emer. “They know whether they have all 50,000 or not. So when they go to put the pack together, they go, Hey, we’re short of 3,000 cards. Well, they’re going to call the printing press: Send us another 3,000. And they’re going to hit their number.

“They already knew they were short cards,” Emer continued. “They’ve already found the person who took them. So you know they must have printed more to replace what was missing. They are not going to send you a package that is missing a card.”

Polygon contacted The Pokémon Company for confirmation of this story, but the company has not responded to our request. Trading Card World has issued a statement of its own on Facebook, albeit within a closed group. You can read a copy of it on Reddit.

Pokémon card heist goes terribly wrong… for the thief

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