The Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) community is knee-deep in the biggest scandal it has ever known.
Over the weekend, a picture was posted on the subreddit r/PokemonTCG by user GuavaWave, along with the caption, “Saw this on a (Facebook) group.”
The image depicts what appears to be an unruly amount of hyper-rare Pokémon cards all gathered onto a single table in a casual setting. The cards shown in the picture range from rainbow VMAXs, to most notably, hundreds of “alternate art” or “alt art” cards (these are the most common terms used by players and fans to describe the rarest tier of modern Pokémon cards).
For context, the current median price listing on TCGPlayer.com (a popular online card marketplace) for a single Espeon VMAX “Alt Art” is $151.50 per card. Given the jaw-dropping abundance of this hyper-rare pull shown in the picture, and other rare cards like it, this leaves only two logical realities, both of which have been heavily speculated about online: these are all fakes, or, they were all stolen. The latter is currently the leading theory.
The lawless implications have sent tidal waves across the Pokémon TCG community and TCG communities in general, with many fans having voiced extreme displeasure that their packs may have been tampered with. The expansion set these cards originated from, Fusion Strike, released November 12th, 2021 in the Americas, has long suffered from persistent anecdotal claims from fans of brutally low pull rates.
Now, many are suggesting this large-scale theft may have been the leading cause of this perception, with countless collectors casting doubt on The Pokémon Company’s ability to clamp down on internal abuse, the legitimacy of their product, or both.
What do we know for sure?
Sadly, very little is confirmed, though there has been an official statement from the private Facebook group Trading Card World, which claims to be the origin of the original photo. (The Reddit user GuavaWave has helped syndicate the private group’s statement in a Reddit post here.)
In short, Trading Card World's statement claims:
- They were the originators of the photo’s publication online
- The photo depicts an attempted sale to a single local trading card store
- The local store in question worked with The Pokémon Company to help legally retrieve the cards in question and was told to keep the information quiet pending some type of ongoing investigation (it is unclear if this is a legal or internal investigation)
According to Trading Card World, The Pokémon Company has called this “...the largest return of stolen property [in the company's history] to date.”
Additionally, the image has been suggested to actually be a couple of years old by people claiming to have internal knowledge of the event, potentially dating the photo to nearer the launch of the set in 2021. If this is in fact all true, there is some merit to the claim that this episode may have impacted Pokémon’s supply chain. We've reached out to both The Pokémon Company International and Trading Card World regarding this story, and have not received a response as of yet.
However, keep in mind that The Pokémon Company claims to have printed over 9 billion Pokémon cards over the last year, which means it’s hard to imagine even several fat stacks of cards could realistically impact your personal pull rates over several years. However, without knowing how many of those 9 billion printed cards were specific to any particular set, or the company’s overall mathematical formula for hyper-rare pulls, any impact on pull rates remains speculation.
What does this mean for the hobby?
Regardless of the outcome of the event, the TCG potentially has an even bigger problem on its hands: since this image went public, additional images of a similar quality have surfaced. This has led to further speculation that stolen stock happening somewhere between printing and distribution may not be anecdotal, but in fact, a symptom of a much bigger, unspoken issue.
In the tweet above from @MeechFromPallet, the TCG enthusiast shows a massive stack of the Rayquaza VMAX “Alt Art” as well as the infamous Umbreon VMAX “Alt Art” cards. This is notable because:
- we still can see another stack of hyper-rare cards in the upper-lefthand corner of this second image;
- these are from a different set of Pokémon Cards altogether (Evolving Skies), and;
- the median value on TCGPlayer.com of these cards individually, as of publication, is $319.50 and $674.99, respectively.
Barring both these being very impressive fakes or tens of thousands of dollars spent on raw Pokémon cards, this image is also implicitly criminal.
Then on April 18th, yet another video (from @SakurasCardShop, which also claims to have leaked the original photo) showing an entire unsleeved collection of the rainbow VMAX Mew card from the Fusion Strike set has been spreading online. TCG Player lists each one of these Mew cards currently holding a median value of $39.48, as of publication.
For reference, it is not uncommon for an entire case of Fusion Strike booster boxes (i.e., six shrink-wrapped booster boxes featuring 36 packs apiece) not to have a single rainbow Mew VMAX card in the box.
Does this unfettered access to bulk hyper-rares ultimately pin the blame on the factory workers? This recent post from PokéBeach.com claims to have insight into the factory sorting card process, suggesting at the very least that one breach wouldn’t have been enough to impact pull rates at scale.
Regardless, insightful claims like this have done little to quell the overall mood of the community. We've reached out to PokéBeach regarding its recent post, but it has not responded to our request for comment.
In the end, without any official comment from The Pokémon Company, all we are left with are these provocative images, speculation, and a sour sense that Pokémon’s recently distributed 9 billion Pokémon cards may have been missing many of the very cards fans have been chasing all along.
Update [Wed 19th Apr, 2023 20:49 BST]: Since this article went live, The Pokémon Company provided us with the following statement on the matter:
We take the protection of our IP and associated products very seriously. This matter remains under investigation and we cannot comment on details at this time. However, we can confirm that Sword & Shield booster packs and products were shipped to retail as intended and we have no indication that the integrity of the products were impacted by any confirmed or unconfirmed theft. Furthermore, we continue to significantly invest in both the production and security of our TCG business. We value the faith our fans put in us and our products, and these investments are intended to help us continue to maintain their trust.
We will update this article with any additional comments from the referenced parties as and when we receive them.
Who the heck is surprised by this? With the utterly ridiculous money being spent on these ‘investments’ in recent years, the more likely that fakes and fraud are going to surface.
Oh no, little Timmy has access to a Pokémon card without having to ask parents for 150 bucks.
Please stop the madness.
I sure do love when people turn a fun hobby into an exploitable marketplace of overpriced paper.
I'm not surprised at all if a certain Charizard card can be worth $750k..
That guy will never see the light of day again
This is distressing. I have been an avid collector during the SWSH phase. I bought a box of those Fusion Strike - the pull rate was really bad. But I also have an unopened box of Evolving Skies. If Pokemon Company decided to right this potential wrong I could be screwed - it is my most valuable thing. Same with Chilling Reign - I spent a really long time,and a good deal of money, collecting each card in the set with my kids. I'm only a few short - I have purchased all of the really big ones and pulled quite a few as well. I'd hate for that to get wrecked because they screwed the pooch.
But I really hope this is old. I have a feeling it is - y'all remember when they struck a deal with the new printing company. Maybe this because of his incident. But maybe it happened because they changed.
Distressing. People do count on them to be fair or the mystique and trust, and the market, is broken
Jeez, no clue what a VMAX card is, but those newer cards look terrible.
@EVIL-C VMAX are just stronger cards. Like your third evolution if you are playing the game. The big cards these days are the alternate art ones. You wouldn't play with them - some have really nice, interesting artwork.
I heard about this over the weekend but wasn't sure if it's true.
It will be very interesting to see how the Pokemon Company handles this. I doubt it will lead to reprints but anything is possible. My wife and I got back into collecting cards during the SwSh era and absolutely love some of the artwork as of the late. In fact, there's a big reason both the Umbreon and Rayquaza shown above are so highly valued - their art is exceptional.
The new Scarlet & Violet sets are off to a great start as well. It's definitely been a fun albeit expensive hobby for us lately.
I just like them pictures
The V cards are almost a completely different game than the normal cards, and way more fun to use IMHO. Sucks for people like me who just want to play the game and have to stick to the digital game (or otherwise shell out hundreds to make one decent deck).
@stinkyx have you played the game in a while? The really pricey cards are almost all exclusively alt art or super shiny rainbows or whatever. For each rare, special art card there is a plain jane equivalent. No one would play with these unless they were just showing off their wealth.
@Cashews Ah I see, thanks. I haven't bought any cards in like 18 years. Still have my originals, and some like That VMAX Mew look terrible.
@kal_el_07241 great art but really it was a covid thing. For Evolving Skies it was height covid, no workers making cards and everyone was glued to youtube watching people break packs. You couldnt find the set anywhere. High...insanely high demand - no supply.
I bought a few boxes on the last dip. I regrettably cracked one and kept the other sealed.
On second thought. Maybe they were making them - just that they were pocketing them all.
@stinkyx you don't need to shell out hundreds. Buy singles on tcgplayer or other reseller sites. I built a competitive meta deck for 40 bucks.
@EVIL-C maybe you are sitting on a small fortune- check 'em out and gl.
I mean it is capitalism at play but I feel like if these cards weren't valued so highly then there would be less cheating/counterfeits and people could just enjoy playing the game. But everything has a price I suppose.
@Ryu_Niiyama It has been said before but these prices do not really affect the GAME itself. Most cards have a normal version, a rare version (like shiny or a rainbow variant) and then a very rare Alternate Art version.
The Alt Art versions are obviously made for collectors or people who really enjoy the wild art they put out there. Most or all of the cards in their normal versions are affordable as singles. There are always outliers - like the super popular mons Pikachu, Charizard, Snorlax and the girls - but even those aren't crazy expensive unless they are alt arts. Packs are always cost prohibitive - but that is the price of a pack - nothing to do about that really.
Some of the alternate art version are very affordable. A dollar or two. For myself I usually have one or two I hunt and buy the cheaper alt arts because I just like the art or the mons.
Still find it incredible that these cards have become so expensive, that they are now being stolen/pirated. But to be honest, it was just a matter of time before this happened.
I can't imagine how many people will be scammed out of their money because of this.
One of few reasons (but main reason) I had stop collecting these cards years ago.
It changed from “a fun collet and card game” into “these cards are worth a ton of money and people even weight their packs to get best cards, plus even some stores started doing it because of how stupidly large value some cards are, so the packs you buy have s****y pull rate”
Pretty much this, the fun stopped at that point for me.
I have absolutely zero interest in any TCG.
How is buying booster packs not considered gambling aimed at children, akin to lootboxes?
If you want to have a competitive game with lots and lots and lots of cards, that's cool, but why can't you just buy the cards you want to play with a la carte. Because it doesn't make them enough money? It just feels so disgusting.
I know this isn't related, but like the 2nd time in a short time where something related to nintendo seems to have problems in the printing/pressing stage
@NinjaWaddleDee $40 for deck made from singles is about what MTG takes, but last I checked, the deck I wanted to make for Pokemon TCG was much more than that. Probably because I did go for the alt art cards...some cards, like Duralodon VMAX or a number of the trainer cards, look kinda junky otherwise, IMHO.
@stinkyx Well yeah sure, it gets very pricey with al arts lol.
@_fatto_katto_ what was the first?
A children's card game where all products are purchased at random? Sounds like scummy gambling tactics.
All CCGs should follow the LCG method of every card being available in packs of nonrandom cards only. Anything less than that is just vile.
Reminds me of Yugioh back in the Days, I knew a guy that ran his own shop that would tamper every box they got their hands on and would leave just enough secrets and ultras to make it seem like it was normal to get bad pulls all the time...
This dude just made it super stupidity obvious though.
Man, I'm glad I got the jones for speculative collecting out of my system when I stopped buying baseball cards.
In general it's just really stupid and gross that what should be an easily accessible baby's first card game instead mostly exists as a hypercapitalist hellscape that exists for people to ogle pictures they can just Google anyway.
This is what happens when something that costs pennies to print is valued in the hundreds.
TCG enthusiast shows a massive stack…
You put siily values on cards and yeah going be fakers, thieves and people in the supply chain intercepting rare cards from reaching consumers.
Sure places have been robbed for cards alone in recent years
@Roibeard64 No one puts silly values on cards. You have a person who owns a card (supply) and another person who wants that card (demand). The determined price is derived simply from how much money the demand is willing to give the supply side. These aren't pulled from thin air. They are settled through market arbitration.
As an economics graduate it can be frustrating to read about people's frustration and jealousy in this, and all collectible markets. These prices are determined by super normal people's desire and ability to part with inputs. Collectibles is almost as pure supply and demand economics as you will find in the real world.
@DrGonzo what made you get out? I'dlike to trade in fine art but it is an intimidating thing to get into. I have expensive art - not as a collector much as someone who really likes local artists. I think it would be fascinating to get involved in well known artists collecting and more importantly trading.
@DrGonzo that is a very good reason to get out. I think I'll keep things the same.
Although when I watch a show like 'Antiques Road Show or whatnot and they value something wonderful and old for like $15 or 20K I tell myself "20K? Christ I could buy a 150 year old painting of a respected artist for less than the price of a car?" It gets me very interested but it is a tough nut to crack.
Thanks for responding
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