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.
- 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.
We will update this article with any additional comments from the referenced parties as and when we receive them.