Pokemon gone: Retailers battle burglaries targeting trading card games - Edmonton Journal

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“We opened up our shops due to the fact that we emotion the game, not due to the fact that they marque millions of dollars,” Top Deck Games proprietor Bradley Schroeder said.

Brian Tews of Taps Games. His store successful southbound Edmonton been deed doubly by thieves targeting Pokemon cards. Brian Tews of Taps Games. His store successful southbound Edmonton been deed doubly by thieves targeting Pokemon cards. Photo by Shaughn Butts /Postmedia

Competing retailers of trading paper games are banding unneurotic to combat backmost against a rash of burglaries targeting a merchandise successful curiously precocious demand: Pokemon cards.

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Postmedia spoke to 8 Edmonton sellers of collectible Pokemon cards and akin games who’ve unneurotic reported much than a twelve incidents successful 2022. While their accounts day the inclination to soon earlier the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems to person picked up steam with respective stores reporting aggregate smash-and-grab heists astatine their locations past year. 

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The present defunct Training Grounds Gaming & Accessories store connected 51 Avenue and 91 Street was archetypal struck precocious successful 2019 and taken for $20,000 successful merchandise — overmuch of it Pokemon cards, erstwhile proprietor Josh Reid said.

It was a dense deed to the business, but not the fatal blow. 

“The past break-in was truthful atrocious that I had nary banal near to sell,” helium said, referring to a burglary past February that saw the store suffer $80,000 worthy of goods. “At that point, I conscionable threw successful the towel.”

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With small anticipation for constabulary unsocial recovering their cards, which are mostly untraceable arsenic a factory-sealed and ungraded product, sellers said they’ve kept adjacent interaction with each other, communicating and coordinating down the scenes to itemize, place and analyse the reappearance of their stolen goods successful the market.

‘They grabbed him’

About a week aft the 2nd burglary astatine Training Grounds, Reid said helium received a telephone from Taps Games, a fewer kilometres southwest connected Calgary Trail and 28 Avenue, wherever unit clocked a antheral trying to merchantability immoderate of his cards.

Taps Games co-owner Chris Larsson said his ain store had been deed doubly arsenic well, erstwhile past May for astir $7,000 successful product, past again past October to the tune of $50,000. Business spouse Brian Tews said the 2nd incidental progressive respective show cases with higher-value cards worthy anyplace from $30 to $600 a pop.

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“We held connected to the postulation and told him to travel backmost successful a mates hours aft we went done it,” Larsson said of the suspicious seller. “We did telephone police, they did amusement up and, erstwhile helium came to cod his money, they grabbed him.”

“It felt bully to yet get somebody,” Tews added.

Edmonton constabulary were incapable to verify their mentation of events earlier publication, and couldn’t remark connected the inclination without much clip to analyse applicable transgression data.

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Reid said helium recovered astir $1,500 worthy of merchandise successful the sting, but it was small comfortableness fixed the extent of his loss. Apparently it didn’t bash overmuch to deter aboriginal thefts either, not slightest for the adjacent concern successful the space.

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When Training Grounds shuttered, a akin endeavor called Top Deck Games took its spot and scheduled a motorboat for past May erstwhile a brace of burglaries a fewer days isolated bookended the expansive opening, derailing immoderate of the caller owner’s ain concern ambitions.

“I planned to grow successful a mates of antithetic areas successful trading-card games,” proprietor Bradley Schroeder said. “But owed to the break-ins, I’ve had to walk astir of those funds conscionable recovering and trying to enactment connected my feet.”

While the archetypal burglary targeted Pokemon cards, the 2nd focused much connected different trading paper crippled called Magic: The Gathering, Schroeder said. Several owners described the second arsenic a phantasy crippled wherever cards are mostly much valuable, but besides much niche than the Pokemon pop-culture phenomenon.

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‘The transgression constituent knows’

Based connected a mid-1990s video crippled wherever players drawback and conflict “pocket monsters” for which the franchise owes its name, the Pokemon marque has spun disconnected a cartoon series, movies and merchandise including trading cards.

Several Edmonton retailers flagged the onset of the pandemic arsenic a turning constituent for the collectible paper game, erstwhile aged and caller customers recovered themselves with much clip and wealth to indulge amid stay-at-home orders and exigency payment payments.

Compared to 2020 erstwhile the Pokemon Company shipped much than 30.4 cardinal cards, that fig climbed a small implicit 12 per cent to much than 34.1 cardinal cards successful 2021 earlier jumping different 26 per cent to much than 43.2 cardinal cards successful 2022.

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The Edmonton retailers besides credited the emergence successful involvement to societal media influencers specified arsenic Logan Paul, whose online stunts during the pandemic focused the merchandise successful the nationalist eye.

A Youtube property who started purchasing vintage, sealed container sets of Pokemon paper packs for upwards of US$300,000, Paul has opened the boxes unrecorded and auctioned idiosyncratic packets for arsenic overmuch arsenic US$1 cardinal each, which had a ripple effect connected the market. (He besides admitted to paying $3.5 million successful December 2021 for a purportedly uncommon lawsuit that turned retired to beryllium G.I. Joe cards.)

This Pokemon paper from 2002 retails for $1950, said Brian Tews of Taps Games connected Jan. 9, 2023. His store successful southbound Edmonton has been deed doubly by thieves targeting Pokemon cards. Shaughn Butts/Postmedia This Pokemon paper from 2002 retails for $1950, said Brian Tews of Taps Games connected Jan. 9, 2023. His store successful southbound Edmonton has been deed doubly by thieves targeting Pokemon cards. Shaughn Butts/Postmedia Photo by Shaughn Butts /Shaughn Butts

Mike Lewis, a manager astatine Warp 2 Comics and Games connected 97 Street and 128 Avenue, said those factors preceded the drawstring of burglaries from which nary store seems to beryllium safe.

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“The transgression constituent knows precise overmuch astir it now,” helium said. “At 1 point, we utilized to get astir 3 oregon 4 precise sketchy guys travel successful each time trying to merchantability america worldly with Walmart stickers inactive priced connected the cards.”

As an older store moving for much than 20 years, Warp 2 is “fortified to the gills,” but has inactive seen respective break-in attempts that prompted the installation of model shutters, helium said.

‘We emotion the game’

Edmonton constabulary Sgt. Aubrey Zalaski told Postmedia that criminals determined to interruption successful volition often marque the attempt, and the onus is connected businesses to instal information measures that dilatory their progress.

While astir each the stores Postmedia consulted had immoderate signifier of information successful spot (and much aft the break-ins), Zalaski besides said businesses tin larn much tactics from constabulary done an audit for transgression prevention done biology plan (CPTED) specified arsenic strategical camera placement and merchandise storage.

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Hoping to forestall break-ins altogether, 1 retailer opted to support Pokemon cards disconnected his shelves entirely.

Jason Wynn of Hobz, connected 50 Street and 74 Avenue, said helium refuses to banal the merchandise aft the store’s erstwhile incarnation (Apt to Game successful southwest Edmonton’s Pleasantview neighbourhood) was robbed of $11,000 successful merchandise successful January 2022, and again for astir $5,000 of merchandise past November.

He attributes the little losses successful the 2nd incidental to carrying less Pokemon cards aft the archetypal burglary.

“Apparently we had capable that it didn’t matter,” helium said. “What hurts much is being robbed. We tin marque $10,000 successful nett successful Pokemon cards successful six months, oregon we tin suffer $10,000 being robbed.”

For Reid, the solution to a aboriginal endeavour would apt impact a virtual storefront that criminals can’t crack, helium said.

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But his successor successful the abstraction inactive sees worth successful maintaining brick-and-mortar stores, which often service arsenic lawsuit spaces for games and a hub for the community.

While overmuch of the caller attraction astir the crippled focuses connected high-value cards, Schroeder said astir of the cards sold in-store are worthy little than radical think.

“We opened up our shops due to the fact that we emotion the game,” helium said, “not due to the fact that they marque millions of dollars.”

— With files from Bloomberg News

Editor’s note: This communicative has been updated to bespeak the close sanction of Training Grounds Gaming & Accessories.