Thursday, 28th September 2023

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“Millions of won for silence…if you buy it, it will go up unconditionally” Japanese ‘Pokeka’ war

A spate of thefts and robberies targeting Pokémon cards in Japan has become a social problem. Pokémon card trading has turned into a form of speculation, with one popular Pokémon card fetching millions of dollars.

A Pokémon card sold for 700 million yen (Photo source: Japanese game park website)

According to NHK on Tuesday, a 25-year-old office worker was arrested by police for stealing Pokémon cards from a card shop in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. The suspect is accused of entering the store at 1 a.m. on Aug. 8, when it was closed, and stealing 74 Pokémon cards and 20,000 yen (about $180,000) in cash.

The total amount of damage to the store was reportedly 2.2 million yen (approximately $1.7 million), including high-value cards that cost 180,000 yen (approximately $1.7 million) each. The suspect admitted to the crime during a police investigation, saying, “I sold the stolen cards. I also committed the same crime at another store.” Police seized a large amount of Pokémon cards from the suspect’s residence and are investigating the possibility of further crimes.

A glass display case broken by a thief at a card shop in Yamanashi Prefecture. (Photo: NHK)

In Japan, crimes targeting Pokémon cards have been occurring across the country this year. On March 6, Hiroshima prefectural police arrested a 24-year-old office worker on suspicion of breaking into a building and theft for stealing Pokémon cards. The suspect broke into a closed shop last March and stole 16 Pokémon cards, valued at ¥383,260안전놀이터 ($3.6 million).

In February, a duo of thieves were caught committing a similar crime in Tokyo. They were even found to be involved in so-called “shadow jobs,” in which criminal organizations recruit and direct executioners to commit crimes under the guise of high-paying part-time jobs on social media. They stole 540 cards worth 26.6 million yen ($250 million), with the most expensive card costing 590,000 yen ($555). The Asahi Shimbun reported that in Tokyo alone, five thefts targeting so-called “trading cards” such as Pokémon cards occurred earlier this year.

The spate of crimes has led Japanese media to point out that the Pokémon card craze is excessive. New Pokémon card release days are still characterized by all-night queues and high-priced reselling, known as “pokeka” wars.

Pokémon cards for sale on Amazon in Japan. Most of them are selling for 150,000 to 200,000 won (photo source=Japan Amazon homepage)

The Sankei Shimbun reported that 2,000 people had been waiting in line since the day before for the release of the new Pokémon cards on July 7. The list price is 5,400 yen, including tax, but most of the people who bought the cards were “resellers” who bought them at the list price and resold them at a higher price, Sankei said.

The rarer the card, the more valuable it is, for example, a card with a typo in the description of the popular Pokémon Lizard went for 50 million yen ($470 million).

This phenomenon has led to the rise of Pokémon card investors. Pokémon cards that cost tens of thousands of yen often skyrocket to tens of thousands of yen in a matter of months. They collect information on cards that are expected to increase in price on social media and buy and sell them to increase their profits.

The craze is so intense that children are not even allowed to see Pokémon cards. “Pokémon cards have become a fierce ‘money game,’ not just for children,” Sankei said, “and now they’re hard to come by, depriving children of the opportunity to experience the joy of the cards themselves.”

Translated with (free version)

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