Pokémon Cards in Japan Become Nationwide Theft Targets

Pokémon Cards in Japan Become Nationwide Theft Targets

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

A Pokémon card superimposed over an image of hands restrained in handcuffs.
With the price of Pokémon cards soaring, a string of crimes targeting the trading cards is making waves across Japan.

In Japan, as elsewhere, Pokémon cards are still big business. Globally, Pokémon is still the most profitable media franchise of all time, having taken in more than $100 billion in sales over its lifetime. [1] The video game series that spawned the franchise still does major numbers; the Pokémon anime series is ongoing since 1997, having wracked up 1,258 episodes of this writing. On the playing card front, individual cards have sold for incredibly inflated prices. In 2021, notorious YouTube influencer Logan Paul bought a rare “Pikachu Illustrator” card for a whopping $5,275,000. [2] And in Pokémon’s home country of Japan, the spectator and collectors market make these cards highly desirous – enough so that they’ve become the target of theft.

Pokémon cards used to be as cheap as ¥200 ($1.34 USD) for a set of five. But prices are hiking up as the demand rises with adult collectors competing in the market for rare finds. This has resulted in a relentless string of thefts across Japan’s card stores.

Pokémon: Gotta Steal ’em All?

A Pokémon card heist was caught on security camera footage this week, October 14th at a trading card store in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Ninety Pokémon cards at a value of over ¥2,000,000 ($13,356 USD) are reportedly gone, according to reports.

The storeowner Ishihara told reporters “The price for Pokémon cards has gone way up recently. It’s now normal for them to cost as much as ¥100,000, ¥200,000, or even ¥1,000,000.”

On the store’s X account, store staff took to thank Fuji Television and Nippon TV for featuring the theft story. They also warned other card stores across the country to take measures against such crimes.

Advertisements

“As Pokémon card thefts are on the rise, we will continue to cooperate with police and media to put a stop to such crimes,” says the store’s recent X post.

The store also posted screenshots of security camera footage that show the four remaining burglars not yet in police custody. If arrested, the men will likely face charges of theft, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a fine of ¥500,000 ($3,338 USD).

The four men in the footage appear to be highly coordinated, with one unlocking the glass case to steal the Pokémon cards while others conceal the crime.

One man appears to deliberately stand in the eye line of a customer as his accomplice works on the glass case.

The other two look to have conversed with store staff to create a distraction.   

The scene of the reported crime, via ANN.

The Case of October 12th

The October 14th case was far from the only incident of Pokémon card theft.

on October 12th, Asahikawa Chuo Police Station in Hokkaido rearrested an unemployed minor (18) for trespassing and stealing. They had failed to bring charges on the suspect at an earlier juncture.

Police say the suspect broke the glass window of Trend Trade, a card shop in Asahikawa City, and proceeded to enter the store, making off with three hundred and two cards. These included Pokémon cards, with the total amounting to a value of ¥2,800,000 ($18695 USD).

The stolen property included singular cards worth ¥1,000,000 ($6,677 USD). Most of what the suspect took is now stored in evidence.

Fenced Pokémon and Industrial Card Theft

Authorities from Tomigusuku Police Station in Okinawa Prefecture arrested two unemployed “drifters” (26 and 30), for stealing approximately ¥160,000 ($1,068 USD) in cash and three hundred and four cards amounting to about ¥3,700,000 ($24,705 USD) in value from a trading cards’ specialty store in Naha City.

The stolen cards’ value ranged between ¥500 ($3 USD) to ¥300,000 ($2003 USD). Of the total items the two stole, two hundred and ninety were Pokémon cards.

Police arrested the two suspects for breaking and entering, as well as committing theft on October 11th, five days after the crime took place.

The two suspects acted on orders from a male client (25) who runs his own card store in Hiroshima Prefecture, whom police also arrested for mediating the sales of stolen property, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to ¥500,000 ($3,338 USD).

The Case of the Fraudulent Shrink-Wrap

There are yet more cases worth mentioning.

On October 13th, Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested a Japanese male for selling rare Pokémon cards under false pretenses.

Authorities from Atago Police Station in Minato, Tokyo took Nichiyo Ryutaro (23), a citizen of Akaishi City in Hyogo Prefecture and a self-claimed reseller, into custody last Friday.  

Police have found that in just a single sale to a male customer in June this year, Nichiyo profited ¥145,000 ($968 USD) from selling boxed Pokémon card sets that he falsely advertised as containing high-value rare cards.

In the span of three months between March and June, Nichiyo cashed in ¥6,200,000 ($41,420 USD) via similar methods, police say.

Reports say that Nichiyo procured two empty boxes of a sold-out card series that are known to contain at least one rare card per box, which he then used to package three hundred cards from a separate regular series.

The regular series that he snuck into the sold-out series’ boxes were only worth ¥15,000 ($100 USD)–––less than one-ninth of the value Nichiyo charged his buyers.

Knowing that unopened boxes would sell at a high price, Nichiyo apparently covered his fakes with plastic wrapping to make the forgeries appear new.

“I thought, ‘I won’t get caught since (the buyers) won’t open them anyways.'” said Nichiyo to investigators, after confessing to the crime.   

Thinking that his buyers would only buy the new boxes to resell them yet again, Nichiyo was confident that his crime would go unnoticed.

Nichiyo used the Japanese marketplace app Mercari to conduct his counterfeit sales.

Fruit Laundering: Japanese Farmers Startled by Brazen Thefts

Sources

[1] Romaine, Jenna. (Oct. 7, 2021). The top 10 media franchises. The Hill.

[2] Dinsdale, Ryan. (April 5th, 2022.) Logan Paul Wears Most Expensive Pokemon Card to Wrestlemania 38. IGN.

[3]「ポケカ」被害200万円超…窃盗の瞬間 4人で連携か. Yahoo!ニュースJAPAN

[4] “ポケモン”トレカセットを新品と偽り販売か23歳容疑者逮捕. NHK

[5] ポケモンカード出品で詐欺疑い メルカリ巡り、警視庁が男逮捕. 東京新聞

[6] “レア”なポケモンカードと偽りメルカリで14万で販売…中身は1万5000円のカード 自称・転売屋を逮捕 約620万円売り上げか. Yahoo!ニュースJAPAN

[7] ポケモンカードなど304枚窃盗疑い 2人を逮捕 1枚30万円のカードも 沖縄・那覇市. Yahoo!ニュースJAPAN

[7] 取引価格が急騰中の「ポケモンカード」 280万円相当盗んだ疑い. 朝日新聞

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Japan in Translation

Subscribe to our free newsletter for a weekly digest of our best work across platforms (Web, Twitter, YouTube). Your support helps us spread the word about the Japan you don’t learn about in anime.

Want a preview? Read our archives

You’ll get one to two emails from us weekly. For more details, see our privacy policy