TOKYO: A series of burglaries targeting trading card shops have been reported in Tokyo amid the popularity of high-priced cards featuring Pocket Monsters, or Pokemon, causing damage estimated to be tens of millions of yen in total since last summer.
According to sources at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department, Pokemon and other collectible cards were stolen from several stores in the Akihabara subculture district in the Japanese capital between November and December last year. A store in Machida in suburban Tokyo had 60 cards worth a total of approximately 8.5 million yen stolen in early December. In all cases, burglars broke into the stores late at night after opening hours and stole the cards.
At least five burglary cases targeting trading cards have been confirmed in Tokyo since around summer 2022. “I’ve never heard of (such cases happening so successively),” a senior investigative source said.
Against the backdrop of the growing card game market, prices of secondhand cards have skyrocketed.
There have also been cases in which people cheated others out of trading cards to resell them for profit. In one case, a 25-year-old jobless man from Sapporo, the capital of the northernmost Japan prefecture of Hokkaido, was arrested by the MPD on Dec. 14 for allegedly stealing about 1,000 Pokemon cards from an online shop by using credit card information of another person fraudulently. The stolen cards are believed to have been resold to a secondhand card store in the city.
According to the Japan Toy Association, the country’s card game market expanded for the fourth straight year in fiscal 2021, standing at about 178.2 billion yen, with the figure accounting for about 20 percent of the total toy market in the year to March 2022.
Cards that are rare sometimes change hands at as high as millions of yen while prices of some secondhand cards rise or fall 50 percent in a day.
“Trading cards are increasingly popular abroad as well,” a worker at a card shop in Akihabara said, noting that foreign visitors to Japan are buying these cards.
“Trading cards are becoming an easy target of theft since they are traded at high prices,” an investigative source said.
“It’s difficult to identify the whereabouts of stolen cards because they are not uniquely numbered and may be taken overseas,” another investigative source said.