By now, you’ve probably heard that the Pokémon card crisis is so dire, retailers like Target have instructed employees to consider calling the cops on scalpers. Perhaps you know about the McDonald’s mass purchasing sprees by full-grown adults that left many restaurants devoid of Happy Meals for actual children. But the fervor around the collectible card game has spread out beyond big box stores and chain restaurants, and can now be witnessed even at the cereal aisle of your grocery store.
In March, The Pokémon Company announced a partnership with General Mills that would pack in a set of three cards into cereals such as Golden Grahams, Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Lucky Charms. With 14 cards in total, each pack contains at least one holographic Pikachu collectible — and certain stores, like Walmart, got special distribution for monsters like Galarian Ponyta.
You can probably guess what happened next. Thanks to the increased visibility of card collecting on social media, along with a surge in grading services pricing out high-value collectibles, folks are practically camping out of stores just to get the latest Pokémon card shipment. Everyone wants to find a rare card that they can flip for thousands of dollars, just like they’ve seen in the news.
Not long after the promotion went into effect, videos posted online showcased the aftermath at stores. In some places, walking by the cereal aisle meant looking at dozens of already opened boxes — the breakfast items were still there, but cards had been pulled out. (Some stores appeared to get the cereal boxes earlier than the official announcement.) Folks also shared screenshots of scalpers reselling the packs for way more than the cereal boxes originally cost, with some buying entire pallets just to secure the merch.
The wealthy family in my hometown owns a card store and last week i went to their rummage sale. There were literally pallets and pallets of years old cereal boxes that came with free pokemon cards originally, but there was a sign that said all the card packs had been taken out pic.twitter.com/zOdrN6YM6d— i sniff mold (for fun) (@joeycannoli1) April 30, 2021
Technically, these shenanigans have been going on for a while now. What’s new is that now grocery stores are apparently responding to the increased theft rates by wrapping up cereal boxes with devices typically reserved for more expensive items, like electronics.
“The trading cards included in specially marked boxes of Big G cereals for Pokémon’s 25th anniversary have been very popular,” said Mike Siemienas, a General Mills spokesperson, in a statement to Polygon. “Overall, the promotion has gone well and many Pokémon fans now have the cards they were seeking, along with some great tasting cereal.”
While the promotion will only go on for a limited time, on websites like eBay, cereal boxes and sealed individual packs are being sold at a premium as of this writing.
Update (May 7): Added General Mills’ response to the situation.