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Target stops selling Pokémon cards in store, citing safety concerns

Cards are available online, however

Pokemon World Championships Held In San Francisco Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Target has temporarily suspended the sale of Pokémon cards and other trading cards in store in response to reports of violent confrontations related to the collectibles, whose value has soared in the past year. The new policy will go into effect Friday, but customers began seeing signs in stores this week.

Aggressive Pokémon card collectors hunting for rare cards to resell have caused problems for the retailer, which already set a limit on the number of card packs a customer could buy. Frenzied shoppers still have been camping overnight at some stores, and last week, a fight broke out at a Wisconsin Target over trading cards.

“The safety of our guests and our team is our top priority,” a Target spokesperson told Polygon. “Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to temporarily suspend the sale of MLB, NFL, NBA and Pokémon trading cards within our stores.”

The spokesperson said that people will still be able to purchase Pokémon cards and others at the retailer’s online store.

Pokémon cards have always been popular with traders, but the current uptick in interest can certainly be called a frenzy: People are rummaging through their old collectibles in hopes of finding something valuable to exchange for cash.

Rare, older cards — like a special holographic Charizard — can sell for upward of $300,000 for a single card. The excitement has spread to new cards, too. Some cards in the Shining Fates set can sell for hundreds of dollars. Stores like Target are finding they can’t keep cards on their shelves. Even The Pokémon Company announced it’s reprinting cards to keep up with the “very high demand.”

2021 is the 25th anniversary year for Pokémon, and promotions celebrating that date have put Pokémon cards into cereal boxes and McDonald’s’ Happy Meals. Both promotions have been overwhelmed by collectors, ripping open unsold cereal boxes and leaving Happy Meals prizes sold out nationwide.

The chaos is hurting secondary industries, such as card authenticators. Collectors who find rare cards typically get them graded by a company, like Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), to help them fetch top dollar at auction. But the overwhelming influx of cards led PSA to halt grading services in April. It expects to open services back up in July. Prior to this, people filled out forms online and shipped their cards to PSA, and the company has a major backlog to work through.

“Our records show that Pokémon card submissions have increased steadily over the past 10 years, but never more so than in the past 12 months,” PSA spokesperson Terry Melia told Polygon in April. “For example, more than one million Pokémon cards were submitted to PSA for grading in 2020, and already in just the first three months of 2021, we are on track to quadruple that amount this year.”

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