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US Target stores to stop selling Pokémon cards after rising value prompts threats to staff

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<span>Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

US retail giant Target will stop selling Pokémon playing cards out of an “abundance of caution” for its staff and other shoppers. The re-sale value of the cards has increased dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting chaos and threats to staff. Target will also stop selling MLB, NFL and NBA sports playing cards.

The decision comes after man pulled a gun during a fight over trading cards in a Target parking lot in Brookfield, Wisconsin on 7 May. Police said the 35-year-old man produced the gun when he was assaulted by four men aged 23-35 as he left the store, ABC reported.

A shopper who was at the Target during the parking lot incident told Fox news at the time: “It’s just kind of sad for the kids. It just sounds kind of ridiculous that adults got into a fight in the parking lot about trading cards.”

Related: How live-streamed $375k deal for Pokémon cards ended in disaster

Target confirmed the decision in a statement to comic book and games website Bleeding Cool.

“The safety of our guests and our team is our top priority,” it said. “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, effective May 14. Guests can continue to shop these cards online at Target.com.”

Joe Maddalena, executive vice-president at Texas-based Heritage Auctions, explained the skyrocketing resale value of the cards, telling Reuters: “When Covid-19 hit, a lot of Gen X and Millennials were looking for things to do and we found a lot of these guys and girls started playing Pokémon again because they grew up with it.”

Maddalena said boxes of the 1999 US first edition base set had sold for about $400,000 at auction in recent months. A single card in mint condition for the popular fire-flying character Charizard sold for $300,000 in January, whereas in late 2019 asking prices for a Charizard card were about $16,000, he said.

Earlier this year, Target limited the number of packs per person to three and then one. The store had to stop people camping outside overnight when trading cards were restocked, The Verge reported.

Earlier this year in Japan, a man broke into a trading card shop at dawn by climbing down a rope he tied to the roof of the six-storey building. He then stole 80 Pokémon and Yugioh! cards worth more than US$9,000, Mainichi reported. “I was in my high school’s rock climbing club, so I wasn’t afraid of heights,” the man, who was later arrested, told police.

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