Thefts from Pokemon’s printing factories became a noticeable trend during the pandemic. Strapped employees would pluck a few cards off the production line and sell them on the black market, hoping to cash in on the TCG’s booming popularity. This is why photos of unrevealed cards began leaking on social media in 2020. Sometimes the thieves would even steal from distribution centers, long after the factories shipped out the completed product.
In typical Nintendo fashion, TPCi and its partners dispatched investigators to plug the leaks along the chain. Although we refused to cover these leaks on PokeBeach, we actively followed and investigated each of them (including many fans don’t know about) so we could understand what was happening in our hobby.
This weekend, Pokemon’s biggest ever factory theft came to light on social media. A photo began circulating of thousands of Fusion Strike secret rare cards that were stolen from a factory in 2021. The photo actually leaked from an internal investigation that started in September 2021 and concluded in January 2022. However, fans just learned about it.
The stolen Fusion Strike cards bounced between a few hands before ultimately being offered to a hobby store in Texas named Trading Card World. “[We were] approached by an individual inquiring if we were interested in purchasing hits from the set,” the store told PokeBeach. When they saw the seller was offering thousands of the set’s rarest cards, they realized it would be impossible for an ordinary consumer to obtain such a concentrated amount of them.
“The seller explained his connection to his source and we immediately contacted TPCi through proper channels,” the store stated. TPCi opened an investigation and a private investigator flew out to collect the cards from the store, as you can see in the photo. Pokemon expressed to the store that “It was the largest return of stolen property to date.” Pokemon concluded their investigation in January 2022, which probably means they identified the original thief.
Fans who just saw the photo assumed the stolen cards must have impacted their Fusion Strike pull rates. But this currently can’t be proven, and it’s probably unlikely.
The cards seem to have been stolen during the production phase when they’re stored in boxes (the secret rares are printed separately from other cards because of their texture). The secret rares are printed on large sheets, cut into individual cards, and stored in long white boxes. At least five of those white boxes are packed into a cardboard box that’s sent off to machines that sort the cards into booster packs. The machine loads different boxes of cards into each booster pack depending on their rarity (you’ll see the boxes are labeled by rarity below). We imagine the sorting machines alert the workers when they’re running low on certain rarities, meaning packs shouldn’t have escaped the factory without the proper rate of secret rares. Otherwise it would be common for packs to be missing cards.
The factories also weigh every single booster pack. This not only ensures the packs have the proper amount of cards in them, but it’s also so they know what code card to insert into the packs. Secret rares are heavier than a normal card, so lighter code cards are put into the packs to cancel out the weight difference. (This prevents pack weighing on the aftermarket.) So it’s unlikely packs with improper weights would have left the factory floor, let alone on a scale large enough to impact the entire print run. There’s multiple checks and balances in place.
If you look at the photo of the stolen cards above, you’ll noticed the cards are coming out of five long white boxes. There’s even more cards spilling onto the table. This means the thief probably stole one cardboard “secret rare” box (assuming the photo is showing us all the booty).
Even if the stolen cards managed to detract from the pull rates, Pokemon prints billions of cards a year. The theft occurred at one factory. During a print run Pokemon produces almost 27 million cards a day. So it’s unlikely the theft would have caused issues on a noticeable scale, if at all.
This isn’t the first time rare Pokemon cards have been stolen in bulk (nor will it be the last, sadly). We know from as far back as 2005’s EX Unseen Forces that rare cards were sometimes stolen from the factories, as you can see below.
As usual, Pokemon never comments on situations like this, so it’s unlikely they’ll issue any kind of statement.