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Nearly eight tons of counterfeit Pokémon cards seized in a Shanghai airport

Chinese news claims it is “one of the biggest fake goods hauls in recent years”.

Ewbank Auctions Dark Pokemon TCG cards
Image credit: Ewbank Auctions

There are bound to be some sore counterfeiters out there after customs officials at a Chinese airport pulled several palettes full of fake Pokémon Trading Card Game boxes from a flight’s cargo before they could reach their intended destination.

Chinese business news outlet Yicai Global reported that over 7.6 tons of cards were seized at Pudong Airport in Shanghai on November 23rd, making it “one of the biggest fake hauls in recent years”. A video shows at least eight or nine shipping pallets stacked high with boxes, all containing packages of trading card boosters in what appears to be Spanish - the front of one box reads “Jeugo de Cartas Coleccionables” below the official Pokémon logo.

Another view shows Obstagoon, Charizard and Gallade on the outside of the booster box, along with the Spanish language version the Vivid Voltage expansion logo. Sword & Shield - Vivid Voltage released in 2020 and is notable for containing the Gigantimax version of Pikachu and introducing the Amazing Pokémon card type. It isn’t clear if all the confiscated fakes were printed to look like this set or comprised a range of recent releases.

Yicai claims that the flight carrying the cards left from a company in the Qingdao province and was bound for the Netherlands, ostensibly to distribute the forged Pokémon cards throughout Europe. The trading card game is still enjoying a huge spike in popularity thanks in part to global lockdowns through 2020 and this year, but also due to YouTubers and other social media influencers turning to unboxing videos and exorbitant purchases as subjects for their videos. Logan Paul was one of the first to cement the trend and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on rare booster boxes and other collectors’ items.

Even though many of the record-holding auction amounts belong to hard-to-find cards no longer in print, fans and players have been demanding cards at a rate the publisher cannot maintain. Target and other bix box retailers in the US announced that they would no longer stock cards from the Pokémon TCG and other games after reports of customers harassing each other and workers - even becoming violent in their attempts to claim the small amount of stock trickling into store via a stil-crippled shipping infrastructure.

Counterfeiters have moved in to claim their piece of the pie, duping both the average player and those cash-flush influencers - sometimes during a livestreamed unboxing. Luckily, it is often fairly easy to spot fake cards when looking at the individual cards. Discrepancies in the art, set number and quality of the cardstock will often tip off those who keep a careful eye on their goods, but that’s harder to do when buying online - and buying in bulk.

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Despite the influencer bubble relaxing somewhat, the demand for Pokémon TCG cards hasn’t slowed, and the publisher has ramped up the release of special sets to celebrate the franchise’s 25th anniversary. Classic cards returned, starter Pokémon made for nostalgic reunions and someone decided to cram 25 Pikachu into a single card.

Another part was the recent announcement of a digital client, Pokémon TCG live, where players can enjoy the game and collect cards digitally. Initially slated for the 2021 holiday, The Pokémon Company recently delayed the game into next year. When it does finally release, at least it will be much harder to become the unfortunate target of fake cards.

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