The days when Pokémon only summoned little critters for children seem a long way off. Following the wave of the Pokémon GO game launched in 2016 and then the periods of incarceration due to Covid-19, the Japanese franchise created in 1996 has been able to reinvent itself within a few years. The wide range of derivatives now attracts collectors of all ages, especially the playing card market, which has entered a major speculative bubble. When resold, the price of the rarest can even reach several tens of thousands of euros. A very lucrative business, which attracts all kinds of scammers.
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For the simplest of scams, dealers sometimes don’t even need to hold the item in question. “Not long ago I spoke to someone about a card with a price of 550 euros. Since the price is difficult to estimate, I would rather have sought advice from people in the field »explains Lucas, a 23-year-old collector. “Then I realized that this person didn’t even have the card I wanted to buy, as it was in fact a friend of mine who put it up for sale for 400 euros. So the other only wanted to earn money on my back! †
The Ghost Sellers
The targets of these scams are mostly beginners. ‘When I started almost a year ago, I was robbed of 500 euros’remembers Dylan, a young truck driver who has participated in more than 800 transactions. “It was on a Facebook group. An insistent and rushed reseller managed to trick me into not sending me my purchase when I paid with PayPal “between relatives”. He quickly blocked me and the group admins just told me this will teach me…”he continues and explains that he ” is difficult “ for the police to intervene in case of buyer’s consent, except for: “very large scale scam”.
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However, to avoid these types of incidents on the social network, there are: “white list”, an overview of collectors who have made countless sales without incident and are therefore considered reliable by the moderators of the group. On e-commerce sites like eBay, a different strategy is also very common: some scammers publish an ad and then use fake accounts they have created themselves, bidding on their own product to make their offers credible and especially to quote prices. To identify them, simple elements, such as a profile with no photo or with few ratings, may suffice.
Besides these fake ads and ghost sellers, fake cards are the most notable phenomenon. “Of all expertise, 50% of the cards I get are fake”says Nicolas, manager of PokéLégende, the country’s first specialized store in Thomery (Seine-et-Marne).
Cases involving knock-offs abound, but some are louder than others. In particular, there is the case of Logan Paul, an American YouTube star with more than 25 million subscribers, who had “lost $3,500,000 in fake Pokemon cards” in January 2022. But also the huge scam of the site “cartespokémon.co” – since closed – which resold “fakes” at prices three times lower than their true value, with the support of reality TV stars who indulge in product placements or offer “discount codes” to their subscribers.
If it can be difficult for a novice to identify these numerous imitations, there are easy ways not to be fooled. “On a counterfeit, the gloss is not the same, the material looks more like plastic than cardboard, the back of the card has a slightly different color”, enumerates Nicolas, adding that one should be especially wary of maps in foreign languages, especially “the English”†
The dematerialized future?
However, the best way to ensure the quality of your real estate is to rely on the expertise of independent companies, such as PSA, one of the world leaders. “At a price of about 30 euros per card, they attest to their good condition and their veracity, provide them with a cover and then give them a score from 1 to 10, the latter representing a ‘Grail’”explains Aymeric, an employee of InvestCollect, both a YouTube channel with thousands of subscribers and a specialized trade. “You should know that the price of a certified card, with a high rating, can be multiplied by 10 compared to a so-called “single” card, ie straight from a pack! »
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But here too the crooks can be more ingenious, making the deception difficult to detect. “Some manage to imitate the expertise of companies like PSA by reproducing the embossing, barcode and serial number on a card that is already very well forged at origin”continues InvestCollect member and assures that even “the most demanding collectors” can fall into the trap.
Faced with this speculation and this too many scams, the future of this market could be revolutionized thanks to NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Inspired by the success of the French company Sorare, a specialist in sports cards, dematerialization could allow collectors to exchange their goods directly online, while avoiding unpleasant surprises. And to, again, evolve the Pokémon universe.