Target Bans Pokémon Cards and Walmart Doesn't Have Any

The Pokémon card crisis deepens after Target decides to stop selling the cards entirely.
Pokemon Cards Distraught
Image: Matthew Gault photo

Target has stopped selling Pokémon and other trading cards in its stores following an incident at a Wisconsin store involving a gun. Players looking for cards also can’t find any at Walmart, but the retailer says rumors that it has also pulled cards from its sales floor are incorrect. 

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People have gotten really into trading and collecting Pokémon cards since the pandemic started. The surge in sales forced Target to restrict the purchase of card related items to one per customer to be sold first come first serve at 8am on Fridays. On May 7 at 8:20 am, a customer left a Wisconsin Target after buying sports cards and was assaulted by four men. He pulled a gun to defend himself.

Now Target, which had previously threatened to call the police on rowdy card customers, is removing the trading cards from its stores entirely. 

“The safety of our guests and our team is our top priority. 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,” Target told Motherboard in an email. “Guests can continue to shop these cards online at Target.com.”

Fans looking to buy the cards from Walmart are also having a hard time. An Arizona Pokémon fan snapped a photograph of a sign in his local store and posted it to Facebook. “Attention trading card vendors, the trading card categories have been removed from the sales floor and sales of these items have been suspended due to inappropriate customer behavior and increased demand,” the sign said. “Please do not stock these items until further direction from management has been given.”

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Motherboard called Walmarts in New York and New Jersey and couldn’t find Pokémon cards for sale. A couple of Walmart employees said they haven't stocked Pokémon cards in months but were not aware of any policy against selling them. A Walmart employee in South Carolina explained that Pokémon cards aren’t distributed by Walmart but serviced by a special vendor who comes in and stocks the shelves. The employee could not remember the last time they’d seen the Pokémon card vendor.

“We have not suspended the sale of any trading cards,” Walmart told Motherboard in an email. "Like other retailers, we have seen increased customer demand, and we are determining what, if any, changes are needed to meet customer demand while ensuring a safe and enjoyable shopping experience.”   

The Walmart sign leaped from Facebook to the wider internet after a fan of the PokeDads podcast shared it with the host. According to Rick Avery, one of the hosts of the show, the Pokémon card crisis started in the fall of 2019. “A set called Hidden Fates dropped and a Shiny Charizard with a perfect grade sold for $10,000 on EBay,” Avery told Motherboard in an email. 

Influencers like Gary V and Logan Paul started talking about the cards online and recommending them as investment opportunities. According to Avery, this pushed the price of everything up and made it hard for normal people to afford the game. 

“So with today's current sets people are thinking that they can hit a jackpot later down the road or take the supply and turn it around for triple the price,” he said. "I wish I could say the boom is because people are falling in love with it again like it was 1999 but sadly it's mostly because people are trying to make money.”