Is The Pokémon TCG Scalping Crisis Truly Finished?

Last week, Pokémon TCG released its latest set, Sword & Shield – Chilling Reign. This new set comes during one of the most intense years in the history of the hobby, and a convergence of events including the franchise's 25th anniversary, a major surge in YouTube pack-opening content, the Logan Paul stuff, the demographic of the original release aging up and now being able to afford a wave of incredibly appealing products. This has led to a wave of speculators who have become scalpers, clearing off shelves and then reselling product at higher prices in the secondary market. Many people have been unable to find Pokémon cards anywhere… until, possibly, now. All over social media, one can see footage of surprised customers witnessing shelves packed with this newly released set. One must wonder… is the Pokémon TCG scalping crisis truly over? And if so, how was this battle won?

Logo over Surprised Pikachu meme. Credit: Pokémon TCG
Logo over Surprised Pikachu meme. Credit: Pokémon TCG

First, is the crisis over? Yes and no. It's morphing and will likely morph again. We'll get into that.

There is clearly a major change. The experience I'm seeing online with Chilling Reign was also my own. With the release of Shining Fates earlier this year, I went to multiple Targets and Walmarts only to see lines of people snaking away from an empty shelf of cards, waiting for the release day restock. That day, I was lucky enough to find a less popular Target off of a highway, where I was about the 20th person on line as a restock began. I was able to get myself a Elite Trainer Box and a tin after a long wait. Other locations were sold out for months. With Chilling Reign, I casually went to multiple Targets on release date later in the day, went right up to the counter, and bought the two items that were allowed. All of them had stock. What changed? Well, much like the storm of events that started the scalping craze, multiple events are contributing to its current change:

  • The Pokémon Company is following through on its promise to print, print, print. Shining Fates and Battle Styles products cannot be scalped as they were because they are everywhere. They're being printed non-stop. This scares scalpers off from chasing new sets, pushing them back to vintage and more recent out-of-print sets which aren't going to be found in retail stores.
  • Pandemic restrictions have eased, allowing the Pokémon company, major retailers, and hobby shops to operate at closer to normal. They want to make money and have product and have more power than a guy with an eBay account who wears sunglasses indoors.
  • Scalpers follow hype. The Japanese set Eevee Heroes is hot in Japan and, despite the quality of Chilling Reign, scalpers may come back a bit in waves to scalp the English equivalent, Eevee Heroes, in August, and then the Anniversary Set in October.
  • Major retailers are limiting the number of items that can be purchased. Those scalpers who waited on those lines for Shining Fates, many of them who were already scalping sports cards and were there to learn how to make money off of Pokémon TCG items in real time, have learned that they're losing money by waiting hours to get just a couple of products. Especially products they can now barely mark up.

We are essentially seeing the Pokémon TCG itself crush scalping over a long period of time. Certain products will be scalped, yes. It'll happen at local game stores when Build & Battle Boxes first drop, yes. It'll obviously happen to the Marnie Tournament Collection. Product won't be available for everyone immediately, but we will slowly see things return to a normal situation where people who love Pokémon cards will be able to go to a store and expect to see cards on the shelf rather than having their heart skip a beat to see a few remaining tins.

That day is coming, fellow Pokémon TCG fans.

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About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.
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