Pokémon Cards No Longer on Sale at Target Because Scalpers Don’t Know How to Act

In light of soaring trading card value and scalper misbehavior, Target is suspending in-store sales of Pokémon and sports cards.

A player's hand a a European Pokemon card tournament
Photo: John Keeble | Getty Images

In breaking “this is why we can’t have nice things” news, Target has announced it will be suspending sales of the Pokémon Trading Card Game as well as certain sports cards. The announcement comes after reports of violent confrontations among scalpers for the products as their value continues to grow. 

Social media users first noticed and reported signs in Target’s trading card sections indicating that Pokémon, NFL, MLB, and NBA cards would no longer be in stock beginning on Friday, May 14. 

Similar signs have been observed in Walmart stores as well, though the company has yet not commented as to whether this is a nationwide initiative.

Target confirmed its new policy to Polygon, with a company representative saying “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.”

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The phrase “out of an abundance of caution” has been getting quite the workout over the past year or so. In Target’s case, an abundance of caution is probably warranted. Last week a fight (in which one participant was armed with a gun) occurred outside of a Brookfield, Wisconsin Target store over sports cards. No shots were fired and injuries were minor but the incident underscored just how intense the trading card market had become, particularly among scalpers.

Over the past year, trading cards (Pokémon cards in particular) have seen a massive uptick in interest and sales. This is likely due to numerous factors including the pandemic necessitating more indoor hobbies, economic stimulus payments hitting millennials’ bank accounts, and the increasing popularity of pack-opening videos on social media. As anyone who has simply wanted to grab pack of the Pokémon set Battle Styles to grab another Rapid Strike Octillery can attest (not bitter or anything), Pokémon card products sell out moments after they arrive on the shelves of Targets and Walmart, often bought out by scalpers who seek to resell the cards for a profit online. 

In recent weeks, Target and Walmart had instituted policies of limiting customers’ purchase of cards, with Target adopting a policy of one Pokémon, NFL, MLB, or NBA card item per customer per day. As the latest incident in Wisconsin illustrates, however, scalpers will always find a way. 

For now, Target’s discontinuation of card-selling appears to be only temporary until the market calms itself down. The Pokémon Company, which is celebrating 25 years of the franchise this year, recently reported that it is “working to print more of the impacted Pokémon TCG products as quickly as possible and at maximum capacity to support this increased demand.” 

Meanwhile, all Pokémon and sports trading card products are still available for purchase on Target’s website. Should the market not cool down and this policy not be reversed, then we suppose it’s just Magic: The Gathering and the NHL’s time to shine.