Local Magic: The Gathering Games Stores Play Vital Role in Foiling Magic Card Thefts
There has been a rash of Magic card thefts recently, with two incidents in the last few days alone that has made their way to local news coverage. The most noteworthy involved the theft of a collection valued $10,000 to $15,000 in St. Paul, Minnesota, but luckily for the cards’ owner, the collection resurfaced a short time later.
Jeremy Bylander, St. Paul Minnesota
On Thursday, September 4, the home of Jeremy Bylander became the target of a burglary. Bylander, a longtime Magic player, recently placed 2nd at the 2014 Starcitygames Open in Minnesota and holds a collection of over 150,000 Magic cards. His home was broken into via the bedroom window, and among the items stolen were two computer monitors, various electronics, a coffee can of spare change, and three boxes of valuable Magic cards.
As soon as he discovered the break-in and the missing Magic card boxes, Bylander constructed a three-page list of as many of the cards contained within the boxes as he could remember, including:
- Over 30 Unhinged lands.
- Over 20 full art Zendikar basic lands, mostly Japanese.
- Nine dual lands from Revised.
- Three copies of [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], in Japanese.
- Many valuable land cards and eternal format staples.
- A plain white box, labeled “Speculation”, full of large quantities of specific cards.
- Another plain white box filled with Magic Origins bulk.
In addition to the card list, Bylander also provided a photo of the box filled with the most valuable cards, which had a recognizable blue “[card]Mana Drain[/card]” design.
With no leads on who might have been behind the burglary and no hope of recovering the stolen cards, life returned to normal for Bylander. “I’m not really emotional,” Bylander said of the incident. “I just thought it was a huge inconvenience.”
Bylander’s favorite local game store is Level Up Games, located in South St. Paul, and he is a regular player at the store. “We have Magic game nights on Fridays,” said Tony Hoaglund, co-owner of Level Up Games, “so [Bylander] comes in for those.” Several weeks had gone by when a stranger entered the store with a few boxes of Magic cards he was hoping to sell.
It was the evening of September 25, a Friday, and Bylander was in the next room participating in Friday Night Magic.
Immediately the store employee working the front desk, Dylan Myers, recognized one of the three boxes as the “[card]Mana Drain[/card]” box Bylander had reported missing. Stalling for time, Myers said it would take an hour to appraise the collection. The stranger originally intended to wait in the store, but he left the premises after a few minutes. Eventually he called the store, leaving a phone number and the name “Damien Johnson”.
Upon further investigation, Myers recognized the cards from the list that had been provided by Bylander, including a the large portion of foreign cards. “I saw the box and the Japenese cards and put two-and-two together. ‘Oh, this is Jeremy’s collection,’ ” said Myers. He called for Bylander, then called the South St. Paul Police Department.
The police consulted with the Oak Park Heights Police Department, who confirmed that the cards in question matched the description they had been given. They also informed the store that “Damien Johnson” was an alias for a man named Daniel Franco, 27 years old, from West Lakeland Township, who had been convicted in 2014 of misdemeanor theft and felony financial transaction fraud.
The store called Franco and told him the cards had been appraised. Franco asked if his girlfriend or someone else could come to the store to pick up the money, but Myers told him he had to come back in person. When Franco returned to the store, he was promptly arrested. He told police that he bought the cards from a man selling them out of a storage locker, but he did not argue the possibility that the cards had been stolen. Franco is being charged with a felony of receiving stolen property, and has been given $30,000 bail.
In the meantime, the cards in question are being held in police custody, but Bylander is happy they have been found. “I was ecstatic,” he said. “I thought I’d never see it again, to be honest.” Through these circumstances, Bylander harbors no ill will toward Franco. “Sounds like he’s made a lot of bad choices in his life. I don’t hate people. Seems like he just makes bad choices.”
The burglar who broke into Bylander’s home is still at large, and the rest of his stolen items are still unaccounted for:
- Logitech X-530 5.1 Speaker System
- Two Samsung Syncmaster 24-inch monitors
- Duffle bag with the “Allegro Industries” logo
- Razer BlackShark gaming headset
Fox 9 News Report Clip
The Craigslist Magic Thief
In Rochester, Minn., last week another Magic player was attempting to sell his collection valued at $1600. He posted an ad on Craigslist and was quickly contacted by a potential buyer. After texting about the deal for most of the day, they arranged a transaction at Apache Mall on the evening of October 1.
The potential buyer arrived in a white pickup truck and had a passenger with him who remained in the vehicle. He examined the card collection, then took the cards and drove away.
The victim, a 40-year-old man from Cresco, Iowa, immediately called the police and then warned a local hobby shop that the thief might attempt to sell his collection there. Unfortunately, the store had already purchased the collection for $600. They told him the suspect had called ahead before the transaction, saying he would be coming by with some cards to sell.
The suspect, also still at large, is described as a short black male between 25 and 30 years old with short hair and a thin build. Fortunately, the victim is expected to get his cards back from the store.
How Do We Protect Ourselves From Card Theft?
This is the tricky part. Magic: The Gathering is becoming a more recognised game amongst the general public with cards known to be of high value, and as a result there appears to be a growing trend of Magic card theft. So how do we prevent ourselves from having our hard-earned Magic collections stolen?
1. Know Who You Can Trust
This seems so simple, but we can get so comfortable within the Magic community that we sometimes forget that we can’t trust everybody we meet. Even in a small-town LGS, items go missing if left unattended. In a large LGS, it’s highly unlikely anybody would leave their belongings unattended, so be wary no matter where you are.
Above all, when you store your collection at home, take measures to make them somewhat hard to find in a hurried burglary. Be careful who you tell about where you typically keep your collection.
2. Burglary Prevention Measures
These are some measures you can take to deter burglaries:
- When you purchase a new appliance, TV, laptop (especially around the holidays), avoid leaving all the boxes out in the open next to the trash can on your curb. Break down the boxes and put them in your recycling or trash bins.
- If you are particularly concerned about frequent burglaries in your area, ensure that your front and back door, and all your windows are hard to break into. You can install steel-wrapped exterior doors with deadbolts, and lock your windows.
- Rather than putting all your valuables in a single security box, consider investing in a wall safe. It can’t be carried out of the house.
- When you go on vacation (or leave the house in general), posting about it on social media increases the risks that a friend of a friend will be alerted and could pay your home a visit. There’s no risk of you returning unannounced, so they have all the time in the world to break in.
3. Beware of “Robbery by Appointment”
Some large cities are experiencing an average of one “robbery by appointment” per day, in which a seller meets with a potential buyer at a neutral location, or worse, at their home, and the item is stolen. Sometimes, other valuables such as the seller’s purse are also stolen.
If you’re uncertain about the credibility of your buyer and absolutely must go through channels such as Craigslist and Gumtree to make a sale, consider meeting at the parking lot of your local police station.
4. Have a Good Rapport With Your Local Gaming Store
Ultimately, what stopped the resale of Jeremy Bylander’s stolen collection was the employee at Level Up Games, who remembered Bylander’s list of stolen property and alerted the police. Even in the case of the Craigslist seller, the local store to which the stolen cards were sold was helpful and open about the situation, and is planning on returning the cards to their rightful owner.
5. Inform the Magic community!
If your cards go missing and you believe that they might have been stolen, then please let us know by posting in our mtgUK & Ireland Community & Trading Discussions Facebook group. Please include details of the area and the date your cards went missing on, and a description of notable cards and/or accessories which will help people easily recognise that they are your cards.
As a Magic player, there is no worse feeling than to have your prized collection stolen from under your nose. One of your greatest allies in this situation is your LGS, as stolen Magic collections very often resurface at local stores when the thief (or one of their contacts) wants to make some quick money. This was the case at Level Up Games when the cards showed up at the store three weeks later, less than 20 miles from Bylander’s home.
In fact, many LGS owners, if they recognize a card as belonging to a well-known player in the local community but aren’t sure if they would be able to prove it, would rather buy the card than risk it never returning to its rightful owner. “If someone comes to the store wanting to sell a card that I’m pretty certain belongs to a customer that’s reported it stolen, I’d probably just buy it from them to return to my customer if contacting the police wasn’t a viable option,” said Jared Demartini, owner and operator of The Gathering Place hobby stores in central Texas. “They bring in enough business that I’m more than happy to take a financial hit for them to get their property back to them.”
Thanks for reading and keep safe,
[schema type=”review” url=”http://www.manaleak.com/” name=”Local Games Store Foils $15,000 Magic Cards Theft, Summons Police, Makes Arrest by Joseph Dunlap” description=”There has been a rash of Magic card thefts recently, with two incidents in the last few days alone that has made their way to local news coverage. The most noteworthy involved the theft of a collection valued $10,000 to $15,000 in St. Paul, Minnesota, but luckily for the cards’ owner, the collection resurfaced a short time later.” ]