Wizards of the Coast Aids in Magic: The Gathering Card Theft Investigation
A large volume of Magic: The Gathering cards stolen from Wizards of the Coast resurfaced recently. The cards appear to have been sold to multiple buyers on eBay, and Wizards has played a central role in the investigation.
Incidents such as this occur every year, in which entire Magic: The Gathering collections are stolen and the thieves attempt to resell the cards. We reported earlier this year about a local game store that helped police apprehend a thief with a stolen collection valued at $15,000.
This incident is somewhat different, however. The cards in question were stolen directly from Wizards of the Coast’s Renton headquarters.
Promotional Cards Stolen from Wizards of the Coast
Back in October 2014, Wizards announced that Liliana of the Veil would be the promotional card for the Khans of Tarkir Pro Tour season. This particular card is a sought-after staple for many Magic players, so this was big news for the Magic: The Gathering community.
To receive the foil promo printing, players would first have to win a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier, which would qualify them to enter a Regional PTQ. All players who attended one of these RPTQs received a copy of the valuable promotional card.
Around 5,000 copies were made of the promo, currently valued around £130, or $200 USD. The promos were distributed between 38 tournament locations, and 422 copies were sent back to the Wizards of the Coast facility in Renton.
Those copies were later reported missing, according to local police.
The Re-emergence of the Promos
A few months later, Wizards of the Coast received a call from Shane’s Big League, a local game store in Renton.
Three brothers had entered the shop with an unspecified quantity of Liliana of the Veil promos, wanting to sell them to Shane’s Big League. The store’s employees immediately thought it odd that the three brothers would have so many of a card with such a limited print run, especially since only RPTQ attendees would have even received the promotional card.
Employees of the store called Wizards of the Coast’s headquarters with an inquiry about the cards. Once contacted, Wizards revealed that their stock of the promotional card had been stolen, so it was entirely likely that the cards being offered to Shane’s Big League were stolen goods.
Uncovering the Source
Now that Wizards of the Coast had the lead that the stolen cards might be listed on eBay, Wizards staff found a seller posting Liliana of the Veil promos for around £106 ($160 USD). They used a dummy account to purchase one of the cards, then a Wizards investigator contacted the seller directly.
The seller admitted to trafficking a small quantity of the promotional card. He claimed to have received 25 of them from an acquaintance named “John”. A few weeks later after being contacted by Renton police, “John” met with a police sergeant and turned over 175 promotional cards. The majority of the stolen cards are still unaccounted for, and the investigation is still ongoing.
2010: Stolen Promotional Cards Worth $45k
Incidents of high-value cards being stolen directly from Wizards of the Coast are nothing new. In 2010 a Wizards employee stole over $45,000 worth of cards from the company’s storage locker in Renton over the few months of his employment. The employee, Donald Henry, was fired following an investigation.
The investigation began when a fellow Wizards employee attended a Magic: The Gathering event in Portland during the summer of 2010 and noticed a vendor who was selling dozens of high value promotional cards. It was learned that the local store owner was acquainted with Henry, and Henry had been providing the store with stolen cards.
An unknown amount of the stolen cards had already been sold by the vendor, but the store returned 1,753 stolen Magic cards to Wizards. The returned cards had a total market value of $44,828.50, according to the detective’s court report. Henry received a felony charge of first-degree theft.
Buying from Trusted Sources
In a written statement following the recent eBay trafficking investigation, Wizards spokesman Hugh McMullen said, “We encourage fans to always buy Magic products from official retailers and trusted sources.”
As we have covered in a previous article, buying from trusted sources is also important when attempting to avoid counterfeit cards. Many players are hesitant to buy cards from online sources because they are afraid of coming into possession of counterfeits or stolen goods. This uncertainty fosters distrust among the Magic community, but there are steps we can take to protect ourselves.
In the case of fake and stolen cards that are being trafficked through eBay or other online sources, it is important to be skeptical of any deal that seems “too good to be true,” especially with promotional cards such as Liliana of the Veil, or other high-dollar cards being sold in suspiciously large quantities – or for suspiciously generous prices.
We can also stay vigilant to what goes on around us, at the stores we frequent or the tournaments we attend.
Through it all, Wizards of the Coast has shown a dedication to protecting the Magic: The Gathering player community and the secondary market from these scams and thefts. This is apparent in Wizards’ involvement with the ongoing Renton investigation, and through their willingness to aid stores who suspect foul play.
It’s a step in the right direction.
Community Question: What do you look for when verifying the authenticity of an online Magic: The Gathering retailer?
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