An exceptionally rare Pokemon trading card has been lost in (or stolen from) the mail, according to Pokemon TCG Youtuber/aficionado smpratte. The card, “Trainer No. 3,” is one of the 10 rarest Pokemon cards in existence, and was sold on eBay in August of 2018 for $60,000.
Can you imagine?
The tale shakes out like this: The card’s seller, eBay user “pokemonplace,” is based in the United States. The buyer, however, was international, thus necessitating the use of a middle-man service commonly referred to as a “Global Shipping Program,” or “GSP.” Instead of mailing a package to another country directly, one can instead mail it to a GSP, who then becomes the custodian of the package. The GSP re-packages the item for its true, international destination, and ships it out to a GSP facility in the destination country, which in turn ships it to its final destination. These two added steps mean that the seller only has to pay domestic shipping to the first GSP facility, and that neither the seller nor buyer have to deal with customs forms or other import headaches.
In the case of this exceedingly valuable Pokemon card, pokemonplace used a GSP called Shop & Ship, which is operated by international courier service Aramex. The card was sent to a Shop & Ship facility in New York state via USPS Registered Mail, and was insured for $50,000, the maximum amount possible. The card was received by Shop & Ship, signed for, and never seen again. It has been missing for nearly a year.
The card’s anonymous buyer is financing a private investigation into the card’s disappearance, and has also begun legal proceedings, according to smpratte. The video detailing this wild story (above) does not specify who the buyer is pursuing legal action against, though Shop & Ship/Aramex seems to be the implied target. (Since the USPS upheld its end of the deal and delivered the card to Shop & Ship as promised, it has no liability to shell out the $50,000 covered by its insurance program.) The buyer is also offering $1,000 to anyone who can provide information that leads to the successful recovery of the card.
So what is this dang $60,000 Pokemon card? Is it some kind of ultra-rare misprint? A holographic Charizard made out of black tar heroin? Is it one of those gold one ones from Burger King, but with a nuclear launch code stamped on it? Friends, such cards would be far easier to acquire than Trainer No. 3. This card (left) was granted to Trainers who finished in third place at any “Challenge Road ’99 SUMMER” series tournament, which were held in Japan in 1999.
These Challenge Road events consisted of two different sub-tournaments: “Tropical Mega Battle” tournaments, which could only be entered by Japanese students in elementary school, and “Secret Super Battle” tournaments, which were open to Japanese students in grades three through 11. Winners of the Tropical Mega Battle events received a different (but still hugely valuable) Trainer card featuring a holographic Exeggutor, while those that earned a podium finish at a Secret Super Battle event received the Mew-Two version seen here.
So! In order to own one of these cards, you either need to be a Japanese child who is the third-best at playing Pokemon in your region of Japan in 1999, or you need to buy one on eBay for $60,000. Those are your options.
Even if the missing card was stolen, you won’t be able to find it on the dark web anytime soon. As smpratte explains in his video, fencing this thing would be almost impossible. The card is in a sealed case marked by a unique certification barcode, first of all, and removing it from that case would substantially lower its value. But even if the card were removed from its case, it still has a uniquely identifiable hologram pattern that differentiates it from other Trainer No. 3 cards, making it impossible to pass off as anything other than the card in question.
“This is a felony,” smpratte says. “Not only is it a felony for the dollar value, it’s literally stealing mail from the federal government. You’re double dipping. This is a double-stuffed felony.”