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,Filepic of a Pokemon store display in Japan. An IT worker in Tokyo used a rope to climb down the outside of a six-storey building just to break into a store to steal Pokemon trading cards. — AFP

An IT worker in Japan allegedly scaled down a six-storey building to break into a store to steal Pokemon trading cards, according to a report by website Vice.

The report identified the IT worker as Kensuke Nakanishi, who made off with about 80 Pokemon and Yugioh! cards worth US$9,120 (RM37,902) as well as US$2,370 (RM9,849) in cash, during the incident on March 23.

He was arrested after police identified him via surveillance footage. The report described how he was seen going to the building’s roof before dawn, where he tied a piece of rope to the railing and climbed down about five meters.

He then broke the window of a trading card store before making his way in to steal the cards.

The man reportedly did not use a safety harness.

Japanese police quoted Nakanishi as saying he was not afraid of heights as he was in a rock climbing club in high school. According to a report by the Mainichi Shimbun, he was planning to use the trading cards and cash he stole to pay off a debt.

Trading cards, while always popular, have become even more in-demand of late as more people turn to nostalgic hobbies to keep themselves occupied during the pandemic.

In a State of Trading Cards report released in February, eBay said it has seen a 574% increase in sales of Pokémon cards from 2019 to 2020 in the US, with collectors going after coveted characters like Charizard, Pikachu, MewTwo and Blastoise. It predicted that the sale of Pokemon trading cards will continue to increase thanks to the franchise’s 25th anniversary this year.

Most recently, a first edition Pokemon card from 1999 featuring the character Charizard was sold to a bidder for US$311,800 (RM1.29mil) on eBay. The card had a starting price of US$9.99 (RM41.52) when bidding opened on March 18.

Insider reported that YouTuber Logan Paul held a livestream to show himself opening 36 packs of first edition Pokemon cards where he had purchased for US$200,000 (RM831,260). The stream, posted in October last year, attracted 300,000 concurrent viewers. The report also credited Paul for driving the popularity of Pokemon cards among other content creators.

Paul claimed he had spent up to US$2mil (RM8mil) building his Pokemon trading card collection and showcased his journey towards acquiring rare cards to viewers on YouTube. His “Opening The $1,000,000 1st Edition Pokemon Box” card video posted last month has racked up more than four million views.

Overall, the trading cards category has seen a 142% surge in US sales on eBay, where four million more sports, collectible card games and non-sport trading cards were sold in 2020 compared to the previous year. Globally, it has also marked a 205% increase in sales to China and 379% to Australia.

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