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Japanese daredevil scales building to steal pricey Pokémon cards

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Like the Pokémon character Caterpie — which shimmies up and down trees for prized leafy snacks — a man was caught attempting to steal thousands of dollars worth of the game’s playing cards by scaling down the side of a Tokyo high-rise.

With a rope tied around his waist, Kensuke Nakanishi descended six stories down the side of a building in a dangerous attempt to pilfer some $9,660 — or about 1 million yen — worth of collectibles, plus $2,370 (260,000 yen) in cash, according to Japanese news sources.

Local law enforcement told Japanese media that the man, a 28-year-old IT worker, reportedly absconded with a total of 80 Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, plus the cash — all in a bid to pay off personal debt.

On March 23, security footage showed Nakanishi find his way to the rooftop of a building in the Ikebukuro neighborhood, according to police. Having no harness or other climbing gear, aside from the rope itself, the daredevil scaled down about 167 feet until reaching the window of a trading cards store and smashing it for access.

“I was in my high school’s rock climbing club, so I wasn’t afraid of heights,” Nakanishi told police, according to their statement.

His perilous stunt comes as trading cards, particularly those of the globally beloved Pokémon franchise, have skyrocketed in popularity since the coronavirus pandemic began last year, during a time when many are rediscovering hobbies and games to keep themselves busy while homebound.

Pokémon cards
Pokémon cards have fetched as much as $369,000 a piece at auction recently.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Between late 2020 and early 2021, rare Pokémon cards have fetched as much as $369,000 at auction, including a Blastoise “presentation” card — only used for marketing purposes — and three first-edition Charizard cards, one of which was purchased by rapper Logic for more than $200,000.

In February, eBay announced their first “State of Trading Cards” report, showing a 142% increase in domestic sales of collectible cards, including vintage sports, non-sport and other gaming cards. However, Pokémon cards alone accounted for a 574% surge in card sales on eBay.

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