Edmonton criminals cashing in on Magic playing cards

Call it black magic.

A popular trading card game that allows players to defeat their opponents with fantastical spells has become the target of elusive thieves in Edmonton.

Jeremy Brandy, the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, said a scammer used fake credit cards to snatch up a few boxes of the coveted cards from his store last year, and other businesses across Alberta have been targeted.

The game is called Magic: The Gathering. Play is rooted in fantasy. Wizards battle other wizards with special element and ability cards in what Brandy likens to a "really complicated game of chess."

Since hitting the market in 1993, the game continues to amass a growing cult following of players and collectors. Some limited edition cards, such as the most elusive Black Lotus, are now worth more than $16,000.

That's created a very lucrative underground market, said Brandy.

"It's kind of like an inflated value. There are only so many of them left in the world, because it's rare and people need them to play the games," Brandy said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "There were only so many of them printed and depending on how many were printed and how much play that card sees, that will depict the value of the card.

"The older boxes, when they're still sealed, they can be worth thousands of dollars."

'Like an unregulated currency'

A shopper targeted Brandy's store last year, using an Interac "override card" to make three separate purchases on stolen credit cards.

By the time staff noticed the fraudulent purchases, the thieves had racked up more than $2,000 in fraudulent withdrawals — withdrawals the store was forced to cover.

The same man is believed to be responsible for stealing Magic cards from Red Claw Gaming in Edmonton, Brandy said. Edmonton police confirm an investigation is ongoing.

Brandy snapped a few photos of the man responsible and is urging other stores to be on the lookout for suspicious activity or stolen merchandise.

He suspects the thieves are reselling the cards online where they're difficult to trace.

"These guys buy a box … get a few hundred dollars worth of cards out of it and they keep changing and rotating them up, trade them for cash and just come back for more product," he said.

"It's sort of like an unregulated currency."