By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Collecting baseball cards seems like a calm hobby, but it’s apparently bringing out the worst in some people — leading to a big change at a major retailer.

As of Thursday, Target will no longer sell MLB, NBA, NFL and Pokémon cards. The temporary stoppage is because of aggressive encounters between customers clamoring for the collectibles.

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It’s an age-old hobby reborn. Kelly Wells, the sports card manager at Ultimate Collectibles in Hopkins, said interest in card collecting — whether it’s sports or Pokémon — has exploded since the pandemic started last year. Customers dusted off their old cards and brought them in to learn their value.

“It was that project that you’re gonna get to that you never get to in the garage. Now all of a sudden you got time,” Wells said.

It’s translated to a spike in sales they’re hoping will only continue.

“We’re doing on certain days what we were doing in months two years ago,” Wells said. “It’s very competitive, and of course the worst of that has happened in places like Target.”

A week ago outside a Target in Brookfield, Wisconsin, police said four people attacked a man. The victim pulled out a gun. The altercation was about a disagreement over buying sports trading cards.

(credit: CBS)

At that point, Target was already limiting customers to one pack of cards per purchase. Now, the retailer is stopping the sale of certain cards. The company released this statement on the matter:

The safety of our guests and our team is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to temporarily suspend the sale of MLB, NFL, NBA and Pokémon trading cards within our stores, effective May 14.

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Wells and others in the industry were not surprised to see Target make the decision.

“To be honest, we were talking about when that was gonna happen for a while,” he said.

Wells added that he knows of collectors who would camp outside of Target, similar to Black Friday, in order to be the first to enter the store and buy the newly-stocked cards.

Trading card values have spiked in recent years, with “sharks,” as Wells calls them, trying to flip the collectibles to make a pretty penny. The aggressiveness surprised customer Steven Warkel.

“I think it’s a great hobby. It’s a cool way to sort of track history I guess with like sports and whatnot, but I mean people are fighting and dying over it, I don’t know if it’s worth that,” Warkel said.

Wells said his shop gets a large enough supply of cards that their customers tend to be calmer, but the change at Target has him curious.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to us,” he said.

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Despite the temporary ban in stores, customers can still buy all trading cards on Target’s website.

Jeff Wagner