To whomever this may concern,
What a tragedy I have to write this. I don't know. Maybe I'm just a bleeding heart or I'm some kind of glutton for punishment. Perhaps an idiot. I can't seem to stay away from things like this, and some part of me doesn't want to. Surprise. Something controversial. Tale as old as time. Song as old as rhyme.
This weekend a post started to circulate on Facebook and Twitter about a collection that was stolen from a gentleman named Shaun Martin. The amount of cards was beyond substantial, literally rivaling that of some of the vendors on site to be sure.
I promise today isn't about Shaun or the fact that his expensive cards were taken from him.
Today is about you.
The person who steals from others.
The player or onlooker who sees an opening and takes it.
Today is about you.
There is this wonderfully ridiculous notion that these people who have their collections, binders, cubes, or boxes taken from them have this coming. Who in their right mind would carry things around that are worth thousands upon thousands dollars in a backpack or cardboard box? There are similar arguments to be made about other things in this world, that the way you act or dress begets what happens to you.
How about this for a notion: what if you just…you know…didn't steal from other people? I know, I know. It's a wildly insane concept and one that might be entirely foreign, but just hear me out.
Posts like this come with every Grand Prix or big event, and despite the level of security provided by the tournament organizer, a few unfortunate souls find themselves completely and utterly ruined by one or two people who think it is okay to steal from another human being.
Newsflash. It isn't. What you're doing is not only the active theft of Magic cards, it's in some cases grand larceny. If found guilty, it comes with a prison term. Fines. A record. An almost never-ending amount of punishment. Is all of that worth it for a few thousand dollars? If your answer is no, maybe there is redemption for you yet. If your answer is yes, that it is worth it…read on.
The best part for someone like you is the anonymity. No one knows that you're a thief. I mean, sure, people in your local area are probably well aware of what a shady character you are, but there may not be definitive proof. You prowl local game shops and casually take what you can. A binder here, some cards on the table there, packs when an owner isn't looking or whatever else. You'll casually slip those things into your pocket or backpack and never look back.
Maybe it's just the thrill of it, like you get some kind of rush doing something you're not supposed to. Maybe you're genuinely down on your luck and you believe stealing and scraping those few extra bucks all together will make the difference. Maybe all of those. Maybe none of them apply. Maybe you're just not a good person. I don't know. I'm not here to judge. I'm just here to call you out. You don't get the benefit of the shadows anymore. Consider this the searchlight.
It's never just money that you're stealing. No. That's pedestrian. Cards can be replaced. Losses can be regained. Hell, a lot of these lucrative collections have insurance on them.
No. It's not the money.
A few years ago a gentleman had his collection stolen at a European Grand Prix. I remember reading about it. You probably do, too. It was his cube to be exact. It wasn't a Power 9 cube or something like that. The thief probably thought they were hitting the jackpot. In reality it was a cube comprised of cards that he and his son had put together over a few years. It had all their favorite cards in it, even some from the gentleman's childhood. The person who stole all those cards stole memories created between a family. Nights playing around the kitchen table. Laughter. Smiles. Love. Sure it could be replaced, but what was taken from them really can't be replaced, can it?
When you steal, you're jading another human being. It's like slicing away a little bit of what makes them special. The girl who loves to bring her binder to events so she can lend her friends all the cards they need to compete? Not anymore. The little kid who just finished building his first competitive deck? He probably won't be playing Magic ever again. That older player who brings his cube to share with pals or a person getting ready to sell their collection to move on to the next phase of their life? Congratulations. You just ended that for them.
Stealing isn't just the act of theft. That's the really messed-up part about what you're doing. It's like dropping a rock in the ocean: the immediate impact is where the rock lands, the sand it shifts and the fish that it scares into retreat. But then there are ripples. Those extend outward in all directions and touch everything until they die down. That rock makes it so the water isn't the same ever again. It has altered the surroundings permanently. You have altered those people permanently.
Maybe you don't care. I'm not naive. Some people just don't have a conscience. They push their misdeeds out of their minds and act as if they're someone still innocent. Untainted. Not…what's that term that Magic players love using? Scum.
Here's the part you're going to hate, by the way. So sit back and make sure you understand all of this.
Other people are going to read this. Not just you. I know, I know. In your selfishness you're almost certain that everything is about you, but funnily enough, it's not. Look at the website you're on!
This section here is going to be about how people can not only avoid you, but actively catch you in the act! It's about awareness at this point. So many people are good, warmhearted, and kind. They don't think to implement these steps, but here we are. Now they'll know better in the future.
Tip #1- Never Out of Sight. Never Out of Mind.
Probably the silliest tip, or most basic, but you will never be able to steal from someone who keeps a constant vigil over their belongings.
People, Magic tournaments are wondrous places filled with tons of fun things to do. One simple fact remains, however, and that is you should never, ever take your eyes off of your backpack or other belongings. Never. If you find that you're the forgetful type, I would strongly suggest the alternative of just leaving your things either at home or in the hotel room, when they can be brought out at a time that you can dedicate all of your time to paying attention to them.
Tip #2- Observe. Report.
Thieves, much like the ones reading this, are going to try to scope you out. I'm sure you've seen plenty of instances at tournaments where high-powered traders take over their own little space and nickel and dime each other for the rarest and most expensive cards in all of Magic.
One of the easiest ways for a thief to find their next target is by waltzing by and around these tables — heck, maybe even interacting with the people there — in order to see who pays the least attention and who has the easiest collection to rip off.
Friends of mine that operate in these trading circles have told me that one of their biggest weapons against would-be theft is pretty easy to implement in practice: alerting house security about suspicious-looking individuals. As recently as Grand Prix Toronto, there was a large bust of a person who had been acting sketchy around the dealer tables. Security had already been alerted, and when some cards went missing, he was caught. No one says you have to throw everyone who looks at your collection into the stockades, but when you get that uneasy feeling, it never hurts to alert those around you.
As a side note, a recommendation is to not place signs around your trading area as some traders have become accustomed to, because this basically invites unwanted attention from those who would seek to target you.
Tip #3- Trackers.
One of the more inventive and modern ways to keep your collection safe, trackers can make sure that your collection, backpack, or boxes give have a built-in measure of protection.
A typical thief is going to make off with the goods and do their best to lay low and remain inconspicuous. For expensive collections, manufacturers make inexpensive Bluetooth devices that will allow you to find out where your things have been taken to. It might sound paranoid, but rest assured it isn't.
Thieves should always be afraid that whatever they're stealing is being tracked, which will obviously lead to them getting caught. This is one of my favorite deterrents, because nowadays with how prevalent technology is, keeping track of these things has become easier and easier.
This is probably my favorite one because it is almost impossible to defend against and will assure that you and your property, if caught quickly enough, will be reunited. While not foolproof, it gives players and collectors the best shot of recovering what belongs to them.
Of course there are numerous other things you can do:
Always keep your backpack straps around your ankles when you play.
Never bring anything other than your deck to a tournament.
Arrive at any Grand Prix a day early (Friday) and conduct any sales you may have with the appointed vendors so that you're not worrying about bringing things on the day you're playing.
Get insurance on your cards. Believe it or not, this is something you can actually do.
Only cube with people you know, are familiar with, and trust.
Take pictures of every card you lend out. I'm partial to the person borrowing holding the cards up while I take a picture of them on my phone. This way there isn't any confusion about who has what and they are entirely accountable.
Trade with those who have references or are trusted.
Do not leave your large collections in your car unattended or even in the trunk. Never. Not once.
Travel in groups rather than alone.
Don't carry your binder outside of your satchel or backpack.
Do not loudly advertise how insane your collection is at a tournament or even on social media.
These are just the basic tips, and I encourage you to be inventive when it comes to protecting your Magic cards. They not only represent your ability to play, but also your love for one of the best hobbies on the planet. Don't be a victim and don't allow yourself to be victimized. Constant vigil and ousting the thieves in the community is how you keep yourself and countless others safe.
And to the thieves out there, the part I'm most excited about when it comes to writing this is that I know it's going to get shared. I know it's going to make the rounds on various Facebook pages. It'll get tweeted and passed around. It'll infiltrate those little rocks you hide under. Whether you like it or not, it's going to be right in your face.
A glaring and constant reminder that you can't hide forever.
To the thieves of the Magic community, I hope you've learned something today.
Like how to be afraid to ever steal from someone again.
We all hate seeing posts like the one I linked earlier where someone loses everything. Let's help them get it all back.
The Magic Community