The news of the biggest fraud in the history of Pokémon collecting spread fast. The $3.5 million case of 1st edition Shadowless booster packs is not authentic. Despite being confirmed by the Baseball Card Exchange, the case contained GI Joe cards. There is something for everyone in the complex case of Logan Paul’s Fake Pokémon case
This is a complex and confusing story. However, Cardlines is here to break it down for you.
Logan Paul is a renowned Youtuber with 23.2 million followers on the video platform. He rose to fame alongside his brother as a content provider on Vine. Following that, they featured on the Disney comedy skit show Bizaardvark for two seasons.
Logan has also made headlines with a couple of high-profile fighting bouts. First, he fought fellow Youtuber KSI twice in a series designed to promote their mutually concocted energy drink.
After those initial bouts, Paul made the brave yet foolhardy decision to fight former five-division world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. Though Paul lost, he landed 28 punches to Mayweather’s 43. However, Logan was concerned that the former champion did not take the fight as seriously as possible. He admitted, “I’m going to go home thinking, ‘Did Floyd let me survive?'”
However, we are not here for celebrity gossip. Instead, you clicked for Logan’s connection to the hobby.
Logan seems to have endless money to burn. He spends a great deal of it on expensive Pokémon cards. We know this because he enjoys streaming, opening some of the hobby’s rarest and most sought-after wax.
Paul is such a hardcore Pokémon collector that he wore a BGS 10 Charizard card around his neck during the Mayweather fight. He had bought the card from Gary of Pawn Stars, also known as Gary “King Pokémon,” for his extensive collection.
Logan has claimed that it is a million-dollar card. The value of the card is estimated at around $250,000. It now has pop culture significance after the Youtuber wore it in the well-publicized fight. Therefore, that number may well be accurate.
Many Pokémon collectors credit Logan Paul with massively increasing the popularity of the cards during the pandemic.
On December 20, 2021, Paul posted a thread on Twitter celebrating receiving a case of 1st edition Base Set booster boxes. Logan claimed in the thread that they were the only sealed and authenticated 1st edition box in the world.
Upon receiving the boxes, Logan said to the viewers, “we are sitting in the vicinity of 11 unopened 1st edition base set Pokémon cards. This will probably never happen again. So until someone shows another one, this is the only one that exists.”
It should be noted that this statement is simply untrue. Gary Haase, known in the hobby as King Pokemon, has a box of base cards. A few others have been sold, and some are probably still unopened.
The purchase represents far and away the most money anyone has ever spent on a single purchase of Pokémon cards.
News of the purchase rocked the Pokémon collector world. Many so-called experts, all wearing the collector uniform of hoodies and baseball caps, took to YouTube to explain why the box was probably a fake.
There is no doubt that some of the backlash is garden-variety negativity. Logan has a lot of money and publicity, dates beautiful women, and lives in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills. That rubs many people in the hobby community the wrong way.
But is the evidence that these 1st Edition boxes are fake compelling? Or are these people just what Vice President Spiro Agnew called “nattering nabobs of negativism”?
There were several indications that the case was inauthentic, even before it was opened. Some were physical, and the others were related to some of the actors’ untrustworthiness.
Wizards of the Coast have a well-known system for labeling their Pokémon products. Every case of the base cards that the company has sold has the same product code: WOC06033. The code remains the same for the 1st edition and all other products.
However, the box in question had a different, though quite similar, configuration. It reads WOC060331E. Wizards of the Coast have used the 1E indicator to signify 1st edition products.
But they did not use the designation when the Base Set 1st Edition Shadowless cards were released on January 9, 1999. Instead, it first appeared in the Jungle, and Fossil releases l in June and October 1999, respectively.
If you are forging a case, this would be an easy mistake to make. After all, most 1st edition releases carry the 1E indicator. Only this specific early release does not have it.
Indeed, if you scan the barcode on the suspicious box, you receive info for WOC06033 and not a product labeled WOC060331E.
There are other problems with the label, aside from the barcode. 1999 was a long time ago, and the Wizards of the Coast labels have usually faded over time. However, the label on this box does not seem to have faded at all. That is doubly suspicious when we consider the (contradictory) origin story of the case. More on that below.
These indicators contradict the known examples of cases from the release in question.
Aside from the physical evidence, there are also some significant inconsistencies in the origin story of the case. In addition, some of the individuals involved in the sale have exhibited unsavory behavior.
The case was known among the most serious Pokémon collectors well before Logan Paul purchased it. Its first known appearance was on the Canadian version of eBay in March 2021.
Perhaps the primary cause for concern was the venue. If genuine, a case of 1st edition Base Set booster boxes is an item of epic importance for Pokémon enthusiasts. Therefore, you would expect it to appear in the listing of a major auction house. Not for sale on Canadian eBay for a few loonies via snail mail.
The listing had some suspicious elements. In addition, the seller had very little feedback and had recently changed their seller name. Unfortunately, bad actors sometimes use this shady tactic to hide their eBay history.
The listing also featured several grammatical errors. While poorly listed items often make for attractive deals, they are bad news for high-ticket items. Therefore, it is unsurprising that no one took the bait and bought the case.
Every superhero needs a good origin story. Similarly, the existence of an incredibly rare collector item needs to be explained. No one has unopened 1st edition Base Set booster boxes for sale. So if you have a bunch, you need to tell your customers how you got hold of them.
The original seller on Canadian eBay had at least three documented stories he told to prospective buyers:
The prominent players in the Pokémon collecting world did not bid on this listing. While there was no proof that it was fake, there were enough red flags to turn many people off.
However, collectors and sellers did bid on the item. It received 86 bids and went for $72,500. The winning bid was made by @PSAPIKACHU. Assuming the boxes are authentic, that price is a massive bargain since individual boxes have gone for over $400,000.
As a serious seller, @PSAPIKACHU requested an on-site inspection of the product before paying for the purchase. However, the seller refused, and the transaction did not take place.
The original sale fell through. However, @cardkahuna purchased the case for an undisclosed sum. Who is this individual? A collector by the name of Jacob Gabay.
Gabay gave an interview on the topic for Poke Tea Time Podcast. While he would not name the exact amount, the happy buyer noted, “I paid him an amount of money that changed his life. I paid seven figures for this box.”
Regarding the purchase, the buyer recalls that when he heard of a case for sale, his first thought was, “the guy is trying to scam us. There is no way.”
Gabay described the guy he bought it from as a “farmer in Canada.” He also noted that the cards inside were not base, but rather Shadowless 1st edition cards.
“We took it to a place that authenticates things. Their authentication process is ridiculous. The guy who authenticates it is a complete professional on taping, kinds of tape, cardboard. They run it through an x-ray machine.”
He added, “now they are liable. Once they authenticate a box, they are now liable for what is inside the box. If something is wrong, go see BBCE.”
BBCE, of course, refers to the Baseball Card Exchange.
Baseball Card Exchange is the biggest name in unsealed sports wax. Their owner, Steve Hart, is a known authority on the topic and has been for decades. I interviewed him for the Cardlines story on sealed wax products in July 2021.
At the time, I asked Steve about his authentication process. He very honestly told me, “do I know that they are 100% legitimate? No. But, they look pretty good to me.”
One of the indications of authenticity, according to Cardkahuna, is the tape. In the interview, Cardkahuna said that BBCE explained that the tape on the box had been discontinued 12 years earlier.
Those of us in the sports side of the hobby are well aware of Steve Hart and his company. They are a well-respected outfit.
However, he has very questionable knowledge of Pokémon releases. According to the well-respected Pokémon Beach website, Hart wrote an email to a collector in the best admitting he had a very partial understanding of these boxes:
“People have asked me to […] give my opinion on that $50,000 pokemon box with clear wrap on it (I don’t know much about Pokemon, but there is an early box of that value, correct?). And all it has to it is plain shrinkwrap. So I told them there is no way I would even put my opinion/word behind it.”
The comment does not inspire much confidence. It also raises questions about why he was willing to authenticate a high-ticket item that is not within his field of expertise.
Confused? Here are the elements of the story as they unfolded.
Cardkahuna fairly quickly offloaded the case to Bolillo Lajan San for $2.7 million. Who is that? He is a well-known actor in the hobby, perhaps best known for selling the $4.6 million 2018-19 National Treasures Luka Doncic rookie card Auto Logoman 1/1.
San reportedly paid $400,000 for the expensive basketball card, thus netting quite the profit.
According to his Instagram, San had always intended to sell the case to Logan Paul:
“As many of you know, I purchased this sealed 1st Edition Pokemon case back in the middle of 2021. I never released what I paid, which was 2.7M, and soon after was approached by a few Pokémon collectors inquiring if I would sell yet ended up holding it for Logan being I knew he was someone that would appreciate and cherish this piece.
I’m grateful to have been a part of its provenance.”
The purchase of the case by Logan Paul was highly publicized. The buyer is a celebrity with a massive social media presence, and he was happy to show his new purchase on every forum available.
Many in the Pokémon community were skeptical about the authenticity of the item. Most notably, Canadian enthusiast Rattle Pokémon revealed most of the evidence we covered above and a great deal more on his Youtube channel.
Logan Paul then flew to Chicago to meet with representatives of Baseball Card Exchange. San was also there and insisted that “there is nothing suspicious about the outside of the case.”
However, by now fully aware of the severity of the suspicions, San began to set up Card Kahuna as the fall guy. But, he told Paul, “the guy who sold it to me, he had so many inconsistencies. There were like three-four different stories. That was my issue.”
The Steve Hart showed up. He said, “back in March this year (he means 2021 – ed.), this case came into my office. They asked for my opinion. If the outside of this case had been tampered with.”
He went on to say that the tape had aged onto the case. He also noted that the label had embedded the lines of the cardboard, which indeed showed up in the video. Hart concluded, “I did my diligence, just like I do for a sports case.”
With cameras filming for posterity, they opened the boxes in a hotel room. Paul started pouring wine and informed viewers that he “can’t be sober for this shit.”
As they opened the case, everyone present expressed jubilation at seeing packages of 1st edition Pokémon. However, it soon became apparent that something was off. The packs appeared puffy, and the colors were too light.
When San opened the box, the full extent of the horror was revealed. The packages contained G.I. Joe Cards. Hart noted succinctly, “we all got duped.”
“In March 2021, we were asked to provide our good-faith opinion and verify that the Pokémon case had not been previously opened or tampered with. We evaluated it, and, in our opinion, the case was in its original state.
This past Saturday, we opened that case to verify our opinion. and were extremely disappointed to learn it was inauthentic. We have authenticated tens of thousands of sealed card products for nearly 20 years and have meticulously developed a structure and framework to provide our expert opinion.”
The statement continued: “We are re-evaluating our approach to all sealed cases going forward. We have also decided to halt the review of Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh! cases or boxes until we assess and revise our processes to avoid this happening in the future.”
As news spread that the case was fake, Bolillo Lajan San made a statement on Instagram addressing the issue:
“Upon opening the 1st edition Baseball Card Exchange authenticated Pokémon case, we noticed that the boxes inside looked off and; sadly the case was FAKE. Logan Paul and I are grateful to @RattlePokemon and the Pokémon community for exposing this fraudulent case now before it transacted any further.
I have reimbursed Logan his 3.5. However, we will see how quickly I am made whole from the sellers who brought it to me already authenticated in the coming days or if it turns into a drawn-out scenario.”
We know a lot about this well-documented case. However, some questions remain unresolved.
Everyone involved in this deal has released statements, and true or not, they seem plausible. The one individual who did not release a public comment on the affair was Jacob Gabay, AKA Card Kahuna.
According to Rattle Pokemon, who broke the story, he was contacted twice by Gabay regarding the incident. Both attempts at contact occurred before the opening. At first, he was confrontational and unrepentant and came from his business Instagram account.
He told Rattle that a defamation lawsuit would be forthcoming due to “business I lost out in [sic] due to your video.” However, he also insisted, “I’m 10000% sure this [Base Set] case is real.”
However, Rattle later received a message from another account, purporting to be Gabay’s personal account. The message there was quite different and included a potential bribe offer: “I will pay you $500,000 to take the video down. This is my personal account. Logan can’t open the box.”
Therefore, there are solid grounds for believing that Jacob Gabay committed fraud. However, that is merely an allegation for now.
One of Gabay’s close associates is Michael Goldstein. He vetted the Canadian eBay seller and accepted a finders fee from Gabay.
Collectors repeatedly warned Goldstein that the case was suspicious. However, in exchanges on Instagram, he downplayed all of the suspicions and replied, “we did all the due diligence, man.” Regarding the conflicting origin stories, Goldstein replied, “it doesn’t even matter what the story is. The case is authentic, and even in that story, there is nothing shady that makes it seem like the case was ever tampered with.”
After the case had been opened, Goldstein posted a message on Instagram: “My hope is that those who truly know me, trust that I did not have the intent to harm or hurt anyone. My love & passion for Pokemon is the sheere [sic] of my existence.”
After opening the fake case, San lamented, “I would have never bought this shit if it wasn’t BBC[E] wrapped. But because of that, I felt confident it was legit; it was good.” Indeed, it is hard to believe that the sale would have occurred without some authentication.
That raises the suspicion that BBCE was involved in misdeeds. However, their above-board response and the massive credibility they had to lose make this unlikely.
The other option is that the bad actors involved in the deal used baseball exchange and San as dupes. They hoped to capitalize on their credibility in the sports card world to gain credibility with Logan.
We know who sold the case to whom and when. But what we don’t know is who created the fraudulent case.
However, there is a plausible suspect. Micha Birch is a known and admitted Pokémon fraudster. He openly posted fake 1st edition booster boxes on his social media. So there is no question that he knows how to craft a plausible phony case.
Birch also happens to live in Canada. Adding to the circumstantial evidence, he recently deactivated his account (@Pokebutler) and has laid low since these fraud allegations were raised.
We don’t need any fresh reminders of all the fraud and bad actors involved in the hobby. Many scandals have rocked the collecting world and showed that its institutions are prone to manipulation and unscrupulous behavior.
However, we did learn a couple of important things from this story. First, the hobby is vast. Just because someone understands one type of cards doesn’t mean they know another. My guess is that the people behind this fraud were aware of this schism and used BBCE as a fall guy. Don’t do what Logan Paul did. If you make a big purchase, make sure it is certified by people who understand that collectible.
Second, the online community in the hobby is an invaluable resource. The sleuths from Blowout Forums have uncovered many sports card scandals. And individuals like Rattle have valuable knowledge to prevent fraud. Use this fantastic community to your advantage and avoid being blindsided! Not all of us can afford to be defrauded of millions of dollars.