Pokemon fan says US tariffs ruined $4,000 classic game

Pokemon fan says US tariffs ruined $4,000 classic game
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An image of an opened Pokémon Yellow copy, with Surprised Pikachu Face on top of it.

An original, sealed copy of Pokemon yellowreportedly worth nearly $4,000, was destroyed by US Customs and Border Protection after its seal was not only cracked but its case broken and the front of the box cut off in a reckless display of aggression against collectibles, the owner claims. That owner, who goes by The_Master_Of_Unlocking, said Kotaku he was disappointed to see such “senseless damage” done to the now-destroyed collector’s item.

The_Master_Of_Unlocking’s friend, Night Dive Studios CEO Stephen Kick, tweeted a picture showing the destroyed Pokemon yellow copy on January 19.

“Friend of mine got this sealed and graded original copy of Pokemon yellow“, Kick said. “US Customs: Broke the acrylic case, tore and discarded the seal, [and] cut off the front of the box. Maybe they weren’t fans of Wata Games?”

Wata Games is an independent company that rates and certifies games for collectors. Chances are you’ll come across Wata Games if you’re looking for high-quality copies of old games. The company was responsible for rating and certifying The_Master_Of_Unlocking’s copy, giving it an A+ rating and a rating of 9.2. According to Wata Games’ website, the game is in “exceptional condition” and worth $3,800. Or so it was until US Customs came through and decimated the certification.

“So…either they hated the battery inside the cartridge…or they thought it would contain drugs or something,” one tweeter suggested in Kick’s mentions. “Can US tariffs just destroy things without recourse” asked another treble, med many other demand consequences against the bureau.

Information on why customs would go so far is murky, but according to the Domestic and International Vehicle Shipping Service Easy Haulis the purpose of an inspection by the government agency to “prevent [the] export or import of contraband, counterfeit, misdeclared, prohibited, embargoed or other goods” that do not comply with US customs regulations. Aside from the possibility of a package containing some sort of illegal substance, it appears that US Customs officials do not need to release a reason why an inspection was called in the first place.

Kotaku contacted US Customs and Wata Games for comment.

In another email KotakuThe_Master_Of_Unlocking said he bought the copy from Pokemon yellow from an independent seller in Canada who had the game rated previously. The two communicated on January 17th and agreed on the $3,800 price tag, with the package shipped the same day and scheduled to arrive on January 19th. The package even cleared US customs at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport in Kentucky, but The_Master_Of_Unlocking spotted an item that was very different from what the original seller shared in photos. He was shaken.

“I opened the undamaged shipping box to find the Wata Games case broken and Pokemon yellow cardboard loose inside,” said The_Master_Of_Unlocking. “At first I thought it was simply the Wata Games acrylic case that was broken, and I wasn’t too worried. Then I noticed that the factory seal was no longer on the game and, more importantly, the front of it Pokemon yellow the box was completely cut off! I couldn’t believe it at first, but I quickly took pictures to document the damage. I notified the seller immediately after taking pictures of the damage, and to say he was shocked is an understatement. We then began working through the dispute process with PayPal, which is currently ongoing.”

The_Master_Of_Unlocking has no idea why US Customs was so careless with this copy of the Pokemon yellow. He said the agency’s actions seemed “particularly egregious” when there are safer methods, such as cutting the top seal, to inspect the casing and cartridge. He noted that he has had “goods of high value shipped from a number of other countries in the past,” but he has never had a problem like this with U.S. customs before.

“It was really disheartening and disappointing to see the pointless damage to the game,” The_Master_Of_Unlocking said. “Pokemon yellow was the first Pokémon game I owned as a kid, and like so many of that generation, I was completely enthralled by the handheld RPG. I had unfortunately given up on a mint copy of the game years earlier and was trying to secure a near mint copy for display on my office desk. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time to spend playing video games as I once did, but I wanted to give the game a prominent place so I could enjoy watching it and be reminded of simpler times when I work.”

While there are plenty of copies of Pokemon yellow sold online, there aren’t too many that are in “excellent condition” and near mint like The_Master_Of_Unlocking was. There is one on eBay it’s close, but with an A+ rating and a 9.4 rating, it currently costs $10,500.

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