Update: On June 2nd, 2021 Target confirmed via Twitter that they will be selling "select Pokémon Trading Cards the week of June 1, 2021." They intent to limit purchases to two items per customer per day. We do not know yet whether this represents a reversal on their policy, a trial period before Pokémon cards return to shelves full-time, or a way for the company to sell off the last of their inventory.
Target has become the latest casualty in the Pokémon TCG craze. As of May 14, Target has decided to no longer carry Pokémon TCG or Sports Trading Cards in store, citing an ''abundance of caution" after news broke on a fight that occurred outside of a Target in Wisconsin. While Target has said the suspension is temporary and that cards will still be available online, this is likely to exacerbate the issue of scarcity in the same way that bots have been able to keep PS5s out of stock and in the hands of resellers.
As Target suspends the in-store selling of these products and Walmart can't get product on the shelves, it may be finally time to ask ourselves:
"Is the Pokémon TCG hype-bubble finally going to burst?"
For the typical collector, the answer is... probably not. While your average big-box store may no longer have your favorite trading card games on shelf, this means that your local game store will be able to offer your favorite card games without having to compete with corporations that can afford to take a loss on products to get you in the door.
Your LGS may initially have higher prices than you would expect at Target or Walmart, but these prices are typically indicative of what the supply and demand of a particular product. These prices are enough to scare away "for-profit" resellers and also directly support the game store that not only stocks your favorite games and hobbies, but also offers a place to play or engage with the community built around these games. Continual support for these local stores is critical to their business, so if you are able to buy from the store that sets up tournaments and events, or just offers a space to be a part of a community that loves the same hobbies you do, I highly suggest doing that over the alternatives below.
If you don't have a local shop that you can support, but still want to keep collecting or playing the Pokémon TCG, here are a few recommendations:
Opening the most expensive chase card from a single Booster Pack may be the best feeling you can experience in the TCG community, but it almost always leads collectors to opening (and spending money on) far too many packs to try and make their money back. Most of these sets are designed to do exactly that. If you are a collector trying to finish a set or grab your most desirable cards, or a player looking to finish up a deck, buying singles guarantees that you will get the cards you are looking for without having to go through countless Booster Packs to find them.
Unless the card you are looking for is the premium chase card, modern Pokémon sets are being opened at such high rates that prices have been continually dropping on the "less desirable" (under $100) cards as people try to recoup losses on Booster Pack openings. This means that during the times where sealed product prices skyrocket, those singles usually fall in price and can be picked for much, much cheaper.
If buying singles just doesn't bring enough excitement to collecting, but Booster Boxes are still out of your price range, the next best thing is finding box breaks! Since the beginning of the pandemic and Pokémon-craze, content creators and game stores have both moved towards box breaks. With a box break, the creator or store takes on the risk/price of a Booster Box and splits it up so that others can "buy in" to a portion of the box. Depending on the person doing the break, this might be broken down by each person getting the rares from a number of Booster Packs or they might get each rare card of a certain type from the entire box. Box breaks are typically cheaper and carry less risk than just buying an entire box, but, as the value of trading cards is centered on the highest rarity chase cards, it also means you can end up with nothing of value.
An alternative to buying into a box break can be community boxes. Ideally, this means that you and your local community or group splits the cost of a Booster Box and each person is able to get the cards that they are looking for. If you have a close-knit group of friends all interested in a product, buying in on a Booster Box can be cheaper than buying Booster Packs separately, plus you now have an event that you can enjoy together!
It is really difficult for anyone to wait to experience something, especially in the current state of the world where we are starved for ways to spend time, but waiting even a few weeks after release can save you money on products. Recently, we saw that Battle Styles and Shining Fates saw tremendous drop-off for product prices once the second wave of product hit shelves. While FOMO can be incredibly persuasive, the hobby of collecting trading cards is a single-player experience where only you determine how you have fun. If you can avoid the initial hype of a set, your money goes farther and you can pick up even more cards for your binder.
The Pokémon TCG isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and the upcoming set, Chilling Reign, is slated to be released in the near future. While resellers might have a harder time making connections to get their hands on the lion's share of product, this means that your average player or collector has a better chance at finding product if they're willing to put in the time or money. If you can't find your favorite trading card products at the big box stores, make sure to give your LGS a chance, and you might find some treasures and a whole new side of the community!