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Card Theft at GP Baltimore (or, “I was lucky to escape Mos Eisley with all my cards”)

February 29, 2012

By now, you might have heard some awful things that happened at GP Baltimore this past weekend. The most egregious of which were:

  • Justin Parnell’s cube, and a binder collection of staple cards, was stolen.
  • Eric Klug’s laptop was stolen (from inside his car)

I also had a friend of mine either lose or have stolen his Standard deck in between rounds. He doesn’t have much hope of getting that back, as it was a typical Finkel-derived UW Spirits list with no remarkable defining qualities.

One hopes that Klug’s laptop has a unique identification of some sort so that it can be recovered easily if the culprit tries to unload it for cash. And otherwise, an insurance policy on his computer may help him buy a replacement.

Justin’s problem, is another sort entirely. His loss was a fully-foiled powered cube (with custom foil proxies for cards unavailable in foil, like Underground Sea and Black Lotus). The kind of collection that takes a long time and a lot of trading and spending to accomplish. It’s a labor of love of the game, and really, with the time and effort of selecting cards to produce a specific play environment, a work of art.

And someone took that from him.

While Justin is busy trying to work with the local authorities and alert vendors, card shop owners, traders, and buyers, the community is speaking up. We are spreading the word. We’re helping out.

Lee McLeaod (@gardevi on twitter) posted a message from Justin on his facebook page regarding the incident and his efforts to recover his belongings. Justin is not asking for anything from us, and yet there is a groundswell of support, from twitter retweets, to magic podcast blog posts, to a repost on reddit, and in an impressive showing, a facebook group dedicated to getting him his cube back, or a new facsimile.

It’s stuff like that that makes me proud to be a part of the Magic community.

I want to help out in whatever small way I can. I don’t know him very well, but we have a common bond, in Magic, and in Cube. I know that what was taken from him is more than just cardboard. It was his way of connecting with like-minded people at his local store and at larger events.

So I want anyone reading this to let his message serve as a call to action:

“I want everyone’s efforts to be on stopping this from happening again to anyone.

Though I’m certainly a victim, I’m not the only victim. Theft is getting worse and worse at events, and we as a community need to stand up and make sure we do our part individually and as the great community we are to put a clamp on this. From this point on, I am going to be laser focused on bringing these and other thieves to justice. No one should have to go through this nightmare that I have.”

I want everyone to not just realize that theft happens. Or just understand that you need to watch your bag, or tie the strap around your left leg and right arm while trying to play a card game. To be fearful that your belongings might be gone in the blink of an eye amongst 1500 other people in a convention hall.

I want everyone to spread the word that this shit is not acceptable.

It’s sad, that a game –nay, a hobby, as calling it a “game”, like casual Monopoly, or a passing fad like Skyrim, is a cheap comparison to something that millions of people play, test strategy for, and engross themselves in for years through changing card sets, rules, and game types– a hobby that has collectible value due to popularity, has to deal with what is essentially organized crime. A ring of thieves at a large event, preying on others just trying to have fun. We have too much fun, so people want to take it from us.

So, go to your local store. Tell the owners to take a hard-line stance on theft. Tell the awkward-shifty players, the maybe-cheaters, the trade rip-off artists, that you watch out for them, and that theft (and cheating) are abhorrent behavior that makes people want to stop playing, and makes people stop enjoying themselves.

Speak out online. Make your voice heard to your tournament organizers and to Wizards of the Coast. Maybe get some top-down design ideas, so to speak.

I don’t know what formal solutions could be enacted to help curb bad behavior at large events. I don’t know what action plans tournament organizers have for reports of theft, or any other emergency for that matter. But something needs to be done. Not answering the problem just means more of this:

tinyj316 (reddit): its shit like this (stealing cards) that make me very apprehensive about going to big events

@seanmcclay (twitter): “Never a more wretched hive of scum and villany.” This actually describes most Magic events quite well.

Jeph Foster (facebook): I’m friends with Justin in passing. However, theft is plaguing the magic community, especially in Baltimore.

This needs to be dealt with. Hard.

If you would like to help Justin with his efforts, please do so. You can contact him at @Jparnell1 on twitter if you have any information that might lead to recovery of his cards. Matt Scott is spearheading a fundraiser through the facebook cube recovery group, and if you’d like to donate the instructions for doing so are posted there.

If you are in a position to look out for the specific cards in his cube (like a store owner, or you do a lot of trading for high-value items), please see the specific list of cube cards here, and watch out for cards that may be very unique, such as signed foils.

 I hope that everything can be recovered, and even if not, I hope Justin’s loss can serve as part of a larger message to the community that we need to find a way to keep people straight, and help watch out for each other’s belongings. I want everyone to be able to feel safe at large events.

I want people to have fun.

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11 Comments
  1. Henry permalink

    I like this post a lot, have played with Parnell at my store back home, and am truly horrified by this crap. However, to call Skyrim a “passing fad,” when the Elder Scrolls series is analogous to a LOTR or ASOIAF of video games, make you come off as a bit ignorant.

    • Sorry ’bout that. I was trying to quickly come up with a typical “Game of the Year” sort of thing that waxes and wanes in popularity. I didn’t think about the fact that the series as a whole does have a very devoted fan base in a sea of games. Skyrim is the most recent game with a large hype machine that I thought of. Also, I might have been a bit flippant due to this crappy subject matter. 😉

      Thank you for the comment. 🙂

    • He’s right though, if you think you’ll be playing Skyrim as long as people will be playing Magic you’re wrong. If you doubt me, your copy of Oblivion would like to have a word with you. 😛

      This is the kind of theft that makes people want to just quit the game. It’s sad really.

  2. Unless those people are, in your eyes ” awkward-shifty players, the maybe-cheaters, the trade rip-off artists, that you watch out for them, and that theft (and cheating) are abhorrent behavior that makes people want to stop playing, and makes people stop enjoying themselves”.

    Those people are clearly on the same level as thieves and don’t deserve to have fun.

    • [crossposted from facebook]

      I don’t mean to suggest you should outright accuse people of doing things if they’re not doing them. But if a guy is doing something that looks suspicious, maybe tell him, either for your own comfort, or so he might realize that the way he acts makes him look like a cheat or whatever.

      I know there are a lot of socially awkward people among us players. I think it’s pretty clear I wasn’t talking about that group as a whole, but rather players that seem scummy.

      Also, I won’t get the message as far if I instead say “If you see a gentleman that behaves in a way that makes you think he may be an unsavory fellow, out to cheat you out of a game result or card product, please ask him ‘to perform his game actions and social interactions in a way that is, perhaps, more clear and direct, and that I would be more comfortable with, if you would so kindly, thank you’ as then you may be assured he is on the up-and-up”.

      I’m mad, dammit, and I don’t want to take it anymore. 😉

      Also, thanks for reading. I’m glad I can spark some discussion.

      [/crosspost]

      I think if you take what I’m saying in this post to mean that I would like to exclude any player that has ever accidentally made a game mistake, or said something the wrong way, or gotten slight value in a trade, you’re reading a bit too much between the lines.

      Just take a stand against theft and cheating and make that stance well known at your store. Help tournament organizers and store owners take that same stance by being vigilant for it. It should be common sense, but it can go by the wayside in the busyness of running an event.

  3. Banister permalink

    I only know of Justin through some friends of mine who he knew back during his time in Greensboro but I did meet him during the GP on Saturday. It sucks that something like this happened. He seemed like a really genuine nice guy. Too bad some people get involved in our hobby only to steal from players like him, Klug,and others. I had heard rumors about thievery that goes on at GPs and large events but I will never let it deter my attendance because then we are just letting them win and in the end hurting the viability of the game.

    • Yeah, it’s sort of a catch-22. You want to do all of the things that are possible at such a large event, but you take on a risk by carrying the equivalent of $500 in your pocket, or $1k+ on your back.

      I suggested on twitter that maybe a locker rental system might be nice for larger events. Apparently this is kind of common at other conventions. Sounds good to me.

  4. I know how it is. I once had a vintage deck stolen, complete set of p9 plus 4 mana drains, duals and all the other expensive cards that go along with it. It was picked out of my car, whoever got it probably didn’t even know why it was. They took the stereo and my backpack. I can’t stand a thief.

  5. Kilerk Misticilu Razorclaw permalink

    I know how this feels. I had a collection of 34 demonic tutors picked off me at a FNM. It took me YEARS and a shitload of hassle to get all those! I was investing in them wait for thier price to jump even more. And some asshole decides he wants to pick them off me. Reason i no longer carry my collection and only my decks and i carry those with me even if i’m getting up to just go get a drink 10 feet away. Can’t trust anyone these days

  6. Lions3y3 permalink

    I’ve had the majority of my collection stolen twice through my magic career. Once when I was at summer camp and despite knowing who did it, the staff would not understand that the cards were valuable and not just a game and wouldn’t pursue the issue. Secondly when my car was broken into on Thanksgiving of all days I had just been at a major tournament and had all of my cards with me. Justin Parnell along with Evan Erwin and Thea Steele inspired me to start my own cube and it has been one of the most enjoyable things I have done playing MtG. Theft is abhorrent on any scale but this in particular strikes a nerve.

  7. Kilerk Mistickilu Razorclaw permalink

    Idea for tournaments like this.

    There must be a registry.
    Items brought onto tournament grounds are to be limited to only what you will be using in the game. All items such as cards and other valuables brought onto the grounds must be registered. You sign in with it you sign out with it. All trading is to be held outside tournament grounds.

    The implementation of limiting the items brought and registering them would help stop things like this from happening.

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