On Pinkerton and the Retrieval of Unreleased Trading Cards
Who are the Pinkertons and what does their work for Wizards of the Coast say about Magic: The Gathering's current leadership?
On the morning of April 22nd, 2023, a Magic the Gathering YouTuber, Dan Cannon, was filming the opening of a few boxes of the most recent Magic the Gathering set when he was visited by private detectives belonging to Pinkerton.
In Dan’s public statement on his YouTube channel, he describes an event where Pinkerton agents tell him that they were sent to retrieve “stolen property”, referring to the unreleased March of the Machine Aftermath cards that Dan had in his possession. Dan says, “As far as I know, nothing is stolen… somebody screwed up and sent the wrong cases to the gentleman that I bought the boxes off of. Because when he sold me the stuff he said he was selling me March of the Machine Collector’s Boxes, not Aftermath.”
Dan says that they took a good portion of the cards he had paid for and gave him the number of a Wizards of the Coast representative. He goes on to describe the representative as apologetic and willing to send him other merchandise to compensate for the money he had spent on the confiscated Magic the Gathering cards. The interaction with Pinkerton left his wife upset and in tears.
An update on April 25th, 2023, via a second public statement on Dan’s Youtube channel, revealed that the Pinkerton agents went door to door in Dan's neighborhood to get information about him. In an investigation by io9, Dan Cannon stated in an email that the Pinkerton agents stopped his wife from closing the door while she fetched her husband and claimed that if Cannon didn’t return the “stolen property,” he would face legal action due to copyright infringement which could result in up to $200,000 in fines and legal fees and one to ten years in jail.
In the same investigation, Wizards of the Coast commented, saying that they “strongly refute this depiction of events, which contradicts both the report from the investigation as well as the conversation between the individual and the Wizards of the Coast representative after the interaction in question.”
I strongly recommend the Gizmodo article published about the series of events, as it explains them in excellent detail. This includes stories suggesting Wizards of the Coast have used Pinkerton in the past for similar problems and that several current Wizards of the Coast employees were previously Pinkerton employees including Robin M. Klimek, Director Security Risk Management.
Allan Pinkerton founded Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1850. The agency has since become a worldwide organization offering “risk management” services across the globe. Pinkerton proudly advertises their part in protecting the interests of organizations and emblazon the motto, “We never sleep.” Their past jobs included stopping the first attempt on Abraham Lincoln's life, inventing the mugshot, and escorting the Mona Lisa across the Atlantic Ocean.
However, the escapades of the company between those events during their founding have garnered a less-than-savory reputation among anyone not paying them. With a habit, according to some, of taking things a little too far, they have been among the suspects in everything from ending many workers' strikes with lethal force to using applied pressure and bullying to achieve results.
Most historians find Pinkerton the easiest group to blame for both the stray bomb killing workers in the Haymarket Square Riot and the murder of Jesse James’ nine-year-old brother and the maiming of his mother with a detonated flare in the raid of their estate. In the Homestead Steel Strike, they would help Henry Clay Frisk take back one of Andrew Carnegie’s steel mills after unionized workers were told to disband and had taken the mill, leading to the deaths of at least seven workers and three Pinkertons. Henry Clay Frisk was shot twice in an assassination attempt in his office by an anarchist outraged that he would hire privatized muscle to deal with a workers' strike.
Pinkerton has a varied history of violence that is popularly suggested to be linked to them. But more recently they are known to surveil and break unions for large corporations such as Amazon, and they’re supposedly very good at their job.
Magic the Gathering is one of the most expansive trading card games available. Stocking shelves since 1993, the game has become one of the biggest card games in terms of active events and collectible value. Black Lotus, one of the game's most famous cards, sold last year for a little over half a million USD. I do not think that any card in Dan Cannon’s March of the Machine Aftermath packs was worth anything close to that, but the videos held a lot of value to the collector.
However, unreleased pre-ordered packs hold separate value from the released cards. We can’t be sure how much Dan’s video hurt or helped the promotion of Wizards' limited set launch as I couldn’t see it before Wizards of the Coast forced him to take them down. We similarly can't be sure how much the cards were worth or project what their future value would have been if this incident hadn't ocurred.
But because of Pinkerton, we might never know exactly the ramifications of leaking 75% of a new limited set. What we do know now is the lengths Wizards of the Coast is willing to go to protect its pre-order sale numbers and unreleased product invisibility. I’m not surprised that a large company like Wizards would employ Pinkerton, but I am surprised they use them so preemptively.
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