Top bid for supposedly rare card soars past US$13 million, surpasses embezzled amount that got its owner life in prison.

Usually when you hear stories of the government auctioning off a criminal’s possessions, you imagine the lot will include things like exotic sportscars, luxurious pleasure boats, and expensive jewelry. So it might feel kind of anticlimactic to learn that this week authorities in China’s Anhui Province were taking bids for a Yu-Gi-Oh! card they’d seized.

However, this didn’t appear to be just any Yu-Gi-Oh! card, but a 2019 Blue-Eyes White Dragon 20th Anniversary Gold Edition. Only 500 were issued, and while the blue and white refer to the in-series coloring of the monster, the “gold” part of the card’s name is because it’s made of pure gold.

▼ The card being auctioned

Even on their own, precious metals and limited-edition otaku-oriented memorabilia are both capable of opening people’s wallets in a hurry, and so the combined appeal had bidders eager to get in on the action once the auction began for the possessions of Zhang Yujie, a former government fund manager who was convicted last year of embezzling roughly 70 million yuan (US$10.8 million) and has been sentenced to life in prison. Within 30 minutes of the Chuzhou City Court opening the online auction for the card, some 2,000 bids were placed. Things were just getting started, and eventually over 18,000 offers were made, with the high bid climbing to approximately 87 million yuan (US$13.43 million), well beyond the embezzled amount that had earned Zhang his life sentence.

While the idea behind an auction is to find the actual market price of an item, the South China Morning Post reports that collectors would expect a Blue-Eyes White Dragon 20th Anniversary Gold Edition on the open market to sell for somewhere in the 200,000-300,000 yuan (US$30,900-US$46,300) range, less than one percent of what the auction price had risen too. In response, the court shut the card’s auction down, issuing a statement that they suspected that some bids may be “malicious” or “speculative” in nature.

The “speculative” accusation is unexpected, considering that a solid-gold game card is pretty much the purest example of a collectible item whose price isn’t tied to anything other than its perceived value among the community as a whole. Still, there was clearly something strange going on, especially considering that all those astronomical bids were coming in despite the auction organizers not providing any sort of proof that the card is authentic, and not a forgery, and so perhaps they feared that whoever did end up with the winning bid had no actual intention of paying.

Combined with the recent auction by a Japanese woman selling off her husband’s Yu-Gi-Oh! collection after she caught him cheating on her which also got shut down, maybe the best way to get the cards you want really is just taking your chances buying individual packs.

Sources: Abema Times via Livedoor News via Hachima Kiko, South China Morning Post via IGN
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