Rare Yu-Gi-Oh! game card causes judicial auction to stop after bids reach US$13.4 million

·3-min read

A Chinese court aborted an online auction of a criminal’s possessions after the public jacked up the highest bid to 87 million yuan (US$13.4 million), likely to get their hands on a highly valuable collectible Yu-Gi-Oh! game card.

Collectors believe the card, depicting a Blue-Eyes White Dragon, is one of 500 limited edition cards released in 2019. They predicted that the card is currently valued at between 200,000 to 300,000 yuan (US$31,000 to US$46,000).

The sale was hosted by the Chuzhou court in east China’s Anhui province on Monday on an online auction platform created by Alibaba Group, which also owns the South China Morning Post.

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Yu-Gi-Oh!, along with Pokémon and Magic the Gathering, are highly sought after collectible gaming cards. Photo: Handout
Yu-Gi-Oh!, along with Pokémon and Magic the Gathering, are highly sought after collectible gaming cards. Photo: Handout

The owner of the items was Zhang Yujie, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2020 after being found guilty of embezzling nearly 70 million yuan (US$10.8 million) from a government fund under his management.

Zhang’s possessions were auctioned with a starting bid of 80 yuan (US$12) and the court estimated the goods were valued at 100 yuan (US$15).

Other possessions being auctioned included a PlayStation 4 adorned with gold and diamonds, multiple Nintendo Switch consoles and other electronics from Sony and Apple, but they were auctioned separately.

It is unclear whether the card is authentic due to the lack of any certification. Typically, when collectible cards reach a certain value, they are authenticated by third-party companies to ensure the buyer is engaging in a fair transaction.

The card auction immediately drew a large crowd, with more than 18,000 participants and more than 2 million onlookers online. It quickly spun out of control, with the bidding price for the card jumping over 500,000 yuan (US$77,000) within minutes, far higher than the card could reasonably fetch on the open market.

Within half an hour, the price had reached more than 87 million yuan, and the court stopped the auction.

“This auction has been suspended,” a statement from the Alibaba judicial auction online platform said. “The price is seriously inconsistent with the actual bidding price, and malicious bidding behaviour is suspected.”

The auction platform also explained in a Weibo post that there would be consequences for malicious bidding behaviour in a judicial auction, such as a fine or detention.

Yu-Gi-Oh! gamecards have been popular globally for decades. Photo: AP
Yu-Gi-Oh! gamecards have been popular globally for decades. Photo: AP

It is unclear at the moment whether the court will take legal action against the bidders.

On Tuesday afternoon, the court suspended another auction from the same owner, as a USB drive with an evaluated price of 50 yuan (US$7) received a bid of 500,000 yuan (US$77,000) because rumours spread that the drive held crucial information on some Bitcoins that Zhang owned.

Auctions of assets frozen during criminal cases are relatively common in China. Often the judicial auctions come from corruption cases and they can provide an opportunity for the general public to buy unique or valuable items.

In 2018, a Shiba Inu was auctioned by a court in Beijing to help pay for a pet hotel’s unpaid bills and legal fees after the defendant disappeared.

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