I was shocked, as I am sure many in the Magic community are, to hear of the murder of Sean Dugas. Unfortunately, crime is a familiar part of the game. I did not know Sean, but I would like to make a plea in his memory. There are two important things that we can do to reduce the risk of crime in our community.
First, please be aware of provenance. When dealing with anything that needs to be authenticated, checking provenance is probably the best single method. When we talk about counterfeit Magic cards, we talk about the bend-test or using a black light. There are all kinds of tutorials out there to help you detect a counterfeit. None of those tutorials talk about provenance, which helps make sure that you are getting an authentic Magic card from someone who genuinely owns it.
Dealers need to be held to account on this matter. A Japanese foil Jace, the Mindsculptor does not appear in Los Angeles out of thin air. It doesn’t even get into the hands of Starcity Games out of thin air. Who cracked that pack of Japanese Worldwake? Where did a box of Japanese Worldwake come from? How did it get to be staring at me in the case? We simply don’t ask these questions, but we need to. Receiving stolen goods is not just a crime, it is something that hurts our community.
People who steal cards are parasites on the community. They are more likely to cheat. They are less likely to contribute to the community. They are more likely to be careless about others and almost guaranteed to be self-absorbed narcissists. If they are willing to sell you a stolen card, they are willing to steal your cards. Worst still, they alienate valuable members who simply stop playing after a theft.
Sean reportedly owned a $10,000 Black Lotus, which would make it a very clean Alpha or Beta. Something like that should never be bought or sold without serious questions being asked. You wouldn’t buy it off an ebay account with no transactions. When it comes to cards worth $500 or more, it should be standard practice to ask how it got to you. The major dealers need to take responsibility in this regard, and we players need to boycott those who do not. Do not buy a card worth more than $500 unless you know the person who is selling it has genuinely procured it. That is not too much to ask.
Second, we need to start filing police reports. People in the Los Angeles community may be aware that I was contacted a couple of years ago by a player who had his collection stolen. I recommended he file a police report. The thief, Hayak Abetyan, walked into the store I worked at and tried to sell me his collection. I called the police. There was no report, so the police had to let him go.
Over and over again, I hear of thefts. I have yet to hear someone actually went to the trouble to file a police report. It is quite possible that a police report will not get your cards back. It is not, however, a waste of time. Without police reports, the authorities are unable to help. They cannot investigate nor detect patterns. They often do not even know that these valuable collectibles are being stolen. Grand Prix Chicago 2009 proved that the police can help stop these thieves.
If your cards are stolen, file a police report! That is not too much to ask, either.
Don’t just mourn the fact that Sean Dugas was murdered. Take action to prevent it from happening again.