Two truths: fashion goes in cycles and people will pay incredible amounts of money for rare items, no matter how trivial. The next wave in the trend of the internet losing its collective mind over something fairly opaque and highly unbelievable (looking at you, NFTs) is everyone’s beloved childhood obsession: Pokémon cards.
Yes, the game that everyone collected and no one knew how to play is back, only on a much, much bigger scale. And, it’s still not about how to play the game and all about what cards you’ve got. Those cards could very well make you a tidy sum.
Here’s what’s happening down the latest internet rabbit hole:
Dollar, Dollar Bills, Y’all
The past few months have been absolutely wild in the Pokémon trading card game world. New records for the highest bid are being broken within hours of each other and auction houses that normally deal in rare Picassos are now auctioning Pokémon cards.
A 1st edition Charizard card sold in October last year for USD $220,000 while in January of this year, a limited edition Blastoise card sold for USD $360,000. These are incredibly rare and hard-to-find cards, but even standard cards in good condition have been climbing in price exponentially.
A PSA 10 Base Set 1st Edition Charizard just sold at auction with an ending bid of $183,812.00 via @IconicAuctions.
Including the 20% buyer’s premium, the total transaction value exceeds $220k.
As of now, this is the highest known sale of the card. pic.twitter.com/2mwkoopTvL
— Cardhops (@Cardhops) October 10, 2020
As with any collectible, the older and better condition the card is in, generally the better the price will be. Cards are graded in quality by professional grading services, the industry standard for trading cards being the Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA).
Because of the mega hype around Pokémon cards, the PSA has had to suspend some of its grading services in order to deal with the massive increase in demand.
The COVID Factor
The pandemic has undoubtedly played a huge role in the sudden rise of Pokémon cards as the hot new thing. With more time on their hands, people are going through their old stuff and finding childhood relics that might be worth something.
Boredom and nostalgia are also big factors, with people getting back into the trading card game over lockdown and increasing demand for new products.
Weirdly, the lack of availability of the cards can also be traced back to the Evergiven cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal and disrupting world trade routes. And here we thought it would be important things like oil that would be the most impacted.
Pokémon the company, a subsidiary of Nintendo, have said they are prioritising the printing of new cards “at maximum capacity” in order to keep up with demand.
We’re aware that some fans are experiencing difficulties purchasing certain Pokémon TCG products due to very high demand. In response, we are reprinting impacted products at maximum capacity to ensure more fans can enjoy the Pokémon TCG.
More info here: https://t.co/sClZo3BXsp
— Play Pokémon (@playpokemon) February 10, 2021
Couple the lack of supply and huge demand with the US’s lack of financial support for workers and you’ve got a trading frenzy driving prices to obscene levels and prompting equally bizarre behaviour.
There have even been reports of Wal-Mart in America having ceased the sale of Pokémon cards due to safety concerns for their staff and premises. In a leaked memo, “inappropriate customer behavior” was cited as the reason why stores no longer feel they can carry the cards. Scenes like the one below are reportedly not uncommon.
Got this video from Instagram from @tcg_grassi and wanted to bring it to Twitter. This shit is unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/ELYSDR2Cc5
— Big B Cards (@bigbcards30) May 21, 2021
It’s not just the older, rarer cards either. Trying to buy any Pokémon cards or even Pokémon-related items is currently extremely challenging.
Currently, several cereal companies in the US are running promotions giving away free Pokémon cards, and, well, you can guess how that’s going.
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Won’t Somebody Please Think of The Children
Pokémon is a card game for children, although, fine, if you want to play it, go ahead. The current frenzy however has meant that the target market has been unable to access the cards or play the game.
James Humbert, a toy and game shop owner in South Carolina, told VICE that he can’t keep Pokémon cards on shelves anymore and that older players are buying up all the cards before younger players have the chance.
“A 10-year-old can’t buy a single card for $200 to play with. It’s scary, to be honest.”
In a recent tragic tale, one 8-year-old boy in the US was forced to sell his prized collection of Pokémon cards to help pay for his puppy’s medical treatment.
“I know everybody likes Pokémon cards so I just decided to sell them,” he told his local news station.
Word quickly spread of the boy’s efforts and his GoFundMe page, set up by his mother, has gained USD $5,600, well above the USD $800 needed for the treatment.
So, Can You Make Money Here?
If you think you’ve got some rare cards hiding away somewhere, it’s not a bad idea to have a look through your cupboards. Reddit groups dedicated to the game are full of posts of people doing exactly the same, posting pictures of their old haul and wondering how much they are worth.
One expert collector told the ABC that the first thing to do when going through an old collection would be research to find out exactly what you’ve got.
He reports there have been many instances of people posting on social media about their uncovered treasures and excitedly taking the first offer made, only to find out later that they’ve sold their cards for much less than market value.
While quality plays a factor here, “really good cards, even in bad condition, can still be worth a lot of money,” he said.
So, it’s definitely worth having a look and seeing if you or someone in your family might have a goldmine sitting up in the attic. Just try not to assault someone when attempting to find the cards.