In the late 90s, riding the popularity of two wildly successful video games, the first Pokemon cards were released into the world.
Like beanie babies, discmans and a Blockbuster video membership card — everyone wanted to be a part of the craze.
And like beanie babies and their ilk, they faded out as the world moved on, right? Wrong.
Here in 2021, Pokemon cards are back. From the school yard to high-end auction houses that usually sell Picassos, the cards are everywhere.
Here’s what’s going on, and why you might want to go digging in your closet for that binder of cards you forgot about 20 years ago.
It’s almost impossible to understate how wild the interest in Pokemon cards has been the past year.
If you’d like to go and buy the latest release, forget about it. Cards are such a hot commodity that sets not even released yet are already sold out.
The Pokemon Company had to issue a statement saying the high demand and “global shipping constraints” (looking at you, Suez Canal) were making it tough for fans to get a hold of cards, and it was printing more as quickly as possible.
In the US, department store Target stopped selling the cards saying it needed to protect its staff from fans (and scalpers) desperate to snap up whatever crumbs of stock were available.
Anything even remotely related to the cards — from Happy Meals to cereals with bonus cards — is met with a stampede of collectors.
And the really expensive ones? They’re breaking records, sometimes literally hours after new ones have been set.
This holographic Charizard from the first-ever set sold for $US369,000 ($475,500) last December.
An ultra-rare Illustrator Pikachu card sold for $US375,000 in February.
Ehren Roebuck started buying and selling Pokemon cards 10 years ago as a side hobby after falling in love with playing the game.
But the explosion in interest in the past year means he’s now considering making it his full-time job. Roebuck says the boom is kind of like the boom in cryptocurrency.
“There are so many different people into Pokemon,” Roebuck said.
In its State of Trading Cards report, eBay said that sales of all trading cards on its platform surged 142 per cent worldwide from 2019 to 2020. Australia topped the world with the highest increase, with sales growing at 379 per cent year on year, beating out China (205 per cent) and Canada (149 per cent).
And Pokemon cards saw the most growth of all, with sales increasing a whopping 574 per cent from 2019 to 2020.
Roebuck credited the coronavirus lockdowns for creating the conditions that sent the Pokemon card craze into overdrive.
A combination of people taking the opportunity for a cleanout and discovering their cards combined with others with a little more money in their pocket than normal looking for a nostalgia hit from the world’s highest-grossing media franchise.
“Almost every day someone is on (Facebook) with a folder of cards saying ‘what are these worth?’,” he said.
Massive internet personalities (like Logan Paul) both cashed in and helped stoke interest in the boom, with live streams opening super rare packs drawing millions of viewers.
Every pack offers a slice of drama, as personalities slowly reveal each card and viewers wait to see if this is the one worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or not.
“He (Paul) was charging a premium on packs above what they are worth, just because people wanted to have their pack opened by him, in front of his audience,” Roebuck said.
“It’s a massive element of it and that’s got a lot of people into the hype.”
As the value of the cards (both original sets and modern ones) has skyrocketed, scalpers have swooped in, making life difficult for fans to get their hands on stock.
“There are a lot of people who realise there is potentially money in it … called flippers or scalpers … who have no clue about the cards or the game,” Roebuck said.
Before it banned the sale of the cards, one Target in the US posted a notice that it was willing to call the police on scalpers who camped out overnight to snap up stock.
And services that “grade” the cards — a group of eagle-eyed valuers who can spot every small imperfection and rank the condition of any given card — have suspended business because they’ve been overwhelmed.
Cards are rated on a scale of 1 — 10 and the difference between a 9 and a 10 can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to a card’s value.
Even a card graded at less-than-perfect can be worth double or triple an ungraded one.
So collectors flooded the offices of services like PSA looking to increase the value of their cards.
First off, cool your jets.
Roebuck said you’ll want to spend a good amount of time researching.
Roebuck said he’s spied plenty of instances of people posting on social media and taking the first offer, only to later find out they’ve been sold for well short of what they’re worth.
Beyond that, Roebeck said not to be too concerned with the condition of the cards as long as they’re the right ones.
The older the cards, the more chance they’ll be worth serious money.
Thank you for dropping in to My Local Pages and checking this story about “What’s On in the Goulburn Murray Region titled “Pokemon cards are riding a wave of nostalgia and some are more expensive than ever”. This news update was presented by My Local Pages Australia as part of our VIC events and what’s on local news services.
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