COLLECTING POKÉMON CARDS ISN’T ALL KID’S PLAY, WITH EXPERTS NOW SEEING RENEWED INTEREST IN THE HOBBY
By Pamela Wiggins Siegel
What kid doesn’t love cartoon characters and games? When you add in the excitement of building a collection while playing, Pokémon could be the perfect inroad to a fun hobby. That’s certainly the case for Ricardo Garcia, 11, who started collecting Pokémon cards several years ago with the help of his family.
The best part of collecting Pokémon cards, according to Ricardo, is the excitement of interacting with other players. “There’s a big room with kids playing and trading in each corner. You never know what they will have,” Ricardo says, enthusiastically describing typical game play at his neighborhood recreation center. Although he and his friends are in a holding pattern at the moment, he’s looking forward to after-school gatherings when post-pandemic play resumes.
When back at home after game play, Ricardo spends time surveying what he scored so he can decide what to keep and what to trade next time. He got more interested in curating the cards he hangs onto when his uncle wisely gave him an album to hold his growing collection. While he sometimes buys new packs of cards at a local gaming store, most of the ones safely sleeved in his binder were garnered through playing with his rec center pals.
Collecting Pokémon cards isn’t all kid’s play, however. Ricardo’s cousin, Jesus Garcia, assistant comics and comic art operations supervisor for Heritage Auctions, has seen renewed interest in the hobby over the past few years. When the Pokémon Go app was released in 2016, interest was rekindled as enthusiasts virtually tracked down characters using mobile phones. That zeal spilled over to card collecting as well. Since April 2020, the collecting community has been awed by a phenomenal explosion in demand and rising values for vintage cards and booster boxes.
Garcia notes that collectors who played Pokémon as kids in the late 1990s and early 2000s are getting into the hobby once again as adults, and they are taking it to a whole new level. In fact, the value for sealed Pokémon first edition base set booster boxes introduced in the United States in the late 1990s recently has exhibited exponential growth. Heritage Auctions set a world record when it sold one of these coveted boxes in September 2020 for $198,000. A mere two months later, the record was shattered when a similar box sold for an astonishing $360,000, also through Heritage.
Garcia notes this most recent jaw-dropping sale was for a box in pristine condition, sealed and graded. But is grading individual Pokémon cards in the encapsulated style of sports memorabilia and coins really necessary? If you want to get top dollar when selling, yes.
“It helps buyers evaluate cards and also authenticates them. It’s a good investment, even for medium value cards,” Garcia confirms. This is particularly true since prices for many vintage cards in this collecting genre are on the rise, including some from the 2000s that were worth hundreds a decade ago but now sell for thousands. Several reputable services to explore are Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), Beckett Grading Services (BGS), and CGC Trading Cards, a division of Certified Guaranty Company.
Among the high-end cards that are certainly worthy of grading, Garcia counts rare competition and world championship cards among his personal favorites. He sees these elite cards among the pinnacle of adult collecting. This includes the valuable Pikachu Illustrator holographic card. Another holographic, or “holo” card, highly valued by collectors is the first edition Charizard card. Charizard, a fire-breathing dragon, is a fan favorite among Pokémon collectors and those first editions can bring a six-figure payout when marketed to the right bidders.
Even for kids like Ricardo, a more recent Charizard card is quite a prize. He’s got a way to go before he gets into high-end collecting, but he appreciates so many people being involved in the hobby on varying levels. “I think it’s pretty cool to see so many people taking an interest in one of my favorite games,” he adds.
With the recent rise in value, now is great time for Pokémon fans with a stash of cards tucked away to reevaluate what they have in terms of rarity and demand. This includes getting any moderate to highly valuable cards graded, if needed, and contacting Heritage Auctions for guidance in acquiring rare cards or selling collections.
TAKING IT A STEP FURTHER
For those just beginning to take an interest in Pokémon, Garcia recommends buying new booster boxes and opening the packs together as a family activity. Working on completing full sets together – whether they’re newly issued cards or adding to a vintage stash saved by a mom or dad from their youth – offers a great pastime for families. Some parents even utilize neighborhood “buy nothing” groups through social media to exchange Pokémon cards with other collectors.
Taking the hobby a step further, Ricardo’s mom Diana Garcia has seen her son learn the importance of evaluating condition and preservation as he sleeves his cards. She also pointed him in the right direction when it comes to researching values online and he quite eagerly tackles the task on his own now. As he has grown as a collector, his newfound knowledge has helped him make smarter trading decisions as well.
“I can see the skills he is learning potentially transferring over to other collections in the future,” Diana says. She encourages other parents and family members to look for collecting cues in children and nurture them, recalling that Ricardo had a rock collection when he was even younger as a low- to no-cost introduction to a collecting hobby. Of course, having a cousin as a collecting role model hasn’t hurt.
“Jesus has been a great influence. Someone to look up to,” Ricardo shares. What started as a fun game to play may lead to greater things if he follows his cousin’s lead. And in the words of Ricardo, that would be really cool.
PAMELA WIGGINS SIEGEL is the author of Collecting with Kids: How to Inspire, Intrigue and Guide the Young Collector, a book based on her columns in The Intelligent Collector.
This article appears in the Spring 2021 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine.