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Pokémon is all the rage right now … again. With a franchise this enduring, its popularity never ceases to die down, even after 25 years. It’s not just the cartoon or video games that fans keep coming back to either. Pokémon cards continue to be a weirdly dominant force in the collectibles space, with some old cards still fetching for millions of dollars. For proof of that, head over to YouTube, type in “Pokémon cards,” and you’ll find videos from some of today’s biggest content creators with millions of views. People are lining up in droves just watch someone else collect the darn things.
The craze recently reached a new crescendo thanks to Logan Paul. The controversial YouTube star has made waves as of late with his newfound Pokémon card obsession. Head over to his channel and you’ll find his incredulous face plastered over videos such as “Opening the $200,000 1st Edition Pokémon Box” to the tune of 11 million views. But for Paul, the newfound obsession simply came out of nostalgia for the classic game (and a little insider info).
“I’ve always loved Pokémon,” Paul tells The Inventory. “I collected when I was younger, so when I heard from a friend that the industry was booming, I ran straight back to my old collection to see if I had any cards of value. They were destroyed. So, I turned to eBay and became obsessed with the TCG.”
Paul has turned that hobby into something of a PR spectacle. His most recent project was a collaboration with Goldin Auctions, where he opened 36 first edition Pokémon card packs live on stream. The box contained 12 high-value holographic cards, featuring two Charizards—the holy grail of Pokémon card collecting. In total, the collection of cards is worth $2 million in total.
It may sound impossible that these little pieces of shiny cardboard are still so valuable after two decades, but Goldin Auctions founder Ken Goldin says that the hobby is no joke. Goldin is something of a card collecting guru who started collecting when he was 12 years old. Goldin wasted no time getting to work when the cards came out, partnering with the world’s largest card distributor at the time to grade and sell them.
“If I had all the cards I had graded,” Goldin tells The Inventory, “I probably would have $15 million in Pokémon cards.”
Pokémon cards haven’t really waned in popularity over the years, which is out of the ordinary for the hobby. While things like Yu-Gi-Oh cards had their 15 minutes of fame, Pokémon continues to endure. Goldin says the only kind of cards that are analogous to Pokemon in terms of popularity are basketball cards. “Legitimately, I would compare a Charizard card to a Michael Jordan card,” says Goldin.
It’s not just a trend driven by one specific country either. While the cards are particularly popular in Asia and North America, Goldin Auction sees high bidding interest coming from Germany and Denmark as well. It’s a universal appeal that speaks to the franchise’s firm position in the pop culture pantheon.
“In many ways, the people who are into Pokémon are like people who are into Batman or Spider-Man,” says Goldin. “There is no age limit. It’s part of people’s childhood, but also it’s an ongoing and everlasting licensed property. You need to look at it in terms of a Marvel or Disney property and not just a card game.”
For the most part, the value isn’t in the individual cards. Instead, collectors have higher ambitions. The ultimate prize is a full set of high-quality first edition cards, which is almost impossible to obtain. Goldin estimates that there are only around 42 possible sets of PSA 10-grade, or perfect condition, first-edition cards in the entire world. Goldin Auctions sold a full set back in January for $686,000. As for the standalone cards, the most valuable one out in the world is probably not one you’d expect: a rare item card called an Illustrator.
“It was a very, very limited edition card … They were never put in packs. I think there’s only 12 of them that exist” Goldin explains. “To give you some sort of value: in a PSA 10 grade, there’s only one. The card would be worth probably well over three million dollars.”
A casual fan would never be able to afford that, but the mythological nature of cards like this is part of the allure. There’s still pure excitement in opening up a pack in hopes that fans will find something rare, whether to complete their own collection or sell it for big bucks. That’s what makes it fun as both a collector and a YouTube spectator who wants to watch from the sideline. Paul himself understands that creators can kill two Pidgeys with one stone through the hobby.
“A friend of mine suggested it would be a great piece of content with so much room for optimization,” he explains. “Feel like a kid again, put on a great show, turn a profit, raise money for charity, and amplify an industry.”
Paul may have gotten into Pokemon cards as an SEO play, but he’s sincerely swept up in the spectacle at this point. Whether you’re collecting cards for the love of the game or clicks, it’s all the same. The ultimate appeal is that they can reduce adult auctioneers and content creators to 6-year old kids who just want nothing more than to find a shiny Charizard.