How the Pokémon Trading Card Game Boom Brought Back Pokémon Fever

The role of influencers certainly tracks with the timeline of TCG’s market resurgence. While YouTubers such as Derium and UnlistedLeaf have built careers off unboxing videos, card discussions, and similar Pokémon TCG content, it’s when some of the more mainstream names in the streaming and vlogging world got into the action that we saw prices and popularity skyrocket. Remember that box of cards that Paul bought for $200,000? It’s similar to the one that sold for nearly $400,000 a couple of months later. 

Sadly, that celebrity-assisted boom also unearthed some of the unfortunate elements of the scene. Consider, for instance, the story of Jake “JBTheCryptoKing” Greenbaum who was introduced to many people by Paul as a Pokémon card expert. Some who watched early Paul videos with Greenbaum expressed their concern that he was overvaluing cards either due to a lack of knowledge, a desire for personal gain, or a combination of both. In October 2020, Greenbaum helped the YouTube channel Dumb Money acquire what was described as a box of 1st Edition Pokemon TCG booster packs for $376,000. Shortly into the opening process, it was discovered that the box was fake. Examples of such scams and incompetency have been around for years, but the potential costs are higher than ever. 

Yet, the most prevalent negative impact of the Pokémon TCG resurgence is one that will be all-too-familiar to anyone who has tried to purchase high-profile items online, especially in the last couple of years. 

“One class of purchaser that’s come to the forefront this year are the botters,” Chipouras says. “Even normal collectors who just wait for a product to go live may miss out because the bots can immediately checkout hundreds or thousands of products in seconds.”

Again, the role of scalpers is nothing new, but just as with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X last year, a new generation of bot technology can make online purchases of Pokémon TCG cards from certain outlets nearly impossible. Scalpers and scammers aren’t necessarily misrepresenting the popularity or value of the Pokémon TCG market, but much like the online celebrities throwing unheard of amounts of money at these cards, they are contributing to a raised barrier of entry for more casual collectors who must navigate low inventories, high prices, and delayed productions just to get their hands on a few packs. 

Yet, it must be said that the role of celebrities and influencers has been far from a universal negative. The publicity generated by their content reminded people of the love they still harbor for the Pokémon TCG scene and gave many a new way to experience a sense of community during quarantine. Stories of such extravagant purchases may make your eyes roll, but they also open your eyes to a movement that is inherently fascinating.

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