Collecting Pokemon

Collecting Pokemon 

In 2014 worldwide sales of Pokemon products reached $10 billion. In New York toy shops alone, Pokemon outsold Star Wars by six to one.  Phenomenon had taken over the hearts and minds of almost every child under the age of 12 and, at one point it was been banned from many schools.

 If you decided to collect every single Pokemon item on the market, it would cost in excess of $40,000-£25,000 - and that's just at recommended retail prices. Many are issued in limited editions and change hands for several times the original price.

So where did it all start? 

The answer is Japan where Pokemon means 'pocket monsters'. 

Collecting Pokemon 
This gaggle of adorable mini-monsters was the . brainchild of a man named Satoshi Tajiri who started developing Pokemon in 1990 and spent nearly six years perfecting it. Initially conceived as a computer game for the Nintendo Game Boy, it proved an instant success. Pokemon was effectively the first sophisticated video game created for the under-12s - age group, that had until then been "largely neglected by the video game industry".              

The real genius behind the game was in its cunning format, specifically designed to complement an entire range of merchandise. The key to becoming a Pokemon master is to collect all 150 pocket monsters. This is why it has been turned so easily into a card-based trading game.

 Back up the marketing drive with supporting cartoons, films, books, and other paraphernalia and you have a textbook merchandising plan. The computerised game only allows you to collect 140 of the 150 Pokemon needed to become a master. The others can only be acquired by hooking your Game Boy up to that of a friend and swapping monsters

Collecting Pokemon 

From the very start, the concept of trading and swapping Pokemon was there in electronic form. The makers, Nintendo, however, weren't so focused on the computer game. Certainly, they made a tidy sum out of the new game - 500,000 cartridges were sold in the UK during the first three months alone (and double that in the USA) but there was almost as much money in the trading cards. These were issued in the same format as the computer game, with cards for each individual pocket monster and a whole horde besides.

Again the marketing approach was flawless. Along with the general mass of cards, a few limited examples would be included among the larger packs. Children were soon buying pack after pack in order to find just the rarest ones and, with booster packs of cards selling for  $5- £3, they were well within pocket money limits. Of course, they are still just cards and cost only pennies to make, all of which leaves Nintendo raking in the profits back in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Collecting Pokemon 

However, it's the secondary Pokemon market and, in particular, the trading cards where prices have been flying skywards. Introduced in 1999 and made under licence by Wizards of the Coast, the trading cards have become almost as much of a money spinner as the original Game Boy cartridges.

The initial two-player starter pack has only 60 cards. There are 102 cards in all, which leave you needing booster packs to get every one. The clever move on the part of the manufacturers was to sell the booster packs with no indication of which cards are inside. Thus, there's no guarantee of ever finding that elusive rarity.

Telling the difference between the common and rare cards is child's play. Indeed that is, as it were, the whole point. Each card has a symbol telling you how rare it is. A circle denotes a common card, a diamond  means uncommon and a star means rare. Rarest of all are the First Edition cards, again helpfully printed with 'Edition 1' on the left-hand side.

Collecting Pokemon 

 The problem is that too many  see a rare holographic card retailed for $75-£50 and automatically assume that their own is worth the same. By putting a large margin on the trading cards, Pokemon dealers have inflated the headline prices. But, even in the final analysis, the rarest cards still have print runs numbering in the hundreds of thousands so rarity with regard to Pokemon is very much a relative term.

However, as with every other collectible that begins to rise in value, so Pokemon has fallen prey to forgery. Counterfeit cards are already in circulation. 

The trading cards are the only area of Pokemon merchandising to become seriously collected so far and maintain a broad and dynamic market. The endless list of Pokemon hats, watches, chewing gums and other accessories have been marketed in the normal way; that is, they are introduced for the foreseeable future rather than in a special collectors' limited edition. Hardly any of the supporting merchandise has the range necessary to engender the sort of frenetic playground secondary market that the trading cards have spawned.

Collecting Pokemon 

The  Burger King promotional Pokemon toys are worth a bit, but no fortune. A complete set of all 59 BK toys made just $120-£80 on eBay's auction site in June which is a little over a $2 each. Most of the Pokemon accessories sell for no more than the retail price at best but new lines are coming out all the time. 

Pokemon marbles are already in the shops, following the same lines as the trading cards. A small bag costing $15-£10 contains a selection of Pokemon marbles although again there is no way of knowing specifically Pokemon which ones are going to be in the pack.   

. The most worrying aspect  is the collectability. The likes of Action Man, transformers, and Barbie all had an overtly collectible side given the sheer range of items available, but they weren't sold as a collectible. 

The role of these toys was as a plaything; with Pokemon collecting the monsters is the very essence of the game. Yet, like all fads, in a matter of months - or years, if Nintendo is lucky - it will be gone and Pokemon detritus will litter car boot sales as Atari games consoles and old Sodastreams do today.

Collecting Pokemon

Please note that these are only average prices. Actual retail values depend entirely on supply and demand and you won't get anywhere near these kind of prices if you are selling rather than buying.

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