Americans are obsessed with collecting collectibles and have been bidding up the prices of trading cards, videogames, and other mementos from their youth. While this frenzy may have brought modest fortunes for some, it has been a source of deep frustration for many who still enjoy trading cards or playing games as a hobby.
The relics from millennials’ childhoods are among the most desired and even fought for items. These include trading cards like Pokemon’s Charizard or Magic: The Gathering’s Black Lotus, as well as Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. cartridges. Unopened Super Mario games are fetching staggering $2 million, while some cards sell for hundreds of thousands.
This is not just a case where opportunistic collectors are trying to cash in on the nostalgia that was triggered by this pandemic. Everybody seems to be vying for a piece.
Companies that own franchises like Pokemon are quickly rolling out new editions; internet personalities are hawking them and making money. Companies that tell collectors what their possessions are worth have unprecedented business models. At least one of these companies has received financial backing from a prominent firm in private equity looking to join the action.
While some investors and collectors see dollar signs, others are unhappy about the disintegration of their close-knit communities. After the pandemic, players who want to play again in person are having difficulty finding the game pieces they need. If the pieces are still available, the prices are skyrocketing. The people who view trading cards, comics, and video games as a stock portfolio have made it clear that they don’t care about the rising prices are harassing critics.
“Prices are going up, and access is going down,” said Brian Lewis, who operates a YouTube channel under the name Tolarian Community College.
YouTube personalities have been fueling the collectibles frenzy partly through a self-fulfilling cycle that promotes collecting and increases in collectibles’ prices. Advertisers can make big money when they see the enthusiasm among their followers.
With more than 23 million subscribers, Logan Paul made several videos where he simply opens up boxes of vintage Pokemon cards, hyping the prices he’d paid and bringing in millions of views. UnlistedLeaf is an Australian YouTube personality who has gotten millions of views for similar videos.