Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Retailers deal with a shortage of Pokemon cards

A Pikachu card inside an expansion pack at Tier 1 Cards and Games in Anchorage.
A Pikachu card inside an expansion pack at Tier 1 Cards and Games in Anchorage.(Taylor Clark)
Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - During the peak pandemic days, people had a lot of time on their hands while they were stuck inside during hunker down orders and closures. A lot of people spent that time buying and collecting a ton of Pokemon Trading Cards.

However, it got so popular that there’s now a shortage of cards.

The Pokemon Company knows about the shortage, and the company released a statement online saying that it is planning to maximize production for new expansion releases in the future to increase product availability.

In fact, the shortage got so bad at one point over the last year that Target took them off the shelves because people were getting into fights over them. However, the retailer recently tweeted that they’re back in the stores.

The shortage trickles down to hit local retailers the hardest, according to Jean Kingslien, owner of Tier 1 Cards and Games in South Anchorage.

Pokemon cards are sold in different sets of cards. Some are smaller, in the form of booster packs which have certain cards in them that one can’t get otherwise. Booster packs are the least expensive, but there are fewer cards, according to Tier 1 staff.

They also have big boxes with complete decks, more cards, and also certain cards only available in there. Those could be well over $100 each on the shelves at Tier 1 right now. Kingslien said right now they have to raise the prices up to make up for the extra money they have to pay to get them.

The shortage results in supply issues, especially for the mom and pop shops like Tier 1. Kingslien said she has to get her orders filled in separate shipments right now. On Friday, she got half her shipment of the latest expansion pack, but has to wait until August for the second half.

“I feel bad about it,” she said. “Especially our regular customers, or when a kid comes in and we have nothing except the real expensive ones. And then they want to know why we’re charging so much but we have to explain that we charge more so our retail price reflects what we paid for it.”

Pokemon has been around since the mid-90s, and has been a pop-culture icon ever since with the cards, the video games, the TV series, the movies, and pretty much every type of merchandise you can think of. Still, Kingslien said she hasn’t seen the cards be so popular since they first came out.

According to Tier 1 manager and guru of trading card games Kona Cordell, it’s not just because people were bored at home and got back into Pokemon Cards, although that was part of it.

Cordell said there’s so much internet hype around the cards, and it’s driving up the demand and prices for the rarest and most desirable cards.

He said that celebrities like rapper Logic and YouTube personality Logan Paul have been buying some of the oldest and rarest cards for large amounts of money. The hype that their celebrity status creates has contributed to the shortage, he said.

The hype translates into high price tags, even for the new cards. Cordell pointed out one expansion pack in the store that originally released about half a year ago.

Inside there was a chance to have a certain Charizard, which has always been a desirable Pokemon card since the first generation. He said before production increased on that set, the new Charizard was going for $1,000.

People buy the expansions in hopes of making some money.

“Most people know gambling is pretty addictive,” Cordell said. “Pokemon is no different.”

Part of it is just flat out nostalgia. Since it’s been around so long, there are adults with jobs and bank accounts who grew up on Pokemon. Now that they have money, they’re buying all the cards they couldn’t when they were kids.

“I would say that out of 10 people that do call, nine of them are adults,” Cordell said. “One of them is a kid.”

It’s a mixed bag of how Kingslien and Cordell feel about the trend. On the one hand, they’re selling a lot of product. On the other, they have to tell customers that they don’t have what they want pretty often. Cordell said the hype and investment mentality keeps some people from enjoying the game.

After more than 20 years in the business, Kingslien said she’s seen Pokemon go up and down in popularity. She’s confident that eventually the market will settle down and go back to normal.

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