In addition to the older cards multiplying, a similar boom is playing out for newer Pokémon cards. Alan Narz, the owner of Big League Sports and Pokemon Cards in Orlando, said a few months ago that he would have been delighted with three new customers per month. Then, during the pandemic, he sometimes saw 25 new clients a day.
Sports cards also saw an increase in value and interest during the pandemic, but Pokémon was the main source of new interest, he said.
“It’s just crazy how many new people we’ve seen,” Narz said. “I can’t imagine, for the life of me, that a collectible card hobby store like ours will ever see so many new people come in again.”
Part of the increased demand is from social media influencers who have found many viewers by streaming packs on video themselves, he said. And since people cannot spend their money in bars, theaters and sporting events, some have instead used their unspent money to play cards, he said.
But as demand increased, the supply remained woefully insufficient. In addition to the global supply chain issues during the pandemic, there aren’t many facilities that do the type of highly specialized printing needed for cards, Mr. Hurlocker said. Smaller card stores are barely getting new cards to sell, with distributors focusing more on big box retailers like Target and Walmart, he said.
This led to sometimes chaotic scenes in the megastores. For some Pokémon fans who have camped outside stores before restockings, it’s not just about drawing a rare card – it’s also about participating in the phenomenon, Mr. Hurlocker said.
“It’s very clear to me at this point that they’re having a good time,” he said. “They like competitiveness, or they made friends along the way, or they just want to be able to talk in the future about when they were camping for Pokémon products.