Introduced to Pokémon at a young age, Caleb King loved collecting the cards with cute monsters printed on them. Years later as a biology pre-med student at the University of North Georgia, King is using his Pokémon collection to help pay for graduate school.
During the pandemic, King has sold over 40 Pokémon cards and made more than $60,000. He began collecting graded cards about four years ago, and kept a close eye on the market online. During quarantine, King said Pokémon card prices skyrocketed.
“I bought them to resell as an investment,” King said. “I felt like [Pokémon] was an area that I was really knowledgeable on … and with prices exploding, I’ve been trying to sell them because I don’t know if the prices will go down again.”
King only collects and sells graded cards, which are cards that have been sent to a professional grading company to be inspected. A grade based on the card’s condition is applied to the card, and it can be sold at likely a higher value.
The cards that King had held on to suddenly became valuable, and he was fortunate to find sellers that willing to pay large sums for his cards. King also accrued a valuable collection of rarer cards, most from the base game that was released in 1999.
King said his most valuable card, a Pikachu card worth $20,000, is from the base set and is one of the most notable and famous monsters.
King’s Pikachu also sports red cheeks, another marker that hiked the price up. There were two varieties made, he said, one with red cheeks and another with yellow.
“For some reason, the red-cheeked ones are more valuable,” King said.
While King has been able to make money from the cards, his heart still lies with the creative designs of all the monsters. Being a biology student and an avid lover of animals, the biology of all the animalistic monsters appeals to him, and he views each one “like works of art.”He has also sold a few from his own personal collection, though he admitted they never did as well as some of the cards he purchased online. He said that also helps him not form an emotional attachment to the cards, buying them solely for the purpose of selling for profit.
“It’s so cool to see how they combine different types of things,” King said. “Like, creators take real-world mythologies and biology to combine together to create these little monsters, and it’s such a cool thing to see what they come up with."
Of course, King still played each and every game that was released, and he watched the movies. But nothing quite captured his heart like the imaginative and artistic designs. Some of King’s favorite Pokémon are Toxapex, which is a kind of sea-inspired creature that has tentacles with large spikes covering its head and surrounding its body. King said that was one of his favorite designs, along with another Pokémon, Dragapult.
“I’m gonna sound like a big nerd here, but [Dragapult] is actually based on one of my favorite pre-historic amphibians called Diplocaulus,” King said, “And it also has the head of a stealth bomber. It’s a weird little design, but it’s things like that that blow me away — like, how did someone come up with that? It’s so cool.”
King encourages anyone who might be interested in selling Pokémon cards to give it a try.
“I think it would be really cool for people to look back and say … ‘Oh hey, I found something,” and then [the Pokémon card] be worth something,” King said, “And see if they can get a pretty penny for them. Especially during tough times like this.”
While King has accumulated over $60,000, he said he has about $55,000 remaining in his collection, which is about 45-50 cards. Each one fetches a different price based on the grade it is given. Two or three times a week King will check online listings to see how prices of Pokémon cards are faring.
“If something means a lot to you, and you love it, and you’re passionate about it, you can always make money doing anything,” King said. “That was always special to me — the whole Pokémon thing —growing up. Being able to invest that much time into [the cards] and then have it feel like it was investing back in me, it was really, really cool.”