Hobbyists and collectors scramble to secure Pokemon products

Counting Cards: Wizard’s Loft employee, Brandon Scyner, smiles beneath his mask while inputting inventory in Red Deer, Alta. on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Wizard’s Loft is a tabletop game store and board game cafe opened during the summer of 2020. (Photo by Matthew Siu/The Press)

Buyers lined up around the side of the building, eagerly waiting for the store to open and beat the rush of customers.

This was the scene outside the Market Mall Toys “R” Us on Feb. 19, the release date of “Shining Fates”, the most recent product entry for the Pokemon Trading Card Game (TCG).

The cardboard counterpart to the wildly successful Nintendo video game franchise presents fans with a highly collectable product.

This, in turn, creates very lucrative opportunities for resellers and scalpers.

Scalping in this case refers to when individuals buy up a particular product, forcing regular consumers to purchase from them at inflated prices.

“To see large investments made into hobby and card games is not out of sorts these days,” said Nick Navratil, owner of Sentry Box Cards.

“Once people see four to seven times returns, everyone wants a piece of that pie.”

Sentry Box Cards is one of several local game stores or “LGS” in Calgary, typically specializing in various trading card games, board games and other tabletop hobbies.

Navratil suggests that nostalgia is a large factor in the current craze; where fans of the franchise in the ’90s, who now have greater spending power, are deciding to invest in a brand that is familiar and holds fond memories.

“I don’t have kids but a lot of people around my age have been getting their kids into the game to play, collect, or just share something fun that meant a lot to them when they were young.”

For Adam Melnyk, a casual collector from Calgary, his kids were his main entry into the hobby.

Upon the release of Shining Fates, Melnyk was one of many individuals who went to Facebook Marketplace to resell the product.

“If the demand is there then there will always be high reselling prices,” said Melnyk. “With any collecting, you are going to pay a premium at times. It was never a cheap hobby.”

However, for him, it isn’t just a matter of turning a profit.

“I’m not a hardcore collector so [the high prices] don’t phase me, but I can see how it takes away from people who love it.”

“I get excited when I find it [Shining Fates] and feel like I should hoard it like everyone else,” said Melnyk. “Do I make money? Probably not, and if I do it just pays for my kids to open some more packs.”

Wizard’s Loft, an LGS and boardgame café in Red Deer, Alta. has taken a unique approach to ensure fans get the product at a reasonable price.

They accomplish this by breaking the seal on the product in-store, rendering the product unable to be resold, without affecting the experience to the end customer.

“They also get to pay a reduced price,” said Blake Leasak, owner of Wizard’s Loft. “It’s a win-win scenario.”

Pokemon TCG products are most commonly sold in the form of “booster packs” packs of cards with a randomized distribution of rarities.

This creates an environment where certain “rare” cards become incredibly valuable on the secondary market, thus sought after by collectors and investors.

With the number of people stuck at home during COVID-19 and the advent of online marketplaces, online buying and selling is has increasingly become a way for people to make a living, or to supplement their income.

Winning Wizards: Wizard’s Loft employee, Brandon Scyner, poses in front of merchandise in Red Deer, Alta. Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Wizard’s Loft is a tabletop game store and board game cafe opened during the summer of 2020. (Photo by Matthew Siu/The Press)