Today’s episode is all about one of the hottest things anywhere on the internet—Pokémon cards! Search for TCG, trading card games, and unboxing, or some combination thereof on YouTube and you will find all sorts of examples of people shelling out beaucoup bucks for boxes of sealed Pokémon cards. The hype surrounding Pokémon plays into the larger popularity of TCGs, including Magic: the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, Dragonball Z, among others, their collectability and their status as investment objects for professional investors. The guests on today’s show are CEO Marko Schädlich and social media manager Jamin Kauf from Cardmarket, Europe’s largest resale platform for TCGs. With over 100 million items on offer and 500k users from 30 countries, Cardmarket is the authority for players, traders and collectors when they need to know if the price is right. Cardmarket is in addition a fascinating case study in community building, target group awareness and word-of-mouth marketing—all of which has helped Cardmarket evolve from nichey passion project into a major international player.
A shadowless “Charizard” for $200,000? A mint Black Lotus for $30,000? A sealed box of Pokémon cards for how much? It’s not that TCGs, trading card games, weren’t around before last October. It’s just that Logan Paul made them a thing last October. After the YouTube star paid 250k bucks for a sealed box of Pokémon cards, the hype wave was unleashed in the states and eventually hit European shores. For Europe’s largest TGC resale platform Cardmarket, the hype has threatened to upend the “traditional” pecking order of popularity, putting Pokémon ahead of Yu-Gi-Oh—albeit firmly behind Magic: The Gathering.
“We especially felt it in January,” says Marko Schädlich, CEO of Cardmarket. “It” was the Logan Paul effect. “The first quarter of this year was insane—not just in terms of Pokémon sales, but also in terms of people placing offers.” The hype had reached Europe’s largest TCG resale marketplace, Berlin’s Cardmarket. Social media manager Jamin Kauf says that the impact went beyond the raw numbers indicative of an uptick in new users. “Everyday we had scores of new followers—many of whom were Logan Paul copycats, people trying to replicate what he did. “There is now a huge demand for sealed products, because a lot of people want to replicate what Logan Paul did.” While Pokémon did get a popularity boost, “Magic: The Gathering” was and, probably, will remain our biggest game followed by Yu-Gi-Oh. With the new hype, that order might change.”
We are not talking about a subjective reranking on a random message board deep in TCG fandom—there are 500,000 active users on Cardmarket—a conservative estimate according to Schädlich—and a total of 1 million items currently on offer across the whole of the EU, Great Britain, Switzerland and Norway—30 countries in total. Cardmarket’s clout is not measured in numbers alone, but, as we detailed in a profile this March, it stretches offline as well in, among other things, Europe’s top TCGs competition, the Cardmarket Series. “We are the reference marketplace in Europe. If you want to know the actual price of a card in Europe, you go to Cardmarket,” says Schädlich.
Kauf quickly points out that when it comes to the actual trading and selling part of TCGs, Cardmarket is the place where all deals begin. An arbiter of good-faith negotiations. “Go to any shop or meet any other players, they will check Cardmarket. And if you suggest a price that’s off, people will call you out on it based on the stats on Cardmarket. People trading offline quote Cardmarket prices simply because they are so efficient.”
“A solid mix of all three:” traders, collectors and players.
The efficiency in referencing prices, in checking histories and trends, as well as its roots in the greater Berlin Magic: The Gathering scene (the company built its reputation through word-of-mouth marketing at scene events and card shops), Cardmarket users are some combination of player, trader and collector. The latter tends to be more prevalent on the whole, but Kauf says that varies heavily by game.
“You will never find a player who sees no value in collecting, even though they only need the cards to compete in tournaments. Collectors often have their incentive to collect; there is always some emotional value attached to these things.”
What helped pave the way for the Pokémon hype, however, was the underlying financial value of some of these cards. The Black Lotus from Magic or the “Charizard” from Pokémon have been fetching absurd sums. For example, there are a couple dozen Black Lotus cards available now on Cardmarket with prices ranging from 11k to 180k depending on the condition and other traits, while a shadowless Charizard was sold in March for a staggering $311,000. Those figures add to the allure of collecting TCGs and helped trigger the current Pokémon hype. “Trading and collecting triggered the hype; as people see trading cards as an investment object. If you are patient and the condition of the card remains stable, there is a good chance you can make money with it.”
500,000 people seem to agree every month.
Check out the entire episode of the OMR Podcast International with Cardmarket’s Marko Schädlich and Jamin Kauf for more on the impact the recent hype has had, how and why the marketplace and social have been evolving in opposite directions, how the Cardmarket Series has become the premier TCG competition in Europe and what distinct advantage Cardmarket has over the much larger competition from the US.