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Wondering How Much Your Pokemon Cards Are Worth? You May Need To Wait

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Ever find some long-forgotten item in your house and wondered if it's maybe worth something, like hard-soled shoes and pants with a belt? Well, some people going through old boxes during the pandemic found Pokemon cards.

(SOUNDBITE OF JUNICHI MASUDA'S "POKEMON RED AND BLUE OPENING THEME")

SIMON: Those are trading cards still in print for the Pokemon series of video games.

JASON KOEBLER: Pokemon is more popular than ever. Like, it was a big craze in the late '90s and early 2000s. That continued. I mean, people are still really into Pokemon.

SIMON: Jason Koebler is the editor-in-chief of Motherboard. He collected Pokemon cards when he was a kid. And during the pandemic, he wondered how much those old cards may now be worth. So he sent them off to be evaluated like a vintage wine or baseball cards.

KOEBLER: That is when you take your cards, and you mail them to a company. And a professional looks at them essentially under, like, a jeweler's magnifying glass and with special lights and stuff like that. And they grade the condition of it. So is it scratched? Is it bent? Is it warped in any way?

SIMON: But, apparently, a lot of other people had the same idea.

KOEBLER: And then I didn't hear anything for a month and a half, like, no word that they had even received the order. And now it's four months later. And I've heard nothing.

SIMON: A trading card bonanza. These card-grading businesses are getting more cards over a couple of weekends than they used to get in an entire year. People are sending other cards, too. Baseball cards, of course, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh. But Pokemon is still the main attraction.

KOEBLER: Many of these companies have been overwhelmed to the point where they're no longer even accepting the cards because they have wait times of between, like, 10 months and a year for new cards that are mailed to them.

SIMON: Some collectors are paying big money for these cards. And the very idea of collecting them is at the core of the franchise.

KOEBLER: The tag line of Pokemon from the very beginning has been Gotta Catch 'Em All. And so from the get-go, even in the video games, there's been this association with collection and trying to have, like, a complete set of Pokemon, which lends itself very well to trading cards, which are inherently a limited thing.

SIMON: There may be money in these cards. One rare, mint-condition card can go for three - what? - $300,000.

KOEBLER: Trying to find those - I mean, it's almost like a scavenger hunt for a lot of people.

SIMON: So if you find some old trading cards on a scavenger hunt in your closet, might as well check before you start to use them as coasters. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.