Thursday, December 8, 2016

Do I Really Gotta Catch 'Em All?

I am a sports card collector, plain and simple.  Sports cards are cool.  I can spend my hard-earned cash on a stack of randomly inserted cardboard pieces featuring pictures of guys who I will never meet, but who make money hand over fist for playing a game.  Hours of my life can be devoted to sorting these pictures, storing them in boxes or binders, and finding other grown men who would like to exchange their cardboard pictures for my cardboard pictures.  I devote precious storage space in my house to my accumulation of thousands of cardboard pictures and in my brain to all of the statistics and vital information about the athletes that I find on my cards.  Sports cards exude coolness.  What is not cool is trading card games.  What's up with these pieces of cardboard that feature cartoons of fictional, fantastical creatures instead of photographs of real-life heroes, who may or may not be upstanding citizens?

Sarcasm aside, for years I thought of sports cards as the only "legitimate" cards to collect.  I looked down on those who got into Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh cards as some kinds of weirdos.  To be fair, I was in my mid-teens when I stopped collecting, and we all know that kids can sometimes be less than tolerant.  Plus, at the time, my life consisted of sports, sports, sports, and some school, so card games really weren't in my wheelhouse.  I still have zero interest in trading card games, but at least I can admit that my hobby is nothing more than jock nerdery, because I am now mature.  So there.

But despite my continued obsession with sports cards and my complete ignorance of gaming cards, my kids discovered Pokemon.  Not just the Pokemon Go app, but real life Pokemon cards.  I blame my brother-in-law, who gave my oldest a stack of his old Pokemon cards for his birthday a couple of months ago.  My wife is appalled; for some reason she thinks any type of card collecting is ridiculous, but I have no problem with it.  Who am I, after all, to discourage my sons from some cardboard fun?  Besides, my grandma once gave me some of the best advice I've ever received: take interest in whatever your kids are interested in.  And chances are, it will different from your interests.

But here is the problem: I don't get it.  I know there are some bloggers out there who don't understand digital trading card apps (a la Topps Bunt) at all.  But some do.  I may not have any interest in the digital cards, but I at least still get them.  I recognize teams and players and understand rarity all the same.  Pokemon, on the other hand, I just don't get it.  At all.  I have no frame of reference.  Which fictional monster is better than the other fictional monsters?  How do I know if a card is good, or rare, or valuable?  I know that you can play a game, and I tried, but it was one of the most complicated games I've ever tried to figure out.  And beyond the game, are the energy or trainer or any other types of cards collectable, or are only the Pokemon desirable?  I don't know.  Plus, as far as I can see, each set is nearly identical.  So if I buy cards from 2 different releases from the same year, do they belong to the same checklist?  Is there such thing as completing a Pokemon set?  I'm utterly lost, and I feel like I shouldn't be because if there is one thing I know, it's cards.

The card on the left is a 2015 Breakthrough Pikachu.

On the right is a 2016 Generations Pikachu.

Is there a difference in design, or does it even matter which set they come from?


So, can anybody help me?  My ears are open to any Pokemon collecting advice from you more experienced gamers.  I'm also willing to trade.  I have sports cards, but if you have Pokemon cards you would like to trade, I'd be willing to see if we could make a deal.  It might hurt, but I'll invest in my kids' interests.  I just want to get a handle on the Pokemon card hobby. 

Meanwhile, I'll keep setting aside pages of sports cards for my kids and dragging them to basketball games with me.  There's no harm in a little positive influence, is there?


  1. I think I am in the same boat as you. My 7-year-old came home from the neighbor's house and he started asking me about Pokemon cards. I had no clue...

    But now he's getting this for Christmas and we can learn it together.

    I think continuing to provide them sports cards that interest them is key. This year my son loved the Olympics cards, sort-of liked Topps Bunt, and didn't care at all about Football. That's OK! His favorite cards are the "shiny" that means he's going to get some Topps Chrome soon, too. :-) He likes opening packs, which is definitely a commonality between us.

  2. I was all gung-ho about Pokemon cards back in the day, but that was now over a decade ago and I have no idea how the sets work today. All I know, is that when I was a kid, the holofoil and Japanese versions were the most coveted - also, first editions. This was many moons ago though.

  3. My son and my wife are all into Pokemon ... I could give or take it. I've tried to understand it and I think I have a decent grasp on the overall idea but, like you, I don't really understand what makes a grass type better than a water type or a fire type or any other type there may be. However, just because I don't "get" it, doesn't mean I don't show an interest in it. My son likes to have battles with his Pokemon plushes so we do that together. I also bought him a Pikachu binder and some cards from Target for Christmas, as he always sees me working on my baseball cards and wants to "play cards" too. Next weekend, I'm taking him to the card shop so he can pick out his first pack of Pokemon cards. I don't have to understand it completely, but showing interest in it definitely helps.