But with free time during the pandemic, Jimenez dug up his old collection and found the cards to be in perfect condition, a fact that would change his life and financial outlook.

“When I found my old Pokémon cards, I was like, ‘Oh my god, their value is skyrocketing. I should try to sell some of them,’” Jimenez said. “So we decided, just for fun, to try this because Los Angeles was closed and we literally had nothing to do.”

Jimenez, 27, kept his day job doing marketing for a West Coast tech giant. But he’s sold enough new cards and some of his old collection to fuel a lucrative side gig – Tony’s Collectibles – which he runs live on Instagram some nights with two childhood friends. It generates an average of $ 6,000 per issue.

The pandemic has inspired an increase in the buying and selling of all kinds of collectibles, from traditional fine art, rare coins and currencies to new follies such as Pokémon cards and street art. It’s the kind of commerce that normally relied on physical stores and large in-person events, but it has managed a relatively smooth transition to online events hosted by newcomers like Jimenez and venerable businesses like Stack’s Bowers Galleries, founded in 1933.

“We have seen a record number of new customers coming into the market,” said Brian Kendrella, president of Stack’s Bowers Galleries, which recently auctioned a 1804 Draped Bust Silver Dollar for $ 7.68 million, this which makes it the fifth most valuable American coin of all time. sold. “We have really seen it across all asset classes.

“These are new customers at an entry level price point of view as well as at a very advanced level spending six figures and beyond,” Kendrella said.

A little chaos

The explosion in demand has increased scarcity and injected some chaos into the industrial complex of collectors.

Professional Sports Authenticator has been hit by an “avalanche of cards” from collectors seeking the authentication and grading company for a third-party valuation of their collectible cards, said chairman Steven Sloan.

The crash forced the company in April to temporarily stop accepting new bids while employees worked on the backlog. In a July update, the company said that it and parent company Collectors Universe are hiring “at a phenomenal rate” to reduce the backlog.

“We recently received more cards in three days than in the previous three months,” Sloan said in a statement posted on the company’s website. “Even after the wave, submissions continue at levels never seen before.”

Some Walmart stores have pulled their Pokémon cards after collectors and dealers scrambled to physical stores, creating scenes reminiscent of a Black Friday shopping spree. Big B Cards tweeted a video of one such brawl on May 21 that received over a million views.

Also in May, Target said it was suspending in-store sales of Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Basketball Association and Pokémon Trading Cards after a brawl broke out in the parking lot of a Wisconsin store.

Police told ABC affiliate WISN that four men allegedly clashed with a fifth and demanded the box of trading cards he was carrying. The fifth man drew a gun and the attackers fled but were arrested nearby, police said. Cards are still available on the Target website.

An emotional response

Some parents are unhappy that they cannot buy their children’s Pokémon cards due to the high prices online after resellers have passed them over the supply available in retail outlets.

A mom who identified herself on Yelp as Fatima D. gave a one-star review to a Southern California trading card business, but her rating had nothing to do with poor service.

“It’s people like these who make it so difficult for CHILDREN to get and enjoy Pokémon Cards,” she wrote. “You are so greedy! “

Part of the boom may be explained by the increase in disposable income and downtime for some people lucky enough to keep their jobs but working remotely during the pandemic, experts said.

The increased collection is also an emotional response to coronavirus blockages unprecedented in living memory.

Stay-at-home orders have left people feeling more isolated than ever. At a time when it was difficult to meet people, activities around collectibles were an opportunity for people to bond around objects that make them happy.

“In times of stress like this, we are kind of biologically programmed to try to hold onto things and acquire things,” said Bradley Klontz, psychologist and author.