Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Kitchen Table Day Traders


I came home from work the other evening to loud sophisticated trading going on at my kitchen table. The volume and complexity of the bartering rivaled that of the Chicago board of trade.

"I'll trade you Blastiose and Wigglytuff for your Charizard!"

"You're crazy! Charizard is rare! Throw in Jolteon and Venusuar and you got a deal!"

"No way! My dad bought Venusaur on eBay for fifteen bucks!"

I didn't know what to say. My nine year old was negotiating like a lawyer in a negligence suit. But for what? What were these strange commodities that they were so passionate about? I had to know more.

Where would I start? First, I needed to fire up the mother of all libraries -- my PC. After several variations of the spelling for pokeyman, pockamon, and ultimately pokemon, my search engine settled in on the first site: Here is where would-be traders can "value" their cards. It is a site dedicated exclusively to Pokemon enthusiasts.

The first thing that became obvious was that there is an elite group of cards that are the most valuable. These are known as Holograms or Holos or Foils. There are 16 in the basic set. How valuable are they? My next stop was eBay, where traders and collectors of this genre post literally thousands of auctions for these critters.

I felt ready to discuss this phenomenon with my son. Like a savvy pit veteran, I engaged Tommy with coy indifference. "Son, if, and I mean if, I could get you a Charizard would that improve your set"? He looked up at me and rolled his eyes like I just fell off the turnip truck. "Dad, I have Charizard. I traded Brian Hitnochan and Polywraith for it last week. Anyway, Charizard is basic set. I need Jungle set Foils!"

He didn't say it, but he might as well have added, "You idiot." I felt like a day trader with a queasy stomach. I think I'll leave the pokemon market to the experts. But I have to wonder... will there be a "Foolish Four" set of pokemon cards? If buy-and-hold is impossible in the pokemon world, then at least rotating only once a year could ease the intestinal distress that these kitchen day traders are promoting!

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