Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2020 Issue

A Valuable Missing Pokemon Card Sheds Light on Another Field of Collectible Paper

A Pokemon No. 3 Trainer card sold for $60,000.

A man has sued a shipping company for losing a highly valuable piece of collectible paper he recently purchased, according to the New York Post. The man's name is Marwan Al Khaja and he lives in Dubai, but the piece was purchased in the U.S. from eBay. The asking price was $85,000, but Khaja negotiated it down to $60,000. The seller sent the piece by insured mail to the terminal of Dubai shipper Aramex International in New York, but according to the complaint, they received the item but lost it. What was that piece of collectible paper? A Pokemon card. Seriously, a single $60,000 Pokemon card.

 

To be honest, I didn't even know there were Pokemon cards, let alone any valued at $60,000. I knew about the figurines. My children collected them when they were young. The motto of the Pokemon Company is “Gotta Catch 'Em All.” In this case, “catch” is a euphemism for “buy.” Naturally, they would like you to buy them all. The Pokemon Company must have some incredible marketing geniuses. According to Wikipedia, there are now 895 Pokemon characters to catch. Just imagine how much money you will need to spend to “catch” them all. In the case of Mr. Al Khaja, he caught what is evidently one of the most desirable of all Pokemon, but it escaped.

 

Pokemon is short for Pocket Monsters, and these creatures do something or other in kids' video games, and evidently, adults' games too. We all are familiar with one of their characters – Pikachu. Can you name any others? If so, you know at least twice as many of them as I do. Pokemon was founded in 1995, which is right around the same time that J. K. Rowling began publishing her Harry Potter books. There were some good investments to be made in the 1990s, if only we knew.

 

There are some very wealthy people living in Dubai and our guess is that Mr. Al Khaja is one of them. He is 38 years old, so he came of age in the 1990s. He may well be the image of the “new collector,” that is, he collects things that were a part of his life growing up. High on that list is comic books. According to the Gulf News, his comic books include a 1930s Archie and the first edition of Archie's Girls Betty and Veronica from 1950. He also owns a first edition of the first Harry Potter book (1997) and the first Ninja Turtles book (1984). Is this guy not the ultimate 90s kid? He estimated the value of his collection at $275,000, but that was almost three years ago and long before he made his Pokemon purchase.

 

Card collecting is nothing new, and has really come into its own in the past few years. However, the highest value card collecting is concentrated on sports cards, baseball cards in particular. In this past year's list of the Rare Book Hub Top 500 most expensive prices paid for collectible paper at auction, the third most appearances was for Mickey Mantle baseball cards with 9. Right behind him was Babe Ruth with 8. The only two with more appearances than Mantle were the creators of more traditional collectible paper (books), John James Audubon (16), mostly individual plates from his first edition of The Birds of America, and Charles Darwin (10). One wonders whether Darwin would consider spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on baseball cards a sign of advancing human evolution or de-evolution. In 2018, a Mickey Mantle baseball card actually sold for $2,880,000. Al Khaja got off easy.

 

This may not mean much to those who are not devotees of Pokemon, but the card in question is a 1999 No. 3 Trainer. It is pictured with this article and doesn't look like something I would pay $60,000 for, but what do I know? This card was never sold to the public, but was given out to third place finishers in a 1999 contest in Japan. Not bad for second runner-up/losers. Still, this is not the most valuable Pokemon card. That honor goes to the Pikachu Illustrator card, given to first and second place finishers at a contest in 1998. There were 39 of them printed, but only 10 appear to still exist. Last fall, a copy of this card sold for $195,000.

 

It is unknown whether Al Khaja's card was simply lost or stolen by someone who realized its value. However, if stolen, like a “missing” Shakespeare First Folio, it will not be easy to sell. Any potential buyer, likely a dealer, will quickly suspect something is wrong if offered a Pokemon card this rare and valuable without a verifiable history.

 

Mr. Al Khaja is suing for $150,000. Along with the $60,000 for the missing card, he seeks lawyer's fees and “special damages” for “reckless or willful disregard.” That may sound excessive, but maybe not. The Pikachu Illustrator card that recently sold for $195,000 last sold in 2013 for $54,970. If Al Khaja gets his card back, it will probably be worth $150,000 in a few more years.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Gonnelli:
    Auction 50
    Books, Autographs & Manuscripts
    March 6th-7th 2024
    Gonnelli: Cramer, [Picasso, Chagall , Miró], Trente ans d'activité. Starting price 4800€
    Gonnelli: Futurism
    Gonnelli: Avienus, Opera. 1488. Starting price 1200€
    Gonnelli: Vimont, Relation de ce qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France, en l'année 1642. Starting price 5000€
    Gonnelli: Goedart, Metamorphosis et historia naturalis insectorum. 1662.
    Gonnelli: Il Petrarcha con la spositione di M. Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo.
    Gonnelli: Poblacion, De usu astrolabi compendium.
  • Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] DAVID BURLIUK WITH ORIGINAL DRAWING and Signed twice. David Burliuk Rare ACA Gallery exhibition catalogue, undated. CA$400 – 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] KAWS: COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS. Text by Margaret Atwood. National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2019. $CA400 - 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: SIGNED. LAWRENCE WEINER: POSTERS. Nova Scotia College of Art, Canada,1987. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: WILBUR SMITH: THE DARK OF THE SUN. Heinemann, UK, 1965. Signed First edition. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: ROBERTSON DAVIES: LEAVEN OF MALICE. SIGNED Clark, Irwin, & Co., Canada. 1954. 1st edition. CA$400 – 600
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [THE NOTABLE TRAILS LIBRARY]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: THE TRIAL OF DR. X; ROE V. WADE; THE GALILEO AFFAIR; THE TRIAL OF BERNHARD GOETZ… CA$300 – 500
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [MILITARY FICTION]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: Canada's Royal Military College. REVIEW, THE STONE FRIGATE, A HISTORY OF THE RMC… CA$300 – 400
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [WW1] CANADIAN (C.S.E.F.) SIBERIA 1918-1919 PHOTO ALBUM. With approximately 303 original official war photographs, photo-postcards, and personal photographs. CA$8,000 – 10,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: HANS BELLMER: THE DOLL. 1995, 1st Ed. CA$150 – 300.
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: FAN HO; HONG KONG YESTERDAY. ModernBooks edition, 2006. First edition. 4to. CA$300 – 600.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: TARYN SIMON: AN AMERICAN INDEX OF THE HIDDEN AND UNFAMILIAR. Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2012. Third edition. CA$600 – 1,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: BARBARA KRUGER PICTURE/READINGS. [Self-Published], 1978 First edition. CA$800 – 1,200.
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Koller International Auctions
    Books & Autographs
    20 March 2024
    Koller, Mar. 20: DADA - Der Zeltweg. Redaktion: Flake, Serner, Tzara. Zürich, 1919. CHF 5,000 – 8,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: Jespers, Floris - Peeters, Jan. Kinderlust. Antwerpen, J. F. Bogaerts & R. R. Dodson, [1923]. CHF 2,000 – 3,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: FARBENLEHRE - Chevreul, M. E. De la Loi du contraste simultané des couleurs et de l'assortiment des objets colorés. Paris, 1839. CHF 4,000 – 5,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: BOTANIK - Schrank, Franz de Paula von. Flora Monacensis, seu plantae sponte circa Monachium nascentes. München, 1811-1818. CHF 20,000 – 30,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: French Bible manuscript. Latin manuscript on parchment. With 81 illuminated, ornamental and figurative initials. Paris, c. 1250. CHF 90,000 – 120,000
    Koller International Auctions
    Books & Autographs
    20 March 2024
    Koller, Mar. 20: Gradual for the use of a Dominican convent. Latin manuscript on parchment, with Flemish rubrics in black and red. Mecheln (?), c. 1520. CHF 25,000 – 40,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: Calendar. French manuscript on parchment. With 12 large colored thorn leaf initials on a gold background. Paris, c. 1380/1390. CHF 40,000 – 60,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: Freud, Sigmund. Collection of 23 handwritten letters to Alphonse Maeder in Zurich. In addition to 4 letter drafts from Maeder to Freud. 2 February 1910 - 21 September 1913. CHF 50,000 – 80,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: Jung, Carl Gustav. Collection of 26 autograph and 3 typescript letters and a postcard to Alphonse Maeder. 1911-1918. CHF 20,000 – 30,000
    Koller, Mar. 20: Nietzsche, Friedrich, philosopher. Handwritten letter signed to Richard Wagner. Basel, September 27, 1876. CHF 20,000 to 30,000

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