Blake Martinez is an interesting man. When he’s not making plays for the New York Giants, he’s traveling the world for Pokémon, the video game that has taken over the world. As the only person on the team with a full-time job, he can’t hang out with his friends down at the local Pokémon Center. But, he can still get away with it, and he found a way to make his friends jealous by taking them on field trips to the various Pokémon Gyms around the world.
It’s been two years since I started collecting Pokémon, which I did without any intention of writing about it. Perhaps not the best way to start a career, but I never imagined that I would be collecting more than 100 different Pokémon by the end of the year. I started with a character I created, and after a few months of battling Pokémon and trading with friends, I started to realize that collecting Pokémon was more than a hobby. It was about supporting a franchise that I had grown up with, and I could have a direct role in its future.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants center fielder Blake Martinez took the stage for a Zoom press conference with reporters this spring, and opened the OTA media session for questions. Only with a twist.
Brilliant Charmander. Any questions for Charmander? Martinez said, holding up one of his favorite Pokémon cards for the camera to see.
This will become a regular feature of Martinez’s press conferences this year. He plans to bring a different card from his ever-growing collection at each session, but so far his unexpected appearance has drawn more than a few blind glances. The group of middle-aged sports journalists who attended the event aren’t exactly familiar with the world of Pokemon collecting. Pikachu is not a running back. The Enchantress does not follow a quarterback, and Hunter has nothing to do with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daniel Hunter.
As a result, many in the audience had never heard of Charmander. But when Martinez starts, he’ll explain everything. He is very impressed with the growing popularity of the collectible game. With the constant buying, selling and auctioning of expensive Pokémon cards, this is a dream alternative investment opportunity for entertainment companies. Last week, Martinez’s sales on Whatnot, the online marketplace with which he has an exclusive partnership, reached just under $1 million.
The Giants’ top rusher isn’t the only one interested. Martinez says he has an ally in the Giants’ locker room: linebacker Leonard Williams, who regularly plays Pokémon on his Gameboy Color.
It’s not just about Pokémon. The collecting industry has found its way into the locker rooms of the NFL and professional sports. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Cassius Marsh recently opened a postcard store with his best friend when the market was booming. It has become so popular that the market leader, Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), stopped reviewing and accepting cards earlier this year due to a growing backlog. Players like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes have even begun to take matters into their own hands by using NFTs (non-playable tokens). There’s money to be made here.
While Martinez’s obsession with Pokémon has sentimental value, it’s no fun.
Are you a big Pikachu fan too? Bulbasaur? asked Martinez to a reporter at the press conference.
That’s where there’s a lot of money, Martinez replied.
The facts. Between his job as the Giants’ first linebacker, father of Kinsley and husband Christy, who had her second child this month, Martinez has found time to take his Pokémon collection to the next level in 2021. He says that after sending over 300 cards to PSA earlier this year and several hundred more for evaluation and grading, these cards are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and increasing in value.
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Martinez is aiming for something similar as part of his big plan, which could include opening his own shop, continuing his work in boxes or working with industry leaders on new projects. A new world is opening up for him, and hopefully his post-game career will suit him well.
Now he’s just having fun, but it’s not just about making money. It’s a bit of a passion project. Martinez reinvests everything he earns by going deeper and deeper into collecting Pokémon.
Pokémon itself is one of the biggest franchises in the world. That will always be the case, says Rob Petrozzo, co-founder and chief product officer of Rally, a platform for buying and selling shares of unique assets like Pokémon cards. It’s something that has had so many variations between 1999, when we were in the United States, and where we are now. So I’m convinced it will last as long as Michael Jordan or Mickey Mantle in terms of relevance and cultural appeal, because it has a solid base of collectors and people who are genuinely interested in it.
The foundation for Martinez’s deep dive into the world of Pokémon was laid long ago. He feverishly collected and played Pokemon cards with his best childhood friend, Richard Blau. But as the old story goes, when Martinez moved, his mother cleared out the stock.
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But there is inevitably a risk associated with such a reward. Martinez told his wife how much he spent on the event, and she replied: Stay tuned. What? !? They did it for the Pokémon cards. Are you serious?
Maybe it was a rhetorical question. Talking to Martinez, it’s clear that he takes this industry very seriously. That’s why he pleaded for patience.
He understands that it is not easy for outsiders to understand the true value of these cards, but the same can be said for Magic: The Gathering, Sports Cards or Yu-Gi-Oh!
It’s big business now.
The way we saw all these cards and how they worked played a big part in bridging the gap between the kids in the 90s and the investments. That’s exactly what we’re seeing now, Petrozzo said. You have all those individual players or characters from card games or video games from your childhood, and they are instantly recognizable. All the kids from that time remember it. These young people are now in their 20s and 30s and are starting to think more about their future and their investments.
According to Marsh, Cash Cards Unlimited made over $1 million in sales in its first four months, and the collection business has exploded in popularity. The value of these cards can be found in Marsh’s complete book, Magic: The Gathering and Martinez’s Pokémon Collection seem to be on a roll.
Magic: According to Marsh, the price of Gathering has been rising faster than that of gold for nearly 15 years. It’s been going steadily uphill for a long time.
I think this is just the beginning.
Do you need proof? According to TMZ, rapper Logic paid $226,000 last year for a super rare card of the first edition of Charizard. Paul wore a Charizard card around his neck, which was thought to be perfectly aimed, when he stepped into the ring to take on Floyd Mayweather. He claims he paid $150,000 for the card, which has since increased in value.
The possibility exists.
As far as Pokemon cards go, it’s really taking off, Marsh said. I know a lot of people used trading cards as investments too. … This is a smart alternative investment.
Martinez sees unlimited potential and possibilities.
The sky’s the limit, he said, until I broke the first edition of Boxscore on ESPN.
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