Published: October 27, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Bruneau & Co.
CRANSTON, R.I. – It was on October 9 that the Grammy-nominated rapper Logic spent $220,000 on a PSA 10 Base Set 1st Edition Charizard card, setting a record for any Pokémon card at auction.
It ignited a viral frenzy that is still roaring.
Travis Landry, who runs Bruneau & Co’s Pop Culture sales, said that singular sale record, which set off a media storm, amounted to a headwind when the firm’s fortuitously scheduled Comic, Pokémon, Toys and Doll Auction came to fruition nine days later on October 17.
“In the span of seven days, it turned a $1,000 card into a $6,000 card,” Landry said. “The market is on fire right now.”
There were seven major consignors to the October 17 sale of 592 lots. With the volatility of the market, Landry decided to play it safe with open estimates of $20-$10,000 on most everything in the auction. All but seven sold, marking a 99 percent sell-through.
Reaching back for comparison, Bruneau & Co held a single-owner Pokémon card sale in May, and Landry was able to relate the stark differences between the values in just five months.
“We sold a PSA 9 graded Charizard in that sale, it was worth around $650 to $700 dollars,” Landry said. “But the other day, that card hammered for $4,300 plus the bump. Go back further and look at the first auction where we sold a Pokémon card, that was in December 2019. We sold a group lot with a BGS 9 Blastoise, a 7.5 Charizard and a 9.5 Venusaur, all holographic from the 1999 base set. It hammered at $275. That same group today is worth more than $6,000.”
The rise is coming from the millennial and internet generation who are in the midst of following in the footsteps of the generations before them: people collecting the playthings that they grew up with.
“Pokémon buyers are younger, the majority are all under 40,” Landry said. “Some are under 30, if they’re successful. Charizard is the gold standard right now, he’s the Mickey Mouse of the Twenty-First Century.”
When Logic announced his record setting purchase on Instagram, he wrote, “When I was a kid I absolutely loved Pokémon but couldn’t afford the cards. I remember even trying to trade food stamps for theirs and now as an adult who has saved every penny he has made being able to enjoy something that I’ve loved since childhood now as a grown man is like buying back a piece of something I could never have. It’s not about the material, it’s about the experience.”
The experience is always king and it’s a matter-of-fact pattern for pop culture collectibles, a market that was already blazed forward with comics among individuals who read them as kids and continue to push the market for rare issues upwards today – that is, the 40 to 70-year-olds.
Contemporary pop culture has a large hand in the collectibles market, Landry said. He looks to figures like entertainer Steve Aoki and UFC fighter Logan Paul, both who post their Pokémon loot to their social media, as having a hand in driving value upward. He related it to the craze two years ago where every celebrity wanted a 4-foot KAWS “Companion.”
With interest high, Bruneau & Co’s sale would go on to produce $208,532 including premium with 14,718 bidders registered across all platforms.
The auction’s top lot, a Blastoise, Charizard and Venusaur from the 1999 base unlimited series, all graded BGS 9 mint, sold for $7,500 after 40 bids. A 1999 base shadowless Blastoise in a BGS 9 sold for $5,520 while a Charizard base unlimited in BGS 9 took $5,160.
Lending to the global nature of the property, a Korean first edition Charizard in PSA 9 sold for $4,200.
“It’s a worldwide collecting craze right now,” Landry said. “Pokémon is a mass market item where millions of people all over the world appreciate it.”
Can the momentum sustain? It’s possible, Landry said, but he made no guarantees. He pointed to the census, where approximately 20,000 Charizard cards are graded above a 9 across BGS and PSA.
“If there are 100,000 people willing to buy it, the market will sustain,” he said.
Among comics, the sale’s top lot was an Amazing Spider-Man #1 in a CGC 1.0 condition that sold for $4,125. Dated March 1963, it was the second appearance of Spider-Man and the first appearance of J. Jonah Jameson and Chameleon, as well as the first Fantastic Four crossover. From 25 years later was Amazing Spider-Man #300, which came in just behind at $4,320. The 1988 issue, in a CBCS 9.8, featured the first full appearance and origin of Venom and last black costume.
“That issue with the first appearance of Venom, less than six months ago in a 9.8 condition, it was worth maybe $2,000,” Landry said. “But the movie was great, the sequel is coming out and people are looking to collect it. We got the top value for it.”
Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery #83, an August, 1962 issue, featured the origin and first appearance of Thor. The copy in Bruneau’s sale was CBC 1.8 and it sold for $3,720.
“It was really blowing my mind that an Amazing Spider-Man #1 or the Journey Into Mystery with the first appearance of Thor – a 58 year old comic book with less than 1,000 of them in all conditions known to exist – that’s worth less than a Charizard from 1999, where there’s more than 20,000 of them in good condition. Comics require a lot of thinking, there’s thousands of key issues, Marvel, DC, lots of characters to choose from. Where Pokémon, there’s only 16 cards you really care about.”
When we caught up with them following the sale, Kevin Bruneau and Landry were in the car driving to New Hampshire where they were going to pick up a consignment of Pokémon cards.
“We are full steam ahead with the pop culture department,” Landry said.
Bruneau & Co will present an online-only Pokémon sale near the end of November with a full Pop Culture auction after the new year. It is currently inviting consignments for its November 30 contemporary art sale.
All prices include buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
For additional information, www.bruneauandco.com or 401-533-9980.
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