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Football Player Quits the NFL to Make Millions Selling Pokémon Cards

A collection of Shiny Pokémon Cards

As many Pokémon fans have reached adulthood, they’ve found a small gold mine laying in the closet of their childhood home—their old Pokémon cards. This is if your parents didn’t give them away without asking, which unfortunately happened with mine. Yes, I’m bitter and heartbroken about it. Because Pokémon Cards can go for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

But in a heartwarming comeback tale for people like me, one man whose binder was given away by absent-minded parents started buying vintage packs of cards during the pandemic. (The boxes of unopened packs cost a steep $30,000—or the price of one First Edition Shadowless Holographic Blastoise.) Initially, he was just trying to get his old collection back. But then he realized he could sell the cards for a major profit. His business made $5 million in just seven months.

Oh, and also, he’s a retired NFL linebacker.

A victory for lost-binder victims everywhere

I remember my binder well. It was eggplant purple, and I had cut out the “Pokémon” logo and the old-fashioned, chonky Pikachu from some magazine ad and taped these blue-trimmed clippings artfully (?) to the front. The binder was kept kept in our hallway closet, high enough that child-me would have to stand on my tippy-toes to get it.

Oh, beloved Pokémon card binder! How many thousands of dollars might I have had if my parents had not given you away, along with my GameCube and PS1? Was there anything valuable inside you? Would I have been able to buy a wee house with your contents? Pay off my student loans? I shall never know. Ah, welcome, my friend—despair!

Ahem. Anyway, as per CNBC, ex-New York Giants linebacker Blake Martinez also knows this pain. At least somewhat—Martinez made $28 million during his six-year NFL career, so he’s not exactly hurting for cash like the average lost-binder victim. This also explains why he could take a chance on the $30,000 box of cards.

From NFL player to professional card-seller

Martinez got back into Pokémon Cards after he tore his ACL during the 2021 season. After a year of rehab, he was faced with the decision to play again, this time for the Las Vegas Raiders, or to officially become a full-time Pokémon card seller. He chose the latter. After all, you are significantly less likely to get a concussion from opening packs of Pokémon cards.

Martinez’s company, Blake’s Breaks, launched in July 2022 and has already racked in over $5 million. Just by selling cards of Whatnot, a popular online marketplace for re-selling cards. Sure, the fact that he’s a sports star with a following helps. A lot. But I’m inclined to think the NFL stardom helped more with the initial investment needed to start the business than the success of the idea itself. Which is very “America,” isn’t it? If I had $30,000, I’d happily begin my journey of buying and re-selling Pokémon cards, too!

Because there is a ton of money to be made in Pokémon Cards. As Martinez points out, a single pack of vintage cards might have cards whose total value is $500,000. While Pokémon is arguably the prime example, this phenomenon occurs within marketplaces for a lot of trading card games. Hell, I know someone who made $400 recently selling just three cards from the One Piece Trading Card game. The people are hungry! The ones who have expendable income, at least.

So, sure, we may not all be able to afford to get back the contents of our long-lost binders of Pokémon Cards and start a multi-million dollar business off of it. But I’m glad that, at least, someone suffering from Lost Binder Syndrome has a success story.

(Featured image: Minh Hoang via Flickr)

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Kirsten (she/her) is a musician, audio person, writer, and nerd. When not talking about One Piece or Zelda (among other anime and games), she's finding surprising ways to play the guitar.