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An interview with a Game Store Owner – Popularity, Scalping and the future of TCGs

Leading TCGs, like Pokemon and Digimon,  have many moving parts that make them the thriving machines they are. Since the birth of our website, we have interviewed top content creators like Leonhart and iconic personalities like Jason Paige, as well as official card artists and graded collectors. Speaking with those within different areas of the TCGs we love has given us an incredible insight into what makes them a success, but what about those working on the distribution side? In this interview, we sit down with the owner of JET Cards, Josh Todd, to get his opinion on the broader state of TCGs.

What’s the thing about running your own game store?

I have always been an avid collector of TCGs, dating back to the early 2000s when I was a young boy. I stopped collecting Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and others around 2012; however, I have always continued to be passionate about it. By starting JET Cards, I have been able to rekindle my love for TCGs and have been able to fully immerse myself back into the community. The beauty of this is that there are so many amazing people in the community that I have made lifelong friends with. On top of this, I am able to be my own boss and can work in an industry that I am passionate about. A working day seldom feels like a working day when it involves TCGs!

How has your business evolved over the last two years? What do sales look like now compared to the heights of TCG popularity in 2020?

Owning a TCG business has been riddled with obstacles and has changed drastically over the last two years. JET Cards was founded in late 2019 as an eBay store selling single trading cards and later developed into a full-scale TCG store in mid-2020, just before the boom in popularity. During the boom, stock was very limited from the suppliers as the demand for products reached an unprecedented level which manufacturers had not anticipated. This meant that although demand was high, our sales in 2020 were not great due to the growing competition surrounding us at this time. Now, we are a more established store with lots of amazing new and returning customers. This, combined with more supplier contracts and greater stock allocation levels, has meant that 2022 has seen sales reach an all-time high for us.

Last year we saw a lot of scalping going on, do you think that this has had repercussions in 2022? 

The era of scalping is beginning to fade out and die due to increased stock levels from suppliers and a dip in popularity from last year. I think that in 2021, scalping was considered standard practice within the community and although no one liked it or agreed with it, those who were scalping products at nearly double retail price were still getting sales and, for that reason, continued to do so throughout the year.

In 2022, we saw a lot of people buying Pokemon Celebrations at retail and listing them on the secondary market for what would be considered a scalper price. The majority of these people were left with lots of stock that they couldn’t sell due to much greater stock levels than we had seen in 2021. Since then, scalping has not really been an issue.

Game Store Owner

Do you think the popularity of TCGs will stick or is it already fading? 

Popularity in TCGs seems to be something that comes in waves, even dating back to the e-series era of Pokemon in 2002-2003. Pokemon at this time was not as popular as it was in 1999-2000 and also gained in popularity again around 2004-2005. I think that with the global pandemic causing a boom in popularity around 2020, we are due a year or two in which TCGs die down again to a normal level. This isn’t to say that TCG’s will die out or that their popularity will decrease massively, but I feel we are in a good place now, where stock is readily available and the demand is still there to be able to keep small companies going.

You mentioned Pokemon, but how are other TCGs doing in terms of popularity? 

With regards to other TCGs, Yu-Gi-Oh! has been held at a steady level for some years now and has not really seen a rise or decline in its popularity. I found that there are some sets that were huge for the game, such as ‘Ghosts from The Past’ in 2020, which was heavily allocated and sold quite quickly in comparison to other special boxes or normal sets. The Digimon Card Game and Dragon Ball Super Card Game on the other hand have declined quite considerably over the last year in terms of sales.The Pokemon TCG is most definitely the outlier and will continue to be so for many years to come. The anime and video games are still thriving and this will continue to bring younger generations into the Card Game.

You mentioned that the Digimon Card Game has seen a decline in the last year; could you tell me more about that?

Digimon has seen quite a drastic decline since the release of V1.0 and V1.5. This card game hit the ground running and had lots of customers fully invested in the game. I feel there are a number of factors involved in this sharp decline. The first being that set 1.0 and 1.5 included more of the generic and well known Digimon, whereas some of the latest sets have more niche and obscure Digimon that not all players (old and new) would recognise.

Secondly, the support from Bandai for Digimon with smaller businesses, especially online-only, is almost non-existent. For the early sets, all retailers were given promo packs and power up packs with booster boxes to provide to our customers. As we move into the later sets from BT05 onwards, these promo packs were limited to bricks and mortar stores, which has impacted the sales for online-only stores.

Back in 2020 and 2021, Pokemon TCG sets would sell out in seconds. Nowadays, with new sets like Brilliant Stars, it seems way more accessible. Have you noticed an increase in stock from distributors, or are people less interested?

I believe that in 2022 we are seeing both a combination of greater stock levels and also lower levels of interest from the general population. The Pokemon Company International, for example, has opened more printing facilities and is more prepared for higher demand, meaning that our suppliers are able to receive greater stock levels. However, I feel that there are also a lot of people that have left the hobby between 2020 and 2021. I firstly suspect this is due to covid restrictions being almost completely lifted and therefore a majority of people have returned to full-time employment or simply lost interest in TCGs due to a decrease in value. 

Do you collect any TCGs yourself? 

I personally collect Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards, there are also certain Weiss Schwarz sets that I am interested in and some new anime card games such as My Hero Academia.

Does being so involved in the TCG  industry make collecting those games more enjoyable or difficult? 

By being so heavily involved within the business, I am able to access stock easily and purchase products from my company in order to complete sets I have been working on. However, on the flip side, it does mean that I find collecting slightly less enjoyable due to the fact I am dealing with TCGs all day for work as well as for my hobbies. It can also be hard to sell single cards if they are ones that I want… sometimes I will just buy them for myself. Overall, I would say that I wouldn’t change what I do for the world and that I still thoroughly enjoy collecting TCGs as well as running a TCG store for work.

Do you think sets are released too frequently within the Pokemon and Digimon TCGs? 

The short answer is Yes. I think sets are released far too frequently. TPCI and Bandai are constantly releasing very large sets that are hard enough to collect and complete in 5-6 months, yet we are getting new sets released every two months in most cases, and that is if they only collect the English sets!. This means that collectors do not have the time to fully enjoy each set and collect the cards they want before another set is announced and released.

From a business perspective, I understand why PTCI and Bandai do this. TCGs are at the peak of popularity and they are trying to maximise their profits while they can.

What TCG do you think is the next big up and comer?

We began stocking Metazoo last year when the first set Cryptic Nation 1st edition was released and this blew up massively. The second set, Nightfall 1st edition, was just as popular within the UK. They released a second edition for Cryptid Nation, which many thought would be the death of the TCG, but sales are still very good for this game. The next set, Wilderness 1st edition, is just around the corner and lots of customers are very excited for its release.

Game Store Owner

Bandai has recently announced a One Piece TCG – do you think this TCG will rise to the popularity levels of Dragon Ball Super or Digimon? 

I am personally a massive fan of One Piece and consider it to be one of the greatest anime series of all time. Because a lot of people who watch Anime feel the same way, I believe it will become a very popular TCG if it is done correctly by Bandai.

What do you think Bandai could do to ensure its success?

They need to have a good understanding of what the consumer wants in a TCG such as this. They need to use the right characters, include the right rarities and also include some stunning artwork. If they can achieve this, then I feel it will easily reach the levels of other leading TCGs on the market.

Out of all the TCGs you stock, what sets and products do you think will be hot this year? 

So far this year, Pokemon brilliant stars has been one of the hottest sets. Not only due to the fact it has the fan favourite Charizard, but it also features Arceus, the new VSTAR mechanic and also lots of other amazing cards. This set has also been very readily available at the suppliers, which I think has inspired more customers to buy it as they believe it is a set that can actually be completed.

Beyond that, I believe that the Pokemon Go set that has recently been announced will be very popular and also Yu-Gi-Oh! Ghosts from the past: the second haunting. The first set for this sold out almost instantly and there are already rumours that this set will feature even more popular ghost rares than the previous one- maybe even the Dark Magician girl that we didn’t get from the first set.

We thank Josh for sharing his insights and opinions from the point of view of a game store owner. If you would like to see the incredible inventory that JET Cards currently stocks, as well as opportunities to pre-order upcoming sets and products, check out the links below – 

Website: https://jetcards.uk/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jet_cards/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jetcards1

Youtube (PSA Returns): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG0cqUwkPI3rBCrrdWOL6-g

To keep up to date with the latest TCG news and products, head over to our  Instagram or Facebook pages and follow us there. 

Mathew Parkes – Ludkins Media

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