The last 12 months have been brutal, endless days as time stood still. We’ve touched upon how Pokémon TCG has provided a beacon of hope in these tough times now let’s look at the actual impact of COVID-19 on Pokémon TCG as a whole.
A good starting point is looking at what has happened in the last week. We reported lower allocations of Shining Fates products for their launch on 19 February 2021. This could be caused by multiple factors, the demand for Pokémon TCG far outweighing the supply of printing and the impact of COVID-19 on the printing process. As a community we’ve become accustomed to the scarcity of Pokémon TCG products over the last few years – now it’s at its all-time high
Local Game Stores and larger outlets have had to temporarily shut across the world due to different lockdown measures. In the UK, for example, the only place to purchase Pokémon cards in a brick and mortar store just now is in supermarkets, which generally stock the Rebel Clashes and Steam Sieges of the world. This has pushed smaller shops to sell their stock online leading to underpowered websites struggling to cope as their servers are attacked by customers and bots alike.
In terms of grading, we’ve seen the impact of COVID-19 on the grading process with extended times. Coupled with the increase in demand for Pokémon grading the impact of COVID-19 on the grading process is incredibly obvious. In March last year, PSA closed due to government guidelines to suppress the virus and the impact of those closures are affecting PSA to this day.
At the start of the year, we caught up with Charlie Hurlocker, Director of US Operations for Ludkins Collectables, to discuss the future of Pokémon TCG in 2021.
He said, “I think that by December of 2021 we will be tired and wondering why all of the hope for the vaccine hasn’t been distributed efficiently. Experts are saying it will take 1-2 years to effectively vaccinate the western world. It’s a weird time, I wish I could frame it without that but I don’t think that I can and it will affect turnaround times. I don’t see PSA’s current backlog making any improvement in the next year. I think there’s a 3-5 year timeframe right now unless they pull off a hiring miracle or just purchase another grading company and take their staff effectively.”
The struggles Pokémon TCG is facing moving into this 25th Anniversary year have been felt across industries during the last year. It’s sometimes easy to forget that we’re living in these bizarre times as the strangeness of the situation is overshadowed by the new normality.
Charlie added, “PSA is in a weird place that they’ve never been before. One of two things will happen: Either they will sustain this level of interest and then grow to accommodate or their inability to produce timely service results will diminish the interest level and bring it back down to their capacity. I don’t know which one is going to happen. You also have to remember the sports market is roughly 7 times bigger than the Pokemon market so we’re experiencing this but there’s a much bigger player at the table demanding services.”
The effects of COVID-19 will continue to impact Pokémon TCG throughout the lifespan of the disease. Whether that’s turnaround times, places to purchase products, stock levels, or even our decisions in what we want to collect.
I’ll leave this article with a final point: Things will change over the next year and products may be delayed. Let’s just remember that everyone is affected by what’s going on in the world, so stay patient and hold on because things will improve in Pokémon TCG and our lives.
John-Anthony Disotto – Ludkins Media Editor