You may know Gary from his appearance on the American reality tv show, Pawn Stars. Involved with bringing Pokémon TCG to North America in the late ‘90s, Gary has been a pioneer in making Pokémon TCG collecting what it is today. His Charizard collection is one of the most sought-after in the world. From selling cards to celebrities like Logan Paul to fans asking for his signature on their fire dragons, this two-part feature interview with Gary will tell you the story of the man the community calls “King Pokémon”.
In Part-one, Gary talked about his early years collecting Pokémon TCG and the incredible work he has done for autism in collaboration with Steve Aoki and the Aoki Foundation, Part one can be found here.
Our collections are more visible than ever thanks to Youtube & Instagram. Everyday we witness large purchases of expensive cards and sealed products across the internet – it’s sometimes easy to forget that the collections we see are usually the 1%. It has always intrigued me to understand collecting from a larger scale perspective and who better to ask than the man with a collection most of us will never even come close to: Gary Haase.
In many interviews and podcasts you’ll see Gary talking about his investment in his collection as an inheritance to his children. He openly talks about how attached he is to the cards he loves, but to purchase cards worth hundreds of thousands of dollars you have to sell lesser parts of a collection. “I have a lot of extras and I keep my eyes open for people selling higher-level collections because I can buy them, keep what I want, and sell the rest to finance my purchases.” It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of hoarding cards, but everyone, even the largest collectors in the world, are intelligent with the purchases they choose to hold – determining when the time comes to part ways with specific pieces.
“I have a lot of collections, some have value and some don’t but all of them will get passed down. I could go tomorrow or 20 years from now and I could not bear to give up my collections, they’ll be with me pretty much until the day I die.”
Finding Opportunities To Help Pokémon Grow
Gary’s aim throughout the years has always been to help boost the hobby to new heights, allowing for more interest and opportunities for all generations to remain invested in Pokémon TCG.
“In the early years when Pokémon started I was there on the business side, I was there on the collecting side, I was there on the parents’ side.”
When Pokémon faltered in the early to mid-‘00s, Gary and his friend Edward Brennesholtz (ebirdman102) worked together to help keep the collecting aspect of Pokémon TCG turning. Then in 2016, Pokémon Go launched leading to an enormous boost in popularity and relevancy – this is when a producer approached Gary to take part in Pawn Stars, something he did for the health of the hobby.
This same approach came into play in 2020 when Gary sold one of his PSA 10 First Edition Base Set Charizards to YouTuber Logan Paul. “I had eight of those cards, all worth in the region of $130,000.” Logan purchased the card for above market value at the time, paying $150,000.
“Many people don’t understand the benefits of selling that card to Logan. The last thing I thought was: what is this going to do for the hobby?” Gary knew that selling a card to someone with a following of over 20 million people would do nothing but help Pokémon TCG gain traction. “I thought to myself, my remaining Charizard cards are worth about $1 million. If I sell this to him, the price will rise substantially, leading to my remaining seven cards being worth over $2 million today.”
Gary is close to many big celebrities interested in Pokémon, none more polarising than Logan Paul. There’s a feeling within the community that these larger celebrities, like Logan, are only trying to make a quick buck from purchasing into the market. That being said, Logan comes across as a ‘90s kid living his dream and Gary agrees with that sentiment. “He is a fan, no question about it. He was so nice and respectful, he knew all about me, I had never heard of him because I’m older, so not heavily into the YouTube scene.”
“He has a Squirtle tattoo on his thigh, that tells us something. He had a goal that he wanted to reach, and he has reached that goal. Between you, me and your audience, he’s not done. We have things coming up that are going to be fun.” Since speaking with Gary, Logan announced he had purchased 6 First Edition Base Set Booster Boxes for $2 million, his journey with Pokémon far from over.
Whether you appreciate the involvement of celebrities in the hobby or not, it is undeniable that exposure to a wider audience is a positive for the community. Whether that’s more people to generate awareness for charity work or kids investing time into learning how to play Pokémon TCG the outright benefits of a larger exposure to the community is a plus for us all.
Collections Are Our Memories, Fragments In Time
As our collections grow, the possibility of displaying our expensive graded cards becomes increasingly difficult with storage units and safety deposit boxes becoming the new norm. How does someone like Gary feel about the Charizard cards he holds so dear to his heart being unavailable to display? “Over these 20+ years every single one of my cards has a story, and I remember every detail and every story of all my cards. I might forget to tell my wife something yesterday but I remember cards from 20 years ago.”
“The memories are all right there. I have two grown sons and even though they don’t call often and I only see them rarely, it’s kind of like with my collection, it’s almost like because they’re here they’re in my heart. I mean, it’s so difficult to answer why it doesn’t matter because I care so much, but why doesn’t it bother me more? It’s kind of like with my sons, it wouldn’t make sense to keep things at the house, it wouldn’t be practical.”
Gary’s most special memory from Pokémon TCG is seeing his youngest son fall asleep holding a base set Charizard they had pulled in 1999. “He was holding it in his hands, just staring at it in bed. When I looked in on him the next morning, he was fast asleep with his hand still firmly around that Charizard. He didn’t let it go all night long.”
A beautiful analogy of fond memories with family and the fragments in time from the cards we hold so dear, this is why collectibles are so special to Gary. This two-part interview helped us go beyond the fascination for Gary’s vast collection and inspires us to see the why’s behind his passion, his commitment to the TCG community, and his goal to keep growing the hobby for generations to come.
You can donate to Gary & Thuan’s charity page for the Aoki Foundation here (win one of 18 signed posters).
John-Anthony Disotto – Ludkins Media Editor