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Kids give Pokemon tips

Rick Chandler

Are you a novice Pokemon collector? Before you round up your menagerie of colorful mini-monster trading cards and take them out into the big, wide world, there are a few things you should know.

“Don’t take your whole collection to school with you,” said Nick Smith, 9, of South Lake Tahoe. “If you just take a few cards, they probably won’t be noticed. But if your teacher sees a whole binder full, she’ll probably take it away from you.”

Also, be aware of what you have. Don’t, for instance, trade a jungle version “Venusaur” for a regular one.



“The jungle version is more valuable, because it has more HP points,” said Tyler Venema, 9, also of South Lake Tahoe.

Nick and Tyler, both fourth-graders at Montessori Tahoe School, were swept up by the Pokemon craze about four months ago. Since then the pair (read: parents) have spent about $150 on their collection of about 300 cards, which depict a veritable zoo of 151 characters, with names such as “Seismic Toss,” “Gnaw” and “Pikachu.”



The Pokemon franchise includes a video game, a popular television cartoon and all manner of merchandise, from clothes to comic books. But it’s the trading cards, which can be used in a game similar to “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” or the card game “War,” which are the main attraction for American kids.

Pokemon is so popular and trading has become so intense that many elementary schools – including two in the South Lake Tahoe area – have banned the cards. At Al Tahoe Elementary, children can bring out the cards only at recess. And some parents have charged that the cards, produced by Nintendo, promote gambling.

Most stores, when they do have them, keep the cards in locked display cases. And the secondary market is booming, with some cards fetching as much as $200 apiece.

It is here that Pokemon cards are similar to baseball and football cards. Each is different, and comes with statistics for the characters – which own a variety of magic and conventional powers, and have varying power designations.

Nick and Tyler get their cards at a local 7-Eleven store, where they come in foil packs of about 11 each, for about $5 per pack. But the cards are so popular that most stores are finding it difficult to keep them in stock.

“It’s fun collecting them when you know you have a really rare card,” Nick said. “A lot of kids in school collect them, mostly boys.”

But Nick and Tyler’s collection is different than most. Recognizing that there is strength in numbers, the two friends joined their collections about a month ago, creating an invincible Pokemon army. The big collection binder is shuttled between the two homes in a joint-custody situation. And when trades or new acquisitions occur, the two huddle for Pokemon strategy sessions.

“When we get new cards, sometimes it takes all weekend to arrange them in the binder,” Tyler said. “But it’s worth it.”

For the love of the characters? The power? The excitement?

“For the money,” he said. “Someday we’re going to sell them off and really collect.”


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