The Pokémon Shadow Market of HBHA and Lower Schools across America: EXPOSED
Photo by Livia Noorollah

The Pokémon Shadow Market of HBHA and Lower Schools across America: EXPOSED

The widespread phenomenon of Pokémon has been going on since the late 1990s, and it has been passed on from Millennials to Gen-Zers. Owned by Nintendo, Pokémon is the biggest trading card franchise in the world, and the 3rd largest gaming franchise. What many people don’t realize is the extent to which the unregulated exchange of Pokémon goes on within the cheerful hallways of elementary schools, ours included. 


Pokemon enthusiast siblings Yair and Shai Glass show off two awesome Pokemon, Ancient Mew and Charizard. (Photo by Livia Noorollah)


These shady investors are notoriously strategic thinkers, mathy, and known for ‘ripping the faces off’ their clients with complex and unfair trades. Yes, older kids do occasionally take advantage of younger kids, which may warrant parental involvement. Let’s find out more about the rampant Pokemon shadow market at HBHA, as well as in many other schools.


Kids will often get into Pokémon as early as Kindergarten. What sparks their interests could be the 26 season-long TV show, passing by the Pokémon section when shopping with their parents, playing Pokémon on the Nintendo, or just getting a glimpse of the world of Pokémon from friends that are a few years older. 


It is difficult to estimate numbers, as there may be anonymous traders infested within even the upper school, but Pokémon experts estimate the majority to be between 2nd – 5th grade. 


So how does Pokémon trading work? Well, kids open their briefcases and binders, and they barter over cards. Some try to collect the rarest cards or ones with the best attacks such as Rock Throw or Breakneck Blitz. 


These investors are strategic; kids will trade one good card for a few lesser cards, because in the end, they can trade the lesser cards for a card they want. Watch out for fake cards that may be hard to discern from real ones. Some use this to their advantage to trade phony cards for rare Gxs. 


Orli Megerman poses with her pokemon backpack and lunchbox. (Photo by Livia Noorollah)


For those wanting to start or for those who are already seasoned Pokémon traders, here are a  few tips from none other than the Pokémon experts themselves, LeeAm Noorollah and Max Finnigan:


  1. Look up how much Pokémon are worth before you trade.

In a past trade, LeeAm Noorollah didn’t realize that his one card was worth so much more than the cards he traded for combined, but luckily the nice kid he was trading with allowed for a trade back. Not everyone is so lucky though. That’s why it is important to ask a trustworthy peer or search online for the price of the card. A good trade is a fair one, where both people are happy. For example, Finnigan traded a Detective Pikachu Greninja for a Urshifu Single-strike Vmax and Urshifu rapid Strike Vmax, and according to him, “It was a great trade, because both me and the person I traded with looked up the prices of the cards before we traded.”

      2. Don’t trade sentimental cards.

Finnigan recalls one of the worst trades of his career; a Drowsy for a Drowsy. The first card Finnigan ever pulled was the Drowsy, so it had a lot of memories attached to it, as he got it when he was just a young lad first diving into the world of Pokémon. He gave away this memento for an identical card, but it didn’t hold the same significance. 

      3. Be honorable. 

Don’t rip off a little kid by lying to them or because of their lack of experience, although it can be tempting. This means no fake cards, no made up values, scams, or indentured servitude. Also, no stealing cards or binders. No murdering people to inherit their cards. One time a kid stole someone’s binder, and “his dad made him go to girl scouts,” warns Noorollah. There is a list of places where Pokémon are banned, including many public elementary schools and at J-camp. Don’t be the reason HBHA is one of them!!!

Instead, be upfront about the cards involved, and make sure your client knows your policies. For example, a 30-day trade back period. This may even help you get more business, as Finnigan always tries to find someone who allows trade backs. Noorollah says, “I don’t enjoy doing trade backs, but … if somebody really really wants to do a trade back, I’ll allow it.”

      4. Look out for fake cards.

It can be very challenging to tell if a card is fake. This is one of the most important trading skills, and it will take many scams before you master it. Asher Glass, a senior at HBHA, has helpful advice, “The texture of the fake cards might feel consistent throughout the front and the back of the card, which on a real card, you would be able to feel the difference. Also, the color on the back of the card can be lighter than the card itself. I would usually compare the fake card with a real card to confirm if it was real or not.”

      5. Know your goals.

Whether your goals are to “catch em’ all” or simply have fun, keep that motive in mind. Glass says his favorite thing was always “going out with friends to buy some more cards and opening the packs to see what we got.” Glass enjoyed trading to get a variety of cards that were different from what his friends had. “My goal with Pokémon cards is to enjoy trading it with friends,” Finnigan says, “the energy when you’re opening a pack is like, am I gonna get something good am I gonna get something bad? What’s gonna happen?” Noorollah’s goal is to collect a lot of Pokémon cards and “pass them down from generation to generation.”

      6. It’s okay to retire.

Pokémon is a game spanning from adolescence to senior years, but it’s okay for it to be more of a short-term activity. Finnigan exclaims, “One day, I may not like Pokémon anymore and if I accumulate a lot of Pokémon cards and get a lot of value, I can sell them and that can help me with my life, like that can help me get into college.” Another perfectly valid option is to give some cards away. Noorollah put it like this, “I want people to enjoy themselves like I enjoy Pokémon right now as I’m a kid.” 


Dishonest Pokemon traders can be anywhere, and extreme caution should always be exercised when trading. (Photo by R. Gina Renee)


Warning: Be aware of a couple Pokémon trading youngsters at HBHA. They may be cute, but don’t let that fool you. Specifically watch out for those with Pokémon backpacks and lunchboxes, freckles, Chiefs merch, and cowgirl boots. 


More to Discover
About the Contributor
Livia Noorollah,
Livia is a Junior at HBHA, and this is her first year writing for the RampageWired. Her hobbies include dance, art, and movies. She hopes to contribute to publications with articles on various topics and exploring Jewish perspectives.