YouTube Pokémon star goes ‘Prime Time’ with new book

Meet Ryan Majeske, the future of collecting.

Ryan is 29, has a longtime girlfriend and lives in Fairmont. It’s a picturesque town of about 11,000 snuggled in the heart of southern Minnesota. Fairmont touts itself as the “City of Lakes.” But when you live in Minnesota, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” that’s not exactly bragging.

Maybe we expect the future to come from someplace better known. Or more exciting, or even with a higher-profile nickname, but it often doesn’t. Mostly the future comes from people with just enough know-how and drive to make it so.

Like I said, meet Ryan Majeske.

Pokémon – Eye on the Prize

Ryan Majeske

Ryan Majeske, author of Pokemon Cards: The Unofficial Ultimate Collector’s Guide

Ryan is the author of the just-released book, Pokémon Cards – The Unofficial Ultimate Collector’s Guide ($21.99, Krause Publications). He is also the creator and driving force of PrimetimePokémon. It’s a hotly watched YouTube channel with more than 400,000 subscribers. His channel attracts nearly as many people who live in Minneapolis.

It was the success of his YouTube channel and interaction with his audience that sold us on Ryan as an author. His ability to take his hobby and share it globally is impressive. How the world has reacted illustrates the direction of the collecting community. His book is packed with 8,000 Trading Card Game cards and values. It is the first of its kind and an essential reference for fellow fans.

Pokémon is riding yet another wave of popularity with the ubiquitous Pokémon GO.  Editor Kris Manty, who worked with Ryan on his book, sat down with him to talk. The conversation includes his book, unique universe, his YouTube success and how the heck he accumulated 100,000 Pokémon cards in his private collection.

Meet and Greet

Here’s an excerpt from their chat.

Kris Manty: Pokémon has been a worldwide pop-cultural phenomenon for 20 years. Video games, the Trading Card Game, animated TV shows and movies, comic books, toys and now Pokémon GO. What is the enduring appeal of these little creatures and the universe they live in?

Ryan Majeske: I think the main attraction is the idea that there is a different universe out there where these Pokémon roam free. In this alternate universe, trainers can catch Pokémon, battle against friends and foes, breed new Pokémon, and level up their own to become even more powerful. Pokémon has been successful because it has taken this alternate universe idea and expanded it into so many different areas, drawing in millions of people, through the games, cards, TV shows, and more.

Secondary Market Movements

Manty: Recently, a “Pikachu Illustrator” Trainer card sold at auction for $54,970. It seems the cards are exploding in value on the secondary market. What’s going on?

Majeske: Of course the “Pikachu Illustrator” card is the most valuable card of all time, mainly due to its exclusiveness, but the prices of cards in the past several years have greatly increased. I think many collectors out there are similar to me − they are in their 20s or early 30s, and looking to relive part of their childhood. I was 10 years old when the cards were brand new, and could not afford many cards. Now I am able to go out and buy the cards I missed out on when I was younger.

Social media also plays a big role at increasing the demand of cards. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people make Pokémon card-related videos on YouTube, and with views being the goal, vintage packs and cards draw the largest audiences, which increases the demand for cards and increases prices. The Pokémon GO game for mobile devices was a massive hit and greatly increased the demand for the cards, making cards from Base Set, specifically, go way up.

Going Viral

Manty: How did you decide to start your YouTube channel, PrimetimePokémon?

Pokemon Cards: The Unofficial Ultimate Collector's Guide

Pokemon Cards: The Unofficial Ultimate Collector’s Guide, KrauseBooks.com. $21.99 Retail * $17.99 Sale * Holiday Price $12.59 (When you use Discount Code 30OFF and order by Dec. 31, 2017)

Majeske: I started my YouTube channel in November of 2008. I believe I was on break from college at the time and for some reason started watching my card opening videos on YouTube. On a whim, I tried to make a video of my own, just for fun.

After my first video was received well, I decided to make a new video every couple of weeks. Pretty soon, many were viewing my videos – we are talking a couple hundred viewers – which convinced me to continue making the videos.

Even though I had collected off and on since 1999, I had not opened a Pokémon booster box before, so soon after I started my channel, I opened a booster box, which I think made me hooked on buying sealed brand products and opening them in videos.

Serving Up Suspense

Manty: Why do you think watching videos of you opening up boxes and booster packs of cards appeals so much to your audience?

Majeske: The main appeal of videos like mine would be the suspense and surprise of pulling an ultra rare or secret rare from a pack. Some Pokémon cards are extremely tough to pull from packs, so viewers thoroughly enjoy watching a good card being pulled. Another reason my videos have appeal would be that many who watch my channel are not old enough to work and save up to buy Pokémon cards. They are living vicariously through me. They see what I can purchase and open on my channel. I also try to be as informational as possible in my videos. I give facts about each set that I open. Also I discuss how much things are, and where certain products can be obtained.

Manty: Was there a particular moment or number of subscribers you reached that made you think, Hey, my YouTube channel is really going somewhere? How do you feel about the fact that right now you have more than 400,000 subscribers?

Making a Connection

The most valuable Pokemon card in the Base Set, Charizard ($45), released in 1999.

Majeske: The moment I reached 1,000 subscribers was the moment that made me think my channel was going somewhere. It seems so long ago, but it took me almost a year of making videos before I was able to reach this number of subscribers. Even as my channel reaches another milestone for subscribers, it is truly unbelievable to me that so many people watch my videos and subscribe to my channel. I am very thankful to those who subscribe. I set aside time each day to reply to all comments and messages on my videos. So if you’re ever in need of some help related to Pokémon cards, and the answer can’t be found in my book or in one of my YouTube videos, feel free to contact me.

Manty: You collect Pokémon cards, create daily YouTube videos (3,000+ and counting!) about Pokémon cards, and write about Pokémon cards on your Facebook page and blog. Pokémon cards are obviously a huge part of your life. What is it about Pokémon that so captures your interest and imagination?

Majeske: Pokémon, in general, has been a huge part of my life since I’ve been 10 years old. I actually started watching the Pokémon anime when I was young, then collected the cards, then got into the games. What intrigues me with Pokémon is that there are so many different Pokémon to collect.

With the Pokémon Trading Card Game, the goal is to complete every single set. So personally, the collecting part of Pokémon is what keeps me captivated. Not only are there so many Pokémon to collect but friendships are created with those in the Pokémon hobby.

Evolving Interest

Manty: How did you first get into Pokémon and collecting the cards?

Majeske: As a youngster, I collected a lot of sports cards, due to my dad being a huge collector. For my 11th birthday, my aunt gave me the Overgrowth theme deck, and since then, I’ve been hooked. I loved displaying all of my Pokémon cards in albums and then showing my friends and family. I brought my cards to school every single day. I’m always hoping to make a trade for a card that I did not have yet. Nowadays, the intrigue of collecting them all, as well as the nostalgia of childhood, keeps me collecting and buying every new Pokémon TCG product released.

Manty: How in the heck do you come to amass 100,000 cards? And how on earth do you store that many?

Majeske: When I started making videos I had only a few thousand cards. But with the popularity of my channel, and the extra motivation to buy all of the newest Pokémon cards, my collection started growing exponentially. My cards are everywhere! At my parents’ house, at my house, in closets, in shoeboxes, in binders, everywhere! 

Enjoy a recent episode of Ryan Majeske’s PrimetimePokémon…

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