Pokemon's garnered a great deal of merchandise over its 20-year lifespan, and a tiny percentage of that older merchandise is worth a pretty penny. But for the most part, the expansive Pokemon product line is a great lesson in how something that looks valuable is probably worth bupkus—except in your heart, where it's invaluable (but destined for a Garage Sale table, anyway).
Over the weekend, Reddit's r/gaming community reminisced about an especially golden (rather, gold-plated) Pokemon memory. Those of us old and creaky enough to remember the first wave of Pokemon hype also remember Burger King's 1999 "Gold Pokemon card" offer. For a few bucks, you received a small, gold-plated Pokemon "card" stored in a smart Poke Ball-shaped container that opened with the touch of a button. There are six cards overall: Charizard, Jigglypuff, Mewtwo, Pikachu, Poliwhirl, and Togepi.
Redditor "bfastboi42" shared a picture of their complete gold-plated Pokemon card collection. The share prompted an outpouring of remembrance, and more than a few redditors admit they still have their own collections. Honestly, that's not surprising; the gold-plated cards are a step above the typical plastic junk available for free in Burger King's Kids Meals. They're solid, they're unique, and they have a nice heft to them. All told, the cards give off the impression of a rare Pokemon commodity that's worth something.
Really, though, Burger King's gold-plated Pokemon cards are next to worthless. A quick browse on eBay reveals they're going for roughly $5 to $20 USD each, though there are a couple of listings for all six cards, in-box, near $100. Either way, nobody seems to be buying. Why would they? As the r/gaming thread reminds us, every Pokemon fan bought these cards when they were available. And since everyone was a Pokemon fan in 1999, that equals a lot of cards stored in dusty attics and mouldy basements.
As the '90s comic spectator crash taught disappointed people looking to get rich quick with "limited edition" comic prints, once something is widely available, it no longer has value as a collector's item. The "Certificates of Authenticity" packaged with each gold-plated Pokemon card doesn't rectify the fact they're barely worth the price of a Whopper.
Which articles of Pokemon merch are worth something, then? Easy: The stuff that's exceedingly rare, primarily Pokemon cards with misprints or extremely limited runs. The most valuable piece of Pokemon merchandise is probably the "Pikachu Illustrator" card, which was distributed to winners of a contest run in 1998 by CoroCoro Comics. There are 20 to 40 Pikachu Illustrator cards out in the wild, and only a few of those are still in mint condition. One such card sold for nearly $55,000 USD at an auction in 2016, though eBay listings can go up to $100,000 USD. I don't know how many gold-plated Pokemon cards Burger King moved in 1999, but I'm willing to bet it's a heck of a lot more than 20.
On the positive side, I don't think there are any parents who bought hundreds of Burger King's cards and invested their kids' future in them (or at least nobody's willing to admit their parents did so). It's safe to look back on these fun little treasures and smile gently at our memories and naivety.
Alternatively, we can dig them up out of storage and huck them at cars. Scant monetary worth aside, the cards are a decent weight.