Beyond Logan Paul’s Pokémon Buying Spree Is a Multi-Billion Dollar Live Video e-Commerce Opportunity in Collectibles

Issue No. 10

As Logan Paul tells it, the story starts with a text from Gary Vaynerchuk on August 22, 2020. Logan is encouraged to get educated on Pokémon trading cards, as the interest and demand for trading cards and sports cards increased sharply during the Covid pandemic. 

Logan goes down the rabbit hole, first spending $50,000 on seven Pokémon cards, and ultimately placing a winning bid at Heritage Auctions to purchase a first edition base set sealed booster box for $204,000. The box, issued in 1999, contains 36 packs of 11 cards each. The holy grail, as Logan explains, is the Charizard card. That single card can command $200,000 in the resale market. 396 chances to secure a Charizard card await. 

Logan auctioned off 35 of the 36 packs for $11,111 to creators like MrBeast and Twitch streamer Kevin ‘Papaplatte’ Teller, making his money back, and setting up an October 9th live stream on YouTube where he proceeded to open each pack. Profits Logan made on the booster box went to NAMI, America's largest grassroots mental health organization. 

Over 300,000 people watched Logan pull a rare Charizard card during the live stream, which was awarded to Teller. It was reviewed during the live stream by an expert and valued between $65,000 and $80,000. 

Logan has a knack for producing trending programming. His five Pokémon uploads since October have generated 39.7 million views. There is a slight increase in overall Pokémon related uploads in October and November on YouTube which may be attributed to Logan’s trending content — 16% more creators and 13% more uploads in those two months via the prior two months.

Pokémon though is already popular on YouTube —1.7 billion views for content uploaded between October and February this year — so Logan added to the interest versus reshaping its trajectory.

The attention Logan drove to Pokémon has had a much different ripple effect off of YouTube. 

Listings of Pokémon items on eBay.com showed a clear upward trend that coincides with Logan’s video upload dates on YouTube. Pokémon listings have increased 127% between the periods of August-September 2020 (before Logan jumped into the trade) and January-February 2021, driven by 84% more sellers listing Pokémon items on the e-commerce platform. Total sales are up 249%, helped in part by a 68% increase in the average selling price between the two time periods. 

If the Pokémon sales volume of January-February 2021 keeps pace for the remainder of the year, there will be $760 million of sales on eBay.com. That’s a huge resale market. 

I worked at eBay in the mid-2000s before Amazon’s Prime membership program became the way the majority of e-commerce buyers made their purchases. The eBay brand marketing team had a term to describe the euphoric feeling one would get when they were the highest bidder in the auction: win-dorphins. 

I saw the excitement on Logan’s face when he won the auction on Heritage Auctions, and again when he pulled the Charizard card from the pack. 

Whatnot is a new startup in the U.S. market that is tapping into the power of connecting live video with the auction e-commerce format. Their sales volume of Pokémon and Funko Pop collectibles has skyrocketed in the past year, and they have now raised roughly $25 million to fuel their growth. 

The founder of Whatnot is an ex-YouTube colleague who understands the power of video, and also understands the importance of creators to the ecosystem. They have come to the market at the right time. 

The bigger market on eBay.com is the resale of Topps sports trading cards. That’s the item Vaynerchuk mentioned to Logan in the initial text chat. 

In the first two months of 2021, 136,000 sellers sold nearly 3 million Topps items on eBay.com for $191 million in total sales volume. 

Across just Topps and Pokémon items on eBay.com, over a quarter million sellers are on pace to list nearly $9.5 billion of goods in 2021, and clear nearly $2 billion in closed sales. 

How many of these sellers would love to engage their buyer community with live video, and what does video do to their branding, community development, and ultimate closing price of the items they are selling? 

I have seen a lot of commentary in the last year about the $130 billion live video e-commerce market in China, and how it is bound to come to the U.S. market. What has been lacking to some extent is the seller base to operate the live streams. 

One of the most innovative power sellers on eBay over 15 years ago was a young entrepreneur in Hong Kong who sold cameras. I remember going to meet him at one of his three offices, and receiving an overview of his buyer experience. It was of little surprise to me years later when I was working at YouTube to see the same entrepreneur as a leading creator with a top photography channel on the platform.

Could the seller base on eBay be a major driver of live video e-commerce in the U.S. market in 2021 and beyond? They already understand community building, and have the mechanics in place to supply and deliver physical products. Whatnot’s growth trajectory appears to be an early validation of this evolution. Logan Paul and creators on YouTube like him are good amplifiers of the e-commerce activity with their entertainment programming. The two communities — eBay and YouTube — could do well coming together.