You’ve probably heard all about the Pokémon card frenzy unfolding within the last few years, and the high prices that some old-school cards from the original run can command on the market. Possibly, you’ve also heard that this fervor was driven in part by influencers like Logan Paul, who have taken every opportunity to talk up their collections. But unless you’re actually in the Pokémon card community, you likely haven’t heard about Gary “King Pokémon” Haase, the 67-year-old man who owns the most expensive collection in the world. And recently, a clip of King Pokémon talking about his Charizard card set has set the community ablaze in fury.
The clip is old, hailing from a longer 2020 podcast-style YouTube video titled Inside The World’s Most Expensive $US10,000,000 ($12,826,000) Pokémon Collection. The whole thing is over an hour long, but the snippet that’s set everyone off is fairly short, with only about 40 seconds of the entire thing excerpted in snippets that jump around. In the original, the moment happens at around 0:51 minutes, when Haase pulls out his “base” Charizard collection. One of these cards, graded to be in mint condition, is in a sleeve signed by none other than Mitsuhiro Arita, an illustrator for the trading card game who drew the Charizard that is now coveted by the entire world.
This is the last straw— Bou ???? (@FrostedCaribou) July 4, 2021
I've never seen someone be so blatantly disrespectful
This person has the nerve to call themselves "King Pokémon," and is continuously idolized by this community. pic.twitter.com/W6S54ynhFk
Prior to that moment, Haase takes care in saying that, for him, collecting the cards and talking about them is an effort to elevate the entire community. But in the clip that’s since gone viral, he calls the signature of the artist “worthless” compared to the actual card.
“In this case, the signature means very little,” he begins, as the interviewees are audibly amazed by the Charizard card.
He then not only name checks Arita, but says he would never get the signature on the card — the implication being that this would somehow ruin it.
“His signature means nothing,” he continues, before stating that he’s tempted to take the signature off completely.
“Why?” one the interviewers asks, but Haase doesn’t answer, instead just continuing to express relief that the signature is on the case and not the card.
Now, depending on who you ask, Haase is already a controversial figure. For some, he’s a force for good, bringing a beloved hobby to the mainstream. When the interview originally went up, it was received well on the whole, with the top-voted comment reading, “Gary’s passion is infectious! Seems like such a genuine guy.” Other popular comments are similarly positive because, honestly, owning a collection like this really is cool.
But for others, there’s a nagging sense that Haase is in it for the money. All of this attention for the hobby has only increased the value of his cards in particular, so of course he’ll say yes to a video with Logan Paul. Some would go so far as to call it all a giant scam. As one profile for King Pokémon put it:
King Pokémon didn’t accidentally appear on a 2016 episode of Pawn Stars, offering to “sell” his entire Charizard collection for $US500,000 ($641,300). Gary Haase doesn’t just sell his damn cards like that. He was using the show for marketing, and not to market his own wares, but Pokémon itself. His appearance is the second most-viewed Pawn Stars segment of all time on YouTube.
The recent clip, of course, has done Haase’s reputation no favours, largely being interpreted as proof that he is a vulture that does not care about the hobby at all, only what he can gain from it.
But in an effort to put some respect on Narita’s name, fans aren’t just bemoaning the clip. They’re taking to social media to talk about their favourite cards illustrated by Narita in a hashtag labelled, #ThankYouMitsuhiroArita.
It’s a great showcase not only of the trading cards’ illustrations, but also the career of an extremely talented artist who often is not given credit for developing the iconic look of the original cards. It’s also a good reminder that Narita did not stop at just making those cards over twenty years ago. He’s still making awesome shit to this day!
“You should never disrespect one of the most iconic Pokémon illustrators out there!” one popular Tweet reads, before highlighting a couple of favourite cards.
“@MitsuhiroArita has created some of the most legendary and iconic artworks [in] Pokémon history,” another tweet proclaims. “Mitsuhiro Arita, thank you for everything. You are a god in this game.”
“You’re an inspiration as I’m an artist who feels like his path is never done with learning,” one artist says.
There are also a variety of positive proclamations if you search Arita’s name on social media, though all are appended with specific cards that folks adore. While the inciting event is arguably unsavoury, at least it means that Arita is getting more recognition for his work. And yes, Arita has noticed: Right now, the Japanese illustrator’s Twitter page is full of retweets from fans thanking him.
“Unlike some others, if I could have a signed card of @MitsuhiroArita I would be over the moon,” one tweet says.