Charizard Millionare Fiasco Turns Ugly As Pokémon Critics Get Attacked

Charizard Millionare Fiasco Turns Ugly As Pokémon Critics Get Attacked
Screenshot: Nintendo

In late July, Pokémon card collector Gary Haase drew the ire of fans who believed he was disrespectful to Mitsuhiro Arita, the artist who drew the iconic Charizard that has made Haase rich.

While the clip was old, some gave the Charizard Millionaire, who reportedly owns more than 100 of those highly-coveted base cards, the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps, some argued, Haase’s remarks about wanting to erase Arita’s signature from a card weren’t meant as a diss. Haase, the thinking went, was just being frank about the harsh realities of card collecting, where value is derived from a card’s condition, not from autographs or signatures. But since the controversy has unfolded, rather than clarifying his stance or reiterating his respect for Arita’s work, Haase is using his audience to harass and silence critics who suggest he is only in it for the money.

Hasse, it should be noted, has repeatedly referred to himself as “Pokérich.” His self-appointed public persona as “King Pokémon” creates a sense of opulence, which is backed up by footage where he admits he’s sold some of his cards. That indulgent image stands in stark contrast to the narrative that he is unconcerned with money.

Haase did not respond to a request for comment. But proof of the harassment campaigns levied at his most vocal critics have been documented at length in a 48-minute video by YouTuber and TGC personality Frosted Caribou. Earlier in June, Caribou posted a Twitter thread about Haase that, while critical, also explained why the community was in an uproar.

In the original thread, she points out that Haase himself should know the value and significance of a signature, because he’s built a career around autographs. Once, for example, Haase attended an event where he sat on a throne, encouraging people to get his signature as King Pokémon. Adding fuel to the fire, Haase has made such a big deal about his own John Hancock that it’s been immortalised in the trading card game itself. There’s a special Pokémon card that you can collect that outlines a special rule. If you have the card and it happens to be signed by Haase, the rule stipulates, the card cannot be defeated in play.

While obviously meant more for fun than serious competitive play, the point Caribou makes in the video is that Haase himself regularly poses his own signature as something valuable and worth having. And as a long-time member of the same community that he’s encouraged to collect his signature, she says, he should understand why some find the idea of erasing a signature offensive. Rather than acknowledging the importance of Arita’s work, she argues in the video, Haase appears more concerned about how it might affect the money he makes from the card. For some, it’s especially bewildering because the man owns dozens of valuable Charizard cards, so it’s not like the signature has ruined his bottom line. In this context, hearing Haase call the signature “worthless” comes off poorly.

Caribou declined to comment to Kotaku, noting that the video speaks for itself. In it, she talks about how Haase’s attitudes reflect on the entirety of the scene. Haase is, after all, one of the most visible card collectors in the proverbial game. And he keeps making videos where he flaunts his money, sometimes making a show of just how many stacks of 100s he’s gotten for selling his collection.

The market and demand for the cards has of course benefited the hobby, at least in terms of visibility. But the cost of that visibility is that it’s created a frenzy around the entire scene, which has become awful for nearly everyone involved, except for maybe the scalpers.

Stores now get overrun by jerks who sometimes go too far, causing some retailers to stop selling Pokémon cards out of fear for their employees. Other times, the cops have to get involved. The graders who appoint values, meanwhile, aren’t just being overwhelmed with requests, they’re also getting attacked by people who want to make money. Kids, who are Pokémon’s primary audience, can’t get their hands on decks.

Actual players tell Kotaku that they now have to shell out $30 to $55 for singles necessary for competition.

There is room for all of these different entities interested in the cards, whether they are collectors, players, or casual Pokémon fans. The problem, as explained to Kotaku by community members, is not that people want to make money. It’s that, thanks to folks like Haase, the monetary aspect has started overriding everything else, often at the hobby’s expense.

Getting the most visible influencer in the scene to vocally express support for the artists might encourage at least some folks to see the cards as more than just a way to get rich. Failing that, Frosted Caribou suggests in her video, those who want to invest in Pokémon cards should at the very least show respect for the people who make the products that Haase has turned into a career. The optics, more than ever, matter to the community.

And right now, for Haase, the optics are shitty. Much of what’s been described so far is subjective; you may or may not agree that he has a responsibility to the hobby. What’s less defensible is that, since Caribou posted her thread, Haase has taken to social media to disparage her based on things that have nothing to do with Pokémon cards. While screenshots featured in the video show Haase asking folks to back off from piling on Caribou, it’ll come with snide comments about her mental health. Alongside all of this, Haase has been faving and resharing posts that go after Caribou’s looks, or that claim she is just doing this for attention. The followers run with that, sometimes repeating the same language used by Hasse.

The Pokémon Company declined to comment.

The video shows that, at one point, Haase seemed to relent, asking her if there was a way for them to set their issues aside for the greater good of the hobby. Per screenshots in the video, Frosted Caribou said yes, only to have Haase continue his crusade against her on broadcasts and comments. Attempts to talk about this, Caribou says in the video, often get derailed by Haase. As he tells it in the video, Caribou’s fans are also going after him. Caribou denies this and even goes to great lengths in the video to explain all the different ways she has attempted to squash the drama to no avail. The video is unlisted and demonetised, because she doesn’t want to risk added attention potentially making a bigger mess than what’s already there.

The list of allegations outlined in the video are long, sometimes referring to now-deleted posts. Following some of the criticism, the video shows how Hasse attempted to re-contextualise his 2020 remarks about the “worthless” signature.

In a clip, he says that his quandary was with the size and placement of Arita’s name. He presents the autograph as a thing so unwieldy that it detracts from the artwork, suggesting that perhaps it’s better for Arita to sign cards on the back. But Hasse himself has said in the past that he owns over 100 Charizard cards, of which only a few are signed. Arita’s signature is also not covering the artwork, despite what Hasse says. Taken at face value, the clarified stance sees Hasse complaining that, while he is already rich, he could have been even more rich had Arita’s pesky signature not gotten in the way.

And really, debating the finer points of what he did or did not mean are a distraction from Hasse’s actions. He disputes that it’s not about the value in some clips, only to immediately go on and focus entirely on the value of the cards in many of the social media posts featured in the lengthy video expose.

Kotaku is reporting this story because, as Caribou acknowledges in the video, Hasse is currently the face of the community. His actions have an effect on the scene as a whole, and arguably, he is the very reason Pokémon cards are in vogue right now. Everyone wants the cards Hasse owns. Mainstream coverage, meanwhile, misrepresents Hasse as a guy that’s not really in it for the money, because look at all the cards he’s hoarding. He won’t sell, write-ups say, even as celebrities beg him to part with one measly card.

Meanwhile, Hasse turns around and offers that same collection as a business venture where other people have bought stakes. He doesn’t have to sell the cards to make money off of them, it turns out. But also, Hasse has indeed sold some of his cards. Keeping some part of the wider collection, though, allows him to talk up the overall worth of his cards. These assertions are regularly featured in videos by influencers with millions of followers. And the more Hasse says it, the more it becomes true. The demand for old-school Charizard cards is proportional to the promotion of said cards.

There’s a lot of contention around what Hasse truly meant. But it doesn’t matter what he says. Look at what he does.

Comments

  • “Actual players tell Kotaku that they now have to shell out $30 to $55 for singles necessary for competition.”

    Buying very specific single cards that are available in limited supply that EVERYONE is trying to buy so they can all make the same meta decks is obviously going to drive up the cost. This isn’t anything new, childrens’ trading card games have always had this since the internet made buying singles at varying states of quality so easy.

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