24 Sept 2022

‘Pokemon professor’ who makes £100K trading cards and boasts £20K personal hoard prepares for UK’s first Pokemon World Championships

‘Pokemon professor’ who makes £100K trading cards and boasts £20K personal hoard prepares for UK’s first Pokemon World Championships

A superfan dubbed the ‘Pokemon professor’ who makes £100K a year trading cards across the world and boasts a personal collection worth  £20K is preparing for the UK’s first ever Pokemon World Championships this week.

A childhood fan from the age of 10, Stephen L. Kent, 32, says his obsession took over his life in 2016, when the augmented reality mobile game Pokemon Go launched, allowing players to hunt down the Japanese fictional characters in the real world.

Then a magazine editor,  he started competing in championships where players fight “battles” using Pokemon cards, qualified as a Pokemon Professor – an expert for his region – and quit his job to set up his own business, buying and selling rare and collectible cards on eBay in 2017.

Now making a living from his passion, Stephen, of Eastbourne, East Sussex, is preparing for the UK’s first ever Pokemon World Championships that begins on 18 August, saying: “The younger version of me would not believe what I am doing right now.

“Pokemon means everything to me and to be involved in something that is so popular that I can make it my living is amazing.

“I can still do my nerdy thing, playing card games with friends, but I also get to be a professor and teach and pass on my knowledge, as well as going around and selling Pokemon cards to make a living.”

With a personal collection of around 2,000 cards worth up to £20K in total, that has been checked by card grading service PSA, Stephen admitted Pokemon has taken over his life.

He said: “In terms of just my personal collection, I have around 2,000 cards – but because of my business, I probably have about 20,000 random cards.

“My personal graded cards, which are authenticated by PSA, are kept protected in plastic cases and are worth the most.”

He added: “They are pressed through pieces of plastic to protect them from harm.”

The card he likes most is also his most valuable one.

He said: “My favourite card is the Charizard signed by the original artist from the original set that came out in 1999 which is theoretically worth around $3K (£2.5K). I got the card in 2019 through a trade and it’s my rarest and most expensive card.”

Stephen’s two bedroom flat, where he lives alone, is also full of Pokemon merchandise.

He said: “I have Pokemon jar for my tea bags in the kitchen and rubber spatulas with Pikachu on and even Pikachu bubble bath in the bathroom.

“I also have round 30 plushie Pokemon characters, probably worth between £200-£300 which I keep in the living room.”

And he wears his love of the cards on his sleeve – literally.

He said: “I have probably got around 20 Pokemon T-shirts and jumpers which I wear 90 per cent of the time.”

Stephen’s love of Pokemon first began when he was 10 years old, growing up in Eastbourne.

He said: “I remember the first ever episode of the Pokemon anime being broadcast on in the UK in 1999 and I was immediately hooked.

“Pikachu was in the first episode which is why he became my favourite character.

“It was so different from any other British or American cartoon I had ever watched and I loved the wonder and joy of meeting 151 different characters, each with their own unique personality.”

For the next few years, Stephen became “obsessed” and without knowing it, kickstarted his collection.

He said: “I wanted to have everything. I would spend every weekend in the only two gaming stores in town that sold the cards.

“I remember my mum, Silvia, buying me the original Pikachu plushie 20 years ago, which I still have now.”

While Stephen’s Pokemon collecting lessened during his later school years, he always stayed up to date with the latest games.

Then in 2016, after moving back home from University of East London, where he studied sports journalism and started work for his family business on an in-house self-help holistic magazine, Stephen became obsessed with the reality mobile game, Pokemon Go.

He said: “It was absolutely insane.”

He added: “I was out most evenings on Eastbourne seafront, driving up and down with friends to find the different ‘Pokey’ stops and catch the Pokemon.

“We would have battles against the different teams to try and gain control of the different focal points on the map.

“It was amazing rediscovering the joy of Pokémon for the second time, like a rebirthing. ”

Keen to share his expertise, Stephen set up a Pokemon club in Eastbourne with a weekly trading league and lessons to pass on his tricks of the trade – such as teaching the kids how to play, spotting a fake or knowing how rare a card is.

He said: “I had this built-in knowledge from growing up, so I started to pass on that knowledge and start organising trading card game events.”

Qualifying as a ‘Pokemon Professor’ with an online test, Stephen began to compete at trading competitions across the globe.

He said: “I went straight in the deep end, by going to the European International Championships at the Excel Centre in London in December 2016.
I did terribly because I was a new player, but it was just amazing.

“I started travelling to most of the major European tournaments in 2017, competing in London, the Netherlands, Germany and Lille in France.”

He added: “I also competed at the World Championships in Nashville, USA, in 2018.

“I have visited around 20 countries now through Pokemon in the last five years, including Brazil, Australia and Canada.”

Realising his heart was entirely in Pokemon, Stephen quit his magazine job and founded PlaySkape Games, an online eBay store in 2017, specialising in buying and selling rare and collectible Pokemon cards.

He said: “I saw an opportunity to help collectors look for the higher-end, rarer cards and started buying and selling.

“It’s amazing my hobby is now how I make a living.”

For now, Stephen’s focus is firmly on the championships at the Excel Centre in London this week, where 1000’s of players will be competing over four days for a first prize of $25,000 (£20,671) as well as rare promo cards.

“I have been practising three to four hours a day with teammates or online, to make sure I am ready,” he said.

“Most recently, I was ranked 33rd Pokemon player in the whole of Europe, against  thousands of players.

“I would like to finish in the top 32 in these championships, as that would give me a guaranteed $1,500 which is around £1,240.”

Looking ahead, Stephen would also one day love to set up his very own Pokemon store to share his passion further.

He said: “It would be amazing to create a space for people to come in and browse Pokemon cards as well as play in tournaments together too.

“The dream could even be a chain of stores.”

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