By Brian Johnsrud
Parents, brothers, sisters, be watchful of something perilous, something enticing, something contaminating most younger children. What am I talking about? Pokemon. These trading cards have been thrown into a whirlwind of criticism ever since Alex Silverman and Andrew Imber, two 9-year-olds, filed a law suit against Nintendo of America, Wizards of the Coast, and 4Kids Entertainment for being involved in an illegal gambling enterprise.
So, what is the big deal about trading cards of these popular characters?
Pokemon started as a Nintendo Game boy cartridge, then erupted into a popular TV series and a game-card enterprise. The reason these pocket monster cards are forcing their way into popularity is simple, the chance of profit. Nintendo, the card makers, occasionally throw a rare card, valuing from $30 to $100, into 11-card decks that sell for $3 to $11. The idea of paying out a certain amount of money to have the chance to win more is considered gambling, and thats what these two families are basing their case on.
You pay to play ... there is the element of chance, and youve got a prize, said Neil Morritt, one of the kids lawyers, Its gambling.
The suit charges that these entertainment titans violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, normally used against suspected mobsters. When asked why he enjoys collecting these so much, Eric Lowe mentioned the $70 he made selling cards at a flea market.
Many adults and collectors are ignoring the uproar made by the lawsuit. They say putting valuable cards in random packs has been going on for nearly 15 years in sports card packs. The Upper Deck Company rekindled the routine in the early 90s by randomly putting limited edition autographed Reggie Jackson cards inside some decks. Many lawyers also see the similarity, which is why there are at least nine similar suits against various sports card companies.
Not only are these Pokemon entrepreneurs emptying piggy banks, these cards also are affecting their demeanor at school. Two Atlanta elementary schools are having Pokemon pat-downs, telling kids to leave them at home. Many teachers say these cards are stopping students from concentrating on school work.
People are stealing them and trading them, said Alex. Intense trading negotiations for rare Poke-mon cards has resulted in playground violence in many schools.
While many lawyers and law firms are calling this case frivolous, stopping the production of more cards will likely increase the value of the existing ones, or kids will simply find other ways to spend their money.