Culture

Blackstone and Jay-Z invest millions in a Pokémon card grading company

West Palm Beach, USA - April 28, 2015: Product shot of an assortment of Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon trading game cards. Pokemon trading cards are produced by Nintendo.The Dragon Ball Z cards are based on the Japanese Dragon Ball animation series created by Akira Toriyama. Dragon Ball Z cards are produced by Bird Studio/Shueisha and licensed by Funimation.

$500M

Certified Collectibles Group's new valuation.

NoDerog/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images

A trading card company known for buying and grading Pokémon cards was just valued at half a billion dollars. The Blackstone Group, an investment corporation focused mostly on real estate, purchased a majority stake in Certified Collectibles Group (CCG) this week, and in the process, the grading company was valued at a jaw-dropping $500 million.

Twenty-five years after the series’ debut, the Pokémon craze has managed to reach entirely new heights. That’s especially true for Pokémon cards, which have gone from quotidian collectibles to million-dollar assets.

CCG has been around since 1987; it’s comprised of smaller companies focused on various collectible industries like sports cards, stamps, comics, and rare coins. The company estimates it’s certified more than 62 million collectibles in the last few decades, with a combined market value of close to $50 billion.

Blackstone now owns the majority of CCG, but a few other notable investors have purchased chunks of the company, too — including the likes of Roc Nation. Yes, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation now owns part of the largest Pokémon card grading company in the world.

Excitement and money — Certified Collectibles Group has rooted itself as the go-to company for Pokémon card grading — as well as Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh cards — and the company says its team is staying in place to continue that legacy. CCG is mostly excited by all the new capital it will have in its pockets to continue growing.

“We knew that Blackstone's enormous resources, expertise and experience would help propel CCG and the markets that we serve to new heights,” write CCG’s CEO and founder in an open letter. “With Blackstone's support, we will accelerate our growth by hiring and training more graders, expanding our facilities, serving new markets, developing our digital offerings and much more. These efforts will benefit our customers, employees, company and industry.”

CCG’s influx of cards has been truly remarkable. The company has received more than a million Pokémon cards since November, CEO Max Spiegel told Motherboard.

Solidifying the hype — In the last year or so, Pokémon cards have gone from nostalgia to investment at an absolutely breakneck speed. The Pokémon Company has been rushing to print more cards as quickly as humanly possible. People have taken to camping out in front of retailers, trampling each other, and even pulling out guns in the mad dash toward trading card riches. The hype’s bubbled over so much that some retailers have ceased selling cards in their stores entirely.

Blackstone’s big investment in the industry reinforces the idea that the hype isn’t going to die down any time soon. Nostalgia-bound collectibles are here to stay.

As Motherboard points out, not everyone is pleased with CCG’s big buyout. Fans across the official CCG forums worry CCG will lose its humanity by becoming part of such a money-hungry corporation. Quite a few people on the forums are calling out Blackstone’s many, many real estate investments as an example of its inhumanity.