Many people know that English Pikachu Trophy Cards are given to people who place in the top four of the Pokemon World Championships. Others may even know that these often end up in the hands of collectors who have established relationships over time with players and staff. But what is the full journey? What is point A? Point B?
Trophy cards are delivered to the event separately from the trophies. Each year, a specific person is tasked with delivering the cards to the proper staff. Most of this information is not shared with the public to maintain confidence and security but we do know that the Pikachu trophy cards themselves are treated separately from the rest of the event-specific promotional cards. This is likely due, at least in part, to the extra stamp present on the annual promos.
Once at Worlds, the trophy cards are either put on display or kept behind staff lines. This most recent year, 2017, the cards remained behind staff lines. As you can see from these photos taken at the 2014 Pokemon World Championships, this is not always the case. Some years, collectors and competitors are lucky enough to see the cards on display early.
When the finals kick in, the excitement really begins. Typically, there are two waves of “distribution.” Third place and fourth place winners are not included in the closing ceremony. As such, they are given their prizes as soon as their placement is decided. First place and second place must finish their final match and participate in the closing ceremony before they are granted their prizes. Aside from the ceremonial differences, all finishers 1st through 4th place go through the same journey. First, they are carted off behind the scenes. Behind the scenes, they are congratulated by an assortment of VIPs/Staff, interviewed by interested, licensed media outlets, and then given their large Pikachu physical trophy. Accompanied by friends, family, or other close company, the participant is then directed to the edge of the main staff area. This year, the area was located in the center of the convention floor and marked off with crowd tamers.
The recipient is then walked through their winnings piece by piece. Typically, this includes a bag to hold it all in, assorted merchandise, a small plastic case or deck box with their stamped annual promos, and the trophy card designated for the competitor of their final placing. These are carefully presented in an "authorized personnel only" zone in order to keep away unwanted attention. This also provides the winner with additional safety as they’ve just been given many thousands of dollars in prizes.
Here is where people may begin to be surprised. Trophy cards are not in satin-laced boxes with gemstones adorning the exterior. There is no fantastic lock and key or thumbprint-activated clasp. The presentation of a trophy card looks like this:
Inside, an acrylic case holds a sometimes-sleeved trophy card. The humble presentation requires no additional fanfare. The excitement of the card is all that meets you. And that can be a great deal of excitement, indeed. You can view all four artworks for the modern, full art Pikachu trophy cards HERE.
In my opinion, this is a gift. While the cards are often not handled with as much care as perhaps they ought to be on the Pokemon company/event staff side of things, the quaint presentation doesn’t lose the card in the midst of the event-driven smoke and mirrors. When a winner opens his or her bag, he or she meets only the simple trophy. At the end of the day, these cards will serve as memories of great accomplishments. No special case or presentation could change the simple reality of a game won. Trophy cards are, at their core, fragments of the history of the game we all love to play.
‘til next time,