This Pokémon YouTuber is giving away some of his coolest cards for free to kids


There are countless ways to play Pokémon, the hugely popular Japanese franchise that follows pocket-sized monsters across trading cards, video games, and movies and TV.

But the main mission of Pokémon, no matter how you play, is best summed up by its English slogan: “Gotta catch ’em all!”

…unless you give them all away, of course.

That’s the strategy of Ross “Coop” Cooper, a prolific Pokémon card collector from Virginia who goes to card conventions across the Mid-Atlantic and gives away much of his extensive collection for free to fans of all ages.

“At the end of the day, we all have a hobby that we really enjoy,” he told CNN. “I know the experience is worth more than a few dollars in my pocket.”

Coop, who runs the YouTube channel Coop’s Collection, films his interactions at card fairs, capturing the genuine surprise and joy children and adults experience when he hands them a card.

Here’s how it goes: When someone walks up to his booth, Coop asks them about their favorite Pokémon. Often, he’ll pull out his binder of cards he’s been setting aside to give away, find the perfect card, and send it home for free. But if he’s out of favorite characters, he’ll give them an unopened booster pack and let them keep what’s inside.

Sometimes he even opens his box of Pokémon cards he wants to sell, some of which can fetch over $100, when a child or adult gets excited about a card inside. The recipient is often so shocked by the free card that they don’t know how to react.

Adults often try to pay Coop when he tries to give them something without any compensation. But to Coop, they are just “kids at heart” and a small but meaningful act of kindness can go a long way for any Poké-fan.

Pokémon isn’t Coop’s day job, but it has become an increasingly important part of his life.

Coop, like many kids from the 90s, was a Poké-fan growing up, collecting cards and battling bosses in early Pokémon video games. But when he got to high school, he gave up the hobby.

It wasn’t until 2018, when his YouTube algorithm fed him a video of a popular user opening a new deck of Pokémon cards that his love for the Japanese trading card game was rekindled. But Pokémon was no longer the humble hobby of his ‘90s youth. There were countless new Pokémon varieties and collections to discover, and the franchise had skyrocketed in popularity since the card game debuted in 1996 –– according to the Pokémon Company, more than 64.8 billion cards have been produced and they’ve been sold in over 93 countries.

As an adult fan, Coop started out opening cards by himself at his kitchen table, but to share the joy with other fans, he began filming his finds for his YouTube channel. It took more than five years for him to reach 1,000 followers, he said –– until one of his short videos, taken from a longer POV video filmed at a card trading convention earlier this year, went viral.

In it, he meets a kid who overpaid for a Charizard card at another vendor’s stall. Now that he’s spent all his money, the kid is probably done buying cards for the day. But he’s charmed by one of Coop’s cards, which features an iridescent Alakazam, a mustached psychic Pokémon, and a high score of 9. It’s a card Coop wanted to sell, but without thinking twice, Coop opens his display case and gives the card to the kid for free.

“It goes well with your Steelix,” Coop says with a smile. (Steelix, a metallic snake-like Pokémon that evolved from the rock-like Pokémon Onix, is Coop’s favorite.)

That video has since been viewed 16 million times. Now, with over 165,000 followers, kids who saw that April video recognize Coop when they see his booth at card conventions. One of his young fans (and regulars) even gave it a gift –– a colored picture of Charizard, Blastoise and Venusaur.

Coop still sells cards on eBay and at card fairs—he’s built up a massive collection since 2018, and he’s submitted countless cards for grading. (Graded cards are submitted to professional card graders who assess the condition and rarity of the card, then send it back to him sealed to preserve quality, with a grade between 1 and 10, the highest value.) But he cares less about making money at the fairs than he does about brightening a child’s day and helping them grow their collection.

Thanks to Coop’s Collection

Coop says he would be happy to reduce his own collection if it would brighten the day of his fellow fans.

In one particularly sweet clip, Coop meets a young girl who shyly confesses that she’s a fan of Eevee, a popular Pokémon that looks like a cross between a rabbit and a cat. Coop can’t find an Eevee for her, so he gives her a gold graded Pickachu card. The girl’s eyes widen –– it’s her first graded card, she says –– and she becomes so overwhelmed that she has to quickly turn around to collect herself.

Graded cards can fetch a higher sum from card sellers, because their quality has been assessed by a professional. That didn’t bother Coop.

“It brings me a lot of joy too,” he said. “It’s not hard at all to give things away.”

That wasn’t always a popular mindset in the Pokémon card collecting community, Coop said. With the advent of Covid-19, many former fans returned to the hobby in search of “comfort and nostalgia,” causing prices of collectibles and cards to “skyrocket.” It was disappointing to see how many sellers “came out of nowhere” to make a quick buck on the stuff and exploit customers in the process, he said.

But the mood has since shifted more toward generosity and celebration, he said. At the card conventions he attends, which feature cards from Pokémon, “Yu-Gi-Oh!” and “Dragon Ball Super,” he’s noticed fans are much more supportive of each other and growing their collections. He’s also seen other YouTubers and retailers give away free cards to eager young fans.

And because it doesn’t cost him that much to give out that many cards—he can make a few hundred dollars at conventions—he’ll keep doing it, even if he opens his display case and gives away some of those more valuable cards, too.

Coop remembers a boy who wanted to trade cards with him and who had trouble choosing between two graded cards. Coop couldn’t resist and the boy ended up getting two for one.

“This kid is only doing it because he loves Pokémon, he loves the art of cards,” he said. “Who am I to not let him have both?”

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