Get to Know Charlie Hurlocker, Pokémon TCG Expert and CGC Trading Cards Senior Consultant

Posted on 7/6/2020

From mastering the playground hustle to assembling a complete English Trophy Card set, Charlie Hurlocker shares his experiences as a collector and his love for the hobby.

Charlie Hurlocker

CGC Trading Cards is thrilled to announce that Pokémon expert Charlie Hurlocker has signed on as a Senior Consultant! His encyclopedic knowledge of Pokémon cards, including subject matter, rarity, franchise-specific features and peculiarities, is perhaps second to none. Read on for a Q&A with Charlie, and find out how he got started, what inspires him and how he sees the future of trading card collecting.

How did you become interested in trading cards?

Even as a small child, I was always in love with trading cards, and when it came to collecting, I had an advantage: Most kids liked the lottery thrill of opening booster packs, but shortly after opening the packs, their interest levels waned dramatically. This presented me with an opportunity to leverage trades and build a bigger collection with limited resources.

I’ve always felt the fun is in curating a collection — in finding new pieces and creating a narrative with them that gives a viewer a reason to be excited. When I was a child, this looked more like monopolizing the kitchen table or living room floor with pride.

How did you become a professional in the trading cards industry?

The idea of an after-market professional is relatively new. You have had people in marketing, research and development, design, etc. for as long as the cards have been around. But it is only in recent years that non-sports trading cards have had the multi-billion-dollar market cap necessary to start attracting attention to those succeeding in reselling, appraising and documenting non-sports cards.

At some point before I finished my undergraduate degree, I realized that I was doing better and having more fun with my work in the trading cards market than with my studies. Even before then, I was well-known in the few high-end collecting circles that existed. After college, I franchised Ludkins Collectables to the United States. That is when I became a professional in the literal sense. However, my expertise began to develop and make itself known prior to the industry supporting a Pokémon TCG-exclusive independent expert as a profession.

How long have you worked / been involved in the trading cards industry?

I was hustling the playground trade game in the early 2000s. I started buying collections for the express purpose of reselling them in roughly 2009. In 2012, I started targeting high-end cards and actively documenting the landscape of the hobby as a whole.

What is your area of expertise?

I am an expert in Pokémon TCG with an emphasis on English cards and rare promotional releases.

What is your favorite card?

The 2000 Black Star 41 Lucky Stadium promotional card released in 2001 for the opening of the New York Pokémon Center is my favorite card. It is hard not to fall in love with this card. It features the two most iconic Pokémon in the entire franchise together, which is rare. The card itself has a very limited print run. Also, it shares identical packaging with a substantially less desirable promo from the same release, making it something of a “hidden gem.”

The Black Star 41 Lucky Stadium card from the New York Pokémon Center Opening.
Click image to enlarge.

The New York Pokémon Center was massively important to the early history of the game in America, and this card features the gorgeous logo of the NYPC prominently with the New York cityscape in the background. It is rare for cards to feature physical locations from the real world. And if all of that wasn’t enough: It is illustrated by someone who unironically refers to themself as “Big Mama.” You literally could not ask for more in a card.

What / who inspires you?

When I was a kid, my collection was stolen at church by another kid named Eric. I can’t help but think that he triggered something primal in me, and I’ve been pursuing the biggest, best and most comprehensive collection in the world ever since just to get back at him. 

But more seriously… My father inspires me to do what I do, but with goodness. Every museum curator, library collection manager or other enthusiast with a passion for documenting and sharing the little slice of the world that brings them joy inspires me to do what I do, but with thoroughness. The continual inclusion of new generations of card collectors inspires me to do what I do, but with a heart for community.

I draw my inspiration from the people and contexts out of whom good things are born for my local community, my hobby community, and the ever-expanding world of trading card collecting. I am driven by the pursuit of knowledge generally and the pursuit of what it means to be human specifically. 

I see collecting as a fundamental human task. We use collecting as an expression of what we find beautiful and important. We curate the world around us to make it more pleasant for ourselves. And we share the art, communities, excitement, gains, losses and insatiable drive freely with others who are like-minded.

What it means to be human is a question any number of people could spend 1,000 lifetimes trying to answer. But I know through my involvement in the hobby that whatever it means, these feelings, moments and experiences carve nature at its joints. 

What is your biggest achievement as a trading cards collector?

It’s hard to nail down a specific metric for success in collecting. I have a lot of pieces that I hold dear. I have one of the world’s most comprehensive English Pokémon card collections. Within that, I have an extensive signed card collection. I am one of only two collectors known to have a complete English Trophy Card set with an example of 1st-4th in both the 2004-2013 art and the 2014-present art. I am also proud of many of my early advertising pieces. They fill out the history of the cards as they pertain to culture beautifully.

Charlie's 2016 #1 Trainer from the English Trophy Card set.
Click image to enlarge.

What is your role at CGC Trading Cards?

I am there to work on anything and everything related to Pokémon TCG. For example, I provide subject matter expertise to make sure all Pokémon cards, including rare variants and foreign languages, are properly described. I also work with the graders on the grading standards to make sure that CGC Trading Cards’ assessments of Pokémon cards are as thorough as possible, accounting for franchise-specific features and peculiarities. CGC Trading Cards is an awesome and open team, so there are lots of opportunities to contribute to other projects as well, as they come through!

Why should players and collectors be interested in third-party certification?

Third-party certification isn’t just about getting an additional opinion for yourself. Making professional authentication and grading an industry standard creates a better environment for collectors at all levels. It creates an environment that is much more difficult for scammers. It also gives a more complete vision of the relative rarity of certain cards and certain conditions.

We can then use the insights generated from mass adoption of third-party certification to understand who is collecting, how they’re collecting, when they’re collecting and more from the population reports generated. There is also a better long-term preservation of the pieces that come up in the hobby.

The universal accessibility of the services creates a more even playing field where small collectors, new collectors and other previously vulnerable populations within the collecting world can take advantage of the full market potential of their cards without worrying about misidentifying cards, under-valuing pieces or being given a bad deal by less reputable dealers. Third-party certification creates a playing field where everyone wins.

How is the advent of CGC Trading Cards going to serve / benefit the hobby?

I’m excited to assist in the creation of a certification product line built around non-sports trading cards. Anyone who has been involved in the current grading landscape for some time understands that there are a thousand ways in which companies that build their products around sports cards miss the mark with TCGs. CGC Trading Cards is capitalizing on a chance to meet the TCG market where it is and to provide tailored services with real TCG professionals behind the wheel.

The hobby deserves to be treated with respect. CGC Trading Cards offers a chance to have everything collectors have always said they wanted in a grading experience on the small scale while also offering the support of a large, trusted name in the broader collectibles world to legitimize and advance the hobby on a large scale. I am embracing that opportunity, and I think everyone who does will find their hobby experience more enjoyable for it.

How would you describe the current trading cards culture?

Trading cards is multicultural, but it’s largely centered around either what you’re chasing or how you’re chasing it. There are people who find a deep sense of camaraderie in mutually pursuing a select set of cards or class of cards. But there are also people who are less interested in adopting such a specific pursuit and find friends in others who attend certain events, frequent certain stores or partake in different online groups. The hobby gives you only as much as you want to put into it.

The number one product in Pokémon is the checklane blister where kids ages 3-99 might grab a pack on a whim. The majority of people have not yet gone deeper than that. But at any point, that purchase could become a habit. And that habit could lead them to any number of deep pools of community built on different online platforms or in various physical locations. That variety is what keeps the personal journey alive in Pokémon and creates a culture of mutual interest without uniform experience.

What advice do you have to someone who may be starting to collect trading cards?

Think first, buy later. With tens of thousands of options constantly available, impulse is your worst enemy. Take the time to find what you love the most in the hobby and commit yourself to completing goals. You’ll avoid burnout in the short run, and you’ll have a more valuable collection and experience in the long run.

How do you see the future of trading card collecting?

Trading cards have immense room to grow. There are untapped areas of collecting and markets that are still in their infancy. Each year, new collector-centric opportunities are appearing for the first time ever. I’ve seen more new people every year since 2011 than the year before, and we are beginning to see the first rounds of multi-generational interest within families.

As the hobby establishes itself through the experiences and investments of more and more people, it roots itself deeper into the broader global culture. We have only finished the earliest chapters in the book of trading cards collecting.

***

CGC Trading Cards provides expert and impartial authentication, grading and encapsulation services for virtually all Pokémon TCG and Magic: The Gathering cards. Its graders use a highly accurate, industry-standard 10-point grading scale and evaluate cards using advanced equipment, including devices that perform ultra-microscopic inspections and precisely calculate centering. After cards have been authenticated and graded, they are encapsulated in the CGC Trading Cards holder, which combines crystal-clear optics and advanced archival materials for the best in display and protection. Learn more at CGCcards.com


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