MAPLETON, Utah – As the Pokemon trading card game was enjoying a resurgence over the last year and change, Matt Kiser noticed more and more viral posts of social media influencers dropping huge stacks of cash on first edition cards.
Kiser made note of one post in particular by Logan Paul, in which the widely popular Vine and YouTube superstar boasted of spending $200,000 on a base edition box from the late 1990s. While the price tag was eye-catching, the product itself was also quite striking. It seemed so familiar, Kiser recalls thinking.
“I looked at it and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I swear, Dad had at least one of those, if not multiple in his collection,’” he remembers.
Kiser ran to the garage of his parents’ home in Mapleton, where his late father had stored multiple duffel bags full of Pokemon cards and memorabilia he had collected during his children’s younger days. Sifting through the bags, Kiser found not just one, but several first edition Pokemon trading card box sets. Excitedly, he sent a picture of his discovery in the family group chat, with a link to Paul’s Instagram post.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” his brother, Kendall, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri, replied.
Growing up in Rexburg, Idaho, the Kiser family patriarch, Bart, was known as the “Rad Dad,” both a reflection of his career as a radiologist and his passion for connecting and bonding with his family. Speaking to KTVX, along with their mother, Susan, both Kendall and Matt gushed over how much their dad, who died in a skiing accident three years ago, took an interest in their passions, no matter how silly they may have seemed to an adult.
“He was a dad, first and foremost,” Matt explained. “He found a lot of joy in things because we found joy in it, you know? He would get excited because we were excited.”
The Pokemon phenomenon, which caught the United States by storm near the end of the millennium, was a perfect example of that.
The Kiser brothers recalled their old man taking an interest in the pocket monsters – Pokemon, for short – after seeing Kendall’s excitement while looking through his cousin’s card collection at a family reunion. The thrill of seeing a Vaporeon, the water-based evolution of Eevee, a small, dog-like character, really revved 8- or 9-year-old Kendall’s engine, who excitedly showed it to his dad with the kind of enthusiasm only a child could have.
“That might have been the time that we were probably both introduced to it,” Kendall says. “I’m sure I was excited about it and I’m sure that my dad caught on to that excitement.”
After seeing Kendall react to the Japanese-created fictional creatures, Bart knew he had stumbled onto something big.
And the obsession began.
“He made sure he got like one of everything, if not multiple,” Matt says of his father’s dive into the world of Pokemon. “He got toys, he got cards, he got boxes, he got random collectibles like posters and calendars, comics, anything.”
Some of his collection he shared with his four kids, including on one memorable Christmas Day in 1999 that was entirely Pokemon-themed and documented in a home movie. Other stuff was cataloged with deliberate note-taking and stored safely away, out of a child’s reach, with the hope that it could grow into a sizable investment. For a while, the collection was mostly out of mind for the Kiser family, until the recent uptick in interest – thanks to influencers like Paul, as well as a collective boon across all trading cards – reminded Matt of the bags in the garage.
After the family went through the entire collection of thousands of cards, many of which were in sealed, unopened boxes, they realized they had something substantial on their hands. Heritage Auctions, one of the world’s leading collectible auction houses, agreed. The company, which will be hosting the auction for the “Rad Dad Collection,” is estimating that the value of the unsealed boxes and individual cards that Kiser gathered over the years will reach $3 million when the bidding goes live this weekend.
“This is by far one of the most extraordinary collections I’ve ever seen and one of the most extraordinary families I’ve ever seen,” Joe Maddelena, executive vice president at Heritage Auctions explained. “The Kisers are a loving family and Bart’s delight at sharing the Pokemon experience with his children is evident in just how far he went to build this epic collection – the ‘Rad Dad Collection.’”
One of the rarest items in the collection, a Japanese Base Set Sealed Booster Box from 1996, which is a 60-pack, English version set that was exclusively released in Asia two years before Pokemon mania hit the United States, has an estimated value of $40,000.
Nearly all of the box sets that Kiser preserved over the years are in mint condition, in the original shrink wrap, with the exception of one box that Matt snuck into as a little kid.
“I was the biggest troublemaker,” Matt laughs. “One time I was like, ‘I can’t stand it anymore! I want one of these brand-new packs.’ And so I remember climbing up and opening up the gym bag. I remember ripping it open just a little bit and taking out one of the packs.”
Sure enough, when the Kisers were sorting out the findings of their once forgotten treasure, they found one Japanese Fossil Set Booster Box — which can go for $15,000 if sealed — slightly opened, with one pack missing.
While the family is just days away from receiving life-changing money in exchange for a few pounds of 20-year-old cardboard, thoughts aren’t with the dollar signs and zeros headed their way. They’re thinking a lot of their late father, and the love he showed them by embracing his children’s interests. Items such as Bart’s handwritten notes on Pokemon, describing which ones he liked or found interesting, along with the kids’ own personal card collections, are staying with the family.
Matt is imagining his dad, who was teased on occasion about being an adult Pokemon fanatic, smirking about how his vision of a future investment has come to fruition.
“I think he’s very happy that the money will give us potentially more liberty, and that the boxes that people buy will bring them joy,” he says. “I think he’s happy to see that we’re happy and I think maybe a little bit of him will be like ‘That’s right, I told you so.’”
Whatever the take home for the collection turns out to be, Kendall says his dad would probably just be “pleased,” rather than vindicated.
“I mean the collection is only worth what people will choose to pay for it. Whether it’s worth a million dollars or whether it’s worthless, it’s whatever people value it for and … we’re going to be happy with that regardless of what it is.”
Having once chastised her husband for gathering so much Pokemon stuff, Susan feels that the auction will be emblematic of who he was as a person with their children and with everyone he came across.
“He loved his children, and he loved making them happy,” she recalls fondly. “During our Pokemon Christmas when the kids got so many Pokemon things, there was a smile on his face. If there was anything that Bart wanted, it was to make a child or an adult happy.”