I recently unearthed some Pokémon Action 3D cards as I was doing a spot of cleaning. These are collectible, holographic cards found in various snacks like potato chips and cheese curls circa year 2000, as part of a promotion. They were all the rage in school playgrounds and much of recess was spent discussing and trading these cards. At the sound of the bell, some of us would gather around eagerly under the shade of playground trees, and collectively open up our snacks. The distinctive rustling of the shiny packets would attract crowds as we’d proudly declare a rare, new addition or lament our luck in receiving a duplicate card. “Woohoo! I got a purple Electrode! Check it out!” cried some. “Oh man! Another Hitmonlee…I already have like 3 of these. Anyone wanna trade?” cried others.
Buying into the dream marketed to us kids, I went through a mountainload of chip packets (naturally involving a lot parent pestering) and many crafty trades to amass my collection. Out of the 51 available cards, I have 50.
Included in the 50 is the rare yellow Meowth card which was only sold as part of a collectors binder/album, which in turn was sold alongside a particular newspaper on a particular weekend (if I remember correctly). I managed to convince a friend-of-a-friend who had this collectors album that trading his Meowth for some of my cards would be a good idea. At the time, I briefly thought it was somewhat shady deal, as the kid was younger than me and perhaps didn’t know the value of the Meowth card — but I didn’t go out pointing this out to him. I simply put down an offer and he simply agreed, I concluded. Overall, I was pretty chuffed that I’d managed to secure the Meowth — all without even purchasing the collectors album!
Another observation that strikes me is how I am one card short of the full collection. I still remember how supremely close I was to acquiring the missing card to my collection: Koffing. I was near the afforementioned trees, where I was negotiating a deal with then-best-friend, Johnny, to trade his Koffing but I was drawn away to something else just before the trade was done (perhaps a stray tennis ball that had landed nearby?) During this period of distraction, my now-best-friend had already nabbed the Koffing from Johnny (mind you, this wasn’t to shaft me intentionally or anything sinister — I think he just wanted the Koffing too). Unfortunately, the deed had been done and I was too late. Obviously, I left disappointed that I’d missed out, but I figured that I’d get it eventually. Soon afterwards the promotion ended and these cards were no longer packaged with chips and snacks.
Casting my mind back to these times is a wistful experience, of course. To think that I used to covet such trivial cards is silly — but a dream is nevertheless, a dream. It is also humbling, because it reveals not only how far I have come since those carefree times and how things have changed, but also how these moments have shaped me. It’s also informative and amusing to reflect on the way certain moments unfolded and cling to your brain despite decades of separation.