Pokémon fanatics swarm at weekly gathering

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 6, 2000

&uot;Hey, wanna trade?&uot;

It’s a common question heard outside Bookland in Natchez Mall on Saturday afternoons, where a swarm of children gather to trade Pok\u00E9mon cards and play the popular game.

Several of the children, most of them boys aged 9 to 12, admit the hype surrounding the Japanese phenomenon has died down over the last few months, but it doesn’t bother them.

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&uot;It’s gone down a little,&uot; 19-year-old J.C. Oden said, &uot;but it’s going to come back up when the gold and silver Game Boys come out.&uot;

Sometime in early Fall, Nintendo will release new versions of the popular video games that originally bred Pok\u00E9mon fever.

Oden’s younger brother, Joe, age 10, said he comes to the mall every Saturday to improve his deck through trading.

&uot;This is my best deck yet,&uot; Joe said while waiting on his opponent’s next move.

What do you get if you win? &uot;Just the satisfaction of winning,&uot; Joe said.

Rules to the card game are more than complicated, but several of the children said they caught on quickly, and most have been playing or collecting for more than a year.

&uot;At first I thought it was stupid,&uot; Schaeffer Poke, 12, said. &uot;But, then I found out about the money.&uot;

Rare cards, as well as those that have &uot;more power,&uot; are the most valuable. Some can go for up to $350, J.C. said.

&uot;I’ve got a 22-year-old brother-in-law that collects for the money,&uot; he said.

But, collectors and players are not limited to boys. Saturday’s crowd did include one female face.

Maygan Pennington, 10, said &uot;it’s not just a boy thing,&uot; even though not many of her girl friends share her hobby.

&uot;My brother talked me into coming,&uot; she said, adding that she has never had problems with the boys not wanting her to play because she’s a girl.

Rene\u00E9 Henderson, Bookland manager, said the chain has been hosting the weekly &uot;league&uot; since last summer.

&uot;It’s just an activity for the kids,&uot; Henderson said. &uot;We’ve had some that’s been here since day one.&uot;

With all the competition and trading, some quarrels do arise, but overall, Henderson said &uot;they’re really good kids.&uot;

Since many schools do not allow Pok\u00E9mon trading or playing, the Saturday Bookland league is one of the only chances many of the children have to connect with fellow fans.

&uot;I’m on my way into the sixth grade, and they won’t let us,&uot; John Swinney, Adams County Christian School student, said.

Swinney said he plans to come to the league every weekend once school starts, &uot;if my mom lets me.&uot;