Tokenization Spotlight: Puts Analog Collectibles Like Pokémon Cards Onchain

Real-world collectibles get a digital makeover with Courtyard’s marketplace, which means lower costs and better experience for collectors.

Polygon Labs
February 9, 2024
Case Studies
Image source: Dribbble

A collector is motivated by the struggle against “scatter,” writes philosopher Walter Benjamin, “in which the things of the world are found.” 

The Internet supercharged both the chaos of this “scatter” as well as a collector’s desire to bring the world into some kind of order. Instead of combing stores and specialty conventions, collectors online find sellers anywhere in the world and bid, through marketplaces like eBay, on their next precious object. This has created an explosion in the collectibles market: for instance, sports memorabilia alone, by some estimates, was a $26.1B market in 2021, with predictions of a more than 10x increase by 2032.  

But though the web expanded liquidity and connected buyers to sellers, the process also introduces extra fees (platforms and shipping), greater uncertainties (is the item as described?), and the possibility of damaging the object in transit (a collector’s worst nightmare). 

Digital collecting, in short, needs a refresh. does just this, fixing the clunky, first stab of real-world collectibles online by refining the process with new Web3 technology.

Courtyard helps users mint real-world collectibles as NFTs that can be sold and bought seamlessly, online, without ever having to send for the item–unless, of course, someone wants to. As a tokenization platform on the Polygon PoS network, Courtyard introduces the crypto-native NFT (an element Walter Benjamin would’ve loved). 

The secure minting process is simple. Users send appraised items such as graded Pokémon cards, baseball cards, and more to a Brink’s vault, which holds the item in perpetuity. Cards held by Brink’s are then minted as NFTs on Courtyard’s platform.

In this installment of Tokenization Spotlight, we talk with Courtyard co-founder and CEO, Nicolas le Jeune, about how Courtyard changes the game for collectibles, what it means for users, and what to expect going forward. 

On how got started

I started my career in tech at Google, and transitioned over to YouTube, but after several years working there, the NFT craze took off. With an early collaborator, we thought about the properties of a physical object and what would be required to turn it into an NFT. There would have to be a trusted entity that stores the physical assets and a service to mint the NFTs onchain. This was essentially the nugget for the idea behind 

Users could trade ownership of physical objects in a very liquid manner, anywhere around the world, using blockchain, not only on a single platform, but buying and trading on any NFT marketplaces. With this idea in mind, we reached out to Brink’s, which is trusted for security and safety, knowing that people would be more likely to trust them than a startup. We explained that we wanted to take trading cards, put them in a vault, in order for people to trade the digital versions online. It was a new opportunity for them, as they typically store fine arts, precious metals, golds, and so on, with new technology, and we were thrilled to work with them.

So with these pieces in place, was born. Users could send in graded collectibles (beginning with cards), which would be held in a Brink’s vault, in order to tokenize them onchain.

On the first drop: Pokémon cards

The reason we started with Pokémon cards is because if you think about an NFT, it’s basically an IP that people collect and that people love, but stored on a blockchain like Polygon PoS. There's a lot of overlap, I like to say, between trading cards and NFTs. Trading cards are like the grandfather of NFTs–or NFTs are kind of like trading cards on steroids.

Given this reality, we wanted to connect with the generations that grew up playing with and collecting Pokémon cards. There’s a lot of nostalgia when you collect something. So we decided to do a drop of Pokémon Cards, on Polygon PoS, where we’d make it so that people could buy a closed pack and then reveal the cards afterwards–reproducing the experience of what people were used to. 

Within a few hours, we’d completely minted out. 

On abstracting crypto complexities to make a good user experience

We began focusing on one category, namely trading cards, although we’re expanding into more collectibles. But the goal is to abstract the complexities of crypto as much as possible so that from a user experience, it feels like any other aspect of the Internet– even as we leverage what makes crypto so useful. 

We want to build an experience that feels as seamless as logging with an email, buying with a credit card. It’s one click, no gas fee, because the platform is paying that on behalf of the user, so that there is this seamless experience that refocuses attention on value, liquidity, and so on, rather than how all of that works.

[Congrats, reader! You’ve found the s-ec-r-et pa-ss–w-o-rd: collector]

On growth, redemption, and where is all going 

I should be clear that after a user buys, say, a Charizard NFT card, they can easily redeem it, if they want to have the actual physical object in their home. We’ve found that most users don’t choose to do this, but some do. 

As of the time of this interview, we’re getting about 500 cards a week, which means that people are tokenizing 500 cards a week, with low redemption rates. This is a huge growth from the beginning, when there were maybe five cards or so. 

It all comes back to the question: How can we allow users, in a liquid way, to buy and sell what they want, easily and seamlessly? 

The answer, we think, is going to be

* *  *

This was the second installment of Tokenization Spotlight! Through a series of interviews, readers will learn what tokenization means, what it democratizes, how it can transform different industries, and get to know some of the projects building tokenization use cases with Polygon technology.

Each Spotlight in the series is part of a campaign on Galxe.

Now that you’ve finished reading, head over to Galxe and type in the password hidden in the post above to be eligible to mint an NFT that corresponds to this post. The theme is New Frontier, and the second NFT trait is “The Tinker.”

Tune into the blog and our social channels to keep up with updates about the Polygon ecosystem.

Together, we can build an equitable future for all through the mass adoption of Web3.

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