Demand for McDonald’s Pokémon cards goes through the roof

Customers are ordering large numbers of Happy Meals just to get the cards, and many are finding their way to eBay.
McDonald's Pokemon cards
Photo courtesy of McDonald's

McDonald’s has tapped into one of the hottest trends in the U.S. right now: Trading cards.

The Chicago-based burger giant this week introduced a new Happy Meal toy—packs of four Pokémon cards, including the popular character Pikachu—to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the group of characters known for video games, television, movies and of course trading cards.

McDonald’s cards were popular almost immediately. The cards have already found their way onto eBay in droves, with people selling entire cases of cards for over $1,000 in some cases or groups of 10 packs of cards for as much as $100.

Operators are fielding calls for 100 or 200 packs at a time, with potential buyers saying they didn’t want any of the food that came along with the Happy Meals. Some franchisees have taken steps to address this demand, by selling groups of cards on their own. Yet the situation has resulted in concerns of shortages—all Happy Meal promotions are for a limited time, but the explosion in interest could drai supplies too quickly.

The company confirmed the demand and is working with its supply chain to distribute more cards to restaurants that are running low. It is also bringing in back-up toys if supplies run out.

McDonald’s also noted that Happy Meal toys are to be sold with the meals, though franchisees are given the ability to accommodate customers’ requests. That said, the company has a policy not to sell cases of cards to customers. The company is also urging operators to limit the number of cards sold to individual customers.

“We love seeing fans’ passion for our limited-time Happy Meal promotion celebrating 25 years of Pokémon ,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “With such significant demand for our promotional Pokémon  TCG cards, and seeing some fans going to extreme lengths to get them, we’re working quickly to address shortages and also strongly encouraging restaurants to set a reasonable limit on Happy Meals sold per customer.

“We want to offer the full Happy Meal experience to as many families as possible and help ensure everyone is able to get in on the fun.”

McDonald's Pokemon screenshot

Trading cards and trading card games have surged in popularity during the pandemic, with values for such cards going through the roof while more of them are finding their way to eBay. Card sales on the site surged 142% last year.

Sales of baseball cards, for instance, have surged since the pandemic and values have gone up with it, according to The Sporting News. Cards associated with popular sports figures like LeBron James and Mike Trout are going for record prices.

For McDonald’s, the situation is either the result of luck or good timing—or perhaps bad timing if the cards run out too far in advance. In any event franchisees have likened the situation to 1999, when the chain released Happy Meal toys featuring Baby Beanie Babies.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Why Wingstop isn't afraid of Popeyes' chicken wings

The Bottom Line: The fast-casual wing chain says its sales improve when another brand pushes the product. Here’s why that might be.


Mendocino Farms masters a meaty Philly cheesesteak sandwich—without the meat

Behind the Menu: The fast casual uses a mushroom-based meat alternative for its Philly Shroomsteak Sandwich, a new menu item targeted to flexitarians, not just vegans.


Pay hike for couriers shakes up food delivery in NYC

Customers are paying more, and couriers are working less. What it all means for restaurants is still unclear, but some fear it could get ugly.


More from our partners