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Collectibles Attract People of All Ages, Incomes

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CARY — From coins to cards to pet rocks, collectibles have been around for years. They attract enthusiasts both young and old. But age does not matter as much as the money you are willing to spend.

Pikachu, Mewtwo, Jigglypuff, Poliwhirl, Charizard, and Togepi. Their names are as hard to understand as the craze they have created. Pokémon has kids going gangbusters, and local toy stores struggling to keep up.

Some stores are limiting the number of packs per purchase; others are out of stock.

"Right now the Pokémon is definitely the collector card that's the hottest," says toy store manager Melanie Frisk.

Pokémon started as a Nintendo video game. But it is the cards that kids cannot get enough of.

The goal is to collect all 150 characters available. Cards come in packs of 11 for $3.29 and packs of 60 for $9.99.

Many kids, like 6-year-old Mick Williams, cannot wait to get their hands on them. They spend their allowance money on the cards, and they also trade.

"You trade them to try to get them all, and the best way to get them all is to have two of the cards you're trading," says Williams.

The popularity of collectibles is always changing. A few years ago baseball cards were the hot sellers. Now they have been moved to the back of the sales counter.

The popularity of Pokémon has even surpassed Beanie Babies -- among young collectors, that is.

Marsha Falkner is a senior computer specialist for the state legislature. Her other title: Beanie Baby collector.

Falkner has more than 200 of them, and at the current base price of $6.95 for unretired beanies, Falkner figures she has invested thousands of dollars.

This collector believes Beanie Babies are a wise investment, and that they will grow in value when the manufacturer retires all current beanies at the end of the year.

"I figure one day they may be worth something," she says. "Or I could just give them away to somebody. But I think I'm going to hang on to them right now to see what happens."

In the meantime, young collectors will keep searching for those special Pokémon cards; manufacturers will keep searching for the next great collectible.

Collectors have been known to go to great lengths for their hobby. In fact, many cannot seem to focus on much else. That is why some schools -- even some in the Triangle -- have banned students from trading Pokémon cards in class.