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NFL Linebacker Retires After Selling Rare Pokémon Card For Over $650,000

Las Vegas Raiders player Blake Martinez recently sold a 9.5 ‘Gem Mint’ Pokémon Illustrator card

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An NFL player screams at a large and rare Pokémon card.
Photo: Goldin / The Pokémon Company / Kotaku / Eric Espada (Getty Images)

Playing in the NFL is tough and many players leave because of career-ending injuries or bad seasons. But after seven years in the league, Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Blake Martinez has retired mid-season for a different reason: He’s making enough money selling Pokémon cards—recently selling a very rare card for nearly $700,000—and doesn’t need the income he gets from playing anymore.

Las Vegas Raiders player Blake Martinez shocked many fans when he announced last week that he was retiring from the NFL at the relatively young age of 28. He was first drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2016. Following four years with Green Bay, he joined the New York Giants in 2020 before suffering a torn ACL in 2021. He was released shortly after, and joined the Las Vegas Raiders where he seemed to be doing well this season. In his last game before his retirement, he racked up 11 tackles. However, selling Pokémon cards appears to be Martinez’s true passion—not to mention a pretty good source of income for him—and he’s focusing more on that now.


As reported by Dexerto, two weeks before announcing his retirement mid-season, the NFL pro sold an extremely rare and valuable Pokémon Illustrator card for a hefty sum. Last month, the card was graded a 9.5 “Gem Mint” quality rating, making it one of the best examples of this coveted card. On October 29 the card—which Martinez nicknamed “The Swirllustrator” because of two small swirl marks in the card’s artwork—was sold via Goldin auctions for a whopping $672,000.


Yes, this is the same type of rare card that Logan Paul paid over $5 million for earlier this year and wore around his neck during Wrestlemania in April, although his was graded a 10, or perfect quality.

Read More: The Top 12 Most Valuable Pokémon Cards In History

Still, this is a big sale, and hardly Martinez’s first time buying and selling Pokémon cards. The former NFL player is a big fan of the cards and has been collecting them for years, though in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, his love for collecting and selling was reignited. He opens old and new card packs on his Instagram and shares his finds online frequently. In fact, Martinez claims to have found the rare “Swirllustrator” during one of these pack openings. The pro player also has a collectible card business, buying and selling rare cards online.

“I have chosen to step away from this career at this time to focus on my family and future passions,” explained Martinez in his retirement post on Instagram. It appears his “passion” is using the wealth he made in the NFL to buy and sell rare Pokémon cards. And honestly, I’m happy for the guy. He’s far less likely to suffer a terrible concussion while buying rare Pikachu cards online.