UAE collector Dubsy made global headlines after selling a rare PSA Grade 10 Pikachu Illustrator Pokemon card to American YouTube media star Logan Paul for a record $5.27 million — a trade carried out in secret at Burj Al Arab in 2021 and noted by the Guinness Book of Records.
An Emirati in his 40s, Dubsy maintains anonymity with a pseudonym that is based on mysterious British artist Banksy.
“I am a big fan. I like his philosophy … he is someone who is not really going after the money,” says Dubsy, who lives in Dubai and is single.
Dubsy is about to launch a website featuring an interactive museum of his Pokemon collection, believed to be the most complete and valuable in the world.
Were you around money during childhood?
I grew up in the late 80s, early 90s. My grandfather was tough on my dad with money and my dad continued that with me. He was a huge businessman in the real estate industry but wasn’t spoiling his kids. He was setting limits for how much we could spend. There was no pocket money. He was like: “You have to study, to prove yourself.” My family comes from a business background but I grew up like most other middle-class citizens in Dubai. I really appreciate that.
When did you first earn money?
After I graduated from university, I came back to Dubai and worked admin in a bank for Dh4,000 ($1,089) a month. I realised two years on that I hated the corporate world and then worked for an airline for six years. I was cabin crew, then in human resources and customer service. I was in my late 20s when my dad said: “You’re ready to come and join the family business.” It is in “old Dubai” real estate. I’m a sleeping partner.
How did you get into collectibles?
When I was 10, [I got] my first comic book: Batman, number 497. My mum bought it. I loved that I could read the stories and dive into the history behind it. In my 20s, I revisited that. A lot of collectors go through this; during teenage years they get into other stuff … once they find a job, they are financially stable, they start collecting seriously.
[At] the end of 2007, my salary was about Dh15,000 [and] eBay was becoming very popular. I am famous for Pokemon because of the Logan Paul deal, but my main collecting hobby is comic books. I started buying one or two per month and grew from there.
Has collecting become a business?
It is an income. Before I was just collecting, maybe long-term investments. Nowadays, I look at stuff I could flip or sell in a year or two. The collectibles market during Covid-19 rocketed by two, three, four times. People were at home with nothing to do [and] wanted to buy stuff online. I had a massive collection by then. It is something I am passionate about, it is great money as well, so I took it more seriously than just a hobby. It is more gut feeling, intuition, mixed with the market.
How did you invest in pricier items?
After my father passed away, I got an inheritance and income was coming from the family business. It was a big jump from what I could afford before; comics worth maybe $2,000. Suddenly, I could buy the comics I had been dreaming of, in the tens of thousands of dollars.
When did the Pokemon card enter your life?
In late 2015. I paid $60,000. I had started researching; Pokemon and other collectibles — Star Wars action figures, vintage video games — were way cheaper than comics, which is a large, established market. Many comics sell for millions of dollars, but Pokemon hadn’t reached that place yet, so I diversified. It wasn’t initially a business venture. It was “buy this, enjoy it, sell it one day and probably make a profit”.
Were you surprised to receive $5.27m for the card?
It is an amount I never thought of. With most collectibles, I plan how much I would want to sell for. With this card, I had a number in mind. I was offered $300,000 in 2018; a year after, $1.5m. I still said no because I was OK financially and knew this was the Pokemon card. Most people would sell, make multiple times your investment in a short period, but collectors have huge sentimental attachment — it is harder to let go. This deal actually happened a year ago. That was what Logan wanted because he was making a video and I signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement).
How did you invest those earnings?
I put some into cryptocurrency, Bitcoin and Ether. It is long term; if it falls by a big amount, I put in a little more. Also, I like buying physical gold and store it in a bank vault. I bought some real estate and have foreign investments. The vast majority went back into collectibles; it is still a good time to invest if you know what you are buying. You can’t put all the eggs in one basket, so I would say half my assets are outside of collectibles.
Are you a savvy spender?
More sensible than most. I spend quite a lot on collectibles. I used to buy stuff I liked that would not necessarily go up in value. That was kind of a waste. I am a car fanatic and like buying and selling them. I own a 1999 Mitsubishi 3000gt VR-4, very rare, shipped from the US. I paid about $60,000 and it is worth more now. The cars I really want are out of my league.
Have you had other collectible successes?
A Batman number one comic book, very high grade, [which] I bought for $560,000 and sold for $1.4m less than a year later … one of my better investments. There is a lot where I pay $30,000 and it is now worth $100,000 to $200,000. Most are trading cards, some are comic books.
What are your cherished purchases?
An X-Men number one comic book signed by (the creator) Stan Lee, extremely high grade, bought for $27,000. It is (valued) at $200,000 to $300,000 now. It is very sentimental to me. I don’t think I would let that go; it would have to be another Logan Paul (situation). Magic: The Gathering — also a trading card game … I bought the Black Lotus card for $75,000 in 2015. I have been told it is worth more than $1m.
How do you feel about money?
Money doesn’t affect me, like most people. If I lose money on a deal or physically, it is OK. I am very fortunate. I am not attached to money; I am attached to my collectibles and it is nice to see them go up in value.
When my other assets go up in value, let’s say stocks, I am excited because I can buy more collectibles. That is the only reason it excites me to make money. I don’t see money the way other people do. It is fuel for my hobby because I make more than enough to live my lifestyle.
I live in an apartment. I don’t have a huge place, simply a normal, very decent living.
What else do enjoy spending on?
I travel every month. I have been to 40-plus countries, 60 cities. As long as I have enough money to travel comfortably and stay in places that I want to whenever I want, and can buy the collectibles I want, that is enough for me.
Any spending regrets?
As a collector, you want to finish a collection, your collector mentality will take over and you buy whatever you find and pay several times the value. You lose quite a lot of money that way. I have regret but it doesn’t affect me so much because I have made better decisions elsewhere and other items are covering that cost.
Has your risk appetite altered?
It has decreased, actually. I did take a lot more risks before with non-collectible items — with collectibles, I take high risks. It doesn’t always work out. I used to own a Mickey Mantle baseball card, the most famous one.
I borrowed $430,000 and I knew it would go up in value someday. About six months later I needed cash, so sent it for auction. The market wasn’t hot at that time; it sold for $360,000. A year later, it was worth a million. Now, it is worth more than $2m.