Untalented but successful? Rosen and Adler superstar Pokemons


When studying the reasons why and the conditions under which superstars emerge in some markets, scholars face difficulties in measuring talent, obtaining confidential data on earnings, and finding appropriate econometric techniques that cope with the presence of outliers (superstars). In this paper, we use a dataset from the Pokemon trading card game in which (i) there is no unidentifiable heterogeneity, (ii) rarity can be separated from talent, and (iii) objective earnings are observable through transaction prices. Using various parametric or semiparametric estimation techniques, we confirm that the relationship between talent and economic success is convex. On top of that, we document the existence of a different category of superstars with inferior talent and short-lived economic success.

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    See Hofmann et al. (2017) for a meta analysis of the relationship between star power and movie success.

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    As well as the lower and upper prices.

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    Defined as median prices charged by a sample of retail outlets (around 40) across the United States and Canada.

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    This regression does not have a constant term as we assume that a card with no health points and that would not trigger any damage would have no value (Level = 0).

  9. 9.

    Only three expansions (Basic, Jungle and Fossil) were available at that time. Basic, the first expansion ever released, is omitted and serves as the reference category.

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    “Pokemon: the first movie” was the highest-grossing anime film in the US once adjusted for ticket-price inflation ($152 million) https://www.boxofficemojo.com/franchises/chart/?id=pokemon.htm.

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    Given the confidence interval, we cannot reject a linear relationship for the second highest level of talent and, even if not reproduced here, it is even more obvious for lower levels.

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    The estimator will hence resist if there are up to 10% of outlying individuals.

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    The R\(^{2}\) for interval-censored regression is Cox-Snell/ML R\(^{2}\) and that for robust regression is the standard R\(^{2}\) where outliers have been downweighted according to their degree of outlyingness.


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Correspondence to Olivier Gergaud.

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Olivier Gergaud declares that he has no conflict of interest. Vincenzo Verardi declares that he has no conflict of interest.

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We would like to thank Françoise Benhamou, Natalie Chen, Andrew Clark, Catherine Dehon, Marjorie Gassner, Victor Ginsburgh, Jean-Philippe Platteau and Günther Schulze for helpful suggestions as well as seminar participants at the EEA-ESEM and ACEI meetings and all of our colleagues at LIEPP, ECARES, and KEDGE who helped us in the process of this work. We also thank the reviewers and the editor for their comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Gergaud, O., Verardi, V. Untalented but successful? Rosen and Adler superstar Pokemons. Empir Econ (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00181-020-01835-1

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  • Superstars
  • Semiparametric estimation
  • Hedonic prices
  • Quasi-experimental data

JEL Classification

  • C4
  • D4
  • Z19