I never thought I'd end up spending over $100 at a McDonald's in one trip. I'm not a huge fan of burgers and I'm pretty sure the last time I ate at McDonald's was over a decade ago. But purchasing over two dozen meals from a McDonald's in one trip is just the kind of wild thinking Pokémon can instill in you as an adult in 2021.
You see, yesterday I learned that McDonald's is doing a special Happy Meal promotion to celebrate Pokémon's 25th Anniversary with special edition Pokémon trading cards. There are 25 cards total (I see what you did there Pokémon Company), one for each of the starters from all eight generations — with your token Pikachu thrown in there for good measure. There's also the possibility for each of those 25 cards to have a holographic picture, which means that if someone wanted to catch 'em all, they'd be after 50 distinct cards.
Each Happy Meal pack comes with four cards, with the first one being holographic. Upon seeing a promo for the cards, my mind wandered to those beautiful gold-plated Pokémon Cards that Burger King released back in 1999. I couldn't miss out on something sweet like that ever again.
I had to get my hands on these Pokémon Happy Meal toys! But exactly how many Happy Meals would it take to catch 'em all? 10? 20? 30? Yeah, 30 seemed like a good number. It was enough that my chances for getting all of the Pokémon cards was probable, but also crazy enough to make me feel the tension. It was perfect.
How I found all of those Pokémon Happy Meal toys
I called around to various McDonald's locations only to discover that many of them weren't done with the previous Happy Meal toys and wouldn't be opening the Pokémon boxes until they were. However, on my fourth try I finally found a location that was already doling out the Pokémon goods. I could feel my hands getting itchy. Unfortunately, the employee clarified that you had to purchase the meal in order to get the toy. I took this news like a child who's been caught in the cookie jar. But it wouldn't deter me.
I jumped in my car and sped off, feeling one-half Hamburgler and one-half Team Rocket grunt. It took a little bit of a drive to get there as this definitely was not the closest location to my home. I pulled up to the drive thru speaker nervously tapping my fingers on the wheel and feeling just a little silly as I waited for the employee to ask for my order. Suddenly I start to panic. Should I have an excuse for getting 30 McDonalds Happy Meals? I could say that I run an orphanage... no that wouldn't be right. Besides the only place I could even keep orphans is in my basement and that's creepy. The blaring speaker breaks my panicked concentration.
"Welcome to McDonald's. Can I take your order?"
"Uh, Hi! Are you doing the Pokémon Trading Card promotion right now?"
"OK, this is going to be a big order," I chuckle nervously. "I'd like to get 30 Happy Meals....can I do that?"
"Yeah, for sure."
"Oh, perfect!" That was easier than I thought.
I watched as the total for my order flashed on the screen. It turns out spending $137 for Happy Meals when you don't even have any kids feels kind of weird. I nervously glanced around at the other cars in line. Did anyone think I was crazy?
I pulled forward to the window. A wonderful lady with a mask over her face popped out.
"OK let's see. Oh, you're the one with the 30 Happy Meals?"
"Yep, that's me."
She glances around, unsure how to proceed.
"I know it's a huge order. Do you want me to pull off and wait somewhere?" I chuckle feeling very alone in my car.
"Yes please. Can you go and wait in stall two?"
I pulled into the parking spot. Suddenly it hits me. Where am I going to put all of these meals? I glance to my passanger side and realize just how small that areas is. My eyes dart to the back seat lined with corgi fur. That would just be disgusting. This left only one clean place with ample room: the back of the car. Almost at the exact moment when I realize where I'll need to put everything, there's a tap at my window.
I swivel around with my surprised Pikachu face to see an employee holding a stack of seven Pokémon Happy Meals. That was fast. I pop out of the car, mask on face, wondering what this guy must think of me. His next words put me at ease.
"I thought about doing this myself," he says gesturing to the boxes in his hand. "I already bought a few Happy Meals today and got two holographic Pikachus."
Hallelujah! He was a fellow Pokémon nerd! My nervousness immediately subsided. I started geeking out with him about Pokémon games as I opened the back window on my Toyota Matrix and placed the Happy Meal stack inside.
"We've got the rest of your order inside. Could you come help me bring them out to your car?"
"You know you aren't the first person to do this," he chuckles. "We get a ton of people coming through for certain toys."
"I believe it."
We enter the building and that's when I see them, the remaining stacks of Happy Meals looking like a model skyscraper skyline. And sitting next to them in bags were my 30 apple juice boxes. I grabbed a couple of stacks and glanced inside. The Pokémon cards were hidden underneath the burger and fries. Whew! I'd done it.
This wonderful guy helped me take the rest of the food back to my car, all the while talking about his love of Pokémon. With my car fully packed with Happy Meals I turn and thank the employee who then wishes me the best in getting all of the cards.
As I sink down into the driver's seat I think to myself, "Ok you need to drive carefully. You don't want anything to spill." Oh, how naive I was back then. The first turn I take out of the parking lot topples one of the stacks and I hear fries sliding around the hard plastic flooring the rest of the trip. It's not like I was going to eat it all.
When I got back home, I quickly pulled the cards from each Happy Meal box. (Dang, I'd forgotten how greasy McDonald's was.) Thankfully, the card packs come wrapped in a paper container so they're pretty well protected. I started the exciting task of opening each package trying to spot any patterns. There are none that I can see. It seems the cards are truly packed at random.
Slowly, but surely, my collection starts filling out. I get down to four unopened packages and realize I have every Pokémon but Totodile. Uh-oh. Will I not be able to complete the set? I couldn't have guessed what would happen next. I find a Totodile, including a holographic one, in each of the remaining packs. My set is complete — cue triumphant Zelda music. I had done it! Now what to do with all of those Happy Meals?
My husband and I ate one Happy Meal apiece, but there were still towering stacks on our counter. I felt horrible thinking of all that food going to waste, so I called my sister-in-law and asked if she wanted any meals for her family. That took six of them off my hands. After that, I made an announcement in my neighborhood Facebook page explaining that I had a ton of free food for anyone that wanted it. A few neighbors came to my door and I dished the McDonald's out like an elaborate Halloween treat (we were all wearing masks, after all). If only I had a Hamburgler costume.
My Pokémon card haul
Buying 30 Happy Meals allowed me to get 120 Pokémon Trading Cards, with 30 of those being holographic. Here's my total haul.
|Card||Total||# of Holographic cards||Header Cell - Column 3|
|Bulbasaur||4||1||Row 0 - Cell 3|
|Charmander||6||1||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|Squirtle||4||1||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|Pikachu||5||1||Row 3 - Cell 3|
|Chikorita||8||2||Row 4 - Cell 3|
|Cyndaquil||4||1||Row 5 - Cell 3|
|Totodile||4||1||Row 6 - Cell 3|
|Treecko||6||1||Row 7 - Cell 3|
|Torchic||3||0||Row 8 - Cell 3|
|Mudkip||6||2||Row 9 - Cell 3|
|Turtwig||4||1||Row 10 - Cell 3|
|Chimchar||4||1||Row 11 - Cell 3|
|Piplup||4||1||Row 12 - Cell 3|
|Snivy||5||1||Row 13 - Cell 3|
|Tepig||5||1||Row 14 - Cell 3|
|Oshawott||7||1||Row 15 - Cell 3|
|Chespin||5||2||Row 16 - Cell 3|
|Fennekin||6||1||Row 17 - Cell 3|
|Froakie||5||2||Row 18 - Cell 3|
|Rowlett||3||1||Row 19 - Cell 3|
|Litten||4||1||Row 20 - Cell 3|
|Popplio||4||1||Row 21 - Cell 3|
|Grookey||5||2||Row 22 - Cell 3|
|Scorbunny||5||2||Row 23 - Cell 3|
|Sobble||4||1||Row 24 - Cell 3|
You probably noticed that I got a holographic card for every Pokémon in this set except for Torchic. I'm not gonna lie, there's a part of me that's thinking about marching right back over to McDonald's and buying another 30 Pokémon Happy Meals just so I can get that missing holographic Torchic to complete my set. But that would be crazy. Right? Heh heh.
This whole experience was so exciting. It reminded me so much of my youth when Pokémon was a brand new concept and I was eagerly doing all I could to trade cards on the playground and convince my parents to take me to Burger King for those awesome 90s Pokémon toys. It also made me realize what kind of things I would have been willing to pull if I'd actually had money as a child. I guess I'm still the excited Pokémon kid that I always have been.
Update: I've since acquired the missing holographic Torchic and have given the extra cards out to children in my neighborhood.
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Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.