BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — In the past, this column has discussed unique pieces of Yu-Gi-Oh history, ranging from the pricey to the infamous. Even taking these into consideration, though, there is one such card that still stands out among the rest, for all the right reasons. It’s known as Tyler the Great Warrior, and has gone down in history as a truly special card with an incredible story behind it — a story that came to a head last month when it made an appearance on Ebay.

Card art for Tyler the Great Warrior.

Unlike other rare Yu-Gi-Oh cards, which are typically awarded as prizes for placing high in tournaments, Tyler the Great Warrior was created as part of a Make-A-Wish foundation request, when Tyler Gressle — a young boy battling undifferentiated sarcoma of the liver (an extremely rare cancer) — asked for the opportunity to create his own card.

As one may know, Make-A-Wish works with children diagnosed with life-threatening or terminal illnesses, and seeks to fulfill their requests. In many cases, this can range from trips to theme parks or other countries to meeting their favorite celebrities. Tyler’s request, however, was an unusual one — his personal wish was to have a custom Yu-Gi-Oh card made. This idea was new to the organization, and would prove challenging as Yu-Gi-Oh’s developer Konami is largely based in Japan, but the group was determined to see Tyler’s wish through.

After being asked to draw a rough sketch for the card he would like to see, Tyler, inspired by the character of Future Trunks from the popular anime series Dragon Ball Z (left), created what would be the first sketch for what would later become Tyler the Great Warrior, seen below on the right (Image Credit: YGOrganization).

After some time, Tyler was taken to New York for another step in the Make-A-Wish process — where he met the head of 4Kids Entertainment (the company which produced the English dub of the first Yu-Gi-Oh anime), met the English voice actors for the show’s main characters, and received two pieces of possible artwork for the card based on his original creation — both drawn and signed by the series creator Kazuki Takahashi himself. After making a decision as to which art he would like on the card, the remainder of its design was left up to Konami (according to Tyler, his only request was for it to be strong) — including the name, effect, and overall statistics. He was even able to watch the card be pressed, and then allowed to take the card, now encased in a frame, home in his possession — where it has remained for over a decade and a half.

The original sketch of the art that would eventually make it onto the Tyler the Great Warrior card (left), as well as the unused alternate design (right). (Image Credit: YGOrganization)

The end result of the project was Tyler the Great Warrior — a Warrior-type monster with a unique set listing and serial code, a powerful effect, a high Attack power, and fully colored art of the sketch chosen by Gressle. It is the only one of its kind, and it has never been available in official Yu-Gi-Oh material such as video games or reprints.

Although the Great Warrior’s existence was known and spoken about in card game magazines and online for some time, very little was known about the story outside of the basics, leaving many to speculate on its whereabouts. But as the world later discovered, Tyler, now an adult, was still in possession of it– and years after the card’s creation, believed that it was time for the card to receive a new home.

Tyler had previously attempted to sell the card in 2015 for the asking price of $75,000, but it was not purchased. Eight years later, in 2023, he would attempt to auction it off on Ebay— but this time, with a bit of help. In the time leading up to the sale, Alex Cimo (better known by Cimoooooooo on YouTube), a creator specializing in Yu-Gi-Oh content, met with Tyler himself as part of a short documentary — where he delved into the legacy that the exclusive card had carved alongside Gressle as they prepared it for bidding.

“One of the funniest parts of the story is that Tyler’s father Dave actually reached out to us,” Cimo told KX. “My wife Bryttni showed me the email, and initially I thought it was a scam, because the email contained “Yu-Gi-Ho” in the title. The only reason I responded was because Dave shared Tyler’s last name, so I requested pictures of the card with the current date written on an index card, like it was an internet dating site. Less than ten minutes later, Dave responded with pictures of the card, and my jaw hit the floor. I was speechless. “

Throughout the 17-minute video, Cimo placed a focus on Tyler as he discussed the story that led up to his Make-A-Wish request, as well as interviewed one of the representatives who helped to grant it. During the discussion, Tyler recounted his own memories of the events leading up to the card’s creation, and revealed previously unknown details about the process, from the experience to the New York visit to the alternate art designs.

“Creating the documentary was my idea,” said Cimo. “I felt a sense of obligation to immortalize this piece of Yu-Gi-Oh! history for the world to see. Countless rumors and misinformation about both Tyler and the card circulated around social media, like one never-ending game of telephone, and I wanted to allow Tyler the opportunity to share his story with the world and dispel any rumors and misinformation once and for all. I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with both Tyler and Dave on this nearly year-long project; definitely one of the highlights of my career as a YouTuber.

During their correspondence, Cimo and Gressle took the card to be professionally graded at a Beckett building in Texas. For the first time in years, the card was seen on video, as were the never-before-seen original sketches from Takahashi (who has since passed away). For any Yu-Gi-Oh fan, this was a monumental opportunity — and Cimo, a long-time fan of the game, was astounded and enthralled by the experience.

The now-grown Tyler Gressle (left) and Alex Cimo (right) at the Beckett office. (Image Credit: Alex Cimo, on the Cimoooooooo YouTube channel)

Seeing pictures of “Tyler the Great Warrior” alone was enough excitement for one lifetime,” he continued, “but then Dave sends another folder of images containing, not just the concept sketch of what would become “Tyler the Great Warrior,” but then the alternate artwork, signed by the late Kazuki Takahashi, for how the card could have turned out? I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was a part of the story that no one had ever heard before. The emotions I experienced when I first held the card and saw the sketches in person were indescribable. Throughout the project, I continuously refer to the card as the “holy grail,” but I feel it’s appropriate considering this is a nearly two-decade old, one-of-one card that shouldn’t even technically exist, and I’m one of the lucky few who has had the privilege to hold and appreciate that history first-hand.

Alex and Tyler’s relationship went beyond the card, though: during the process of setting up and filming the documentary, the Cimos and the Gressles bonded over plenty of shared interests.

Tyler and Dave were wonderful,” Cimo notes. “Even though he no longer plays Yu-Gi-Oh, Tyler would fit right in with our community. He loves art, music, and video games; I believe Gage Poljak (Nyhmnim), who helped film the documentary, is actually going to a concert with Tyler later this year. And Dave just wants the best for Tyler, which is why he went to such lengths to recruit me to assist with this project. Bryttni and I bonded with Dave over business and travel. Although the project has come to an end, I expect we’ll all keep in touch. We all had a wonderful time together.”

While the video was released in March, the Ebay auction itself did not begin until April 19 — but in under an hour, it swiftly received a bid of $100,000. Over the sale’s ten days, the price quickly grew as bidders battled for ownership of the one-of-a-kind card. Upon its conclusion on April 29, the winning bid was a massive $311,211, making it the second-most expensive confirmed sale of a Yu-Gi-Oh card ever. In the documentary, Tyler states that the money from selling the card will play a major part in his life going forward, and he intends to use it to aid in funding for a business, travel plans, and a family of his own. He’s also hoping that the recipient — whether they put it on public display or not — will truly appreciate not only the card, but the work that went into its creation.

While the results of the auction were definitely positive for Tyler, another major aspect of the sale was the impact both it and the documentary had on the Yu-Gi-Oh community. For a story and card that were shrouded in mystery for the most part, the video brought forth a new wave of interest in both the story and the man behind the card himself — who some were worried had passed since its creation.

People were happy not only to see the card, but to see that Tyler was alive and well,” stated Cimo. “It was a unique moment for the community to bond over a story that sounds like it could have its own season in the anime. Most people are happy for Tyler and can sympathize with the fact that he wants to transition into the next phase of his life. The auction has allowed Tyler to earn back some of the years that he lost during the darkest time in his life, and move forward to a bigger and brighter future. 

As of now, the card has been sold, but Tyler has not parted with his gift entirely. Gressle, in the video, stated that he would be keeping the three sketches involved in the project (both the two concepts created by Takahashi and his original drawing). A picture framer on Reddit recently confirmed that he was given the task of designing custom frames for the sketches by David Gressle— a job he stated to be an honor.

The story of Tyler the Great Warrior is one that not only sheds light on one of the most famous unique trading cards in existence, but is also a display of human kindness at its finest. From Make-A-Wish and Takahashi’s actions to make young Tyler’s dream a reality, the grown-up Gressle’s decision to sell it to aid his family, and Cimo’s desire to make the story heard, this is a tale that encompasses so many people from different walks of life — all of whom banded together for the sake of one young man, who now also seeks to spread goodwill and kindness throughout his community and the world.

“The story is truly an amazing feat that required the collaboration of countless individuals spanning multiple regions, both domestically and internationally,” Cimo concludes. “The Make-A-Wish Foundation had never granted a wish that was this unique, so they really had to get creative as to how they were going to execute it. For those who haven’t watched the documentary, Tyler’s first wish was for a Porsche, but since he wasn’t of legal driving age, Make-A-Wish wasn’t inclined to grant the wish — which was yet another obstacle that could have stopped the card from being produced altogether. Now that the auction has concluded, Tyler and his family were invited to attend a gala for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Tyler has transformed from “wish recipient” to “wish granter,” as he donated a portion of the auction proceeds back to the foundation. Could you write a better ending?”

Although it may not be the most expensive trading card ever sold, the tale of the Great Warrior is one that has given rise to not only one of the most coveted rare cards of all time, but a special piece of gaming history that is unlike any other. Tyler himself may not have come up with the title of ‘Great Warrior’, but we here at KX would say through his determination and generosity, he’s more than earned it. We wish him well in his future endeavors!

You can view Cimo’s full video about Tyler the Great Warrior on YouTube using this link.