This Pokemon Collecting Guide will go over all the basics of Pokemon Cards, including buying and selling them, what cards are actually worth some decent cash and whether the Pokemon TCG is an actual viable investment.
- Pokemon TCG
- How Much Are My Pokemon Cards Worth?
- Where to sell Pokemon Cards?
- Graded Pokemon Cards
- Pokemon Card Investing
- Pokemon TCG Collecting
Pokemon TCG Cards have stood the test of time and it's fair to say many fans have acquired a sizable collection over the last 25 years of Pokemon.
If you grew up when the Pokemon Franchise first burst onto the scene in the late 90s, you probably played with the Pokemon TCG game in your school playground, swapping cards with your buddies and getting your snotty little fingers all over them.
Well, what if we told you those cards now might be worth thousands of dollars?
In the last few years the Pokemon TCG has re-exploded with a new wave of popularity that has caused major shortages of products. It's caused the price of old, vintage cards to skyrocket and fans of the series are now happy to pay top dollar for the most pristine-condition cards.
If your new to Pokemon Card Collecting, or just want a refresher of how the hobby operates, this guide is for you!
At the time of writing this, the popularity of Pokemon TCG cards has never been higher, bar the original release of the cards.
The hype has driven the price of cards up exponentially, has caused shortages of Pokemon Cards and it's probably one of the reasons you got back into Pokemon Card collecting.
Pokemon Cards have also been in the media a lot recently; they've been celebrating the Pokemon 25th anniversary, releasing promotional cards that have caused people to scoop up the entire supply, leaving none for many fans around the world so they can be resold for double the price.
With that being said, it's very likely the hype of Pokemon TCG cards dies back down.
The Pokemon TCG first released in the western world in 1999 with the first expansion known as Base Set.
For those who don't know much about Pokemon Cards, Pokemon Cards are released in sets/expansions several times a year featuring different Pokemon.
These sets have Booster Packs which give players a random selection of cards, with a chance of acquiring a rare shiny holographic card. Depending on your luck, players could end up having to spend hundreds of dollars on opening Booster Packs to complete these Pokemon Sets.
Today, the Pokemon TCG is very much the same. Albeit, there are now way more sets released each year and each new set now contains way more cards for players to collect. The original base set only contained 102 cards; a modern set like Chilling Reign contains 233 cards.
Players still rip open Booster Packs to gain cards (they contain around 11 cards each); these Booster Packs can be found in products like Booster Boxes, Collection Boxes, Elite Trainer Boxes and Tins!
There are so many different Pokemon TCG products out today that it can be very overwhelming for new players to know which products to buy.
It is certainly an expensive hobby and trying to complete a set will set you back a pretty penny. Booster Packs can go for around $4 each, and it can take several hundred packs to get every single card in a set. It's why many fans turn to just buying each card separately on third-party sites like eBay.
Of course, collecting the cards is one aspect of the TCG. It is first and foremost, a trading card game that can be played against another player.
Players can build decks, battle in tournaments both in real-life and online and compete for the top prizes that The Pokemon Company offers up. They are releasing a new online version of the game called Pokemon TCG Live.
But you didn't click on this article to learn how to play the Pokemon TCG, so let's discuss the price of Pokemon Cards instead.
How Much Are My Pokemon Cards Worth?
Did you just find a stash of your old Pokemon Cards in your attic that have been collecting dust for the last 20 years? Or perhaps you went to a yard sale and picked up a binder of some old-school cards?
Being able to put a price on Pokemon TCG cards can be incredibly difficult if you're new to the hobby.
The Pokemon TCG cards were printed heavily, even in the beginning of the series, because it was so popular.
But, because the condition of cards is just as important as how rare the card is, most of the cards from back in the day are not worth very much. People just didn't keep cards in sealed sleeves and cases, instead they were played with carelessly (as they should have been!) and in the process damaged.
The condition of a Pokemon Card is incredibly important; a base-set Charizard that has its surface scratched to oblivion isn't going to be worth as much as a pristine one that hasn't been handled at all.
To know how good the condition of your Pokemon cards are, you can use Grading Services (see below) to give you a grade that buyers can trust.
You can of course, sell your cards without them being graded, but you could potentially be leaving hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the floor.
There are also many different "versions" of Pokemon cards, which can be very confusing to someone who just stumbled across a bunch of old Pokemon cards in their attic.
Rare and Valuable Pokemon Cards
Known as Vintage cards, the Pokemon TCG sets that were released in the first and second generation of Pokemon are some of the most valuable cards that collectors go after. If the cards have been kept in pristine condition, they can go for tens of thousands of dollars.
The most recognized rare Pokemon TCG cards are in the Base Set that was released in North America in 1999. It contained 102 cards and its most sought-after card was the Charizard.
Possibly the holy-grail of Pokemon TCG cards is a first-edition, mint-condition Charizard from the Base Set. It made news when a first-edition Charizard in pristine condition sold for over $300,000 dollars. You can see the live price of PSA 10 First-Edition Charizards here.
This card has been rereleased in several different sets, including recently in the Pokemon Celebrations Set. Rereleased cards aren't worth anything like the original vintage card, but they are still very popular today.
The Base Set cards were originally printed between 1999 and 2000, and was even reprinted as a completely new set (called Base Set 2) with some additional cards from other sets.
Many of these cards have also had reprints in modern sets, so being able to identify your cards requires a bit of research and attention to detail.
There are several different versions of base set cards to look out for:
- First-Edition - First Edition cards were part of the first print runs (hence first edition) and they came with a unique stamp on the card's body. They stopped putting the first-edition stamps on modern cards a long time ago.
- Shadowless - This refers to a second print run of the Pokemon Base Set. They no longer include the first-edition stamp, but they also don't come with the shadow-border around the Pokemon image, which is later introduced to subsequent print runs
- Error Cards - There are different types of error cards; it could be an error in the content of the card (i.e. spelling error) or it could be a badly printed card. Either way, some error cards are desired by collectors.
And of course, it's not just Base Set cards which go for a lot of money. There were seven sets released between 1999-2000 that included only first generation Pokemon, all of them would be considered vintage cards today.
If you've been collecting more recently released cards, you can still find collectors looking to buy those cards today. With the recent boom in popularity of Pokemon Cards it has caused the price of newer cards to skyrocket as people attempt to scoop up cards in the hopes they'll be worth more in the future.
Condition Of Pokemon TCG Cards
If you kept your cards in a binder and only looked at them, chances are they might still be in good condition.
Back in the day, the Pokemon TCG was played by millions of children, who didn't care about keeping their cards in pristine condition or preserving their value. And how could anyone predict that the Pokemon Franchise would still be going 25 years later, let alone increasing in popularity and breaking sale records.
That's not all- even if you kept your Pokemon Cards in great condition, they still can have other things wrong with them. The printing quality of Pokemon cards can also vary wildly, leading to cut corners, surface scratches, off-centering and lots of other issues which brings down the graded rating of a card.
The condition of your Pokemon Cards will play a lot into how much they are worth.
There are specialized grading companies who look at cards under a microscope and look for anything at all wrong with your cards. They give each card a grade and return them back to you. These grades are extremely valuable to collectors who want to buy the best conditioned cards.
It also drives up the cards rarity; if a card is graded a 10 and every other card is only a 9, suddenly you're the one carrying the only graded-10 Pokemon card that all collectors want.
All of these factors are what keep the cards value going up, despite them being printed in their millions. Collectors want the best of the best, and they'll pay top dollar for them.
Rarity Of Pokemon Cards
Another small anecdote is the rarity of Pokemon Cards. Not all cards are given an equal rarity when you open a Booster Pack.
Some cards can have a pull-rate as high as 1 in 100 packs; the pull-rates have never been officially released by The Pokemon Company so knowing the exact rarity of a card is difficult.
This is especially true for the older cards, as there were very few people counting and opening thousands of booster packs trying to determine the rate.
Modern Sets released today are a lot easier to figure out the pull-rates as fans can combine the pull-rate data of their own collection to get a good idea of how difficult a card is to pull.
It's not always the difficulty of the card's pull-rate that determines the value either; popularity of the Pokemon and the card's design also heavily influences the price.
Where to sell Pokemon Cards?
You may be thinking, well great- I have two hundred Base Set Charizards that I want to sell. But where is the best place to sell my Pokemon Cards?
The quick and easy option are auctions sites like eBay.
eBay has thousands of Pokemon cards for sale on it and it's one of the go-to places for collectors looking to find cards. Selling on eBay does have fees on listings, which should be considered when calculating your card's value.
You can also sell them at Local Card Shops, Marketplace sites like Facebook/GumTree and forums like Reddit.
If you have some of the rarest Pokemon cards, you might want to find a private auction site like Goldin Auctions that will find more capable bidders than sites like eBay can.
Graded Pokemon Cards
One way collectors can know for sure whether a card is in pristine condition is with a professional graded card company.
A grading company will look at your cards under a microscope, looking at all the tiny details of the card to make sure they're perfect. At the end of their review, they give the card a grading and place it inside a sealed case and send it back to you.
A card that is graded high usually increases its value but it does cost a decent amount to get a card graded, especially at the top-card grading companies.
Which brings us back to another point: there are actually lots of different grading companies but only a few are seen as reliable and trustworthy.
These two companies are the pinnacle of card-grading services and their prices reflect that. There are several smaller companies out there, that charge less to have your card graded but they won't typically increase the value of a card like a PSA grading or Beckett.
The difference in grading prices can be huge. A PSA 10 Rainbow Pikachu from the Vivid Voltage set can go for double the price of a PSA 9 Rainbow Pikachu.
If you're interested in grading your cards, you should factor in the cost of doing so. Right now, PSA submissions are around $150/card, which can sometimes be the entire worth of a card meaning you'll lose money grading the card. Ideally you should only be grading cards that are either personal to you or cost above $300.
If you just like your cards to be in nice display cases with a grading, you can try any of the new services out there. Some of them might even get popular enough to rival the top dogs.
Pokemon Card Investing
Since 2020 started, Pokemon Card prices have surged upwards due to many different factors. They have since come down in price, but they are still incredibly popular, hence them selling out all over the world.
Naturally, cards over time go up in value. This is due to the fact that the cards go out of circulation; they are not printed anymore, sealed product is opened and cards get damaged or destroyed.
But there are also thousands of different Pokemon Cards and so it's hard to know which cards will retain value and which cards will simply just idle.
There is also the possibility of cards being reprinted which devalues the original cards, as we've seen with Pokemon Celebrations Set.
Scalpers & Printing Issues
Another issue currently plaguing many popular franchises is people buying up all the product and reselling for higher prices, known as Scalping.
Pokemon TCG has plenty of scalping issues; when Pokemon released the 25th Anniversary McDonalds Promotional Cards in Happy Meals, McDonalds were sold out of Happy Meals TCG Packs across the world whilst the packs of cards were put on sites like eBay for double the cost of a Happy Meal.
That isn't the only case of it happening either; there have been major shortages of big release cards including Vivid Voltage, Chilling Reign and Celebrations due to people buying thousands of dollars of Pokemon products at MSRP and reselling it for higher, with little interest in the TCG.
The Pokemon Company has tried to mitigate this issue by printing more and more Pokemon Cards, but there are logistical issues for ramping up production of more products and shipping them across the world.
The demand is clearly there, but there may come a point where the hype of Pokemon TCG dies down again and prices of the cards drops dramatically due to the huge amounts produced.
Since Pokemon TCG releases lots of sets every year, there is not always the same demand for the cards each time around. Vivid Voltage was one of the most popular sets released, and then came out Battle Styles which is struggling still today to sell off product.
Knowing what the next hot Pokemon TCG set is requires you to be part of the Pokemon TCG community. This will help you get a feel for how excited everyone is; this usually translates very well into demand. If you're seeing your local card shops sell-out on pre-orders before release, chances are there's a lot of hype for that set.
You also have to be careful with Pokemon TCG Hype. Pokemon TCG is an expensive hobby and you don't want to get buyer's remorse for buying way too much. Always set a budget!
Pokemon TCG Collecting
Hopefully this guide has given you a good overview of the Pokemon TCG scene. It's everything we've learned about the hobby over the last couple of years and I'm sure there are sections we could go over in more detail.
Pokemon TCG should be about the hobby and hobbies are meant to be fun. If you're not having fun collecting Pokemon Cards or playing the game, it's likely going to lead to disappointment. If you're investing in Pokemon Cards, you'd probably get much better returns on other financial instruments than shiny cardboard.
We'd love to know when you guys started collecting Pokemon Cards and what you think of the hobby in its current state? Leave a comment below!