Pokémon Card Collections - Value, Investment and Resale Market Explained
Just how desirable are Pokémon cards in 2022? The answer is that they may be more desirable now than at any point in history. So much so that the retail giant Target actually made a decision to stop selling them in their stores due to a physical altercation that broke out because of competition over the cards.
This is true even though the Pokémon Company International has basically printed modern Pokémon card products to demand. Indeed, even famous YouTubers like Logan Paul are jumping in on the craze, and the collectible craze shows no signs of slowing down.
Many people that have never thought about collecting are now thinking about joining in on the fun in the hopes of making some money reselling the cards. But does all this hype mean that Pokémon cards are actually a good investment?
Are Pokémon cards a good investment?
The short answer is that treating Pokémon card collecting as an alternate investing strategy is like any other investment strategy, meaning that a risk is involved. The good news is that, technically speaking, the vast majority of Pokémon cards that have been printed in the last decade have all risen in value.
This is true even for some unpopular sets. That being said, It’s important to know that modern Pokémon card products are printed to meet demand, especially in cases where there is a Pokémon card shortage as there was in the time period between 2020 and 2021; the same time period when according to, Google Trends, interest in Internet search for the collectibles was at an all time high.
Two camps of thought
Another aspect that is similar to other investment strategies, is that there are two different types of Pokémon collectors: Those that think Pokémon cards will be worth loads of money in the future, and those that think modern Pokémon card products are overhyped as an alternate investment strategy (though still acknowledge that it is possible to make money collecting them). That being said, you should definitely curb your enthusiasm for making mountains of money if you are only planning to hold them for only 3-5 years.
Modern Pokemon cards were never designed to be purchased, sold, and flipped for a profit. The Pokémon Company International has stated they will always print the cards to meet demand, and given enough time, they will always do so. This is true even if a plethora of people join in on the hobby and outpace supply for a short period - which was the case in 2021 - they’ll just print more.
Critics will argue that the original Pokémon cards are valuable because the majority of collectors in the early days weren’t looking at them as investment opportunities, but were actually playing the trading card game. This meant that most of the cards weren’t kept in mint condition, making the ones that were extremely rare and valuable.
Fast forward to today, and the situation is very different. Pokémon collectors are entering the hobby for a wide array of different reasons, rather than just to play the trading card game. People that wouldn’t have otherwise taken part are now considering purchasing the cards as an investment strategy. Buying whole boxes, and leaving them unpackaged in hopes to capitalize on the resale value in the distant future, is becoming common practice.
Why would anyone want to buy Pokémon cards in the first place? One of the main reasons is the intricate story built within the Pokémon universe (or universes).
For the past 25 years, people from all over the globe were introduced to the Pokémon story at various times and through various mediums. Pokémon was consumed through its wildly popular anime television series, 23 different theatrical movies, collectors’ books, and a plethora of different games (at least 38 depending on how many spin offs are counted).
One of the biggest games to date was the PokémonGo game, which was released in 2016. Players used their smartphone to hunt for hidden 3D Pokémon scattered within virtual real world maps.
The game works by allowing users to walk around the real world, while simultaneously using their smartphone to look for Pokémon that would appear on the map. It was one of the first glimpses of what could be made possible with augmented reality (AR). People of all ages were suddenly visiting areas they’ve never been before in the hopes of finding rare Pokémon.
Since its creation, the Pokémon story has become more complex, with three different timelines, universes and dimensions, and hundreds more Pokémon characters being added. Each character also has its own story with different origins, strengths, and weaknesses.
And this all started because the creator of the Pokémon concept, Satoshi Taijrii, had to find something to replace his bug collecting hobby.
In the early days, people could trade Pokémon using a cable to connect Gameboys. Millions of people joined in on the fun. Today, there are exponentially more ways to interact with other collectors thanks to the Internet and the various online platforms.
Reddit’s Pokémon subreddit (Reddit’s version of groups) has over 3 million members. The official Twitter account for the Pokémon Company International has 7 million followers, and Facebook still continues to be a go to place for Pokémon groups, communities, and events.
Different platforms are used by Investors and collectors for different reasons. From a monetary standpoint, Facebook can be a good choice for buying and trading, and Instagram can be used to promote collections. YouTube offers a great resource for educational purposes, and channels fully dedicated to unwrapping Pokémon cards are insanely popular. A good rule of thumb is that if there is a social media platform, then there is a large community of Pokémon enthusiasts that is present within that platform.
The drivers behind the Pokémon are numerous. The Pokémon Company International excels at delivering the most important aspects of what makes collectibles great.
Many people that collected Pokémon cards in the late 90’s and early 2000’s remember opening packs as kids, and if you ask any of them, nostalgia is usually one of the main drivers that keeps them coming back to the game. Research from Neustreet confirms the nostalgia factor, and many people hold on to packs simply as a time capsule that they can come back to, maybe 20 years down the line.
The pandemic and the PokémonGo game have accelerated and reinvigorated that nostalgia, and are at least part of the reasons why the game has seen an eruption in interest.
The famous slogan, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ is part of that nostalgia, and completionism definitely plays a role in a collector’s affinity for the game. Furthermore, at least part of that completionism has to do with curiosity about each Pokémon, how they interact with each other, where they live, and their traits.
It’s just like the bugs that Satoshi Taijrii loved to collect growing up.
Getting started with Pokémon trading cards
Understanding Pokémon trading cards can be challenging as there are many nuances, and a plethora of products that have been released. There are several points of interest all beginners should know about, as well as a few methods that help those that are just getting started.
The Pokémon Base Set
Learning the different print runs of Pokémon cards is one of the absolute essentials for beginners looking to get into the hobby. It all started back in 1996, when what is called the Pokémon Base Set, or first initial core set of Pokémon cards, was released in Japan (they weren’t released in the United States until three years later in 1999).
If you’re looking to get into the hobby, it’s important to know the difference between the 4 original print runs, which are basically editions, and are some of the most valuable and sought out Pokémon cards ever created.
- 1st edition - Appropriately named, the 1st edition Pokémon cards all have the black 1st edition stamp located on the left hand side of the card, right under the thumbnail. Cards from this print are known to sell for six figures at auctions.
- Shadowless - The only difference between shadowless and 1st edition is that highly-valuable 1st edition stamp. However, some Shadowless cards are actually harder to come by than 1st edition cards.
- Unlimited - This is the third and most common print of Base Set cards. They are also the least valuable as so many were printed. The Unlimited prints have a box shadow around the card image thumbnail (which is why Shadowless is called, well… Shadowless).
- 4th Print - The names really do tell all the stories behind them. The only difference between the 4th print run, and the Unlimited run, is that they were released in countries outside the US, and the date in the bottom right hand corner of the cards mentions 2000 in addition to 1999.
Other popular sets
The Base Set consists of some of the most pricey cards, and that is one reason why it can also be one of the harder collections to complete.
Beginners might be better off setting their target on sets with lower price points (relatively speaking) that are easier to complete. Here are three of the earliest sets which every collector should invest some time, if not money, learning about.
- Jungle Set - Released in mid 1999, this set consists of 64 cards of which 16 are holos
- Fossil Set - Also released in 1999, this set contains 15 holos, and a few great “Mythical“ Pokémon. Both the Jungle Set and the Fossil Set contain cards that are traded at a four-figure price point
- Team Rocket - People love this set because it contains the fan-favorite and secret-rare Dark Raichu, which was numbered 83 out of 82 cards.
How many Pokémon sets are there? As of February 2022, there are a total of ninety-one sets that have been released, and the Pokémon Company International releases four sets a year.
Use a Pokémon card collection tools
As mentioned earlier, part of the draw of Pokémon is that it has a vast ecosystem of games, cards, and products that caters to the community. Indeed, there are even ecosystems within ecosystems (The PokémonGo game had third party apps built that tracked fitness goals for example).
Many people utilize tools such as online Pokémon collection trackers like TCG collector or Pokellector. These help organize and view your collections, set goals for desired cards, and track progres. Many collectors advocate using spreadsheets to track collection progress, but these tools aim to make it easier by eliminating the need to do so.
What you should know about buying Pokémon cards
Becoming an expert in spotting differences is one of the most important aspects in becoming an advanced Pokémon card trader. Once you know the ins and outs, you’ll be able to set your own standards for your hobby.
Graded cards are cards that have had their condition evaluated by third-party experts - two of most well-known being companies like Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) and Beckett Grading Services (BGS). Pokémon cards are graded on a scale from 1-10. A “1” is considered “Poor Condition” and a “10” is considered GEM MINT.
Grading can drastically change the value of your card. Higher graded cards are considered to be in better condition, and are thus more rare, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider investing in one with a lower grade. After all, some people like to collect specific Pokémon cards at every grade level!
The criteria that a professional will grade a card on include the corners, edges, surface and centering.
In addition to collecting full sets, you can collect Booster Sets. Booster Sets come in packs of 11 cards with a certain amount of each type of card.
Usually a booster set will contain at least one card that has a high rarity, a few (or one) “Energy” cards and the rest are either common or uncommon cards.
If you watch one of the many videos online of those that open packs of Pokémon cards, sometimes you’ll hear the presenter mention the pack being weighed. Basically what that means is that it is possible to tell whether there are more valuable cards in a deck or not by weighing the pack.
Foil cards tend to weigh more than regular cards. So if you have a heavier pack, you should know that it is more likely that the pack will be worth more money. You can even find sellers on Amazon and eBay that sell these “Heavy Packs.”
Some people question whether or not this is a violation of ethics. That’s because since you can figure out which pack has the holo cards, some people would weigh a store's whole supply and purchase the coveted packs - leaving the less desirable ones for everyone else to buy.
Where can you buy Pokémon cards?
There are a plethora of places and platforms where you can buy Pokémon cards. Many people use social media, or other applications dedicated to used items to make trades (especially since Facebook has a marketplace). That being said, there are several staples that you should know about.
There are a number of online retailers that list Pokémon cards. The Pokémon Company International has an official store at PokémonCenter.com, and collectors are also able to buy on Amazon, both of which they recommend using directly on their website. As stated before, Target and Walmart no longer sell in-store due to fights breaking out, but you can still find them on their online platforms.
Auction sites like eBay are a great option for picking up cards from resellers and in various conditions, however it is possible to buy fake Pokémon cards. That being said, sellers that take part in shady practices usually don’t last very long on the site.
Be sure to always check reviews, product descriptions, and message sellers as much as possible when buying on any third party platform.
Local gaming, collectibles shops
Depending on where you live, you may have a store dedicated to collectibles and trading cards of all kinds, sometimes these stores may even contain rare cards that they have on display. In recent years, these types of stores have moved online, but a local pawn shop, or other specialty store may carry the Pokémon card product.
Local stores like Gamestop are always a good idea to check up on to see what they offer. It’s worth picking up the phone to see what they carry as it could vary from location to location.
Some retail shops
Several retail shops, including Walmart and Target, stopped selling Pokémon cards in store due to physical altercations breaking out over competition for the card, though still may have them available online.
Despite these fights, some retail shops still sell the Pokémon card product in-store. At any point in time, retailers like Barnes & Noble, Costco, Sam’s Club, and the Dollar Tree all may be carrying Pokémon cards, given that they haven’t sold out.
People may be surprised that Best Buy, a store that specializes in electronics, tends to have a pretty good selection of Pokémon cards available for purchase. For some reason Best Buy hasn’t experienced the physical altercations that other retail giants have.
A unique alternative investment strategy
Pokémon cards are truly one of the most unique alternative investment opportunities that are available, and they historically perform very well. According to Neustreet research, the 1st edition Pokémon cards have even outperformed well known stocks, as well as cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Will modern Pokémon cards that are being printed today follow that trend and increase in value over time? Only time will tell. But with more and more people joining the hobby each and every day, it’s likely that the cards will only become more desirable.
Q: Is it worth it to collect Pokémon Cards?
A: The process for determining a Pokémon card’s future value can be complex. The factors for deciding to invest in a Pokémon card collection are plentiful, and becoming an expert collector takes time. Pokémon cards can be a good investment if you know what you are doing, but traders should curb their enthusiasm if they are looking to make a lot of money in only a few years time.
Q: Will New Pokémon cards go up in value?
A: Technically speaking, all Pokémon cards have risen in value since their release. Rare cards have outperformed popular stocks and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Q: What is the rarest Pokémon Card?
A: In February of 2022 the Pikachu Illustrator sold for $900,000. It’s the rarest Pokémon card in existence and was originally given to promo contest winners in 1997.