culture

Your Ultimate Guide to Selling and Investing In Pokémon Cards

poke univ
Jason Koeppel/ONE37pm

Looking to invest short and long term with the safest cards on the planet? Pokémon cards are on a blistering pace that shouldn’t plateau for years. The facts will have you on eBay in a matter of minutes. With prices shooting to the stratosphere, are you curious to see what your old cards collecting dust are worth? This Ultimate Pokémon Guide is your compass to buying and selling vintage Pokémon cards today and for the future.  

 

(Note: all values listed are valid as of date of publication)

Why Invest in Pokémon?

1stedit
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

Pokémon cards are the premier non-sports cards to invest in today. The original 1999-2000 sets have been on an upward trajectory for over 5 years, with 2020 being the mega increase, thus creating a cultural demand similar to the 1999 release. 

 

  • Pokémon is the highest-grossing media franchise ever. Recently the company hit $105 Billion. 
     

  • The Most Valuable English card, 1st Edition Charizard in PSA 10 Gem Mint has soared from $50,000.00 in July 2020 to a recent record-breaking purchase by the rapper Logic for $225,000.00 
     

  • Pokémon Trading Card sales have topped $10.25 Billion. 
     

  • The buying demographic is between ages 24-36. This group will continue to make more money annually and have a higher spending threshold. The next 20 years should be meteoric. 
     

  • Since March 2020, prices have changed in part due to the pandemic. Being stuck home has caused a major demand in collecting and opening original sealed packs. Pokémon Cards have exploded. 
     

  • Grading companies have been overloaded, unable to meet the demand in a timely fashion causing graded cards on the market to surge. The trajectory from January 2020 was for cards to double in price over the year, not quadruple. 
     

  • Original Pikachu cards have increased up to and beyond 1,000% in the last 10 months. The most famous Pokémon has become the new go to character for collectors. 
     

  • Japanese Pokémon cards are 24 years old. With the 25th anniversary near, predictions are all the original cards will see another massive surge. 
     

  • A 1st Edition Box recently sold for $198,000.00 at auction, doubling in value while many of the 1st Edition Base cards have stayed around the same price from before the record sale. 

 

High-End Pokémon cards are being viewed as modern art, with the price tag for a pristine 1st Edition Base Charizard at $220,000.00 and climbing if you can get one. Due to correlations to Magic the Gathering, the prices today should increase steadily over the next 5 years. Outside of the economy crashing, Pokémon is very safe. 

 

Demand for original cards has consistently increased since 2010, but due to awareness, and points mentioned previously, there has been a fearlessness from buyers to set records. All year, record sale after record sale for high-end Pokémon Cards. The fear of missing out on today’s price is real.

Set Your Goals

  1. Budget 

 

It’s imperative that you set a budget and know when to stop buying. Winning auctions can be addicting and it’s easy to go overboard fast. Monitor recent sales. Know how much you’re willing to spend to acquire the desired card.  

 

  1. Decide your financial goals with the hobby

 

Why are you getting in? Are you an enthusiast who wants to collect for long-term profits or are you trying to make money fast?  

 

There are many routes you can go when investing in Pokémon Cards and there is a quality card for every budget. Starting out at $10 card purchases works in the long term. Buying the rarest cards under $20,000.00 for a quick profit has been a major play in 2020. 

Understand Different Card Buying Strategies

  1. Long Term Investing

 

With 1999-2000 Pokémon cards, the long term investing would be towards Mint raw cards and Near Mint graded cards. Graded cards have been on a blistering pace the last 12 months. Lower grades of the most expensive cards or PSA 8 and up for the rest of the 1999-2000 cards are great long-term investments.   

 

  1. Flipping

 

Flippers will buy a card with the goal to make a profit on it ASAP. Education is what sets the flipper from the casual collector. They know the sales, population reports and what cards are coveted by monitoring the market. If a card takes off, flippers often look to capitalize. If you only know the main Pokémon characters and not much else about the cards, flipping is probably not for you. You have to study sets, know errors, sales, population reports and have a deep understanding of why cards/sets get hot. All of this is covered here. 

 

  1. Collecting

 

Pokémon cards are all about collecting. Gotta Catch Em All is the slogan and for good reason: children aimed to have every card. In 1999, having a binder with complete sets was a major deal. Set collecting isn’t much different now, with gem mint and lower graded complete sets becoming all the rage once again. Pokémon battling and collecting were the essence, but today collecting dominates. One of the phenomenons with Pokémon cards is the overwhelming nostalgia and lack of willing sellers due to attachment to the cards. Many collectors value their cards well beyond the current prices and it’s shown with a limited supply of high-grade 1st Ed Base holograms available. Being out-priced is becoming more apparent and some collectors are flipping cards to finish sets and upgrade. 

How To Find the Value of Your Cards

value
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

Taking your old cards out of the closet and researching to find their current value is the most common way people are getting back into Pokémon. When trying to figure out a card’s value, make sure to follow these steps:

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Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

Step 1. Find the year of the card. Check the bottom year(s) of the card.

 

Step 2. Find the set the card belongs to. If there is no logo on the right side, it’s Base. Every other set has an indicator. 

 

Step 3. Identify the card with the name and number in the set. 

Figuring Out What Pokémon Card To Buy

1st edition
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1st Edition Base 

  • The grail set, Charizard is on fire with a recent sale topping $225,000.00.
     
  • The graded population on this set is low, and the demand has become astronomical.
     
  • The last Sealed Box auction ended at $198,000.00.  

shadowless2
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Shadowless Base Set

  • Identical to the 1st Edition cards except they don’t have the 1st Edition Stamp. 
     
  • The Shadowless set is just as rare / more rare than the 1st Edition set.
     
  • Gem Mint Charizard has a much lower population and the price hovers around $90,000.00. 
     
  • Shadowless is the only other set with the Red Cheek Pikachu Error card.

unlimited
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Base Unlimited

  • The Unlimited Set Boxes are over $35,000.00.
     
  • Gem Mint Charizard is around $30,000.00.
     
  • This set had 6-8 times the print runs compared to 1 print run each for 1st Edition and Shadowless.

jungle
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Jungle Set

  • 2nd Expansion set
     
  • 1st Edition Boxes worth over $25,000.00
     
  • Each Holographic card has a non-holographic version
     
  • Only expansion set where every holographic card has a no symbol version. 

 

fossil
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Fossil Set

  • 3rd Expansion Set
     
  • 1st Edition Boxes Over $20,000.00
     
  • Each Holographic card has a non-holographic version.

base set2
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Base Set 2

  • Combination of Base & Jungle sets.
     
  • Boxes over $25,000.00
     
  • PSA 10 Charizard valued over $8,000.00
     
  • Having the original Charizard artwork will always keep this set in demand. 

 

team rocket
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Team Rocket

  • The 5th set, Team Rocket pays homage to the villains of Pokémon: Jesse, James & Meowth.
     
  • 1st Edition Boxes over $20,000.00
     
  • 1st Expansion set to have Charizard
     
  • After Base Set, Team Rocket is arguably the hottest Gen. 1 set to collect. 

gym hero 0
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Gym Heroes

  • Focuses on 1st 4 Gym Leaders: Brock, Misty, Lt. Surge & Erika
     
  • 1st Edition Boxes are at $15,000.00
     
  • PSA 10 1st Edition Moltres is valued over $4,500.00

gym challenge
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Gym Challenge

  • Focuses on Final 4 Gym Leaders: Sabrina, Koga, Blaine & Giovanni
     
  • 1st Edition Boxes are valued over $20,000.00 
     
  • PSA 10 Charizard is valued over $5,000.00 

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Promo Cards

Pokémon had numerous promo cards: E3 promos, Black Star Promos and Prerelease promos. They were available at events, in magazines, by mail request and one was available with a VHS film. Due to scarcity, some have skyrocketed and the demand is increasing rapidly.  You can read more about Black Star Promos in this article.

set
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Complete Sets

Serious collectors always value sets. The challenge of putting together any complete original set gets tougher by the day due to demand. For example, there are only 12 complete PSA 10 Base 1st Edition English sets currently, with the last sale fetching $129,500.00 in July 2020. Set collecting is a crucial aspect of the Pokémon community; even filling a binder with every card is an accomplishment that will make you money over time. Money isn’t the biggest driving factor; the desire to hold cards you coveted as a kid outweighs all other aspects and provides further proof that prices will continue to skyrocket.

packs
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Sealed Packs

Hands down the safest way to invest in Pokémon has been buying sealed packs. The opportunity to pull a Charizard or rare card is enough to make people rip packs open to display or send cards in to get graded. Blister packs are the safest way to get un-weighed packs (packs can be weighed to determine if a hologram is or isn’t in it). There are lots of ways to tamper with packs so make sure to read the risks involved further down.

box
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Boxes

Owning any original English sealed box has become a major accomplishment. Multiple boxes make you a rock star. A clean, sealed box is one of the ultimate investments moving forward. As noted earlier, a 1999 Base English 1st Edition Box fetched $198,000.00 recently at Heritage Auctions. That’s almost triple from the last public sale in 2019.

auto
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

Artist Autographed Cards

Pokémon artists have become rock stars as well. Mitsuhiro Arita (Charizard & Pikachu Base Set artist) signed cards have soared in value and created a whole new market for collectors. Illustrations on the cards have also become a major part of collecting and the sales are staggering.

error2
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Error Cards

Error cards have shown to be major value opportunities for collectors. There are many error cards, such as the Red Cheek Pikachu in the 1st Edition and Shadowless sets. 1st Edition cards, the stamp itself can be grey, which is highly desirable. There is a ghost stamp 1st Edition Pikachu where the 1st Edition logo is barely noticeable: this card is a grail. In 1st Edition and Shadowless there is a Vulpix with a Green Dot on its butt.

Variables That Can Affect a Card’s Value

grading
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

1. The Grading Company

 

PSA is the king of Pokémon card grading with BGS a close 2nd. Both companies command top $ for their graded cards and have proven that grades do matter in the Pokémon realm, with a BGS 9.5 1st Edition Charizard selling for nearly $73,000.00 in July. 

 

2. Supply of the card (Population reports)

 

Pokémon cards have low populations compared to sports cards. The number of graded cards can be the biggest indicator of value, but some cards, such as Pikachu or Charizard, have insane demand regardless of populations. Supply is outmatched by current demand, and after two decades since these cards were produced, that won’t change. Check the PSA 1999 Pokémon Game Population report to get more info on how limited the Base set cards are. 

 

3. Buying Raw vs. Graded

 

Thanks to modern technology, getting clear photos of cards is easier than ever. That said, until you hold a card, you don’t know how clean it really is. Graded cards are the safest indicator that you’re getting what you want. When buying graded cards, think of the price paid for the grading and that there is no wait time besides shipping. There is much less risk buying graded cards, but raw (loose cards) can be the best bet to make profits faster. You never know what you can find in a binder someone is selling, but be careful and do your best to inspect those cards.  

 

4. Surface, corners, edges, creases & centering

 

In the process of card grading, the most important aspects are the surface, corners, edges and how well the card is centered front and back. For Pokémon cards, are there any scratches on the holofoil? Do you see whitening on the edges? Are the corners nicked? Grading is subjective with individuals determining what a card is valued at, based on its condition.

 

5. Your negotiation tactics

 

How you negotiate will go a long way in collecting and flipping. Knowing market value, monitoring auctions, and making offers when possible are great ways to limit risk and help you score deals. Never be afraid to message a seller, feel them out and potentially make a long-term outlet for purchases while building trust. Networking is a major component.

 

6. Nostalgic elements

 

Pokémon culture is wide-ranging, with the Pokémon Go app, video games, movies, TV shows, merchandise, and more, everyone knows something about Pokémon. Pikachu is as recognizable as Hello Kitty, Pokémon is unisex, and the cards are a major component for the culture. This won’t change. The cards are a major part of Pokémon Lore and will continue to be the biggest aspect of nostalgia moving forward.  

Best Channels To Buy Pokémon Cards

1. eBay:

 

The safest online marketplace to buy and sell Pokémon cards. Check sales for a quick look at where cards are at price wise. Check seller reviews and buy with confidence from high rated sellers. eBay is the largest online marketplace and is your best chance to locate inventory. When searching for cards, look at items nearest you, and contact nearby sellers, potentially creating a local network. It saves on shipping and more. Load up your watch list to get faster alerts when cards sell or are pulled. 

 

2. Facebook groups & Instagram:

 

Look for feedback from sellers to check legitimacy, these are great places to score deals and build relationships within the collecting community but beware of scams. 

 

3. COMC:

 

Marketplace designed to help you buy individual cards, specializing in set collecting.

 

4. Mercari:

 

Popular marketplace to buy and sell cards. When hunting for low population cards, it’s important to utilize all options. 

 

5. Card Shows & Stores:

 

If you can find a show or store with vintage Pokémon cards, go. You get the chance to look at cards in person, check sales online, network and decide what’s of value. You never know what you can walk away with.

Risks

Shill Bidding

 

“Shilling” is when a card bids for an overly high price, but the sale never gets completed. Bidders often times will try to manipulate the market this way, to pump the value of their own identically or near graded cards. Check recent sales and bidding history on a sale to identify if it’s legit or not. There is a number rating next to buyer’s names in the bidding history. Often times it’s safe to trust the highest bid from a legitimate account. 

 

Fake Cards

 

When purchasing loose cards, make sure to research what you are buying, check the indicators (years, artwork) to make sure you are not getting scammed. The fake Pokémon cards are easily spotted, you can see through them, although there are some impressive forgeries of Charizard and the Illustrator Pikachu. 

 

Re-Sealed Packs

 

First off, check whom you are buying packs from. Ratings, reviews, make sure the seller is legitimate. Packs can easily be resealed and if you don’t know how to look, you can easily be scammed. Ask for as many pictures as it takes to see the entire pack, look at the top and bottom of the foil to see if there are any discrepancies, such as the foil looking different in one spot, and check for how crumpled up the pack is to indicate if the cards inside have been damaged. 

 

Weighing packs

 

Assume every Booster pack you buy is weighed. If it says Unweighed, it’s almost certain to be a light pack. Light packs won’t contain a hologram. Heavy packs will. When listed as heavy, make sure to tell the seller you intend to open the pack upon arrival, which will ensure they send a legitimately weighed pack otherwise they face ramifications of bad reviews, refunds, and can be labeled a scammer. The safest way to purchase individual packs is in Blisters. Blister Packs are sealed in plastic and cardboard, they can’t legitimately be weighed or tampered if sealed. Sealed packs get more limited by the day because people won’t stop opening them. Nostalgia is a major factor. Also, the dream of pulling a perfect Charizard or Pikachu can’t be overstated.

The Future of Pokémon Cards

Given this is vintage, the original high graded cards, sealed boxes and packs are scarce. The probability for further profits is strong. Due to demand, desire and drive, the Pokémon Game appears to be safe. Over $10 Billion in card sales since 1996 is staggering. 

 

Long term investing has paid off in a short term for collectors in 2020. So far, the only people losing are the ones who sell too soon. It’s a winning proposition due to Pokémon culture being bigger than any competing market. They flat out win. Television, video games, cards, it's still going strong. The children collecting today know all about the original cards and they covet them. Can you name the top 10 sports cards to own pre-1980? The children collecting today can name the top Pokémon Cards from 1999. 

 

During this recession, prices have only gone up. That was bound to happen regardless, but the speed at which prices have soared is impressive. The only concern moving forward is liquidity drying up, but that would impact the entire card market and more.   

 

The first generation of collectors is dropping record money on these cards because all the indicators show Pokémon is still wildly undervalued. The new investors who research and make rational decisions should see major profits moving forward. If you are selling, make sure you pay close attention to detail. 

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