For those new to the world of Pokémon card collecting and trading or those who joined the fray during the massive boom in 2020, finding your footing in today’s market can be a difficult task.
Where do you start? How do you adjust? What trends should you be looking for? What cards or items should you watch out for?
Unsurprisingly, the answer isn’t cut and dry. There are a lot of avenues to explore when it comes to Pokemon cards in 2022, and you won’t always get the same results.
But there are methods you can employ to enhance your experience as a collector and investor.
Last time, we looked at why the Pokémon card market was in its current state (if you haven’t read that article yet, follow that link and check it out before we dive deeper into this one). The hobby is no longer an isolated space that the average person knows nothing about. Things have blown up to the point where celebrities are now collecting these cards, and less experienced collectors and investors may feel like they’re in limbo.
While no one has the magic answer, there is one attribute that will generally go in your favor: the ability to identify value.
Keep in mind that “value” is not necessarily what will make you the most money. Sometimes it is, but the general idea here is to get your money’s worth. When you do that consistently, you’ll end up better off in the long run.
Here are some ways to assess the value in the current market for Pokémon cards:
Try to avoid incredibly common cards
You’d think this would be something most people would know, but when you consider that many paid around $1,000 for PSA 10 1st Edition Jungle Pikachus and Eevees in late 2020 and early 2021, it’s obvious that not everyone is on the same page
I’ve always liked to use that Pikachu card as a prime example because it’s the prime example of a card that was exorbitantly priced and absolutely about to take a major drop.
That has been going on for the last year or so. Once a four-figure card at a PSA 10, that first edition Jungle Pikachu is now flirting with the $200 mark. Even worse is the PSA 10 1st Edition Jungle Eevee, which can be had for around $100 at the current market.
So what happened?
Well, as the first article I wrote about this said, there was a perfect storm of events in 2020 and 2021 that caused the price of qualifying cards to skyrocket. Because PSA closed its doors in March 2021 due to an overwhelming backlog of submissions, individuals did not have access to qualifying. As a result, they resorted to buying cards that were already qualified, which artificially inflated the prices of cards like the aforementioned Pikachu and Eevee.
We also saw this for common Base Set Unlimited cards like Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. Before their meteoric rise in late 2020, you could typically buy those cards for around $40 (probably even around $20 in 2018). Then, during the boom, they reached prices close to $500. That huge growth in such a short amount of time is clearly not entirely organic, especially when those particular cards were so plentiful (who No have binder pages complete of those cards in 1999?).
All of these examples have dropped tremendously in price since then. PSA has removed most of its backlog, meaning most of the cards that shipped in 2020 and 2021 were returned to customers and listed on eBay for sale. I already mentioned the steep decline of Jungle Pikachu and Eevee, and those Base Set Unlimited commons are now under $100.
It may sound elementary, but based on what we have witnessed in recent years, obviously not everyone understands this point. Avoid the very common cards with tons of branded copies if you really want the best value.
there are cards other what wizards of the coast
If you grew up with Pokémon cards, chances are you have a great reference point for the Wizards of the Coast era (known colloquially as WOTC). These were the cards that lasted from the initial American release of Pokemon cards in 1999 to 2003 before the rights were sold to Nintendo.
During that time we saw 15 sets released in English: Base Set, Jungle, Fossil, Base Set 2, Team Rocket, Gym Heroes, Gym Challenge, Neo Genesis, Neo Discovery, Neo Revelation, Neo Destiny, Legendary Collection, Expedition, Aquapolis and Skyridge.
Because those were the original sets with the original card template (although that template made change from Expedition to Skyridge), most people who grew up in the ’90s and early 2000s have an understandable bond with them. But sometimes, they are attached to their own detriment.
Sure: everyone knows Base Set Charizard. It’s the most iconic card in the hobby, and I think we can all safely say that it will never be dethroned as the most recognizable card in Pokémon. But there’s life beyond that, and Wizards of the Coast era cards have reached a point where great deals are hard to come by (even if there are certainly more deals available now than in late 2020 and 2021). .
So what about some alternatives?
The EX era has finally picked up speed in recent years, but there is still value to be found there. The Diamond & Pearl era is still unfolding, and Black & White and X & Y are essentially in their early stages (although admittedly they have seen some recent growth).
Now I will warn that the newer sets (namely Sun and Moon and Sword and Shield) have a lot of stock on hand, which means that the market is quite saturated with those products. At least on the English side of the hobby (more on that in a bit). So don’t think you’re going to get rich overnight buying Elite Trainer Boxes.
Regardless, it won’t hurt to expand your collection outside of Wizards of the Coast cards. A little variety never hurt anyone.
Don’t be afraid of Japanese cards
IMHO the biggest value right now is in the Japanese market.
We’ll delve much deeper into the Japanese vs. English market in a future article, but to try and cut things short for now, Japanese cards often have more to offer than their English counterparts.
Why? Well, first of all, there is a lot of exclusive art on the Japanese side that never makes it to America. I am mainly referring to the promotions, but even there are some differences in the established cards. For example, on the English side, Neo Discovery doesn’t have the Beedrill and Butterfree holograms that Japan has. Those cards are rare non-holographic in English. Then in Neo Revelation the Japanese variant has Aerodactyl, Kingdra and Starmie all in holo form. They are all non-holo in English.
Second, Japanese prices are, for the most part, better. this is not forever the case, but most of the time, Japanese card prices are cheaper than English. The same applies to booster boxes. So you get the same art for a cheaper price (especially now that the Japanese yen is so much weaker than the US dollar). Yes, the language of the text is different, but if all you really care about is the art, so what? I would even say that the borders of the Japanese cards are more elegant than those of the English cards.
Finally, Japanese print quality is generally superior to English. This is not true 100 percent of the time, but the exception is not the rule. So if you’re picking up some raw Japanese cards, they’ll usually have a better chance of scoring higher on PSA (or whatever rating company you choose) than the English versions. This has been a constant factor going back to the 90’s when the cards were first released.
You’d be surprised how quickly you get hooked on Japanese cards when you start buying them. And let’s be honest: Pokémon is a Japanese franchise, so everything that comes to the United States has already been digested in Japan. And again, there are some Japanese cards that never make it to a North American (or British, Australian or whatever) printer because they are never redesigned with English text. Red’s Pikachu’s incessantly popular promotion is a perfect example of this. So are the Yokohama Pikachu promos, of which we saw several (an example can be found here).
What you grew up with is great and all, but you’re really missing out if you refuse to at least try the Japanese market at some point, much as a collector. Y an investor.