Pikachu! I Trade You!: behind the Pokémon card craze and how to join it

TCG History

Pokémon! The Nintendo-exclusive video game phenomenon that started in Japan on February 26, 1996, has continued sweeping people of all age groups around the world until now. The video game spurred on the creation of multiple iterations of the brand. From video game versions to an anime (Japanese Animated TV Show), to some manga (Japanese Comics) series, and even to a trading card game. And the trading card game will be the focus of this article.

The Pokémon Trading Card Game (aka TCG for short) was released in Japan first in October of the same year as its video game but was later introduced to North America and the rest of the world in 1999. Since then, collectors and players have continued to support the Pokémon TCG and have recently gained greater popularity in mainstream media!

The Frenzy

We can’t pinpoint an exact event where the hype started but we can share that in 2020, YouTubers, celebrities, and investors started shelling out large amounts of money for rare cards or cards that just really fed their nostalgia. A purchase made by Logan Paul, worth $150,000 for a collector Charizard card and one from Logic worth $183,000 for a Charizard card as well, both made headlines that contributed to the whole craze.

Now, this frenzy shouldn’t be mistaken for Pokémon cards never having any resale values and a monetary trading community in the first place. They had them, like with most TCGs, but the prices never soared to this extreme, up until 2020 that is. Up until these celebrities and youtube stars popularized collecting, trading, and bidding for these cards (and card packs, in some instances). And now the prices have soared, and people worldwide have been actively collecting and trading these cards for a much higher value than before.

From Cards to Cash

This article isn’t going to end with us just reporting to you about the trends. We’re also here to give you some insight on how you can join in on the trend. So let’s answer a big question, how do you turn your cards into cash? How can we value Pokémon cards?

Honestly, it’s just a game of rarity. What makes some cards more valuable than others is how hard they are to find and how limited their copies are. You can check on the general rarity of your card by looking at the shape that appears at the bottom right of a card. A black circle is common, a black diamond is uncommon, and a black star is rare. Sometimes there are cards with different colored stars (i.e. white, gold) which means you have yourself an ultra-rare!

Another way to discern rarity is by checking the year the card was printed and then associating it as a base or a set. A set is a group or a collection of cards that were meant to be collected together to “complete the set.” While being a base means that the card is not part of a “set” that was made official by the Pokémon company. Meaning that a card that should be part of a set may have lesser value if sold individually, as opposed to a base card that just sells for much higher alone. But then again, someone could be trying to complete their “set” and your card might be the last thing they want and that’s sure to jack up the price. You can usually find this as to the bottom-right of the card’s image that depicts the Pokémon. There are special symbols that relate to certain sets and cards with the same symbols are part of that set. And no symbol basically means no official set.

An important symbol to look out for is the edition of the card. A 1st edition card is sure to fetch you a pretty dime. You can find this at the bottom-left of the image panel, opposite of the set symbol. The symbol is basically a black circle with a “1” in the middle and the word “Edition” curving along the upper arc of the circle.

Now for the less generalizable valuations, we have a lot more to consider. Those are promo cards, limited-edition releases, rare print errors, full-colors, holos, and “reverse holos.” These special cards have certain properties that make them more valuable due to the limitedness of these kinds of prints. And we have to also consider that some pokémon are more popular than others and this increases their value a lot as well. Hence the ridiculous prices for the famous orange dragon named Charizard, which garners a great following in the Pokémon community at large.

There are certainly a lot of possible factors that create value for a Pokémon card, so how about a shortcut? Card Mavin and Pokémon Prices are websites that help you find the market value of your Pokémon card as long as you enter the relevant information they need to find that specific card. They’ll give you the market value just like that and the website also gives you other information with regards to Pokémon cards in general. So these websites are definitely a big help, especially for people who just don’t have the time or interest in Pokémon but want an idea if their card has some form of profit or monetary value.

We’ve mentioned factors that contribute to the value of a card but then, there are factors that can devalue these cards. First is the condition of the card. Who would buy a rare holo Pikachu for $350,000 if it was crumpled up, blurred, rain-damaged, molded, teared up, and etc? Obviously, it would depreciate if the condition isn’t up to par. So remember to take care of your merchandise! And the next one would have to be the legitimacy of the card. A fake card definitely has no value, kind of a no-brainer honestly. But it’s still important that we qualify this.

Fake Spotting

In general, the best thing to do is to compare the card you’re inspecting with a copy or a picture of the original. Card Mavin and Pokémon Prices can definitely help you in that regard. Here are the things you should look out for. First is definitely the font size and font style. Pokémon has a unique font style and a very specific font size depending on the card. The second is the e in Pokémon. When you see the word Pokémon on any original Pokémon card, you will see that it is spelled with an accented e (é) rather than a regular e. Third, you have energy symbols (you can find it on the top right of the card next to Pokémon’s HP) that look distorted or weird, especially when put up against an original card. Fourth is the printing and colors. At the back, the color blue will have different hues if it was original, and a fake would just have one hue of blue which is usually lighter. The colors on the front of the card might look heavier or lighter once you compare them to an original. Printing has to do a lot with this, especially when you check for distortions with the text, the image, the color, and the cutting in general. Lastly, we have spelling mistakes and misprints. For this one, you have to be really careful. Because you might be holding onto a rare misprint or a fake. So you have to check it against a Pokémon card database to see if this is an original misprint, which is worth a lot of money, or if it’s just some cheap knock-off made by a person who can’t even spell right. In total, spotting fakes is pretty easy as they can just be easily spotted with a quick comparison against an original one and a basic idea of what an original would look like. In a very crude way of speaking, if it looks weird, it’s probably fake. But please be careful and double-check as much as you can, to make sure that you’re not missing out on making a profit and that you aren’t getting scammed into a loss.

Gotta’ Trade Them All

We’re not going to lie, selling and trading Pokémon cards in the Philippines will most likely happen via Shopee, Lazada, Carousell, and specialized Facebook Enthusiasts groups for trading and selling Pokémon TCG. But if you’re looking for something a bit more specialized and professional-looking, you can always use the websites, Cardmarket and eBay. Cardmarket is a specialized trading platform for TCG, so it’s not just for Pokémon. But it has its own dedicated section for it and its prices and updates show that the website is up-to-date.

Enjoy!

To finish things off, we’d like to wish you luck and to tell you to enjoy! Pokémon, be it trading, playing, or just collecting, is really enjoyable. From the feeling of nostalgia being chased by older fans to the excitement of newer fans, these are emotions that you’ll be exposed to once you start dabbling in Pokémon. So rather than just looking to make a profit at the end, enjoy the process just as much! There’s a reason why Pokémon has survived until now and why it captivates audiences of all ages, who knows, maybe you’ll get caught up in it too. Happy trading and collecting! Go catch ’em all!

Pisopedia is an online learning platform for Filipino students to learn more about personal finance.