What is Pokémon?

What is Pokémon?

When it comes to hobbies, game card collecting or trading card collecting has been a popular pastime for generation after generation. And to most collectors, sports cards appear to dominate all other cards in the game card collecting category.

As of July 2020, the sports trading card collecting market’s estimated value is $5.4 billion, but this estimated value also includes sports memorabilia such as uniforms, equipment, and championship jewelry. Still, it’s a jaw-dropping number, especially during a global pandemic and supposed economic turndown.

So, it’s even more surprising to learn how Pokémon Cards perform in the trading card collecting market. When you compare the sports card estimates to Pokémon Cards, prepare to be astounded.

In 2017, graded Pokémon cards in Europe had an 82% share of the continent’s strategic card game subclass of trading card collecting. And by March 2020, the tally of Pokémon Cards sold worldwide reached 30.4 billion cards.

At this pace, Pokémon Cards surpassed sports cards in the game card collecting category and showed no signs of stopping.

What is Pokémon?

Fun fact: Pokémon isn’t just Pokémon—it’s the short form for “Pocket Monsters." This international craze—that

Pokémon Charizard

 includes Pokémon Cards and graded Pokémon Cards—began humbly in 1980s Japan, when a writer named Satoshi

 Tajiri and an illustrator named Ken Sugimori created the first versions of Pokémon in their gaming magazine called

Fast forward to 1995, when Tajiri, as the head of Game Freak, created The Pokémon

 Company franchise with his partners, multinational video game giant Nintendo and Creatures Inc., a Japanese video game development company. At this stage of the game, the Pokémon Trading Card Game, or TCG for short, was born, and it changed trading card collecting and game card collecting forever.  Game Freak.

The original Pokémon were creatures inspired by plants, animals, mythological creatures, and even inanimate objects. They inhabit fictional regions, including Kanto, Johto, and Sinnoh, all based on either real-life regions in Japan or countries worldwide.

In the video games and TV shows, they are caught by children called Pokémon Trainers, and the trainers catch and train Pokémon to play battle games for sport. In English, the Pokémon slogan is "Gotta Catch 'Em All.”

What are Pokemon Cards?

The Pokémon Trading Card Game launched in October 1996 in the wake of the massively successful Pokémon cartoon show, video games, and anime franchise. Pokémon Cards feature various types of Pokémon creatures, at various levels, all of which attract a flurry of activity in the trading card collecting and game card collecting community worldwide.

●The foundation of all Pokémon card decks is the Basic Pokémon Cards. Players can’t play the game without a Basic Pokémon Card in the “Active” position on the field.

●Another type of Pokémon Cards is called the Evolved Pokémon. This card is only allowed to play on the Basic Pokémon Cards on the field.

Energy Pokémon Cards are yet another type. These Pokémon Cards power Pokémon attacks during a Pokémon Trading Card Game.

Energy Pokémon Cards include Basic Energy types (Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Psychic, Fighting, Darkness, Metal, and Fairy.) Additionally, Special Energy Pokémon Cards offer benefits to aid the player in attacks.

●There are also Trainer Pokémon Cards and Stadium Pokémon Cards. Trainer cards heal wounded Pokémon cards and dissolve the energy from opposing Pokémon Cards.

Who is Buying Pokémon Cards?

With double-digit billions of cards sold in the trading card collecting market, there isn’t a simple description of who buys Pokémon Cards. But the Pokémon Trading Card Game is becoming hugely popular again with young adults, who made Pokémon Cards a pop culture phenomenon from 1996 onwards.

Many of today’s experts in Pokémon trading card collecting are 1990s kids who never threw out their original Pokémon collections. There’s a hot market online for all things to do with graded Pokémon cards, and this is also where the majority of trades and sales of Pokémon Cards happens within the game card collecting marketplace.

Why are Pokémon Card Prices Getting so High?

Pokémon Kadabra

Plainly stated, nostalgia for Pokémon Cards is a primary factor for driving prices upwards in the trading card collecting marketplace. Even more common graded Pokémon Cards fetch hundreds—sometimes thousands—of dollars, and the buyers are generally Pokémon obsessed hobbyists in the game card collecting arena.

The most valuable graded Pokémon cards rarely appear at any trading card collecting auction. When these Pokémon cards do make an appearance, they get snapped up by a select few trading card collecting enthusiasts because these rare, graded Pokémon cards are worth over $1 million.

Why are these rare, graded Pokémon cards so expensive? The answer is, most of these are ultra-limited trophy Pokémon cards won by Pokémon tournament winners at the beginning of the 21st century.

What Sparked the New Growth in Pokémon?

Experts in the trading card collecting marketplace confirm that Pokémon cards’ sales shot up in 2016. Pokémon Go was released that year to overwhelming success, resulting in an uptick in Pokémon card sales in larger quantities.

Nostalgia is one driving factor, but celebrities and publicity also influence the game card collecting marketplace. Everyone from YouTube influencers to rap stars to big-ticket financiers jumped on the buying frenzy bandwagon for Pokémon cards, driving up the value significantly for regular trading card collecting hobbyists.

Why Is Pokémon Unboxing and Pack Opening So Popular?

1999 Pokemon Box 1st Addition

February 27, 2021, marked the 25th birthday of Pokémon, and the franchise as a whole has been globally popular

from day one with an estimated value of approximately $90 billion. While interest in Pokémon cartoons, video games, graded Pokémon cards, and game card collecting never went out of style, the unboxing of trading cards via live stream became an enormous hit in 2020.

During the global pandemic, the streaming success of Pokémon unboxing events proved to be huge. Metrics show that Pokémon unboxing and pack opening streams grew 3,000%+ per month from March 2020 to January 2021, with “stuck-at-home viewers” seeking exciting new streaming content, including unboxing and pack opening of Pokémon cards.

Social media influencers like Logan Paul have built massive careers using their abilities to stir up hype. Paul already had a built-in audience when he began streaming Pokémon content—with millions of fans streaming his unboxing events of Pokémon cards.

Where Is the Money Coming From?


One current example of a nostalgic celebrity chasing down rare graded Pokémon cards happened in October 2020. The recently “retired” rapper, Logic, purchased a first edition Charizard Pokémon card for $226,000 US during a trading card collecting live auction, and they called it the “highest known sale of the card” ever.

Logic took to social media to reveal his life-long passion for Pokémon cards. As a child, he loved the series, but he couldn’t afford the cards. As a wealthy adult, he’s willing and able to splurge on his game card collecting hobby.

Logan Paul also shared behind-the-scenes drama with his fans, explaining how he managed to rack up $2 million in purchases of rare graded Pokémon cards from across America in the last year. Paul acknowledges how his actions drove up prices. For example, certain rare boxes of Pokémon cards retailing for around $510 in 2007 now fetch up to $400,000 US.

What To Consider Before Buying Pokémon Cards

if you’re simply a Pokémon cards hobbyist at the moment, or you’ve researched online about game card collecting, and you want to invest in Pokémon cards, check this out before you mistakenly pay too much:

Assorted Cards or “Card Lots”

Use caution when viewing Pokémon cards sold as card lots online. Often, low-priced Pokémon cards sold in large quantities online are falsely described and sold under pretenses. Most times, the cards are worthless fakes, duplicates, and standard cards instead of rare graded Pokémon cards.

Foil Packs

These packs supposedly offer 20 Pokémon cards with a guaranteed bonus foil card—but foil packs are getting a bad reputation. When you squint and examine the fine print of the back, it usually tells you these are purchased and repackaged, worthless, secondhand cards. Stay away!

Booster Packs

It can go both ways with booster packs, so we’re breaking it down for you here to help you make a wise purchase and avoid making a bad one:

●Booster packs that are “pre-picked” contain mostly opened and poorly resealed cards of minor to no value.

●Booster packs described as “rare official booster packs” at suspiciously reasonable prices are often “bait and switch” card lots with zero value.

●For genuine booster packs, look for a “mystery power box” or “official booster box.” Yes, they typically cost more, but your chances increase of finding vintage Pokémon cards with actual street value.

Is It Time To Sell Your Old Collection?

Is it time to sell?

There’s no doubt, consumer interest in Pokémon cards is exploding, leading most people to think that this is a great time to dig up, dust off, and sell their old collections. While that may be true, other people are warning about a marketplace bubble bursting in the trading card collecting of Pokémon cards, similar to the sports game card collecting bubble that burst in 1999-2000.

Still, more people who were kid collectors in the 1990s are looking to sell. In that case, most experts in game card collecting say it’s best to get Pokémon cards professionally graded by an official authenticator to determine their actual market value.

It’s not hard to get graded Pokémon cards done. Many reputable authenticators provide authentication and encapsulating services for sports cards and Pokémon cards for trading card collecting, live auctions, and private sales.

Is There Money in Pokémon Card Collecting?

The straight answer? Yes. There is money in Pokémon cards. So much so, some people are getting into trading card collecting of vintage Pokémon cards and graded Pokémon cards as an investment opportunity.

That said, long term investments aren’t cash-grab schemes, and discerning collectors need patience, sleuthing skills, and a quantity of luck in finding rare Pokémon cards like these:

Holographic Cards

Of all Pokémon cards, genuine holographic cards are the most unmistakable and the easiest to spot. But remember, only the Pokémon’s picture is shiny and reflective on these cards, not the entire background. Holographic Pokémon cards often get referred to as “holo cards,” and of the 102 original Pokémon cards, just 16 of those cards are considered holo.

First-Edition Cards

1st Edition Pokemon Jungle

These Pokémon cards are among the rarest, and game card collecting detectives are constantly on the lookout for first-edition Pokémon cards. To determine if a Pokémon card is one of the first-edition Pokémon cards, always check the card’s left corner. Genuine first-edition Pokémon cards always have an “edition 1” logo directly beside the illustration.

Shadowless Cards

Shadowless Pokémon cards launched at the same time as first-edition cards, but shadowless Pokémon cards don’t have the first-edition logo. And why are they called “shadowless?”

It may be hard to notice, so pay close attention or, better yet, have a newer card on hand to compare it with a card you think is a shadowless Pokémon card. On more recent Pokémon cards, the illustration box is shadowed along its right border to appear 3D. Shadowless cards don’t have any shadow around the box, making these Pokémon cards look two-dimensional.

Unlimited Cards

These Pokémon cards aren’t as unlimited as they sound, but base-set unlimited Pokémon cards appear a bit more frequently than other old or rare Pokémon cards. Unlimited, base-set Pokémon cards don’t have a first-edition symbol or a 3D shadow effect around the illustration box.

If you think you have an unlimited Pokémon card, make sure it’s part of the base set. If there’s a set symbol in the bottom right corner of the illustration box, this isn’t an unlimited Pokémon card, and it’s a later addition.

Official Booster Box

If you want to buy Pokémon cards, this is still the time to do it. Search for a trusted online vendor with a reputable digital storefront. Reputable online sellers of Pokémon cards offer links to bid on rare graded Pokémon cards, or, for official booster boxes, there’s a better chance of more valuable cards (also called pulls) in official booster boxes. Plus, you won’t experience any issues with fake cards or bogus card lots.

Check us out for more great info on Pokémon cards!

Mar 30th 2021 Staff Writers

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