Collecting Pokemon Cards? It’s Like 1999 All Over Again!
Aside from when they were first released in 1999, collecting Pokemon cards has never been so popular.
Sure, the Pokemon Go craze of 2015 reignited that spark for many, but it wasn’t until the world plunged into lockdown in 2020, the masses returned to the hobby.
Bringing with it a wave of celebrity endorsements (such as Gary Vaynerchuk and Logan Paul), the value of Pokemon cards continues to skyrocket.
So the question is, how do you start collecting Pokemon cards?
Well, firstly, we need to look at your reason for collecting.
Why do People Collect Pokemon Cards?
This is often broken down into two categories:
1. Those who collect for happiness and nostalgia
2. And those who collect, then sell, to turn a profit
But of course, these two schools of thought can work together. Many people sell cards, to fund the purchase of others.
It’s important though to identify your reasoning, because it will dictate where and how you’re going to start.
Collecting Pokemon Cards For Happiness & Nostalgia
This is the hobby in its purest form.
For many of us that experienced the original Pokemon card craze, there are such fond memories.
From the excitement of opening a fresh booster pack, to the thrill of pulling a holographic Charizard. No other toy or activity came close at the time.
Of course, we’d all like to go back and delicately preserve the cards that are now worth thousands, but back then trades, battles, and 50 cards in your pocket was the fun of it!
Fast-forward twenty years, and we have a wonderful opportunity to relive our childhood again.
There is no right or wrong way to start collecting Pokemon cards again if you’re doing it for happiness and nostalgia.
Collect the cards that put a smile on your face!
This could be complete sets, different cards from the same Pokemon, only holographics, perhaps even cards in different languages.
Why I Like Collecting Pokemon Cards
For me personally, as a kid the only set I ever completed in its entirety was the 2000 Team Rocket Set.
So, it was of great satisfaction to me when I rebuilt my binder 20 years later.
I didn’t care about graded cards or values, I simply just wanted to flip through the pages and see that complete set again.
Tip: There’s a very handy resource called Pokellector, which shows you the full list of cards for each set. You can even log which ones you have, and which you still need to collect.
I then went on eBay and found listings of the individual cards I wanted.
I decided I wanted a minimum card condition of Near Mint, but for your collection this is up to you, and then I simply purchased the cards I was happy with.
And I’ll tell you, opening up those parcels and seeing that old-school epic artwork again, was the closest thing to a time-machine I’ve ever experienced!
Collecting Pokemon Cards to Make Money
With prices in the hobby so high, there’s no denying it… there’s money to be made.
Especially at a time, where many people have lost their jobs, learning to buy and sell Pokemon cards online is a legitimate way to make some extra cash online.
So how do you acquire Pokemon cards, to then flip and turn a profit?
There are three basic ways to do this:
1. Grade Vintage Pokemon Cards
Like anything in business, if you add value, there’s potential to turn a profit. The same goes with Pokemon Cards.
Grading Pokemon cards is the process of rating their condition and encapsulating them in a case. The better the grade, the higher its value.
If you can spot an opportunity to purchase a vintage card in good condition and get it graded, then there’s the potential to make money.
A few caveats though:
You must educate yourself first on how cards are graded.
The two big players in the Pokemon grading market are PSA and Beckett.
This is how PSA decides upon grades: https://www.psacard.com/resources/gradingstandards
This is how Beckett does it: https://www.beckett.com/news/walking-bgs-process/
You can then try to assess what the card you’re looking to buy might get.
Tip: If buying from eBay, always ask for more images if their photos don’t clearly show the card:
- Corners (they may have whitening)
- Back (check if the design is centered)
- Holographic under light (it may have scratches)
Once you’ve judged the condition yourself, then visit Pokemon Price. You can drill down into each individual set and see the purchase history on eBay for graded cards.
This step is vital to understand what your potential profit margin might be.
Ungraded Card Purchase Price: £10
Grading Cost: £9
Total Cost: £19
PSA 10 Recent Sale Price: £150 (Profit £131)
PSA 9 Recent Sale Price: £50 (Profit (£31)
PSA 8 Recent Sale Price : £20 (Profit £1)
This example aims to highlight exactly why being able to judge card condition yourself is so important. There’s no shortcut here, it comes with experience.
Another caveat to be aware of is the time it takes to get cards graded.
Because of the massive increase in demand for grading services, at the time of writing, there is a huge backlog. This means, it means it might take months for you to receive your cards back.
Therefore, grading cards for profit has to be seen as a long-term strategy.
2. Flip Graded Pokemon Cards
If you don’t like the idea of waiting, you could simply try flipping graded cards.
As the value of Pokemon cards continues to surge, it’s likely that what you buy today will be worth more tomorrow.
Of course, you need an eye for spotting a good deal, but there are plenty of opportunities on eBay to buy graded cards, and simply relist them at a 10-20% premium.
From a purist’s perspective, it’s a bit of a soulless strategy.
But from a profit perspective, you’ve got to respect the hustle!
3. Gamble on Modern Pokemon Cards
Lastly, you could always gamble on pulling hyper rare cards from modern sets.
With multiple sets being released each year, how do you make sure Pokemon cards stay valuable?
You make the top cards harder to find of course!
Secret Rare cards like the Charizard VMAX Full Art from Darkness Ablaze or the Charizard VMAX Rainbow Rare from Champion’s Path are currently being sold on eBay for hundreds of pounds! And these aren’t even graded!
It’s of course a gamble, but If you want the thrill of opening loads of packs, combined with the potential for a big payday, modern cards are the way to go.
What Are The Best Pokemon Cards to Collect?
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people collect for both the nostalgia, and the financial side of things.
Being able to enjoy your cards and sell the odd one to fund future purchases is a great position to be in!
So, as a beginner, what are the best Pokemon cards to collect?
Well, you can’t look further than the O.G. 1999 Base Set.
This is the set that people grew up with, and that has the nostalgic association for most generation Y collectors.
In fact, any of the following original Wizards of the Coasts sets make a great starting point:
- 1999 Base Set
- 1999 Fossil
- 2000 Base Set 2
- 2000 Team Rocket
- 2000 Gym Heroes
- 2000 Gym Challenge
Are Newer Pokemon Cards Worth Collecting?
Hyper rare cards in the newer sets, drive the value. This in turn keeps collectors wanting them.
If you’re collecting Pokemon cards for financial gain, then only the rarest cards will help you achieve that.
Remember the value will always be driven by scarcity and demand.
If it’s more about enjoyment for you, then it’s entirely a personal preference.
Some people love the new generation of Pokemon, the Full Art cards and the holographic variants. Some prefer it old school! Collect what you enjoy, I say.
Is it Too Late to Start Collecting Pokemon Cards?
There is always an entry point, even with vintage Pokemon cards.
Ultimately, your budget will determine where yours is, and what type of cards you decide to collect:
- Classic or modern sets
- 1st Edition or unlimited print run
- Graded or ungraded cards
- Graded sets or binder sets
- Holographic or non-holographic
- Mint, near mint, excellent, good or poor condition
- Rare, uncommon, or common cards
A common ungraded card in poor condition might cost less than a quid – a 1st Edition PSA 10 card can cost tens of thousands of pounds!
You have to decide where to position yourself as a collector.
How to Collect Pokemon Cards on a Budget
It’s often the big purchases that make the news. That Charizard that went for £150k, or that 1st Edition Booster Box that sold for £200k.
But what if you don’t have pie in the sky money, and want to collect Pokemon cards on a budget?
Is it possible?
Absolutely it is.
But it’s also worth noting here that collecting Pokemon cards can be addictive.
As prices skyrocket, there can be a general feeling of not wanting to be left behind.
Never go beyond your financial means, as it can be detrimental to other areas of your life.
It’s easy to justify your spending by calling it an “investment”, but you’ll only ever make money if you cash out.
And I don’t know about you, but the thought of flogging my most cherished cards, just because I need the money doesn’t sit well with me.
But, back to the point of collecting on a budget.
The most cost-effective way of getting into Pokemon cards, is collecting single ungraded cards, and building binder sets.
Anything to do with grading costs money. Whether it’s getting your cards graded at approx. £9 a card, or buying graded cards, you’ll be paying a premium for the score it gets.
Single cards, whether vintage or modern can be purchased off eBay at a relatively acceptable price point.
The cheapest way to buy modern cards, is to order a booster box at pre-release. Generally around the £100, you’ll get 36 boosters each containing 10 cards.
Essentially you’re getting the value by buying in bulk.
What Things Do You Need to Start Collecting Pokemon Cards?
Aside from the cards themselves, you’ll want to organise and store your Pokemon cards in a manageable way.
Here are a few things I recommend you get:
1. Penny Sleeves
These are soft, plastic sleeves that fit perfectly over your cards. They protect from dust, scratches and edge-wear.
2. Card Savers
If you plan to submit your cards for grading, you’ll need Card Savers. These are semi-rigid plastic covers that protect your cards, but offer enough flexibility to remove the card without damaging it.
Tip – Send your cards to be graded in a penny sleeve AND a card saver.
If you like the idea of collecting sets, binders are a great way to be able to appreciate your cards. They come with cool Pokemon designs on the front, and either 4 or 9 cards per page. I prefer 9 cards per page, it’s more visually impressive!
Tip – Continue to use penny sleeves, even in binders, to help protect from edge-wear.
4. Top Loaders
If you don’t plan on grading your cards, and want to keep them lose, Top Loaders are the way to go. These are rigid plastic cases that prevent bending. They’re also good if you’re selling single cards on eBay and want to protect them when shipping.
5. Display Cases
Being able to appreciate your collection is often overlooked. We aspire for these wonderful cards, then keep them locked away because they’re too valuable! If you can safely display your cards somewhere, I recommend looking for a classy, glassed display case to proudly show them off!
6. Graded Card Stands
Once you’ve got the display case, you’ll then need some special stands to prop up your cards. I think these ones look fantastic!
7. Fireproof Cases
Lastly, you might want to consider a fireproof case or safe for your most valuable acquisitions. And also consider listing them on your home insurance too!
How Many Pokemon Cards are There to Collect?
By the end of 2020, there will be approximately 126 sets that have been released since 1999.
These sets can range from having a few dozen cards, to literally hundreds.
Combine that with 1st Edition variants, and sets in different languages, there a thousands upon thousands of different cards you could collect.
Gotta catch em all?
Conclusion: A Few Final Tips on Collecting Pokemon Cards
As a beginner, it may seem a little daunting getting into the world of Pokemon.
Here are my final few tips to get you on your way:
1. Whether this is your first time, or you’re returning to the hobby after many years, the key is educating yourself.
This is no longer just a trading card game for school kids.
This is a highly valuable collectable, the modern-day equivalent of stamps, coins, and art.
You wouldn’t go into any other these other fields and drop your hard-earned money in the first five minutes, so don’t do it with Pokemon just because you know your Jigglypuff’s from your Wigglytuff’s.
2. Next up, set a budget. Pokemon can be addictive! Stay within your means.
3. Decide on your collecting goal before investing. With thousands of cards, it can be easy to jump from vintage to modern, and graded to binders.
This is the fast track to building a collection with little meaning to you.
Having done this for years now, the most satisfying approach is sticking to your collecting goal and achieving it.
4. Have fun! With so much money flowing into Pokemon cards, it can be easy to lose track of why we do this.
It’s the nostalgia. It’s being able to transport yourself back to your childhood. It’s about introducing your kids to Pokemon and being able to bond over them.
There are so many reasons to get into Pokemon cards right now, and I think you’ve made a darn good decision!
Welcome to the community!
Last updated January 20, 2021