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Pokemon Trading Card Game Collecting & Investing 101

Pokemon Trading Card Game Collecting & Investing 101

Hello ChannelFireball! I’m very excited to be bringing you my first ever article for the site. This first piece of mine is going to be focused on Pokemon TCG investing and collecting. I’m going to share with you the basics of investing in general, how investing translates to the Pokemon TCG and how to get started collecting if that is more your interest.

Since this is my first article here, I want to take a moment to introduce myself before I get started. Online, I go by TrainerChip. If you have watched some Pokemon TCG videos on ChannelPokemon, chances are you have probably seen one of my videos. Though I have had success as a Pokemon TCG competitor, I am more commonly known for my YouTube and Twitch content – these days more so as an official commentator for Pokemon TCG events. I’ve been a Pokemon fan my entire life and my love for the TCG started when I was a kid, collecting the original Wizards of the Coast sets.

I started playing the game in 2015 and since then I have always had an interest in the competitive space, but also the collecting/investing side of the hobby. It is common for me to arrive very early to any tournament so that I have time to dig through the bulk boxes at whatever store I am going to or to check out the vendor hall at larger events. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt, finding a gem in a box of bulk and correctly predicting a worthwhile investment.

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Investing Basics

To kick things off, let’s just talk about the basics when it comes to investing. These basics can apply to any sort of investing at all, whether that be real estate, crypto, art or Pokemon. The reason people invest is because they hope that whatever they put their money into will increase in value over time. And then, at some point the plan is to sell that investment and hopefully you have built yourself a nice profit compared to what you originally put in.

Flips: Short- & Long-Term

In traditional investing, there are short-term and long-term investments. A short-term investment is anything you sell within one year of the original purchase. And obviously, a long-term investment would be anything you sell over one year after purchasing. When it comes to Pokemon I like to add another timeline to the equation. Anything I buy and then sell within one month of originally purchasing I would consider a “flip”. Now “flipping” is pretty much just like having a side hustle. Whether it’s selling a valuable card you pulled from a booster pack or selling a card you bought from a local card shop’s bulk box, you can make a lot of quick cash by flipping.

Why Invest in the Pokemon TCG?

There are plenty of different things you could be putting your money into, so why should you consider Pokemon TCG as one of your options? When evaluating any sort of investment, you must determine “what is the risk?” Say you put $1000 in Dogecoin. There is a very real chance that investment could decrease 20-50% in just one week’s time. This is a very high-risk style investment. I consider Pokemon to be a very low-risk investment. When it comes to pop culture investing, Pokemon is one of the best choices there is. Pokemon has had an impact on every new generation since its release. There are many reasons for why Pokemon has exploded in popularity this past year, but I believe nostalgia is the driving force behind it all. And when something like Pokemon can have a cross-generational impact, it is sure to remain nostalgic and hold its value for years to come.

Sealed Product Versus Singles

There is certainly a debate to be had on which can be a more lucrative investment. This also depends on if you are talking about modern cards or out of print items. I will say I would be very hesitant to invest too heavily in any modern sealed product, especially product that is still in print. In my experience, sealed product is a much better long-term investment and singles make a better short-term investment.

Now single cards can be an excellent long-term investment as well, but it depends on the card. If you want to invest in singles long term, I would focus on the cards that are highly collectible. Full art cards, retro cards, fan favorite and popular Pokemon, secret rare cards and the more recent alternate art cards should all make great long-term investments. If you are planning to invest in cards long term, I would heavily consider getting those cards graded. Grading cards both protects them from potential future damage and helps to ensure the condition of the card when you inevitably do sell them. Also, if your card gets a high grade, it can greatly increase the value of that card!

Check out this amazing article to learn about grading Pokemon cards:

When it comes to investing in single cards for the short term, it is vital to understand the competitive side of the Pokemon TCG. Remember, it is a trading card game after all! The Pokemon TCG meta is constantly changing. New sets get added to the standard legal card pool every three months and that doesn’t include any new promos or collection sets that get released. When the meta is constantly shifting, so are the cards that are either good or bad. New cards get revealed in Japan a few months before they come out in the rest of the world. If you can predict which new cards will become good in a future format, you can make investing decisions based on a new predicted meta.

A recent example would be Marshadow from Unbroken Bonds. Even less than a month ago, this card was consistently selling for right around $2:

It has now become a popular inclusion in many decks as an answer to the new Path to the Peak Stadium that just released in Chilling Reign and its value has gone up significantly:

This could have been a totally reasonable prediction for someone to make and would surely have been a very profitable short-term investment. The thing about this example that is worth noting, it is extremely unlikely that the price of Marshadow would be sustainable long term. Most likely, this card will decrease back to its original $2 mark in the next year. Simply because it is about to rotate out of the standard format and is much less useful in the expanded format. Therefore, competitive cards can be great short-term investments but are often bad long-term investments.

Flipping Clarification

I want to be clear before I get too deep into this section, flipping and scalping are not the same thing. I am not going to suggest that you walk into your local big box store and wipe out every single Pokemon product that you see on the shelf, just to turn around and try to resell them online or on Facebook Marketplace. When I’m talking about flipping, I mean finding cards for a great deal and selling them for a quick profit.

An example of this would be finding an old shoebox of cards at a yard sale for $5. The cards inside have a value of around $50. This is a 90% profit margin where you had to invest very little money and can feasibly do it very quickly. The downside to this, is it can be very difficult to find deals like this. Especially now that more people are out looking for cards and more people are aware that cards are more valuable than they realized.

Short-Term Investing

When it comes to short-term investing, this is where I put a big emphasis on the competitive game. When picking cards to invest in for the short term, competitive knowledge can be very helpful in making these assumptions. I like to try and identify cards that are very low risk when it comes to making short-term investments. Meaning, that worst case scenario, I should be able to recoup my money if I was wrong about that prediction. For me, a recent example of this is Capture Energy. I identified Capture Energy as a strong option for a short-term investment in August of 2020.

You can see here, I bought 51 copies at $0.25 each. This was a very low risk price point in my mind, since very few Special Energy cards ever have a value below that $0.25 mark. My cost on 51 copies of this card was $12.75. Overall a relatively low investment. Even if the card suddenly became worthless, I could bulk them out for $0.04 each, which is around $2. So, in the worst-case scenario I would be out around $10.

Let’s look at how much Capture Energy is worth now:

Over $3 per card! That’s an 1100% increase in value. Not too bad for my little $12.75 investment. If I sold all 51 copies that I bought originally for $3 apiece, that’s $153! That equates to a gross profit of $140.25.

While $140 may not be a ton of money in the grand scheme of things, this example is just meant to show that you don’t need that much money to make profitable short-term investing decisions in the Pokemon TCG.

Long-Term Investing

If you are planning to invest in the Pokemon TCG for the long term, it can be a much trickier and much more expensive game than flips or short-term investing. To me, the best long-term Pokemon TCG investments are slabs (graded cards) or sealed booster boxes. Some other types of sealed product can make great long-term investments too, but I believe the highest percent return will be with booster boxes.

I talked earlier about identifying low-risk options, well when you start looking at long-term options, things get much more expensive and become a much higher risk. Interest in the Pokemon TCG is at an all-time high and we are probably experiencing a bit of a bubble right now. But even if that bubble pops and the market somewhat corrects itself, I still think in the very long term (five-plus years) most highly graded collectible cards and most sealed product (especially booster boxes) will retain most of their value. The fact of the matter is, they aren’t making any more Neo Genesis booster boxes. There isn’t going to be an exact replica print of Rayquaza Star. There will never be another 1st Edition Shadowless Base Set. Even if the demand for these items decreases slightly, the demand will always be there. Pokemon isn’t going away anytime soon.

What To Collect?

Collecting and investing are similar concepts. I think most people who collect something would proudly tell you about how valuable some of their items are or what a good deal they got on a piece of their collection. Collecting is just a form of long-term investment. Now you may not think of items in your collection as investments because you don’t have plans to sell them.  And while that is reasonable, the truth is that anything that you have spent money on can be considered an investment. That elite trainer box you bought at the store for $40 may look good on your shelf and you may have no intention of selling that item, it is still growing in value.

The beauty of the Pokemon TCG is there are nearly endless options when it comes to collecting. Do you have a favorite Pokemon? You can try and collect all prints of that Pokemon! Are you a completionist? Collecting full sets is a great option! You’re probably reading this article because you like Pokemon in the first place, so if you’re interested in starting with investing, collecting is a great start.

I personally love the history of the Pokemon TCG as a competitive card game. I love building decks from years past. Over the years I have bought hundreds of cards to add to my retro deck collection. I have no intention of selling these cards, but many of these cards have increased exponentially in value since I originally bought them:

Here is an example of a Typhlosion card I bought back in 2016 for a Neo-era deck I built. As you can see, I paid less than $2 for this card:

Nowadays, lightly played versions of this card sell for at least $70 and often more! That’s an increase in value of over 3800%!

This Typhlosion may be an extreme example, but it shows that even though I have no intention of selling the item, in the five years I have had it, it has still increased in value.

If you have an interest in Pokemon TCG collecting, but don’t know where to start, just collect what you like! It really is as simple as that.

Conclusion

I hope that this article was at least somewhat helpful in learning the basics of the investing and collecting world of the Pokemon TCG! There are many more in depth topics regarding investing and collecting that I would love to explore in a future article. If you want to see more from me for now, you can do that over on the ChannelPokemon YouTube channel where I have a new video every Friday! Thanks for reading and happy collecting.

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