You Could Have a Childhood Toy Worth $55,000 — Here’s How

Were you born in the 1990s? You might be sitting on a fortune!

Photo by Kreeson Naraidoo on Unsplash

When you think back to your childhood, what was the one thing that people in your school seemed to obsess about the most? For me, Minecraft was the most popular topic to talk about when I was 10; but for those born in the 1990s, the word you likely heard every day of your early childhood was ‘Pokémon’.

Pokémon has been around for over 20 years now, and is more popular than ever with the recent release of Pokémon Sword and Shield on the Nintendo Switch becoming the third best-selling Pokémon game in the franchise. It’s fair to say that the phrase ‘Gotta catch ’em all’ isn’t going to die anytime soon.

However, this article isn’t going to be talking about the video games. Instead, we are going to be talking about the Trading Card Game (TCG), and how you might have hit the jackpot without even knowing it…

Wait, Pokémon cards have a value?

Yes! Believe it or not, the cards that you once collected as a child (but had no idea how to play) actually have a value, and can be incredibly high if your cards fit a certain criteria. This criteria features the condition of the card, the printing, the grade of the card, and the symbols that the card may or may not have.

The original sets of the Pokémon Trading Card Game were made by a company called ‘Wizards of the Coast’, but Pokémon took over production in 2003. Wizards of the Coast packs of Pokémon cards have now become incredibly expensive, and will often sell for hundreds of dollars, sometimes thousands. If you have a rare card that fits the above criteria, you are in for a massive surprise.

Nostalgia, anyone?

The original base-set pack that you see in the above tweet by YouTuber LeonHart can reportedly be sold between the price-range of $5,000-$7,000 unopened. Obviously, the contents of the pack can decide whether you make a huge profit, or a depressing loss; but this is where weight comes into play.

The use of the word ‘Heavy’ in the above tweet is commonly used when purchasing classic packs of Pokémon cards as the rarer, holographic cards are heavier than the regular, non-holographic cards you can pull in a pack. This makes packs of a certain weight a lot more expensive than others.

There are a handful of cards in the base set packs that can sell for as much money as some people earn in a year, with the most expensive being a holographic ‘Charizard’ card. The other two starters from the original Red and Blue games — ‘Blastoise’ and ‘Venusaur’ — also sell for a lot, but Charizard was the most popular, and sells for the highest price.

These are the three most famous Pokémon from the original 151, making these cards worth a lot of money. These cards are the Chinese version, but will still sell for a high price.

If I have one of these cards, how much is it worth?

There have been a lot of stories posted online where people have gone back to their parent’s house, and found incredibly rare Pokémon cards in binders that haven’t been touched in years. There are also stories of parents throwing away old Pokémon cards that turned out to be worth a lot of money — if you are tidying up your house, make sure you know what you are throwing away!

Let’s imagine that you have just found the binder of Pokémon cards you collected as a child in an old, dusty box; and were hit by a wave of nostalgia as the cards you once obsessed over were again in your hands. If you were to find a holographic Charizard (card number 4 out of 102) that was in perfect condition, you could send it off to be graded (more on this later), and potentially have a piece of card worth $55,000 or more. LeonHart pulled one of these cards himself after opening a Base Set booster pack, and has had offers approaching $100,000 for the card, assuming it is graded at the highest level. Lower grades of the cards can drastically reduce the price, which is why the highest level is so popular among collectors.

There are only 430 instances of mint condition, holographic Charizards in the world, according to pokemonprice.com — which explains why this card is worth the value that it is. There are other cards out there, such as a holographic ‘Typhlosion’ from the ‘Neo-Genisis’ set, that are incredibly difficult to find. The Typhlosion card only has nine, yes nine perfect cards in the world, and was last sold for $10,000 in October 2019. While this is nowhere near the value of the famous Charizard card; I’m sure it will rise to its value in several years time.

What is this ‘grading’ that you keep mentioning?

Collectors often send their cards off to a company to be valued (graded) by a professional, which allows a card to be given a rating that is consistent with all other graded cards on the market. The most popular grading company is known as PSA — Professional Sports Authenticator*— who started off grading baseball cards, and branched out into grading any card that is sent to them.

The grading service you send the card to will inspect the card to see whether there are any scratches on the holographic foil, to see if the print is perfectly centred with the borders, to check for factory damage and folded corners, and will produce an appropriate grade based on their guidelines.

The lowest grade that PSA will give you is a PR1, which means it is in poor condition. A PR1 card will have creases and rips, bent corners, stains and faded colours, and be in generally poor condition. On the other hand, Gem Mint 10 is the highest grade you can receive, and suggests that a card is top quality. Sometimes, a card can have a slight imperfection and still receive a 10, depending on how noticeable this is.

Getting your cards graded will increase the value as it essentially gives it the ‘seal of approval’ by professionals. This makes online purchases a lot easier for people that won’t see the card in person, and is worth an investment for people that have rare cards. The grading service you choose to send your card to will place the card into a plastic case to ensure maximum protection, and add a label to this case to clearly show the grade, number and name.

While this Charizard card is a lot newer than the base-set Charizard that is worth tens of thousands of dollars; this card is also incredibly difficult to pull, making a PSA 10 worth a lot of money.

Other signs of rarity

According to YouTuber Randolph Pokemon, the base set of Pokémon cards saw a number of printing runs that caused some minor changes to the cards. The first printing run saw a ‘first edition’ logo on the card, as well as a lack of a shadow behind the golden frame of the card’s main image. When Wizards of the Coast started their second run of printing, they took away the ‘first edition’ logo, but forgot to add the shadow back onto the card. They quickly fixed this issue and placed the shadow around the border again, but it was too late — there were a lot of cards without the ‘first edition’ logo that didn’t have the shadow, and soon became the rare ‘Shadowless’ cards.

Another sign of rarity is a faded ‘first edition’ logo. According to LeonHart, base-set cards that have a grey logo instead of the standard black logo is also a factor that collectors will consider when purchasing cards. The American YouTuber claims there isn’t a known reason why this error happened, but could be due to low printer ink, or not leaving enough time for the cards to dry during the production process.

Factory errors have always been a value-booster to the Pokémon Trading Card Game — as long as there is no physical damage to the card, people will hunt for these errors just for the sake of adding it to their collection. Another great example of this would be the base set booster pack that you saw in the first LeonHart tweet. The booster pack that you saw was a standard pack that you would expect to see when going to your local shop in the 1990s to buy some Pokémon cards. However, a misprint saw a quantity of black triangles printed on the front of the pack — once again becoming a collectors item.

I have a rare card! What do I do now?

Okay, so you’ve just found a Charizard card that you found when you were younger. The first thing to do is pick up some plastic sleeves to keep the card in. These can be purchased from Amazon*, or from dedicated Pokémon card websites, such as Randolph Pokemon’s Pokerand.net* and will ensure the card is kept safe. You can also pick up harder, plastic sleeves to ensure maximum security for the card. Check the dark blue border on the back and the yellow border on the front to make sure the card is centred correctly. Cards that don’t have good centring will have borders that are bigger on one side than its opposite. Make sure you do this with the card in the sleeve, you want to avoid touching the actual card during this process.

Base-set Charizard (left) is the card that will make the most money. This card is from the third printing run, which doesn’t have the first-edition logo, but has the shadows to the right of the image.

Look at the holographic texture over the top of the Pokémon’s image in the light. Are there any scratches that are clearly visible? Are there any small nicks in the blue borders on the back of the card? Does the card have a ‘first edition’ logo underneath the artwork? If not, does the border of the artwork have a shadow on the right hand side? Are there any creases, bent corners or tears in the card? Write down all of the features and be sure to research the value of the card online.

You also need to decide if you want to get the card graded. This will drastically increase the value of the card, but there is the risk that you are sending the card (possibly abroad if you aren’t based in America) through the postal system. LeonHart’s Charizard is currently lost in the post at the time of writing, which is very upsetting, and something you cannot make up. Another option is hand-delivering the card to the grading service, if you want to be on the safe side; but obviously this will be costly if you live in another country, and will have to be taken out of the value of the card.

Once your card is graded, you are then in the position to sell it on the platform of your choice. If you have a PSA 9 or PSA 10, it is definitely worth getting the card valued by a professional to ensure you are getting the best possible price. If your card is heavily damaged, then it likely isn’t worth anywhere near the prices we have already discussed. A lot of children used to pull this Charizard card in the 1990s, wrap elastic bands around their pile of cards (damaging the edges) and taking them to school. If your cards aren’t in good condition, try and research the prices of other poor-condition cards, and decide if you want to send it or not. At the end of the day, you may not have hit that jackpot, but it is nice to think that you once packed a card that is more popular than ever.

Charizard has been a fan-favourite since day one. All Charizard cards will be worth a lot in the future!

Final thoughts

Most people never would have thought that a small piece of card from the 1990s would become so valuable in 20 years time; but those who kept their cards in good condition as an investment will definitely benefit from this now!

Whether you have cards from the Base Set, or from future sets, there is definitely money that can be made in the Pokémon card industry, and can be a fun way of investing for the first time. If you were to purchase a classic card for a good price, you might be able to double your money in ten years time; and if you were to pull the rarest card in the latest set, it would also be worth a lot more in ten years time. But remember, it is essentially a gamble as to whether or not your investment will pay off, so make sure you are responsible!

So, what are you waiting for? If you’ve got some classic Pokémon cards from the your childhood that are in good condition sitting around,dust them off and get them on sale — You might own one of ten cards in the world…

Disclaimer*: This article is not sponsored by Amazon, Pokerand.net or PSA, and is purely using these names as examples of services you can use. Other websites are available.

Joe McCormick

Thank you for reading this different kind of article — I recently stumbled across the value of this card online, and thought it would be an interesting idea to write about!

Joe McCormick is a 19 year old Formula One enthusiast and aspiring journalist; writing articles about F1, technology and business on Medium and DriveTribe.

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