Pokemon cards have held their price well since the game launched in the US in December 1998. However, in the last year, even common Base Set cards have skyrocketed to ludicrous prices. Casual fans of the game are wondering why Gen 1 Pokemon cards cost so much in particular.
Why do base set Pokemon cards cost so much?
There are actually four different English editions of the Pokemon card game Base Set that released in 1998-99:
- 1st Edition
- 4th Print
The base set was also partially reprinted in 2000 as part of Base Set 2.
As one could guess, the 1st Edition and Shadowless cards have the most value as they had lower printing runs. These first releases of Pokemon: The Trading Card Game had slightly different art and brighter colors.
While all Pokemon cards are fetching high prices right now, base sets tend to fetch the most money, running as high as $50,000+ for a sealed booster box. There are a few reasons for this:
The most logical reason for the Pokemon card Base Set to be the most valuable is that they’re the oldest. When the Base Set debuted, no one knew just how much longevity the Pokemon brand would have, and over the years, people have thrown their cards away, played with them, or just have them packed away somewhere. Each year there are fewer in circulation, which makes them increasingly rare.
They’re the most desirable
Pop culture is currently fueled almost purely by nostalgia. As such, the base set is the most desirable for adults with money looking to recapture their youth. The Base Set features the original 151 Pokemon, which continue to be among the most popular. Additionally, for those who aren’t hardcore Pokemon fans, the Base Set is the logical point of entry into Pokemon card collecting, which means they’re continually in high demand.
Pokemon cards have fallen prey to the same thing that retro gaming and other trading card games have. This isn’t a new story with Pokemon, but it’s one that’s ballooned tremendously in the last year. Collectible dealers find out the latest trend and figure out there are highly desirable products that aren’t being produced any longer, so they buy them all up and sit on them, causing artificial scarcity.
After a short time, they start trickling out their stockpile for many, many times what they paid for them. We’ve seen scalping with the PS5 and Xbox Series X, but demand and production will eventually even that issue out. However, since the Pokemon Base Set is no longer being produced, collectible dealers can continue their lucrative schemes for years.
These are the types of people with storage lockers filled with booster boxes and retro consoles and games. They’ll never discount them or sell them in bulk. Because they’re pulling this scheme with so many different types of product, they can afford to let things set for decades until they come back en vogue.