It's no secret: vintage Pokémon has never been hotter.
Old school Pokémon cards exploded in 2020, and for all the talk of market bubbles and a potential hobby-wide correction, prices are still continuing to climb. That Gem Mint 1st Edition Charizard that sold for $220,574 in October was huge, in fact it was the first time that card broke six figures at auction. But a month and a half later another PSA 10 copy auctioned for $295,300. Then, when a prototype "Presentation" Blastoise was auctioned in January, it tied the record for the most expensive English language Pokémon card ever sold, at a total of $360,000.
Logan Paul publicized his most recent purchase in February, buying up half a dozen displays of Base Set 1st Edition for between $325,000 and $350,000 apiece. Not only did that remove a considerable number of boxes from the market, Paul auctioned off 24 of the 36 packs from one of those displays in another box break; an online streamed event where he opened the individual packs on behalf of their winners, for all the world to see. The final average price for each of the individual packs ended up being $39,206 USD, for a total of almost a million dollars. And the box break was a smash-hit, with not one, but two Base Set 1st Ed Charizards being opened, for an estimated total of over two million dollars in pull value. You're welcome to do the math on Paul's immediate profit.
And hey, that's all great if you've had a treasure trove of old Pokémon cards hiding in your closet for the past 20+ years. But for those of us that don't? Well, there's still good news.
The bulk of the hype surrounding the Pokémon TCG market in the past year has revolved around classic cards made in the Wizards of the Coast era - the span of time between 1998 and 2003, when the same company responsible for Magic: The Gathering was licensed to translate and distribute Pokémon. That license was transferred to The Pokémon Company International in October of 2003 by Nintendo, resulting in a lawsuit from Wizards and eventually an out of court settlement.
The license has remained with The Pokémon Company ever since, but the sets published by Wizards - sixteen of them in total, from Base Set to Skyridge - are now prized for the fact that they're far less likely to ever be reprinted. Reprints may in fact be impossible, depending on legal details that have remained shrouded in secrecy for the better part of two decades. It's those sixteen sets that most collectors now consider to be "vintage."
So does that mean vintage Pokémon is the only stuff worth collecting? For a while, the stability of those older sets led many to believe that was the case. But now, even as the hype of 2020 seems to slow and products still struggle to meet demand, we're seeing new Pokémon cards continue to debut at prices in the triple digits. While vintage Pokémon was largely defined by Holo Rare cards that usually appeared in 1 out of every 3 boosters, modern Pokémon is loaded with all sorts of different types of 'hits', and that's created lots of potential for new must-haves in the eyes of collectors.
The term "hit" is borrowed from the sportscard world, and it refers to a more prized class of cards that usually stand out from more basic ones in a given set: you can argue where the line is, but cards like VMAX Pokemon, Secret Rares, Full Art variants, and Shiny Pokémon generally fit the definition. And while plenty of those hits are just bad GX Pokémon nobody really cares about (…at least for now), many of them cost hundreds of dollars on the secondary market, and some may become even more valuable in time.
So today I want to give you a look at the best cards you could pull from modern Pokémon packs. We're going to look at the biggest hits from the last five big releases in the Pokémon TCG, and we've got a few rules: first, we'll only discuss cards from wide retail releases - no hyper scarce Staff promos or error cards. Second, we're going by average Near Mint prices, not PSA 10 all-time highs. Lots of YouTubers love to crack open packs and then claim they just opened a thousand dollar card without getting it graded, and that approach isn't genuine.
We'll stick to un-graded, "raw" values based on current Market Price in the TCGplayer marketplace - always a good indicator for the true value of a card as you might open it from a pack yourself. If you happen to pull a Gem Mint copy and you get it graded at a high rating, hey, congrats! But we're going to be realistic and just work off solid baselines.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, we'll try to keep to packs you can still find on store shelves. Depending on where you live a lot of these sets may cost a premium at your local game store, or you might have to outwit the scalpers prowling your local big box on restock day. But if you're lucky enough, and you time it right, these cards are at least still out there to be found.
Let's start with the set everybody just can't get enough of.
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It's October and Celebrations is selling out everywhere. It's expected that we'll see a lot of Celebrations product rolled out over the next six to twelve months, but for now, three cards are proving to be chase-worthy pulls. From the core Celebrations sets, the product-hover id="250295" is proving to be a big hit, with that classic stunning gold background setting off the blue of Shiny Mew.
Meanwhile the bulk of the set's value is in the Classics Collection subset, a 25-card journey through the history of the Pokémon TCG. The product-hover id="250320" is the biggest pull from Celebrations, while the product-hover id="250332" is proving to be a big fan-favorite too. Gold Stars were a huge hit in their original run, and pairing that card template with one of the most popular Pokémon of all time was a homerun.
Will the value of Celebrations most popular cards hold, rise, or fall over time? As a smaller release, similar to Shining Fates or Champion's Path before it, it's an easier set to collect, and many think that may hurt its value long term. But for now, with product selling out everywhere and no firm read on when we might see more waves, there are plenty of double digit pulls in the Classics Collection.
Evolving Skies is a huge set assembled from two of the year's most crowd-pleasing releases in Japan: the Japanese sets Eevee Heroes and Blue Sky Stream. It's quickly starting to be recognized as a candidate for the most enduring booster set of the year: over half a dozen cards are either approaching, or well above the $100 mark, and there are numerous worth pulls in the lower double digits.
This set brought together two tremendously popular characters: Rayquaza, from Blue Sky Stream; and the Eeveelutions, from Eevee Heroes. The two biggest printings of Rayquaza were instant hits, with the product-hover id="246733" the priciest pull from the set, and the product-hover id="246728" sitting in the triple digits. Rayquaza's always a huge draw, the Alternate Arts look awesome, and collectors are here for it.
The Eeveelutions are spectacular pulls too, starting with the product-hover id="246723" as the second most valuable pull in the set. product-hover id="246704" is huge too, with its Alternate Art Secret version well above the $100 mark.
Umbreon was arguably the most hotly anticipated card in the release, with the Japanese original selling for as much as $600+ shortly after the launch of Eevee Heroes. But the reality is that a vast number of Eeveelution Secret Rares have shown enduring value, even as Evolving Skies product trickles back into stores.
246758 || 246696 || 246756 || 246719
Case in point? The Alternate Art Secret prints of product-hover id="246696" and product-hover id="246756" are both approaching the triple digits. The product-hover id="246719" is almost as popular.
And that's not all! The product-hover id="246758" rounds out the list of incredible pulls from Evolving Skies, featuring a beautiful backdrop and adorable artwork from Atsushi Furusawa. His product-hover id="XXXXX" is a gem too, even if it is just a common.
All in all, Evolving Skies is an amazing set to open if you're looking for value: the sheer size of the release makes the best pulls a little more scarce than usual, and that's led to more than a dozen cards crossing the 50 dollar mark, and many, many more in the 30 to 40 dollar range. It might be the best product to open if you want to score some big hits!
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That said, Chilling Reign was no slouch either. While it doesn't pack the sheer number of big-time recognizable mons from the first few generations of Pokémon like Evolving Skies, it's got some very unique cards that scratch different itches, and look gorgeous on display.
Funny enough for a set that's all about cooling off, the set's two biggest pulls are both iconic firebirds: the product-hover id="241673" has an absolutely wild art style that channels street art and graffiti culture, and really looks like nothing else in the release. Shigenori Negishi has dozens of card artworks under his belt, and he often experiments with proportions, bold lines, and slightly weird perspectives, but this twist on Blaziken looks nothing like anything he's done before. Collectors loved it, and made it the biggest pull from the set.
Hot on Blaziken's heels, literally, is the product-hover id="241768". And again, collectors and fans connected with a card that just doesn't look like anything else out there. There are other versions of Galarian Moltres V in the set. There are Galarian V versions of Zapdos and Articuno, too. None of them have this iconic, symmetrical, almost tattoo-look style to them. More than that, there's nothing in artist Shibuzoh's Pokémon repertoire that looks similar. The unique appeal of this artwork has placed it just over $100.
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A fair number of Gold Secret Rares wind up falling into obscurity, but the product-hover id="241875" in Chilling Reign is bound to become a classic! Like that Celebrations Mew, the color contrast here really pops, taking an iconic character and exploding it off the card from that gold background. It's been a while since everybody's favorite snack-attacker got an iconic printing like this, but Chilling Reigns delivered, and this thing is holding value as more fans decide to add it to their collection.
Meanwhile one of the release's central figures is hanging in at a top spot, despite being a far newer character. The Alternate Art Secret Rare version of product-hover id="241740" debuted as one of the set's biggest pulls and it's still doing really well. To date, it's one of the only cards on this level from a 2021 release that isn't from the first three generations of Pokémon.
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Moving on, Battle Styles might be the weakest core booster release of the year, but it's still got two very respectable pulls: the product-hover id="234060", and the product-hover id="234093".
When Battle Styles first hit the scene, it was actually the product-hover id="234093" that emerged as the set's biggest pull. That was short-lived, as collectors fell in love with product-hover id="234060". Tyranitar's Pokédex entries describe it as a Pokémon that eats entire mountains, but the Alternate Art here shows what happens when it sets its sights on a picnic. I think my favorite part of the illustration is the Pignite hiding by the tree, clearly worried that if it moves, Tyranitar might eat it next.
Everything else in Battle Styles tops out around 30 dollars, and the majority of the set's hits are way lower, so if you want to add either of these two highlights to your collection you may want to go the singles route. That said, the value of Pokémon sealed product always trends upward over time, and the low price of product-hover id="229277" has some investors rumbling about opportunities.
Shining Fates was one of the most anticipated releases of the year, but heavy targeting by resellers, scalpers, and prospective graders has created a steady decline in value for the set's biggest cards. The pull rate for hits in Shining Fates is off the charts: a handful of packs can net you a stunning number of cool cards. That makes it a really fun set to open. But that high hit rate almost worked against the release in the long term; when this set dropped, a huge number of people bought as much of it as possible, largely just to flip and grade singles, and that flooded the market.
Shining Fates may very well recover given enough time - there are lots of cool cards in the Shiny Vault subset, like the product-hover id="232518", product-hover id="232514", and awesome baby Shinies like product-hover id="232371" and product-hover id="232377". But right now, nothing is above the $25 mark except the set's marquee card, the product-hover id="232496" It's a gorgeous card that looks awesome, and while its value has slid with more and more Shining Fates product being released, we may see a rebound in the future.
Vintage cards might be getting the most attention in the Pokémon TCG, for good reason, but don't sleep on modern Pokémon! There are tons of amazing cards in packs right now, and some of them are so valuable that they can go toe to toe with many of the old school classics.