Every week I look at the best-selling Pokémon cards from the past seven days, and every week I see graphs like this:
This is the price history for Pikachu V (swshp-SWSH061), our third best-selling Pokémon card this week. This specific version of Pikachu V comes in the product-hover id="228825".
A deeper dive shows that most of the demand this week (represented here by those green bars) came from a small number of buyers who picked up multiple playsets apiece. That indicates that the people buying Pikachu V (swshp-SWSH061) are resellers who expect the card will be a good investment, even though its general price trend (as you can see above) has been down every week since it released.
So… are they right?
The Pokémon Company International releases black star promotional cards in a few ways. In the Sword & Shield era, they've offered promos for Rillaboom (swshp-SWSH006), for Frosmoth (swshp-SWSH007), and for Special Delivery Pikachu (swshp-SWSH074) at the newly opened Canadian Pokémon Center. But a majority of promo cards come as incentives for buying one of the many different sealed products TPCI releases for each set. Let's call these cards "Sealed Promos," or "SPs."
If you want cards from Battle Styles, you can buy individual packs. Or, you can buy one of these:
...each of which comes with some Battle Styles boosters, plus an SP that's unique to that product.
These sealed products typically cost close to what you'd pay for the same number of boosters if you bought them individually, making them a solid deal. This is TPCI's way of upselling customers so they buy more packs at once, and it's a nice system for casual collectors who just want a card with a specific Pokémon on it (though it does create more packaging waste).
But this release model makes it very hard for SPs to hold value. Because the products that SPs come in are a good deal, they're also popular, which means a lot of SPs enter the secondary market. That makes them way cheaper than their "promotional" status would suggest. And since players have a reliable path to get SPs without engaging with the secondary market, there's hardly any organic demand for SPs as singles.
In other words, they're terrible short-term investments.
A lot of resellers certainly act like SPs are a good long-term investment, so I decided to check that theory. Let's look at some SPs from the XY era.
Here's the price history for Shaymin-EX XY148, released in the product-hover id="123741" on July 1, 2016.
Ugh. Not great. A few copies sold for $3 in mid-2019, but otherwise this card has remain close to $1.50 for over three years. That's not the trend you want to see from a long-term investment.
But Shaymin is a fairly niche Pokémon. What about something more recognizable, like Charizard? Here's the chart for Charizard-EX XY29, released in the product-hover id="97777" in October 2014.
Even worse! This card was averaging $3.50 in 2014, but it was closer to $2 in early 2020. This is the opposite of a good investment.
Let's check one more Charizard to be sure: Charizard-EX XY17, from product-hover id="91612" in October 2016.
Well, there was a brief spike to $25 in October 2018. Otherwise, this chart looks pretty flat. There may be a teensy upward trend, but I can't imagine anyone celebrating that a card they bought four years ago went up $0.60.
So there you have it. SP prices stay flat over time, and they're not good investments.
Ah! You've noticed that my graphs end before the start of the pandemic. How silly of me. But I'm sure that if we adjust the time frame to include March 2020 - May 2021, we'll see that prices stayed exactly the sa-
I covered the effect that Logan Paul's first unboxing video had on Pokémon card prices a few weeks ago. But I didn't expect it to translate to SPs quite so dramatically.
As it turns out, nearly every SP I looked at shows the same trend. Before the pandemic they were flat, and after the Logan Paul unboxing, they skyrocketed.
Here's a few more examples:
The only exception were promo cards that came out during the Sword & Shield Series, the most recent era of cards.
So I guess I have to amend my earlier conclusion. SPs were bad investments, until the Logan Paul unboxing and subsequent Pokémania drove up prices. Thanks to the recent hype, the once-stagnant prices of SPs from the Sun & Moon Series and earlier are now much higher.
If you're just getting into collecting Pokémon cards now, the Logan Paul Effect has already run its course. Your Pikachu V (swshp-SWSH061) isn't getting more valuable over time, and if history is any indication, it won't get more valuable until there's another big burst in Pokénthusiasm.
The good news is, your patience may be rewarded. After all, Logan Paul wasn't the first collector to spark a major price spike.
This is the price history for the very first SP: Machamp, which came in the product-hover id="107602" released in 1999. As you can see, its price was fairly steady at $3 between Jan. 2014 and late 2017. Then it started fluctuating like crazy, with a general upward trend, ending 2019 closer to $15.
What happened in late 2017? A complete set of PSA 10 first-edition Pokémon cards sold at auction for $100,000.
You can see this same spike in other Base Set cards, but it's not nearly as dramatic. For example, here's Blastoise (base1-2) and Venusaur (base1-15). I've marked November 2017 in red.
This is not what I expected, but I think the fact that Machamp was an SP actually made it a better investment than Blastoise or Venusaur before the November 2017 spike. Because it came in a popular product, it was perceived as being widely available, even after it had been out of print for over 15 years. When the market finally corrected, it did so suddenly and dramatically. You could have bought a First Edition Machamp for $1 in August 2017 and sold it six months later for $35. That's a crazy return for such a small investment!
Or, you could have waited for the next big price spike and sold it for nearly $200 instead.
If there's a moral to this story, it's that price trends don't matter. You don't make money on Pokémon cards by watching them accrue incremental value year after year. You make money by hoarding the dime-a-dozen promo cards nobody wants today, in the hope that 15 years from now they'll suddenly skyrocket in price.
I guess I can't fault anyone for buying Pikachu V (swshp-SWSH061), even though the card has lost value every week since it was printed. There's no telling what the future holds.