I think Yu-Gi-Oh's the most undervalued investment in the TCG world.

Magic: The Gathering has an exceptionally sophisticated investor's market. Our own Cassie LaBelle here on Infinite creates incredible articles about the ebb and flow of Magic finance, and even if you're just here for Yu-Gi-Oh, I really recommend her stuff. There's a huge number of people participating in M:TG investing, and the level of analysis, as well as just the sheer size of that market in terms of volume of product printed over the last 28 years, is massive.

On the flipside, we've all seen the Pokémon TCG market blow up over the last two years. Vintage Pokémon is becoming respected as a real investor class asset at this point, as the financial world in general starts to pay more attention to collectibles. That demand for older cards created a massive boom in modern Pokémon,  and give or take some dips and corrections, it's continued to this day. That's probably not a surprise to you: it's been in the news, it's all over social media, and it's been one of the biggest points of discussion in our sphere as TCG fans.

But Yu-Gi-Oh? Our corner of the cardboard world is still finding its footing. Credit where it's due: Konami's done a lot to create more offerings that appeal to collectors, as well as fans who love the Yu-Gi-Oh anime, but don't actively build decks. In the past, Yu-Gi-Oh largely felt like it was built for players first, and every other demographic was kind of an afterthought. Today, new products feel like they're being built for a wider audience with a bigger mix of interests.

Starlight Rares, Collector's Rares, Ten Thousand Dragon, the Number 39: Utopia (Astral) the return of Ghost Rares… all these new chase cards have helped create the kind of opportunities passionate collectors flock to (along with a lot of social media buzz). But these big-money hits are also helping shape modern Yu-Gi-Oh releases into the kinds of products that attract money-focused investors: with sufficient know-how and sufficient funds, an investor can use these types of releases to store value, and grow it over time.

And as much as I'm pointing to modern chase cards as the flashpoint, this process was largely organic. The value of older sealed products and big, popular singles have been growing in Yu-Gi-Oh for years; it was that rising demand for classic Yu-Gi-Oh cards that allowed Konami to grow past their former model, which often felt heavily focused on locking tournament-viable cards behind the Secret Rare paywall. For years, it seemed like the core strategy for selling Yu-Gi-Oh was based around making existing customers pay more, rather than expanding the audience.

While Yu-Gi-Oh's not on the level of brand recognition of Pokémon, it's still a huge entertainment license with TV shows, manga, apparel, accessories, feature films, and at least three breakfast cereals. ( Seriously. ) Deeper than that, Yu-Gi-Oh has some unique qualities that make it especially friendly to investors, if investors were ever to become interested. We'll talk about some of those a bit further down. But for now, the biggest barrier to a new level of investing in Yu-Gi-Oh may just be casual opinions from people who aren't involved with Yu-Gi-Oh in the first place.

"Konami Just Reprints Everything"

There's this idea that comes up again and again whenever I talk to investors involved with Magic and Pokémon: the sentiment I see echoed everywhere, sometimes even in our own community, is that Yu-Gi-Oh isn't worth sinking money into because "Konami just reprints everything."

That's actually never been true, as much as we do get predictable reprints of most tournament cards. Look at the Ultimate Rare market as an example. Look at old Ghost Rares, or old Tournament Pack cards. And then look at those Starlights, Collector's Rares, modern Ghost Rares, and so on from the last couple of years.

Or? Skip the singles entirely and just try and buy some Legendary Dragon Decks. Remember those things? The MSRP four years ago was $30. Should be pretty affordable, right?

Practically a fire sale! Don't invest in Yu-Gi-Oh! Konami reprints everything!

At some point I think the general opinion on investing in Yu-Gi-Oh is going to change. When that happens, we're going to see a major market correction that'll make some people a lot of money. But for now, that opinion hasn't changed. That's the bad news.

The good news is that if you're patient, savvy, and willing to follow a few simple suggestions, there's a lot of investment opportunity in Yu-Gi-Oh right now. Even without some sort of crazy revolution in TCG investing.

Today I want to talk about some of the mistakes I see people make when they try to make a profit off Yu-Gi-Oh. I think on the whole, many members of our community looking to make money wind up looking for the wrong opportunities, and they start with the wrong mindset. That leads people to make decisions that don't pan out. Those people get scared out of the market, and then start loudly posting about how bad Yu-Gi-Oh is to invest in.

But before we get to the nuts and bolts, let's talk about a bigger concept for a second.

Investing Versus Buying

Lots of people buy Yu-Gi-Oh cards. If you're reading this and you've never bought a Yu-Gi-Oh card, I'd be surprised. People buy Yu-Gi-Oh cards for a lots of different reasons. If you're a tournament player, you probably buy most of your cards because you want to play them. That's long been the lifeblood of Yu-Gi-Oh. But if you're a nostalgic fan or you like the anime, you might buy some packs because they're fun to open. You might buy some singles because they resonate with you personally. If you're a collector, you might buy cards to complete a set, or to collect specific types of cards you like, or you might enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

Lots of people buy Yu-Gi-Oh cards. Very few people truly invest.

If you're investing in Yu-Gi-Oh, you have a very narrow set of targets. In a nutshell, you are trying to make money. You're probably not a robot! You probably still like Yu-Gi-Oh! It's very likely you "buy" your share of cards too, and you could be a tournament player, an anime fan, a collector, whatever. Maybe you're all of those things at once. But at the end of the day, if you plan to invest in Yu-Gi-Oh, you're doing it because you want to leverage your knowledge of the game to make more money.

That's the goal.

There are lots of Yu-Gi-Oh products out there. Some of them are good, some of them are not so good, and all of them are made for someone. None of them are specifically made for investors. If you're looking to invest, you need to figure out which products happen to be best suited for it: products that were either created and designed in a way that made them good for investing, or products that, over time, were shaped to become that by market factors.

Lots of people buying cards make fast money. And lots of people buying cards lose money fast.

Don't get me wrong: there are lots of people who buy Yu-Gi-Oh cards and end up making money. Plenty of people you'll talk to, people you'll see making flex posts, or dealing locally, make some money by buying hyped cards and flipping them, often pretty quickly. I think for a very long time, the average Yu-Gi-Oh fan who thinks about investing has had this image in their head of a scrappy backpacker flipping singles as fast as possible, trying to stay ahead of the meta and make margins on tournament cards.

But that's not really accurate. Or at least, looking at Magic and Pokemon, it doesn't have to be. An investor isn't really looking for fast flips. An investor's looking for safety in the market first and foremost. They want secure opportunities, and usually the thing they trade for that added security is time. They're in it for the long haul.

Lots of people buying cards make fast money. And lots of people buying cards lose money fast. The goal of smart investing is to make sure you put your money into low risk, high yield opportunities, to minimize the impact of luck and outside forces you can't control. That can take discipline and patience, two things not everybody's good at.

Case in point? The first mistake I see countless would-be investors make.

Don't Try To Time The Market On Tournament Cards

I know, I know. We all have that friend who went in on pages of Secret Rare Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring at 25 bucks and sold them off at 80. We all know that dude who bought Ice Dragon's Prison at $6 and sold at $40, or even $60. It happens all the time. A certain percentage of short-run gambles pay off, and when hundreds or thousands of them are being made all the time, you'll see some people hit it big. Somewhere this week, somebody's gonna pay a dollar for a lottery ticket and become a millionaire overnight.

People remember the hits. They usually don't remember the misses, unless it was their turn at bat and they were the ones that struck out. For everybody who hit it big on Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, there was somebody who wrecked themselves over Ghost Mourner & Moonlit Chill. Historically, investing in Yu-Gi-Oh tournament singles has been tough, because great cards are so often underrated (and not-so-great cards get lots of hype). Even if you can see a strong card nobody else is aware of, that card won't grow in value if people don't play it. Picking winners is difficult, and sometimes even the winners don't pay off.

Worse yet, it's tougher to make money speculating on tournament cards today than it was five or ten years ago, because there are so many more people trying to do it. The OCG gives buyers signals that can be make-or-break half a year or more before a product hits global release in the TCG. In lots of cases, you've either gotta throw your chips on the table super early, when you have no idea what competition is going to look like; or you're just behind, and by the time you go to buy your cards a horde of OCG-informed speculators have already driven up the price.

Players trying to invest in Yu-Gi-Oh will often look to leverage their tournament insight, and we're at a point where so many players are doing it, that investing in tournament cards has become more expensive than ever.

And even if you do hit a big score? Better get rid of those cards fast, because yeah, with a few exceptions, competitive tournament cards eventually get reprinted and fall in value. A lot of cards wind up in a weird game of brinksmanship where the longer you can hold a card like say, Accesscode Talker, the higher the price goes. But the longer you hold it, the closer and closer you get to that invisible ledge; the announcement of a budget reprint. As soon as that announcement hits, the card begins to nosedive and everybody's scrambling like rats on a burning ship. We saw it with Ice Dragon's Prison, we've seen it with dozens, if not hundreds of cards before. 

I'm not saying there's no money in tournament cards. There is. But I can't think of a riskier way to invest in Yu-Gi-Oh, or a class of investment that's so competitive. If you're a big store, with lots of money to invest, an ability to absorb losses, and lots of warehouse space, go for it. But if you're not, you're basically playing Barrel Dragon roulette.

Don't Invest In Cards That Are Going To Get Reprinted

Speaking of reprints…

When I talk to Magic and Pokémon investors, one of the questions I love to ask them is why they don't touch Yu-Gi-Oh. The first answer that come backs is: "I don't really know the market. I have my niche and I don't want to over-extend." That's reasonable. I also hear, "Yu-Gi-Oh reprints everything, so it's not worth it."

That second one is a huge sticking point for me. Because the reality is that while Yu-Gi-Oh does do a pretty good job of creating budget reprints for tournament players, that's not the full story. Generally speaking, when experienced Magic and Pokémon investors are deciding what to take a position on - what to stock up on and invest in - there's a strong premium placed on anything that won't be reprinted.

241093 || 251199 || 247386

Pokémon investors in particular love products like the product-hover id="241093", product-hover id="251199", or product-hover id="247386". Those are all products that, historically speaking, generally release once and are never reissued. If they appear again it's usually because somebody running around at the Pokémon Center warehouse found a few pallets of backstock and it's gone in a heartbeat. Collectability drives investment potential, and it's the grand sum of two factors: desirability and scarcity. Scarce products are often more secure investments. Products that keep getting reprinted are not.

And I guess that's why I get co confused when I look at Magic and Pokémon investors, and hear what those investors say about Yu-Gi-Oh being full of reprints. Most Magic sets have a print life of 12 to 18 months. Sets are usually offered by distributors to stores multiple times. Pokémon's less of an exact science, but most modern Pokémon sets are historically reissued multiple times for roughly two years after their release. As long as there's sufficient demand, the Pokémon Company will keep printing. And still, people invest in boxes and cases and singles, and they make money by doing it.

Yu-Gi-Oh's different. A lot of Yu-Gi-Oh releases, especially side sets, don't get reissued ever. Sure, those cards might be reprinted in different forms later, but those initial products are rarely available again once they first sell out. When it does happen, Yu-Gi-Oh has a security measure that helps protect against devaluation: 1st Edition stamps.

Pokémon used to have 1st Editions, but global releases actually stopped having them in 2002. Neo Destiny was the final set to use them. Magic has never had 1st Edition stamps. I wouldn't be surprised if it happens sometime in the future, but for now, it's not part of the M:TG model.

Yu-Gi-Oh has tons of cards that won't be reprinted for years, and more that probably won't be reprinted, ever.

Tournament cards are risky, sure. Actual player demand can be fickle, because tournament trends move so quickly. But high-end players looking to foil out their decks? Or serious collectors? Or the kid who grew up on GX and now makes six figures a year in STEM? They create niche demands that can be exceptionally strong, especially for products with limited distribution.

Invest in max rarity cards. Invest in chase cards. Invest in 1st Editions. Invest in promo cards. Don't invest in low rarity reprints, or cards that could be easily replaced by low rarity reprints.

Buy those cards if you want to play with them, sure! Just don't expect them to turn a significant profit long term. It can happen, but there are safer places to put your money. Konami keeps inventing more and more of them every few months, releasing new unique chase cards. Don't invest in unlimited edition cards. Invest in the stuff that's not going to get hammered with reprints. Yu-Gi-Oh has tons of cards that won't be reprinted for years, and more that probably won't be reprinted, ever. Put your money there.

Don't Invest In Cards That Aren't Mint Or Near Mint

Seriously. Don't do it. Buying and selling cardboard squares isn't like buying stocks or crypto: at the end of the day, getting the right stuff at the right time is only one half of the equation. Actually unloading those physical products is an entirely different matter. We're not talking real estate here. Everybody wants a house. Not everybody wants Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

As classes of assets go, the audience is already pretty slim. One of the worst things you can do is narrow your pool of potential buyers even more. Everybody who's interested in Yu-Gi-Oh accepts Mint or Near Mint cards. Not everybody wants cards in lesser conditions. Dealing in played or damaged cards is like the Wild West. There are fewer rules, there are fewer consensuses about card value, and everything is harder and more open to negotiation.

At the end of the day? It's not secure and it's higher risk. Don't bother.

There's nothing wrong with buying played condition cards, if you just want a binder copy for your collection or if you just want to play the cards yourself. If you're willing to compromise on potential resale - or if you never plan to sell those cards anyways - save a few bucks! It's free value. But as an investor, you need to choose what you invest in along a different axes. Investing in compromised cards opens you up to a ton of pitfalls.

Don't Underestimate Sealed Product

I think this is the single biggest place where potential investors are missing the boat on Yu-Gi-Oh. Magic, Pokémon, and even newer games like Flesh and Blood and Metazoo have a strong focus on the sealed market as a point of investment. And they should. Opening sealed product is a gamble. Keeping it sealed protects you from variance, and time and time again, we see that investing in sealed on a years-long basis makes money. All it takes is cash, and the discipline to effectively ball it up and hurl it into your closet for a couple of years.

I know. That's easier said than done. Not everybody has thousands of dollars to throw into product-hover id="229277". Sealed product takes up a lot of room in storage, and I'm not your mom so I'm not gonna preach patience. But didn't that bit about the product-hover id="145850" just make you twitch? That thing dropped almost exactly four years ago. In four years, anybody who invested in that product - one that was pretty obviously not going to be reprinted, to revisit that - just 5x'd their money. And people are buying it! Check out the sales history on the product page. They aren't even hard to move!

155667 || 173925 || 202295

How about Legendary Duelists? Famously expensive sets. Sometimes they have tournament relevant cards. Sometimes they don't. They're largely aimed at drawing in nostalgic fans, casual players, and to some extent collectors. It usually takes a long time for the cards to get reprinted: cards from core sets get reprinted in Mega-Tins and other reprint products, Legendary Duelists cards usually don't. There was almost a three-year gap between the first product-hover id="144981" and the reprint release, product-hover id="214981". The wait was similar for Legendary Duelists: Season 2. Now there isn't even a Legendary Duelists: Season 3 on the release calendar.

The kicker? Even with those reprint sets, the original sealed boxes are still insane. Take a look.

With 36 packs per box, all of these sets had an MSRP of about 72 dollars. Buying by the box you'd probably get a better deal, somewhere in the 60s. The numbers here speak for themselves. Konami's started printing Unlimited Edition boxes in the wake of the crazypants demand for Magical Hero, and that didn't really slow it down. The Unlimited edition has helped keep Rage of Ra pretty close to MSRP, despite the fact that the set has a chase Ghost Rare worth hundreds of dollars. But honestly, I think that's just a matter of time too. Legendary Duelists sealed product is an amazing investment opportunity, and very few people really go in on it.

So is that an anomaly? Is that just the power of Yugi and Kaiba and Dark Magician and Blue-Eyes White Dragon connecting to our collective inner child? Heck no.

220429 || 214993 || 214403

Look at product-hover id="220429" from last year. MSRP 30 bucks, recent sales are between $54 to $60. Want some product-hover id="214993"? It's $250 a box. That set's 3x'd in a little over a year. product-hover id="214403" was so under-printed due to COVID that Konami did an Unlimited printing. If you missed out on those 1st Ed boxes before they hit 325 dollars that's unfortunate, but even if you got in on the Unlimited stock, they're pushing $190. Again, you're talking about 3x and 2x returns in under a year and a half.

That raises two questions.

Most people aren't paying attention to this stuff. We saw a period last year where a lot of aspiring investors started to get into the market, but a big portion of that slowed down with Genesis Impact. For some background: Genesis Impact got delayed all the way to mid December, and that timing killed demand due to the holidays. You can still buy Genesis Impact on the open market right now product-hover id="224347". People over-extended on it, panicked, and tried to sell it all off. Many of them are still trying.

But set all that aside for a second and go into this with a fresh mind. I look at Genesis Impact and I see a set that won't get an Unlimited edition. I see a set that's full of Collector's Rares, that as far as we know, won't get reprinted. Several of those Collector's Rares are already in the triple digits. And Konami just keeps making more Live☆Twins. Call me crazy. But looking at Genesis Impact now?

It kinda makes me want to buy some cases of Genesis Impact.

That all segues into the last mistake I want to talk about.

Don't Make Investments You Can't Afford

I said I wasn't going to be your mom, but I'll make an exception on this one. Treat investing like gambling: don't play with money you can't afford to lose. That's important advice for a few different reasons.

The first is obvious: losing the money you need for other stuff can ruin your life. Don't do that.

The second, is that the fear of loss can make people do dumb stuff. We saw it happen with Genesis Impact. The set was actually pretty good at launch: it had some strong Collector's Rare versions of new cards people were interested in. It had some strong Collector's Rares of tournament cards, too. And it introduced an entire tournament-dominating deck, Drytron.

Live Twin Lil-la (CR) 

The problem with Genesis impact was three-fold. First, it got delayed until December 18th. There's a reason why companies don't usually drop new TCG products that late in the year: buyers don't have any money by then, because Santa Claus steals it all. People were thinking about the holidays more than Yu-Gi-Oh. Second, Drytron had a bullseye on their shiny metal backs. The worst thing you could say about that deck was that it had "BAN ME" written all over it. That doesn't sound bad, but it suppressed sales, even as Drytron ripped up tournaments. And third, many of the people who'd bought cases of Genesis Impact couldn't actually afford them.

If you were a small to mid-sized indy seller holding cases of Genesis Impact last December into January, you were stuck with nobody to sell to. You had boxes full of Drytron cards that seemed to have a limited shelf life, and you were probably hurting from the holidays just like anyone else. There were several weeks where, if you were buying, you could get Genesis Impact cases for below distributor prices. People just wanted out. They'd over-extended, factors beyond their control swirled together to make a giant-sized poop storm, and for some people, that was their last try at Yu-Gi-Oh investing. Genesis Impact took people out of the market.

Knightmare Unicorn (CR) 

Ten months later, I sincerely think that at some point, Genesis Impact sealed is going to double or triple in value. The set has a lot going for it, long term. But for now, it stands as a case study of what happens when too many people make a play that was too big for them. If you over-reach, you risk making decisions that harm you in the long run.

Yu-Gi-Oh's got a ridiculous amount of potential for serious investing, as long as you avoid the pitfalls, and you're willing to spend time in the market instead of looking for fast flips. Don't screw yourself. Stay safe. And remember: Konami doesn't actually reprint everything.