There's been a ton of discussion in the run-up to the release of Ghosts From the Past on Friday, and now that it's Monday afternoon I want to talk about the impact this set's likely to have: what it means for the secondary market, for competition, and for more Yu-Gi-Oh releases in the future.

No long intros and preamble here: let's jump right in, starting with the big question.

Is The Collecting Boom Finally Here?

There was a long, long time when Yu-Gi-Oh revolved entirely around the player experience. Every set was created almost solely with players in mind, and while that sounds pretty great if you're a tournament player yourself, it meant that Upper Deck, and then Konami, largely leaned on the player community to generate revenue. The result is a long legacy of rarity upgrades between the TCG and the OCG, and a wide expectation that if a card's really good in Japan, it'll wind up as an expensive Secret Rare here.

Players always hate feeling like they're getting squeezed, but looking at the history we know it works. Phantom Darkness was a beating, creating a tournament environment where anyone who wanted to compete needed three copies of Dark Armed Dragon before they could even consider the other 37 cards in their deck - at the time, Dark Armed Dragon cost anywhere from $220 to $250 a copy. Players were angry. They also bought so much Phantom Darkness that the set was reprinted at least four times.

That formula repeated more than I can recall, but stuff changed in Rising Rampage with the debut of Starlight Rares. When RIRA dropped in July of 2019, we'd already seen a creeping interest from a nostalgic crowd of buyers; rare printings of original Yu-Gi-Oh series icons like Dark Magician Girl and Blue-Eyes White Dragon had been rising in value for a while, and prices for Yu-Gi-Oh GX cards were starting to follow.

I think it's a safe bet that somebody over at Konami was aware of that interest, from… not necessarily just "collectors" as we think of them, but Yu-Gi-Oh fans who wanted to own cool cards, without going to tournaments every week. As Yu-Gi-Oh's audience got older, lots of people who grew up on the game came into the means to buy the cards they only dreamed of as kids.

Starlight Rares were a smart move that helped add value to core sets for the existing player base; Yu-Gi-Oh players love booster packs that double as lottery tickets, and the term "collector" sort of has a blunted meaning in a game where almost everybody's got a little hustle. But Starlight Rares weren't just attractive to the established player audience that Yu-Gi-Oh's played to for so many years: it also gave less tournament-oriented duel fans big, modern cards to chase.

Starlights created demand for cards that often didn't have much tournament value, and wouldn't be a blip on the market's radar otherwise. Konami's focus on popular female characters as Starlight Rares helped too; it was a smart move that capitalized on the interests of many anime fans, one that seemed obvious to anybody who's played games like Cardfight!! Vanguard or Weiss Schwarz.

Starlight Rares were a hit out of the gates, and the design team at Konami doubled down in 2020. They added a fifth Starlight Rare to Eternity Code, adding a reprint slot to the lineup; they killed it on Collector's Rares, turning Toon Chaos from a wildcard "who knows?" shrug into one of the fastest-selling Yu-Gi-Oh sets of all time; and they positioned Maximum Gold as a premium release with more unprecedented foil tech that looked awesome.

Ten Thousand Dragon and the Astral Glyph version of Number 39: Utopia (Astral) were massive surprises that made Battles of Legend: Armageddon a hit. Meanwhile the equally surprising The Winged Dragon of Ra (Ghost Rare) in Rage of Ra salvaged what might have been the year's weakest release otherwise.

Those collector-centric moves all did well, but at the same time they paled in comparison to what was going on in the Pokémon TCG. If you've somehow missed the news, Pokémon cards are huge again, resulting in tremendous speculation, massive demand, and people literally becoming millionaires off both childhood collections and smart, modern day investments.

If you've been involved in the Yu-Gi-Oh secondary market for the past year, you've likely been holding your breath waiting for that tidal wave of collector cash to start pouring over into Yu-Gi-Oh. Big-money debuts like Ten Thousand Dragon, which started off north of $1500, and Ghost Rare The Winged Dragon of Ra (Ghost Rare) at $500+ all seemed to just, almost, get there… But not quite.

Read that out loud with some grunts, like you're trying to pull yourself up a vertical rock wall and you'll get the tone I'm aiming for.

Yu-Gi-Oh's seen a lot of sellout products, huge demand, and unprecedented hits in the past year. You already know, but there are some dang expensive cards right now, and every day it feels like a random tournament card you could've bought for 30 bucks last week, is suddenly 80 dollars. Forbidden Droplet 120 bucks right now, sure, but that's a powerful tournament card that's played in almost every deck. Animadorned Archosaur hitting 75 dollars feels like a different story.

But none of it felt like the Pokémon boom. Until Ghosts From the Past. Somewhere around the time that GFTP presales hit double MSRP, the landscape just started to feel different.

I've kept going over this question in my head, like, if some version of the 2020 Pokémon phenomenon were to come to Yu-Gi-Oh, what would that look like? What would the four heralds of the Poké-pocalypse be, and what horses would they ride in on? The best answer I can come up with is something like this:

Product buyouts. The biggest hallmark of the modern Pokémon craze today, was the Champion's Path, Shining Fates type experience of going to a Walmart, and seeing the entire Pokémon section cleaned out. Demand surged, competition amongst YouTubers surged, and the result was unparalleled hype: flippers are buying up all the product they could find, influencers are loading up on packs to make bigger and bigger opening videos, and regular buyers are caught up in the crossfire.

Old collectible cards go bananas. No explanation needed here: prices of key vintage Pokémon singles and sealed product have gone through the roof, something we've talked about on Infinite many times.

Everybody starts grading their cards. Even unremarkable ones destined to become "junk slabs". In the past, collectors graded their most valuable cards to protect and display them, to assign them more formal values, and to buff the price of particularly desirable cards in great condition. Graded cards are a key part of the 2020 Pokémon boom, because for an investor who doesn't know much about the hobby, graded cards come with a perceived assurance of quality. Card grading makes investing in Pokémon cards more approachable for people who aren't experienced collectors.

But in recent months, an increasing number of Pokémon enthusiasts were getting their cards graded to spin the wheel and try to hit it big on high grades, hoping to boost the value of their cards several times over. Since card grading services are often cheaper in bulk, the systems incentivize a shotgun style approach to grading submission: an attitude of, "just send everything that might be worth money, and let the graders sort it out." As a result, grading companies have been so overwhelmed that several raised their prices by 50% or more in a bid to slow down submissions, while one of the most respected companies has shut down intake entirely as they try to catch up.

Market correction. Yu-Gi-Oh's in a unique position compared to games like Pokémon and Magic. As a community, we're largely late to the party, or just uninterested in grading cards, depending on your perspective. There's a small community of collectors who aren't new to grading services, but most players have never done it, and many companies don't grade Yu-Gi-Oh cards due to lack of demand.

We know what the Pokémon boom looks like, but any spillover into other games is going to look different, because it's coming in the wake of the conditions that hit Pokémon all at once: an escalating emphasis on chase cards, the rise of a highly competitive creator sphere, and celebrities generating mainstream interest. No other game is going to see the exact same series of events: if something like that happens in Yu-Gi-Oh it's going to happen in the context of the Pokémon boom, and be informed by it, because everybody's been watching it so closely.

If new collectors enter Yu-Gi-Oh from other games, and existing Yu-Gi-Oh fans are more drawn to collecting, the trends aren't going to start afresh. We're going to see rising demand for old cards, similar to those Base Set Charizards, sure. But we're also going to see people looking for investment opportunities in more recent product, as collector-minded individuals seek out cards that are undervalued, and in scarce supply. Those undervalued cards would, in theory, start getting bought up, and we'd see them start to rise in value in response to demand.

So how does Yu-Gi-Oh measure up to those four standards? And how does it relate to Ghosts from the Past?

Well, we know Ghosts From the Past presales were the biggest ever, driving the price of sealed product to roughly twice the suggested retail. Now, the Monday after the release, mini-boxes of GFTP are still $25 and more, which is roughly 70% above MSRP. You need to get really lucky to find GFTP at Walmart, Target, or a similar big box retailer; it's sold out everywhere. The Horseman Of Product Buyouts has definitely ridden into town.

Have old collector's cards started to go the way of Charizard? Well, ungraded copies of 1st Edition product-hover id="21792" are going for about $5000 to start, so I'm gonna go with "yes." Want a well graded 1st Edition product-hover id="21877"? That'll be four or five grand. Ultimate Rare 1st Ed Cyber End Dragon (UTR) in good condition? Looks like it's 1500 bucks raw, maybe 2000. The list goes on, and we're not even getting into the more out-there stuff like the Promo Seal of Orichalcos or World Championship Prizes .

Those Yu-Gi-Oh cards in your closet are definitely worth a look.

Unfortunately we can't draw any conclusions about the demand for grading in Yu-Gi-Oh, since the card grading services are all shutting down or doubling in price. This one's a wash: Pokémon changed the grading industry so much that it just doesn't function the same way anymore.

But to me, the most interesting question is the one about market corrections. If we're going to see a collector boom in Yu-Gi-Oh, I think we'd see increased demand and likely higher prices for chase cards that aren't tied to the tournament scene. I don't think Triple Tactics Talent is expensive right now because players are getting more interested in collecting cards; that might be a small factor, but we know that historically, the price of that card and ones like it are largely driven by event results; they rise over time until the card gets a reprint. The big question to me, is what's happened in the last few months to all those Starlight Rares, Collector's Rares, and other premium cards, now that Ghosts From the Past has shocked the system.

…And one of the cool things about TCGplayer is that we have incredible access to the sales history of these types of cards. So when I have a question like, "are modern chase cards rising in value," I can actually go and find out. That's what I did this afternoon, and the answer was pretty definitive.

Evil Twins Ki-Sikil & Lil-La (CR)

The first thing I looked at was Collector's Rares, starting with Genesis Impact. It's a nice clump of fifteen chase cards, and they're pretty recent, so the supply is still there to show meaningful movement. (It's harder to draw worthwhile conclusions when there aren't as many copies of a card being bought and sold.)

When I check the recent price histories for all fifteen cards in 1st Edition, I noticed a lot of them - the majority, in fact - looked like this:

That's the price history for Aleister the Invoker of Madness (CR) from February 1st to today, April 19th. It's a pretty cool Link Monster, but it doesn't really see play; its only value is as a collectible. You can see that it was off to a rocky start in early February, then slowly started climbing in mid-March right around the time stimulus checks arrived in the US, and from there it just keeps climbing for the next five weeks.

How about another example: Evil Twins Ki-Sikil & Lil-La (CR). Again, this card isn't tournament relevant, and while these characters are cool, they've never achieved the same status as more popular characters like the Spirit Charmers or Harpie Lady. In fact, the value of the Live☆Twin cards have been pretty flat since their release. But then we look at February to now…

This card's still all over the place, but it's definitely on an upward trend too. How about a more popular tournament card for a different data point, Knightmare Unicorn (CR).

This one's huge: The Knightmare Unicorn (CR) went from 60 dollars in February to 80 or 90 dollars today. Knightmare Phoenix (CR) was similar, rising from $53 in February to as much as $80 now. Artemis, the Magistus Moon Maiden (CR), Beat Cop from the Underworld (CR), Meteonis Drytron (CR)… Most of the Genesis Impact Collector's Rares have gained value since February, and while that stimulus hit in March is a factor, it looks like it just kickstarted a trend that's still in motion now. These cards aren't dropping, and many of them are still gaining value.

I decided to look at the Collector's Rares from Toon Chaos as well and while the supply was lower due to it being an older release, I saw the same trend. Here's Chaos Valkyria (CR), another card that isn't relevant to tournaments, and doesn't really have character value in Yu-Gi-Oh fandom.

It's the same deal, and it's really dramatic: Chaos Valkyria (CR) starts at $50 to $60 in February, spikes, and the price doesn't plateau until it hits $110. It's still strong today at around $100. This was one of the weakest Collector's Rares in the entire set, and it's nearly doubled in price, in less than three months.

Let's look at another not-so-hot Collector's Rare, Toon Bookmark (CR).

Yeah, it went from 50 dollars to 70 dollars. How about a tournament card like Chaos Space (CR)?

Yup, that's Chaos Space (CR) alright, going from 85 bucks to 150. And sure, Dragon Link's huge right now playing three copies. But that's why we're looking at a big mix of cards: 1st Edition PSY-Framegear Gamma (CR) gone from $180 to $260, Toon Black Luster Soldier (CR) up from $250 to $350, and Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning (CR) shifted from $330 to $400.

The Toon Chaos Collector's Rares that haven't gone up in the last ten weeks were either expensive already, like Stardust Dragon (CR), or were outclassed by recent releases - Pot of Desires (CR) was hit hard when Pot of Prosperity was released. And don't get me wrong, those cards still held value, they just aren't making big gains for the moment.

The same trend holds for most Starlight Rares from Rise of the Duelist, Phantom Rage, and Blazing Vortex. Number 39: Utopia (Astral) went from $300 to $450. Even Ten Thousand Dragon risen from $1200 to $1400. With the exception of a few Starlights, like Dogmatika Ecclesia, the Virtuous (Starlight Rare), Trishula, Dragon of the Ice Barrier (Starlight Rare), and D.D. Crow (Starlight Rare), which again, were already expensive, everything has seen growth.

Is this our fourth horseman? Are collectors and investors really poking at the market to find undervalued cards and buying them up? Or are people just spending stimulus money, five weeks after getting it.

Personally, I think the timeframe suggests that we're seeing real investment; the stimulus funds certainly delivered a jump-start to the market, but many were on the rise in February before everyone got their 1400 Duel Dollars. At the same time, so many of these cards seeing gains were undervalued and lower profile. They contrast with the bigger, more expensive ones that are seeing less action, because they don't offer the same potential for growth. I don't know if I'm sold yet, but the data seems to be telling a story.

The fact that this trend arrives amongst the mass buyouts of Ghosts From the Past, and spiralling prices of old collector's cards, gives the feeling that the Yu-Gi-Oh market is changing. People started talking about a collector boom when Maximum Gold's product-hover id="227414" climbed from 12 bucks to 30. Now we've got dozens of chase cards gaining 20, 50, 150 dollars and more. The stakes are definitely getting higher, and in the end that may be the legacy of Ghosts From the Past.

So what else is going on?

The Reprint Impact

The secondary market isn't the only place Ghosts From the Past will leave its mark; you're going to see some swerves on tournament tables too, even if that table is in your house and you're pointing a webcam at it.

Ghosts From the Past might not have delivered a reprint of Forbidden Droplet or Lightning Storm, but it's brought Evenly Matched into the reach of most duelists, and while it's affordable at its current price of $15 the real impact is just going to be the number of people scoring copies while they try to open Ghost Rares.

Evenly Matched doesn't always see play; it fades in and out of tournament use according to metagame predictions. But a lot more people are going to own it by the end of this week, and that means you're going to see more of it in game. You'll want to plan accordingly and play around it.

Hieratic Seal of the Heavenly Spheres, Madolche Puddingcess, Danger! Thunderbird!, and Phantom Knights' Fog Blade are all cards that many players didn't own last week, and they're all cards that might have been keeping those duelists from running the strategy they wanted to play.

Dragon Link - especially the Dark version that hinges on The Phantom Knights of Rusty Bardiche and Phantom Knights' Fog Blade - is more approachable now. I wouldn't be surprised if you see some Madolche decks popping up as well.

People Are Going To Play Time Thief And Dragunity

Both of these decks get powerful new cards in Ghosts From the Past, and if you're not playing them yourself you'll want to at least know what they do. Time Thief Adjuster makes the Time Thief deck more consistent, while Time Thief Double Barrel offers three different responsive effects, offering more payoff for what the deck was already doing. We've seen Time Thief cards played as a supporting engine before, and now we're going to see if that engine's going to get a bit bigger, or if a standalone strategy's really possible.

Dragunity Remus, Dragunity Glow, and Dragunity Arma Gram are crazy pants, and Kelly showed off two builds with triple Dragunity Senatus last week. I don't think we saw anyone integrating Dragunity cards into Dragon Link at the Extravaganza this past weekend, but it wouldn't surprise me if we find out it happened.

In the meantime, dedicated Dragunity decks are sure to emerge as soon as people can actually get their hands on the new cards. Whether the deck will sit on the competitive fringe or come in swinging is yet to be determined, but the cards certainly have potential.

Beyond those two themes, I'll be surprised if we don't see Nehshaddoll Genius in action soon. Invoked Shaddolls have become a rising presence in competition, and while Genius is said to be one of GFTP's tougher pulls, buyers are still leaning in, and it was the Number 1 best-selling card from GFTP presales last week.

That demand continued through the weekend: Nehshaddoll Genius was $8 on release day and now it's $13 and counting. Nehshaddoll Genius adds another layer of negation to the Shaddoll strategy, and while it's a pretty debated card, it might be arriving at the right time to continue the Shaddoll deck's upward trend.

Buying Sealed Is More Secure

One of the most interesting wrinkles in the discussion surrounding Ghosts From the Past is actually the Ghost Rare drop rate. Everybody was assuming Ghost Rares would appear at a 1-per-case ratio, and we weren't wrong, at least overall. We found out pretty quickly that the 1-per-case rate is an average, not a guarantee: case breaks quickly revealed that some cases had two Ghost Rares, some had one, and others had no Ghost Rare at all.

That's bad news if you buy a whole case and don't hit a Ghost Rare, but at the same time, it adds a layer of security for anyone not buying by the case. Up until Eternity Code, nearly every case of core set boosters had exactly one Starlight Rare. That's a nice guarantee of value, but it opened up a lot of fear that unscrupulous sellers might open boxes until they hit a Starlight Rare, then resell the rest of the case knowing there was almost certainly no Starlight left.

Did anyone ever do that? We'll probably never know. But the concern was understandable.

Once Eternity Code arrived we started to see reports of slightly different distribution: suddenly some cases had two Starlight Rares, and some didn't have any. Most cases still had one, to the point that the majority of people probably aren't aware of the change, and many may still regard it as a rumor (if they've even heard of it at all).

But the chance to hit it big with multiple Ghost Rares in one case of GFTP is very real, as is the risk of whiffing entirely. The situation's getting way more buzz than the ETCO Starlight change, and that means if you're buying by the display, or even just getting a mini-box, you can feel safe knowing you've got a fair shot at the set's biggest cards. Dark Magician (Ghost Rare) is actually up from where it was Friday, currently at $750 for a near mint copy, so knowing you've actually got a chance at pulling one is pretty important.

Will we see more randomized distribution like this in the future? If the Starlight change is true, and this is a pattern, I'd bet on it. And while that can hurt a buyer who gets one or two cases, that's probably a worthy trade off to ensure that the entire product run is secure. I don't know, we'll have to see how people react to the case-opening experience of GFTP in the coming weeks.

So yeah! From the possibility of a collector's boom, to product security, reprints, and tournament fallout, that's my take on Ghosts From the Past. Now that the set's out in the wild I'm sure many of you will join me keeping tabs on the values of the set's biggest cards, and other recent chase prints. In the mean time Ancient Guardians is just a few weeks away, arriving May 7th.

If you're still searching for GFTP in your area or you're still waiting on your card mail, good luck in the hunt!