We’re going to walk you through exactly how to value your old Pokémon card collection so you can decide if that mint Hitmonlee will hitmonBIG at auction.
How to Value Your Pokémon Cards
Step 1: Identify Fakes
The very first step in valuing your Pokémon card collection is to sort out any fake cards. Pokémon cards are unique in that fakes are extremely common, so it’s worth authenticating your mint first-edition Charizard right away. It would be pretty embarrassing to blast off a slew of Instagram stories about the $200,000 Pokémon card you had in your garage, only to find out it’s worth approximately a nickel when you attempt to sell.
Here are four ways to identify a fake Pokémon card:
- The Back - Real cards have very detailed swirls and varying shades of dark & light blue. Meanwhile, fake cards are usually only one shade of light blue and the detail in the cyclone is blurred.
- The Edge - If the edges of the card are rough (kind of like a cardboard coupon), it is likely a fake.
- Spelling Errors - If anything is misspelled, it is more than likely fake. Only in extremely rare instances were legitimate spelling mistakes made on real Pokémon cards.
- Unusual Fonts - If you have a card on hand that you know is real, compare your other cards to it. If the font is bigger, smaller, bolder, or thinner then it is likely fake.
Step 2: Rarity
After you’ve sorted out any fake cards, the next step is to figure out how rare it is.
Every Pokémon card is stamped with a small symbol in the bottom right corner that identifies its rarity. As is the case with most collectibles, scarcity is a major factor in determining the item’s value. So the rarer the card’s marker, the higher value it’ll likely command at auction.
Pokémon card rarity stamps are as follows:
Circle - Common
Diamond - Uncommon
Star - Rare
Star H or 3 Stars - Extra Rare
For the most part, Common and Uncommon cards are not worth very much. However, Rare and Extra Rare cards can fetch very high prices, especially if they’re first or second edition.
Note: you may find other symbols in the bottom right-hand corner that identify where the card came from. For example, it could symbolize whether or not the card was from a Booster Pack, Promo, or Boxtopper. This information doesn’t usually dictate value.
Step 3: Set/Edition
At the very bottom of every Pokémon card is its edition and print date. In most instances, the earlier the edition, the more the card is worth. In fact, first edition cards (identifiable by the 1 inside a black circle on the bottom left of the artwork) are often considered the Holy Grail. Even Common first edition cards can fetch $5 apiece!
The most valuable English Pokémon sets are as follows:
- Pokémon Demo Game Plastic Pack - The first English edition, identifiable by the first edition stamp mentioned above.
- Pokémon Base Set - The most common set being traded at auction. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th editions exist.
- Jungle - The third English set to be released.
- Fossil - The fourth English set to be released.
Step 4: Holos
After you’ve identified your Pokémon card’s set and edition, you’ll want to set aside your holo and reverse holo cards. “Holo” means the Pokémon artwork is shiny and reflective while “reverse holo” means the artwork is matte but the rest of the card is shiny. There are even some cards with a shiny border.
In many instances, a holo or reverse holo card will be worth more than their matte counterparts.
Step 5: Collector Number
Also found in the bottom right of almost every card is a collector number that’ll look like a fraction. For example “70/105”.
While the number itself won’t necessarily dictate price, it can point to rare or special cards that might be worth more. For example, if the collector number exceeds the print number (ex: “75/70”) it is known as a “secret rare”. Also, if the number is preceded by an “SH”, it means it’s a Shining Pokémon and the card’s artwork is unique.
Finally, it’s worth noting very early editions as well as most Japanese editions do not contain a collector number. This does not necessarily influence the card’s value.
Step 6: Levels
In some instances, a number or special symbol will be printed right on the top of the card beside the Pokémon’s name. This is the Pokémon’s ‘level’ (a number representing the character’s strength and prowess). Higher-level Pokémon can fetch higher prices at auction.
In some instances, there may be a symbol such as G, GL, 4, C, FB, or M in this spot. These symbols are only found on “Special Pokémon” (often abbreviated to “SP”), most of which are worth significantly more.
Step 7: Unique Identifiers
While all of the aforementioned steps will identify the value of 99.9% of Pokémon cards, there are a few other unique identifiers that may come into play. For example, in extremely rare instances an entire card is the artwork. Also, cards that were given away as tournament prizes may appear slightly different than the usual playing cards—in fact, the most expensive card today is the Pikachu Illustrator Card that was originally a tournament prize. Be sure to evaluate your cards for any sort of unique identifier that may differentiate them.
Step 8: Check Historic Sales
The final step to value your Pokémon cards is to search for historic performance at auction. Use websites like Pokémon Price to search the exact cards you own to find past sales of your cards. This will help you set a realistic sale price before listing them online.
Getting your Pokémon card collection professionally appraised
If you’re still scratching your head wondering if your 1st edition Charizard is worth as much as a Maserati or as little as a Big Mac, we highly recommend getting your cards professionally appraised and authenticated.
PSA and Beckett are two well-known companies offering online price guides and that can professionally appraise your collection as well as grade their condition on a scale of 1–10. In many high-value transactions, a professional grade is necessary to ensure the card is in mint condition. In fact, most cards with less than a final grade of 8 won’t be worth auctioning off.