How much are Pokemon cards worth?

22 December 2019

Interview with 

Terry Melia, Professional Sports Authenticator

POKEMON

A sign displaying Pokemon characters.

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You might have heard this story recently: The world’s rarest Pokémon card sold at an auction in New York for around £150,000. Only 39 copies of the ultra- rare Pikachu card were ever released - as a prize in a drawing competition in Japan... and only 10 of them are known to be in circulation. This particular card is drawn by the original Pikachu artist Atsuko Nishida, and it sold for more than three times the previous record for this exact card. So why are trading cards worth so much money? Chris Berrow found out from “professional sports authenticator” Terry Melia, who decides how much collectible cards are worth and they valued this specific card...

Terry - Astute collectors nowadays understand the importance of getting their memorabilia and or cards graded. So they submit sometimes in bulk, sometimes in single cards, their items to PSA for grading. And there are different levels to that grading. The turnaround times, all of that sort of impacts the fee. But, for instance, they could turn in a card to get both, uh, a grade as well as authentication and that would be about a $20 turnaround. And what they do is, when the cards are submitted to us, obviously they go through a big screening process and we have professional graders - people that have been in this business for years that know what to look for when they're trying to identify a specific identifiers on the card. For instance, measurement's important: trading cards are generally two and a half inches wide by three and a half inches tall. The card stock that is used is also something we analyze - the thickness of the paper stock. In the case of upper deck trading cards, for instance, they have a hologram that's situated on the back of all of their cards. These are all things they need to look for. And then, of course, they start looking at the card for condition. You know, is it something that has dinged quarters, uh, corners? Is there discoloration because the card was left out in sunlight for too long? All of those things impact the final grade that's awarded to the card.

Chris - What's the top grade? Is it A1 or something like that?

Terry - Yeah, we actually use numbers. It's a one through 10 grading system. A one would be poor, and that obviously is your least desirable card in its condition. And then gem mint 10 is the top - a great card. Anything from mint nine to gem mint 10 commands pretty good bucks on the secondary market. And that's, again, if somebody wants to take the time to sell those cards, uh, whether it's through an auction house or whether it's online through eBay or even if it's just going down to the local hobby shops and seeing if they can make a deal with the dealer behind the counter.

Chris - And we heard about this Pikachu card that sold at auction for £150,000 pounds very recently. Is that one of the most valuable cards of recent times cause it seems like it be all estimates for similar cards that had previously been sold or is that kind of small fry compared to some of the others?

Terry - No, it's certainly not small fry. In fact, the highest price that was ever paid for a Pokemon card at auction all by itself. So that's an exception, but at the same time it shows that the industry itself is really picking up. But one of the things that impacts the, um, the value of that card on the secondary market value is its scarcity, and that particular pikachu illustrator card, that was a promo card that was given out to winners of a comic contest that was held in Japan back in 1997 or 98, and, I believe, there were 39 of those cards awarded. And today they're guesstimating that there's only about 10 of those that have surfaced and are still around. So that obviously makes it, you know, valuable in itself, but also just a collectible that people want. And in this industry, scarcity does impact price.

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