How To Check If Your Old Pokemon Cards Are Worth A Fortune

If you were born in the 90s and over, there’s a very good chance that at some point in your life you opened a pack of Pokemon cards or at least got your hands on some Pokemon cards. In your little child brain, you probably had no idea that in years to come that these very same cards that you were haphazardly trading with your friends in the playground would be worth quite a bit of money. This post is for every person that has had that exact same thought: “I wonder what those Pokemon cards I’ve got stored in that box upstairs are worth”.

Base Set Holographic Pokemon Cards

What Is Considered An Old Pokemon Card?

So, firstly, what exactly classifies a Pokemon card as “old” or “vintage”? Well, this isn’t a super easy question to answer as there seem to be varying degrees of oldness when it comes to collecting Pokemon cards but there are definitely things that qualify a card as old. As we are writing this article The Pokemon Company has not too long ago revealed the final Sword and Shield set Crown Zenith, so, as of right now, any Pokemon card older than the X & Y era of Pokemon would probably be considered vintage or at least old. However, some may even consider the X & Y sets old in it themselves. This would mean eras such as the Black & White era or the Diamond & Pearl era are all considered vintage. 


This isn’t to suggest that if your cards were released post-X & Y they automatically aren’t worth anything, in fact, some of the most expensive cards of the last decade were released at the latter end of the decade, and some even in the current decade.

How Can I Tell If My Pokemon Card Is Old?

It’s all fine and dandy knowing what is considered an old Pokemon card but how can you tell if your own cards are actually old? Depending on how old your card is, there are usually some things you can look for that indicate its age. 


For one, any card that features the lower-case letters “ex” at the top of the card next to the Pokemon’s name (excluding reprints such as Celebrations) can immediately be identified as either being from 2007 or older. “ex “cards were introduced in the year and 2003 as part of the base set of Ruby and Sapphire and was then stopped after 2007. This is not to be confused with “EX” cards stylized with capital letters instead of lower-case letters which were introduced in the Black & White expansion Next Destinies and are seeing a revival in 2023 with the new Scarlet & Violet expansions to come. 


If your cards are older than Ruby and Sapphire, you are sometimes able to tell just by the look of the card. Things like the background of the card or just the card’s art itself can sometimes just look old. Especially in the case of holographic cards, sometimes the holographic pattern can be a pretty good indicator of the card’s age as some eras of Pokemon have different holographic patterns from others. 


However, if you are completely unsure you can Google the name of the Pokemon and then its set number which can be found at the bottom right corner of the card and will be formatted like so: XX/XXX. Once you punch those numbers into Google you should be able to find out exactly what card you own and all the information about it, like most important of all, the year the card was released.

What Makes A Pokemon Card Worth Money?

So, we’ve established what makes a Pokemon card old and how to identify if your Pokemon cards are in fact old, how do we now gauge how much these old cards are actually worth? 


Unfortunately being old is not enough to make a card valuable. As a baseline, it’s pretty important to make sure that your card is in good condition. This means trying to avoid things like scuffs and scratches, bends and creases, excessive rounding of the card’s corners, and whitening around the edges of the cards. These are all things that can be avoided just by storing the cards safely in a sleeve and a semi-rigid. 


However, there are some things that can drastically affect the value of your card that are just completely out of your hands. For example the card’s centering. This refers to how even the borders of the card are in terms of width. At times one border may be thicker than the other which means that the card is poorly centered which will reflect poorly on the card’s value. This is no fault of your own, it’s just an issue with printing. There are other imperfections much like this such as print lines or squared edges which you just can’t avoid but they are good to be aware of as it helps understand what your card could be worth.

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What Pokemon Are Usually Worth Money?

If you’re new to collecting Pokemon cards, then there’s one thing that you’re going to need to understand above all else and that is not all Pokemon are created equal. Some Pokemon are going to be worth more money than others solely on account of the fact that nobody cares about some Pokemon. For example, which Pokemon do you think people are going to care about more, a Dewgong or a Charizard? If you guessed Charizard, you’re starting to get the hang of this, if not, you may need to re-evaluate a few things about yourself.

There are usually a few tells of whether or not a Pokemon is actually worth something just by hearing the Pokemon but it requires a slightly deeper knowledge of Pokemon and what Pokemon are popular and what Pokemon people like. For example, often the most marketable Pokemon are the mascots of the sets. These Pokemon usually include the legendary Pokemon of a designated game (Pokemon like Moltres, Zapdos, Kyogre, Groudon, etc.) or the starters of a designated game (such as Blastoise, Typhlosion, Venesaur, etc.) 

However, there are of course exceptions to this rule as Pokemon like Pikachu are neither legendary nor starter Pokemon yet it is literally the face of Pokemon. Additionally, any of the Eeveelutions (especially Umbreon) usually gets the attention of Pokemon fans possible because Eevee is such a unique and now recognizable Pokemon but it’s hard to tell. 


There is one last rule above all else that you also must keep in mind when browsing old cards and that is the fact that Charizard is king no matter what. Charizard is just the crown jewel of vintage Pokemon cards, so much so, that it is the most collected Pokemon (likely next to Pikachu). So by all means, if you have a Charizard lying around that looks old (even if it doesn’t) immediately check what that Charizard is worth because you could be sitting on a fortune.


What Does First Edition Mean?

For those who’ve done a little bit of research into vintage Pokemon cards, you may have heard the term “first edition” get thrown around and if you’re not quite sure what that means, don’t worry we’ll break it down for you. Between the years 1999 and 2003, every set of Pokemon released would have an unlimited edition which was what made up most of the set and probably the kind of cards you collected as a kid, and then there was the first edition. This referred to the cards that were the very first off the print line making them some of the earliest official prints of the set. This would be indicated by a small first edition stamp on the bottom left of the card’s art. This stamp immediately makes the card extremely valuable as there are already so few of these cards that exist and then even fewer in a good grade. So, if you do happen to own any vintage cards, always make sure to check for a first-edition stamp on the cards.


What Does It Mean If A Card Is Shadowless?

Okay, so we know what a first edition card is now, but let’s delve deeper into the world of vintage Pokemon cards. The term “shadowless cards” refers to a printing error that was exclusive to the base set of Pokemon. Typically when you look at the inner border of the card’s art (the part that is colored according to the type of Pokemon) there is usually a shadow or darkening around the art of the card. As you might’ve been able to guess, the shadowless cards did not have this darkening around the art of the card. This error is present in all first-edition cards but it is not exclusive to first-edition cards and can be found in some of the unlimited edition versions of some of the base set cards. This error also increases the value of your cards and you should definitely check for it if you own any base set cards.


Should I Grade My Old Pokemon Cards?

Deciding whether or not to grade your Pokemon cards can be a hard decision to make for quite a few reasons. One, it costs money to grade cards and if you are sending cards in bulk to be graded it can cost a fortune. As well as this, depending on how beat up your card is, grading it may even negatively affect its price and make it not worth grading at all. Because of this, you need a decent grasp of how cards are graded before you decide to start just sending cards off so that you aren’t just wasting your money grading a card that is just going to get a terrible grade and never sell. 


In general, it’s usually a good idea to grade your Pokemon cards, especially if they are vintage but make sure you are grading cards that people are actually going to want and not just a random card that you are grading for the sake of grading.


What Affects The Grade Of My Cards?

Grading companies such as PSA or BGS, etc. have criteria that your card must fulfill to get a good grade. To get a 10 (the best grade in both of these companies) your card must have the following. Perfectly shaped corners (whether that be squared or round), the original gloss of the card, zero staining of any kind, near-perfect centering (however there is allowance of a slight imperfection in centering as long as it doesn’t affect the overall appeal of the card) and zero whitening, scuffs or scratches of any kind. 


Yes, we know, the criteria are pretty harsh, but this is what makes PSA 10 cards so expensive and sough-after as it essentially means that the card is free of any and all imperfections.


How Do I Grade My Old Pokemon Cards?

Let’s suppose you’ve finally decided you are going to send off all of these old cards you’ve been storing away for years to be graded. How do you go about it? How does grading even work? When do I get my cards back? These might be all of the questions that are rushing through your head, there’s no need to worry, we’ll explain it all here.

For once, you want to pack all of the cards you are going to send off correctly. Each card must be first sleeved. You can find these for dirt cheap in bulk on Amazon and other sites like it. From there you need to put that sleeved card into what is known as a semi-rigid case. These are flexible plastic cases that protect your card from misshaping, collecting dust and all that other bad stuff. 


Once you’ve sleeved up all of your cards, pack them safely in a box that you can send to the designated grading company. From here most grading companies usually charge different prices depending on the declared value of the card you are grading. The more valuable the card, the more expensive it becomes to grade. So, make sure you check the ungraded value of your cards before you send them off to be graded. You can usually get a good gauge of your card’s value through what people are selling the card for on online marketplaces such as eBay


Depending on where you shipped the cards from, your return can take a varying amount of time but it will usually take between 3 – 6 months at which point you should receive all of your cards packed in plastic cases with an official grade on them.


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