Next month, on Nov. 18, the Pokemon Scarlet & Pokemon Violet video games release on the Nintendo Switch, closing the book on the Sword & Shield era and ushering in a new age for the Pokemon franchise. Since the beginning, the locations, characters, and aesthetics of the Pokemon trading card game (TCG) have been heavily derived from the franchise’s video games. The archeological theme and card list of the 2001 Neo Discovery set, for example, is inspired by the Ruins of Alph you encounter in the Pokemon Gold & Pokemon Silver video games. Similarly, the 2000 Team Rocket set is based on the primary antagonists of Pokemon Blue & Pokemon Red. As both the video games and the TCG developed over the years, they continued to influence one another and created the standards for how and what people collect.
Grails from the Game
The simplest way to notice the influence of the video games on TCG collectors is to observe the popularity of the three “starter” Pokemon from each era. Venusaur, Charizard, and
Blastoise represent the three fully evolved Pokemon you can select as your companions at the start of the original Game Boy games. Because of the personal relationship players develop with these starters throughout their journey (not to mention the fact that they graced the game covers), these three have gone on to become some of the most collected
subjects in the hobby. Over 700,000 cards featuring these three starters have been graded by PSA, and each holds a place in the Top 10 of most submitted TCG subjects of all time. Other subjects making the Top 10 list include Pikachu, the fourth starter of the Pokemon Yellow game, as well as Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos, who were all introduced in the games as rare and powerful “Legendary Pokemon.” Like with sports card collectors who chase freak athletes and MVP-caliber superstars, Pokemon collectors consistently return to these Generation 1 Pokemon for their collections, as they hold a special place in the franchise’s own proverbial Hall of Fame.
Gym Leaders, members of the Elite Four, and other nonplayable human characters from the video games also play an important role in shaping how people collect.
Gym Heroes and Gym Challenge TCG sets were themed entirely after the combatants that you encounter within the games, featuring cards like Misty’s Gyarados and Blaine’s Arcanine. In the games, each of these trainers are encountered in “boss battle” scenarios, presenting challenging milestones to overcome on your journey.
Because of these memorable and iconic fights, Gym Leaders have continued to make
appearances in the TCG, from the 2001 Japanese VS set to the 2011 Noble Victories set, which introduced Full Art trainers, a new type of card that has since exploded in popularity and value on the secondary market. The mechanics of the Pokemon video games are translated into the TCG in a number of ways. Type advantages are called out by the “Weakness” and “Resistance” text on the bottom of the cards. Pokemon still undergo evolutions as noted by their “Stage 1” and “Stage 2” denotations, and there are even Shiny Pokemon variations that can be found in the TCG, just as they can be encountered in the games. “Shiny” refers to Pokemon who come in a completely different color than how they normally appear. Encountering Shiny Pokemon is an extremely rare occurrence in the games, so this chase element lent itself beautifully to the impulse of TCG collectors to seek the rarest items. The Neo series was the first to produce cards based on Shiny Pokemon – including Shining Charizard, Shining Mewtwo, and others – which are still among the hobby’s most coveted items to this day. Since then, Shiny Pokemon have enjoyed a plethora of subsets including the recent Shiny Vault sets between 2019-2021 .
The first of these subsets (contained within 2019 Hidden Fates) has a total PSA population of approximately 170,000, making it one of the most heavily graded Pokemon sets of the
modern era. Another icon that seamlessly crossed over into the TCG world is Eevee, a Pokemon that can evolve into eight different forms (or “Eeveelutions”), each of a different energy type. The very concept of a Pokemon with va riants perfectly fit into the TCG, with Umbreon cards, Sylveon cards, and others commanding large prices on the secondary market. Lucario is another Pokemon that enjoyed a boost in card popularity thanks to video games. In addition to having a 2005 movie based on it, and being featured prominently in the Pokemon TV series, Lucario has also been a playable character in the Super Smash Bros. series, appearing as a fighter since 2008. Familiarity with Pokemon from video games builds a deeper connection with fans, driving them to collect and grade cards featuring their favorites.
Cards as Game Accessories
Pokemon has explored a number of ways to make its games and cards interact with one another in tactile ways, perhaps the most notable example being the e-Series, which debuted with the release of Expedition in 2002. e-Series cards were printed with a thickened yellow border on the left and bottom sides of each card, which contained a dot
code that could be swiped by the Nintendo e-Reader, an accessory of the Game Boy Advance. When cards were swiped, videos, Pokedex information, and other supplemental content could be loaded onto the Game Boy with which fans could interact. The revised card borders were considered eyesores by some, and the cards’ overall gimmicky nature made thee-Series controversial at the time. However, the shorter print runs (due to Wizards of the Coast losing the Pokemon license) favored this series over time, and as it stands today, e-Series cards continuously top lists of the most valuable TCG cards on the secondary market.
Cards and video games also synchronized with the release of the Pokemon Snap game for Nintendo 64, released in 1999. Designed as a rail shooter, this game was hotographybased, encouraging players to snap photos of Pokemon in their natural habitat. As a tie-in, Blockbuster Video stores offered kiosks at which players could use prepaid smart cards to print physical copies of the photos they took in the game. These cards, although extremely low pop, have made their way through PSA for grading and serve as truly unique collectible items for a niche demographic. Even more unique are the Japanese promo cards that were awarded to players who submitted their Pokemon Snap photos in contests held by CoroCoro Comic and 64 Mario Stadium. Winners of these contests received cards that featured their photos as card artwork. Limited to approximately 15 to 20 copies, Snap promos are among the rarest and most fabled Pokemon cards in existence.
The Pokemon video game series is a diverse library of titles ranging from 2D to 3D, hand held to home consoles, and fighting games to puzzle games. Submitting games to WATA for grading and authentication can add an entirely new level of collecting fun, especially when paired with PSA-graded Pokemon cards. What follows is a guide to some of the more popular Pokemon games you can consider submitting today.
Starting with Blue, Red, and Yellow versions, this series of roleplaying games (RPGs) is the backbone of the entire franchise. These games are characterized by turn-based combat, gaining experience points, and a storyline that takes you through an entire region in a quest to complete your Pokedex and become a Pokemon League champion. While initial titles debuted on the Game Boy, the core series has continued into the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and 3DS, and is now on the Nintendo Switch. With every release, a new roster of Pokemon is introduced, creating a new generation for all merchandise – including trading
cards – to follow suit. Generations include Black & White, XY, and Sun&Moon.