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Just Plain Whelmed

The End of an Era: Former TCG Champion Gives Up the Ghost-type

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"Sold" by Kentucky Fried Torchic
(Sung to the tune of "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails)

I sold my cards today
To see how much I'd make
A buck for five hundred
This has to be a fake

But they are taking space
And have seen better days
I focus on the dough
And sold them anyways

What have I just done
My cardboard friends
Every card I own
(Well, those without a bend)

And they still bought it all
My fire energies
Will go to young kids
Along with some sleeves

But yeah, I went to a gaming store this weekend and I sold every single one of my Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering cards (Yu-Gi-Oh is going to be next week, I think). A massive collection of Pokemon cards spanning fifteen years, three shoeboxes, and thousands of pieces of cardboard came out to just under sixty bucks. I always knew that there was no market for old Pokemon cards, but this was still a bit of a rude awakening.

A large part of this stems from the shoddy game and tournament design of the Pokemon trading card game ever since Nintendo took control of the card game from Wizards of the Coast. Without touching on schizophrenic rule changes that strike like merciless typhoons of well-intentioned retconning, aside from a recently implemented "expanded" format, for all of Nintendo's tenure of the Pokemon TCG, there was no competitive value to old cards outside of extremely rare reprints. (And when they did do some reprints, they changed the original card's ruling retroactively. RIP Bill.) That did not just mean your Fossil Muk was worthless, but it also meant that the second that rotation was announced, a large percentage of your collection could suddenly see its value drop like a stone. (The day that they announced that there would be no rotation after the 2009 season was greeted with rapturous joy.)

In comparison, the single shoe box and rare binder of Magic cards that I sold netted me nearly $170. This is because Magic not only provides for more reprinting opportunities, especially for non-basic land cards, but also has a number of formats where old cards are not only used but treasured, namely Commander, Modern, and Unlimited, all of which have official support from Wizards of the Coast. As a result, even though I stopped buying new Magic cards years ago, I still possessed some cards that had retained (or even appreciated in) value since hanging up my...cloak?

I do not expect that the sale of my Yu-Gi-Oh cards will net as much as my Magic collection, but I would bet a kidney that they will beat out the money I got for my Pokemon cards because of similar factors to those enjoyed by Wizards of the Coast's product. Yu-Gi-Oh does not rotate, period. Instead, each season's start is accompanied by a new list of bans and restrictions that help to shift the competitive environment. Whereas the company behind Magic jealously guards the second-hand value of positively ancient cards like the original dual-mana lands, resulting in a single card that depicts an unsexy patch of marshy ground being worth upwards of a hundred dollars, and you need four copies of it naturally. Konami, on the other hand, is a honey badger when it comes to Yu-Gi-Oh. They'll reprint just about anything, and usually at a lower rarity, putting it in theme decks to increase access to great staples like Mirror Force. Of course there are expensive cards, but you don't need as many of them with only a forty-card deck versus a sixty-card one, and there are an overwhelming number of archetypes and strategies (many of which rely at least somewhat on commons) that you can easily find a fun and good deck that fits your budget and personality.

All of this is to say, that if my children ever wanted to get into a trading card game, after first attempting to dissuade them, I would try to steer them towards Yu-Gi-Oh, for the sake of their bank account in the present and in the future.

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Comments

  1. Neo Emolga's Avatar
    Yeah, I know this feeling. Older Magic cards can sell for a ludicrous amount of money because back then, some of those cards were too brutally powerful and with limited supply, their value spiked. Other cards might not have had too many uses, but newly released cards created new combos with them and gave them newfound value. Or other game modes, such as EDH Commander, created new game situations that put more value in these cards. Magic still carries on strong and while many of the newer creatures have some pretty insane abilities, there's still stuff from the past that has decent worth and very often new means of making older cards work well with newer cards is quite possible.

    However, the Pokémon TCG keeps making the same mistake and I've seen it with the online TCG version. It's AWALYS about the EX Pokémon. It was such a mistake for them to have ever been created because the older, non-EX Pokémon are just kill fodder for them. There are very few non-EX Pokémon that still have relevance, also. Meanwhile, so much about the Pokémon TCG is luck, luck, luck. In a game where you're constantly flipping coins for every other attack move, it makes you wonder just how much strategy really goes into this mess.
  2. Kentucky Fried Torchic's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Neo Emolga
    Yeah, I know this feeling. Older Magic cards can sell for a ludicrous amount of money because back then, some of those cards were too brutally powerful and with limited supply, their value spiked. Other cards might not have had too many uses, but newly released cards created new combos with them and gave them newfound value. Or other game modes, such as EDH Commander, created new game situations that put more value in these cards. Magic still carries on strong and while many of the newer creatures have some pretty insane abilities, there's still stuff from the past that has decent worth and very often new means of making older cards work well with newer cards is quite possible.

    However, the Pokémon TCG keeps making the same mistake and I've seen it with the online TCG version. It's AWALYS about the EX Pokémon. It was such a mistake for them to have ever been created because the older, non-EX Pokémon are just kill fodder for them. There are very few non-EX Pokémon that still have relevance, also. Meanwhile, so much about the Pokémon TCG is luck, luck, luck. In a game where you're constantly flipping coins for every other attack move, it makes you wonder just how much strategy really goes into this mess.
    You are a hundred percent right about the EXes, and that was why I got out of the game when I did. Back in the Gen III era, you at least had to go through the work of evolving to a Charizard EX or Jolteon EX or what have you. But when they brought them back for Gen V, there was not even that small semblance of balance. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been active in the golden age that was the Gen IV era when there were a lot of decks that relied on powerful Basic Pokemon, but there were enough counters and enough balance to make it so you saw evolution-heavy decks fairly frequently. Nowadays, if a card is a stage two Pokemon it is automatically not competitive. It destroys the very idea of Pokemon: raising your beloved companions to their most powerful stage through hard work and dedication.

    Luck is definitely a huge element of the game, with how much coin flips are relied on by everything. You can work really hard to get consistency in your draws and searching power, but when things come down to it, you might fail your coin toss and still be asleep on a critical turn. Back when I played, you had to take that luck into consideration. Unlike Magic where you can mulligan (within reason) a bad hand away for whatever reason, in the Pokemon TCG if you have any Basic Pokemon, at least one is going on the field. And if you just have one, it can get donked, knocked out on the first turn. At least that could happen when I played it, but then they changed the rules so you couldn't attack if you went first. Then maybe they changed them back again, that sort of thing seems to happen every couple of years as soon as things get too familiar.

    Maybe I should write a book and make some money for all of my ravings.