The Rise of the Pokemon Card Collecting Phenomenon

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Many millennials played with Pokemon cards in grade school, traded them with friends and competed against their siblings for the shiniest creatures. A pristine card of a rare Pokemon from the Base Set sold for $25,100 in an auction last year.

Players fight by sending Pokemon into battle against each other. The winner claims prize cards from the opponent’s deck each round.


Pokemon exploded from Japan into a video game fad, television show and trading card collecting phenomenon that now spans the globe. Pokemon, which stands for “pocket monsters,” are creatures that can be caught or fought by a player who is known as the Pokemon trainer. Each Pokémon has hit points, or HP, that determine its strength. The object of the video game and the card game is to collect all 151 Pokemon.

Founder Satoshi Tajiri worked on a number of unsuccessful video game projects before creating Pokemon. His love of insects and tadpoles helped him come up with the idea, which he pitched to Nintendo.

The first set of Pokemon cards came out in 1996, shortly after the video games. The 102 cards were illustrated by Ken Sugimori and Mitsuhiro Arita, and soon they were a worldwide sensation. The popularity of the cards led to tournaments and a huge trading card industry that saw hard-to-find cards sell for thousands of dollars on eBay.


At the beginning of a turn, each player draws a card and may take any number of other actions. A Pokemon’s hit points, which determine how much damage it can take before being knocked out, and its resistance and retreat cost are listed on its card. Weaknesses indicate which Pokemon types it’s vulnerable to, while abilities tell you what special things a Pokemon can do (but not attack).

During a turn, a player can also play an Energy card from their hand or from their deck. Each Energy card has a type printed on its face and can be one of Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Psychic, Fighting, Darkness, Metal, or Fairy. Attacking costs the player the amount of Energy in its cost zone on the card (usually shown to the left of the attack name). Knocking out an opponent’s Pokemon takes a prize card and ends that player’s turn. The first player to knock out all six of their opponent’s Pokemon wins.


Many Pokemon cards feature stunning artwork that adds to the appeal of the game. Whether it’s the use of special foil or holographic effects or the detailed design, the artwork is what makes each card stand out from the rest.

The full art Pokemon card for Gyarados from the Ancient Origins set encapsulates the Pokemon’s powerful aura in its striking illustration. The artwork is simple yet effective, with the artist relying on the Pokemon’s color scheme and imposing features to create an eye-catching image.

Another card with excellent artwork is the Dragonite from the X & Y Legendary Collection, which highlights its ferocity in the middle of a battlefield. The ethereal background and piercing gaze make this card one of the most memorable in the series. Similarly, the full art Pokemon card for Umbreon from the same set shows the Psychic Pokemon curled around a spire, resembling the moon in its light and glow. The artist uses this motif to emphasize the Pokemon’s connection to the moon, a concept also echoed in the card’s name, “Moonlight Umbreon”.


Pokemon cards are released in sets, or booster packs, four times a year. Each set has a unique name and features about 200 new cards. Booster packs are sold individually or in a themed product like the special Pokemon tins and pre-release boxes that are available at some events.

A Pokemon card’s art shows the type of Pokemon and the attack it can perform. To the left of the attack is the energy cost, which shows how many and what kind of energy card you need to play that Pokemon’s attack. Pokemon cards also have special conditions, such as asleep, burned, confused, or paralyzed, that affect how they can be played.

A rarer variant of the card is the holofoil version. These cards have low pop counts and are sought after by collectors. The Topsun holofoil versions of Pikachu, Charizard, and Blastoise are the most famous for their low pop counts. This creates a challenge for collectors to find high-grade copies of these cards.

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