Tech & Gaming

Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards: a Flood of Nostalgia and a Surge in Demand

Depending on how old you are, it may not seem like it, but we are rapidly nearing the 30th anniversary of both Pokémon and its famous contemporary and competitor Yu-Gi-Oh! Somewhat surprisingly, the craze is back on, as both Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards grew in value enormously during the pandemic. So how do we make sense of this massive surge in the popularity of collectible trading cards? 

yugioh vs pokemon trading card

During the time when the COVID-19 epidemic was in full swing, and people were forced to stay inside, something unexpected occurred. A wave of nostalgia swepts across the playing and trading card industry. Enthusiasts around the globe readily accepted the renewed popularity of playing and trading card games in the market. Case in point: Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.

What is fueling the present obsession with Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! trade cards? Why did the childhood favorites of millennials like Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! as well as Dragonball surge in popularity at what was a moment of worldwide chaos? And how have these two games developed out of their humble origins into two worldwide phenomena that we are seeing today?

Which Came First: Pokémon or Yu Gi Oh?

Pokémon debuted in Japan in February 1996. The Nintendo’s electronic game series would go on to gain popularity the whole wide world over. Pokémon quickly rose to prominence as one of the most popular video games available throughout the late 1990s, leading to the creation of its animated series as well as a collectible card game, also released in 1996.

We owe Yu-Gi-Oh! to the Japanese manga author and illustrator Kazuki Takahashi in 1996. The trading card game was launched by Konami in 1999 in Japan. It came to North America in 2002. 

A Journey Back in Time

What made a generation who had grown up loving Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards but then moved on to loving the franchises’ other, more advanced products, such as anime, video games, and films, revisit the cards? It may have something to do with how these obsessions first begin. 

The first Pokémon video game, released by Nintendo around 1996, quickly became an instant hit throughout Japan because of their innovative fusion of the virtual and the real world. This then turned into a global phenomenon.

Pokémon seems to be based on a very simple and easy premise: explore the video game’s digital realm and collect as many creatures as you can. But the trick was that gamers could never accomplish this on their own. They had to engage with others. 

As Pokémon’s creator Satoshi Tajiri said in a 1997 interview with Times Magazine, the concept that he envisioned was all about information going back and forth, a passionate exchange between players. The competitive component was also an important part of the story. 

What applies to the Pokémon series also applies to Dragonball and Yu-Gi-Oh! Players get to enjoy comprehensive, well-rounded entertainment through a synergy between merchandise, video games, and anime/film series. You weren’t simply an observer; you were an active participant in the narrative. And from the very beginning, the emphasis was on the importance of real-world social interaction, commerce, and cooperation.

Ready to Catch ‘Em All?

The iconic “catch ’em all” is the official English motto used for the Pokémon series. Kids all over the globe quickly grabbed their Nintendo Game Boys to trade the 151 unique creatures.

The transition towards collectibles was a natural progression for a videogame that turns the act of building a collection into a group effort. Everyone was out to find the rarest Pokémon monsters. 

This move led to an epic success story. Approximately 34 billion Pokémon trading cards have been created and distributed in thirteen languages and 76 countries for 22 years since the debut.

After the global launch of the Pokémon cards, a worldwide public frenzy ensued, but also a global moral panic. Incidents ranged from the mild ones, such as bans of cards from schools, to the more extreme and ssensational ones: violent robbery, and even a fatwa in Saudi Arabia. Around 2000, a child in England was so eager to get a hold of a holographic card that he rang a local radio station and offered to trade his baby sister for it.

Yu-Gi-Oh!, another Japanese card game series, followed in the footsteps of Pokémon. Since its inception in Japan around 1999, more than 35 billion collectible cards have been sold thanks to the game’s multi-pronged strategy accompanying the trading card game with an animated series and movies.

Pokémon vs Yu-Gi-Oh Cards: Which Are More Valuable?

From the collector’s perspective, it can be argued that the Pokémon cards series is more valuable than its competitor. This may have to do with the social component and better playability, and the balance between complexity and simplicity. But this does not change the fact that the older Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! trade cards hold up their value even today.

How Much Do Yu Gi Oh Cards Sell For?

Many people are wondering where to sell Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards, others are asking where to buy them. The answer is often eBay, but there are also other specialized marketplaces. Card rarity affects the price the most. One thing is certain: the demand is high, as a string of ground-breaking transactions go to show. 

How Much Do Pokémon Cards Sell For?

Pretty much the same rules apply. But occasionally, the chase for the rarest cards makes collectors go to extremes, as evidenced by an auction in late November 2020 when the first limited edition, mint-condition “Shadowless Charizard” Pokémon card sold for US$369,000. 

This was not a one-off occurrence, and rare cards have been known to fetch high prices. Other companies in the business of Pokémon and trading cards in general made record-breaking profits during 2020. 

The company eBay reported a 500% rise in the total sales of trading cards, whereas the Pokémon Corporation itself had its most successful year in history, having grossed over 3.7 billion in sales of new Pokémon trading cards. 

Which Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards Are Worth the Most?

Aside from the emotional significance of fulfilling a lifelong fantasy that takes us back to our childhood years and given the vast number of trading cards that are now in global circulation, what characteristics do the most valued cards share? With so many Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards in circulation, how do you know which ones are really worth pursuing? 

Some cards are rare by design, and this makes them valuable. But many collectors value certain cards more because of the imperfections they contain, turning a mass-produced item into something of a rare collectible. The Shadowless Charizard edition mentioned above had a printing mistake. The “Ancient Mew” Pokémon trading card is valuable and perceived as rare because of a typo. It does not hurt that both Charizard and Mew are part of the first Nintendo Game Boy games, anime, and movies.

The Takeaway

What conclusion can we draw from these and other wildly successful Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh card auctions? What is this magic formula that has turned both Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards into a must-have and such an enduring commodity? 

Perhaps it is all about nostalgia after all. The ability to make up for lost time, recapture your childhood memories, and fulfill your innermost childhood desires is an experience that is difficult to put a price on. Because of this, these collectibles will likely remain desirable assets that can even rise in value in the years and possibly decades to come.