Help me talk through my next phase: English or Japanese?

When I finish Neo Destiny, I will have Base through Neo Destiny in 1st Edition. However, while I am proud of this collection, the money tied up in the sets is too much to ignore at this point in my life. My plan is to finish the cards, bask in the satisfaction, then liquidate to recoup 10 years worth of investment and growth.

However, I love my sets. I do not wish to get out of set collecting, I just want to convert my collection to less expensive cards. I feel there are two paths forward for me, English Unlimited or Japanese Unlimited. I’ve been thinking long and hard about this for quite some time and can’t determine what would make me happiest. I wanted to bounce my pros and cons off of some other collectors and get some feedback and see if it helps.

The case for English Unlimited:
-WotC were “my cards” that I have the closest relationship with. They represent not only my own youth but also American Pokémania as it was. They feel like the strongest relics of when Pokémon was on top of the world and WotC’s localization of the product had a unique culture of its own that I don’t think any other language captures.

-Switching from 1st Edition to Unlimited would open me up to more sets I currently don’t collect, like Base Set 2 and Legendary Collection. I also stopped at Neo Destiny because it was the last 1st Edition set, but switching to Unlimited would encourage me to collect the three E sets as well.

-The cards are generally easy to buy due to their saturation in the US, my home country. While some sets are scarce, particularly the E-Series sets, most of the cards are easy to find and easy to buy.

The case against English Unlimited:
-Having collected 1st Editions for so long, there is a psychological barrier in going down to Unlimited. They don’t feel as special or exciting to me because they’re more ubiquitous. While the cards are still the same, there is a part of me that will always think lesser of them compared to my old collection.

-I have come to really dislike some of the localization decisions WotC made. I don’t like non-holo variants of holographic cards. They make some of the sets feel bloated. Gym Heroes and Gym Challenge had their themes messed with by mixing the gym leaders instead of doing the first four gym leaders and the last four gym leaders, plus two cards were removed. Neo Discovery and Neo Revelation had holos removed for some reason, including some cards like Butterfree and Kingdra that I really like. I don’t like some of the art changes, from minor aspect changes like Umbreon to total destruction like Sabrina’s Gengar. Base Set Charizard buried its fire breath in the foil instead of treating it like part of the art. The more I’ve come to know about these changes the more they’ve bothered me. I already collect Japanese examples of the modified or cut cards, which serve as interesting additions to my English sets, but I admit this is something that has turned my attention to Japanese cards in recent months. By the time you get to the E-Series with their bloat and incomprehensible set numeration the wheels are completely off the wagon.

The case for Japanese Unlimited:
-Even as a kid, there was something exotic and exciting about a Japanese card. Few kids had them and seeing them was like a glimpse at something prehistoric. They were an alluring novelty that gives me a little bit of a rush to see even today, which would make them more exciting to collect compared to English cards.

-While there are no reprint sets like Base Set 2 and Legendary Collection, there are other super interesting sets like VS and Web to collect with no English counterparts at all. The prospect of new cards from my chosen time period is exciting as I’ve become very familiar with English cards and there is not much left to really discover. Japanese cards would bring the discovery element back to collecting that I would enjoy a lot.

-Sets have fewer cards but are more refined and cohesively themed. I like that the sets aren’t padded with non-holos. It makes every card feel like it counts as well as producing binder pages with less duplication of art.

The case against Japanese Unlimited:
-The sets are a lot harder to buy, especially complete, and would require a lot more international importing compared to domestic cards, which means less communication with sellers. Since Japanese collectors also played the game a lot more than western consumers the cards are in much more mixed condition, completing sets in my desired condition is harder.

-I don’t speak Japanese and cannot read the cards. This is a lot bigger of a deal to me than it sounds. I understand not every collector cares if they can read their cards, but I have always taken a lot of pleasure in reading my cards as I collect them and being able to refer to them again as part of my compendium of Pokémon knowledge. Switching to Japanese would mean collecting cards I cannot read and it reduces my ability to interact with the cards textually. It becomes a purely visual experience.

-I really don’t like Japanese set numeration — both in terms of the intended sequence and the fact the cards are not numbered. I strongly prefer WotC format which places all the holos up front, which is what I feel is the “face” of the set. It also creates more diverse binder pages with lots of different species and colors. Japanese sets disperse the holos, reduce the page variety, and don’t have the “face” I’m accustomed to as an English-speaking fan.

A few other thoughts:
-I know now it is certainly possible to collect a mix of both. I could collect English Unlimited for what was localized and Japanese for what wasn’t. But something I like about collecting sets is the constancy and cohesion and treating an entire collection as a whole — as a sort of story or timeline. So I would prefer to be fully one or the other.

-I am not interested in which cards may be more valuable on the future. This is not why I collect cards so it wouldn’t motivate me one way or another.

-I know that the ultimate answer to this question is personal and it depends on whatever will make me happiest. I’m not looking to be told what to do. But I haven’t been able to decide and only have the internet at my disposal so talking about it here is really my only outlet. I thought maybe verbalizing it and talking about it would help.

So all that said, what would you tell an indecisive collector like me? I am on the cusp of something new, I’m excited to do it. I am also totally broke, so I am excited to get some money back out of my cards. Collecting is something I want to keep doing indefinitely, but I never “decided” to be a 1st Edition collector previously. It’s just something that naturally occurred. Needing to be deliberate and definitive on what to do next is not a position I’ve not been in before.






*[Marge Simpson Groan]*


Regarding your dilemma over base set, I’m here to shill for shadowless cards. Several magnitude of rarity over unlimited base set, yet also several magnitude cheaper than 1st edition. Some Shadowless cards are more rare than their 1st Ed counterparts, for example, PSA 10 chansey

Oh and English of course


I’ll throw you a curveball.

What about promos? There are a huge number of subcategories for promos such as stamps, old back, new back, and “location” promos like Pokemon Center. I think the history behind them is very fun.

If you are doing unlimited, I would recommend doing binders the way that @pokesoap does! I genuinely believe that there is something magical about having all the art for a set in order in a binder. That said, there is also something to be said for only collecting the holos and exes. I’ve also been thinking a lot about collecting some complete sets in holo and the C/U in reverse, so that the chase is a bit tougher.

My advice is: pick a long term goal, and slowly go at it. For example, my current goal is to get one copy of every Japanese “set holo” old back card. I don’t need to pick up trophies or anything nuts, but I’m still excited about a $5 butterfree that I overlooked. I also want to complete a few binder pages (3x3, so 9 copies) of a few arts that particularly speak to me. I currently have ebay alerts on, so I know when a $7 reverse holo slowpoke gets listed, for example. I think it’s important to find cards and goals that speak to you, so this post really rings true to me! Best of luck.


I actually already collect promos, both English and recently Japanese. That’s a separate collection for me though so I didn’t mention it here. Collecting Japanese promos was a big motivator in wanting to explore Japanese sets deeper than I had previously.

How does our soapy buddy organize their sets? It’s hard for me to imagine using anything other than the “intended sequence”, but I suppose Japanese cards being unnumbered gives some leeway to at least consider something different.

I can’t say Japanese or English unlimited. I’m having the same debate myself.

What is worth considering is down grading 1st edition base to shadowless. It’s so hard to let go of that classic look, and IMO for the price shadowless is just a tad below 1st edition base.

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I think something you could try is to just start collecting Japanese, and after you get going take time to reflect on how collecting it is making you feel. Are you really having too much trouble finding cards as fast as you want? Is it fun being able to add additional holofoil Neo cards, banned cards, VS cards, and others to your collection? Is not having most of the cards you grew up with in English still bothering you? I think in this case it’s worth the time to start on this route and gain more insight into what you truly want.

I kind of did a similar thing because I was buying some 1st Ed PSA 9s back before the boom, but was unable to continue after prices took off. I started buying NM/M Japanese singles to start filling in for what I was missing but honestly it still didn’t feel the same to me. Now I started looking at prices for NM/M unlimited Gym and Neo cards and they are indeed a great value compared to their 1st Ed. counterparts. However, they are also now neck and neck with the Japanese versions so now I’ve decided to go back to unlimited English. I still pick up the Japanese exclusive cards but I feel like it’s important to me to also have what I grew up with.

Hope this helps, good luck with your decision!

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The issue with this solution (tagging @shadowlessabra as well) is that this only applies to the Base Set. I like the Shadowless Base Set, but it doesn’t allow consistency with the rest of the sets, which I still want to convert even if there is less money in them comparatively.

So I could do all unlimited cards and then just a Shadowless Base Set, but I dunno. I’m a pretty all or nothing guy.

It sounds like you’re looking for a challenge more than anything. The old sets aren’t much of a challenge because not only does every other person in the hobby collect them but they were also printed in ludicrously high numbers. Unless you start caring about condition (just don’t) the cards will always be available.

I’d recommend focusing on harder sets, start basic with something like the WotC Black Star promos (with the corrected illustrator cards etc thrown into the mix), 1999-2000 Base Set or no-symbol Jungle holofoil cards if you want something small, then branch out into sets which are much more challenging like unlimited Japanese L2/3 or World Champions Pack if you want a real challenge (stick with 1st edition on that unless you have a lot of patience). With the latter sets I mentioned, every new card you add will feel like a small victory.

If you don’t like non-holo variants you’ll want to avoid Expedition Base Set completely. Not only are there 32 holofoil cards with non-holo variants but there are reverse versions for both the holo and non-holo variants on top of that.

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Black Star promos are actually my favorite cards and I have a robust and complete collection of them, including all the English Japanese variants and all the single sealed packaging. I guess I should have mentioned this in the OP. This is a “complete collection” of mine I consider finished, so there’s nothing left for me there.

You do raise an interesting possibility with Base 2000. If I did collect English Unlimited, Base 2000 would be a fun way to keep consistency with the other sets while still doing something different and unique. Does Fossil 2000 have a complete set as well? I forget if Fossil has a full 2000 run too or if it’s just select cards.

Going from first prints to final prints is kind of a fun idea.

For set collecting, I personally do English for WOTC through HGSS and Japanese for BW to present.


I’ve recently made my decision regarding this. In favor of JP was the pretty obvious fact that I live here, so that made it easy. But since completing all WoTC foils, I’ve come to realize that I don’t really care for the English card stylization too much. At first I was also like you where, if I couldn’t read it, I didn’t like it. But now, aside from the fact I can read them, it didn’t bother me even when I couldn’t at the start.

That being said, I also haven’t held my English cards or poked through my binder in 2 years. But I have decided to dump a lot of my English and stick to just Japanese. I might downgrade conditions as well to English Unlimited just to still own those bits of nostalgia.

I feel that the big ass, bright yellow border is quite bothersome on English cards. I’ve really started to detest it these days. Old set cards and e reader are different. I love e reader, and old set cards, while it does bother me, they still have nostalgia points. But I’m bothered by it on new cards.

One other thing to think about. Maybe do the first three sets in both languages because of the differing foils. Then do the rest in whichever you ultimately decide on? For my money, the later WoTC JP only foils are totally worth it in my book, the aerodactyl, beedrill, butterfree, starmie, kingdra. Those are so worth it.

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Fossil has a full run minus the holos apart from zapdos I believe.

Thank you. This was what I thought but wasn’t sure if there had been any new information since I learned that.


Alternate every card Japanese and English.

Honestly I’d say go for a cheaper set in both English and Japanese see what tickles the pickle.

Best of luck both options will definitely be a fun new journey!

& for my definitely unbiased opinion Japanese

My advice would be to keep your current collection if you can anytime I’ve sold from my personal collection I’ve regretted it. There’s no rush and you can slowly add to your new collection venture. If you want a serious challenge it might not sound like it but you can try collecting all the cards of your favourite Pokemon. Depending on the Pokemon it can take years!