Latest Finds from Japan!

Have you ever dreamed as a kid of living in Japan, where all the cool Pokémon stuff is? I know I have : I remember getting stars in my eyes whenever I got to glance at sellers’ Japanese cards collections at the collectors’ market in Paris, back in 1999 when the Pokémon hype was really huge. Japan seemed like a holy place, and the Pokémon Center store sounded like Valhalla itself.
Now the little kid in me can be happy, as his grown-up version is living the dream in Japan ; and there is not a month when I don’t go to the Pokémon Center. Twice.

But the Pokémon Center is not where the coolest stuff is : getting the latest products on their release day is neat, for sure… but what about the really, really old stuff? By that I mean first-print-base-set and nineties-promo-cards old stuff. Well, that you might find in other, dustier places. And you do find them, if you know how to look.
That’s my latest hobby: finding specialty stores in Japan, and looking through their old stock to dig up hidden gems. Here I will share with you passionate people my latest finds, sometimes with a little story to go along with it.

For starters, here are the No-rarity Blastoise and Zapdos I was able to spot thanks to this community’s articles and insight. I knew nothing about No Rarities one month ago, but with the right guidance (and sheer luck) I was able to find these two gems:

No Rarity ZapdosNo Rarity Blastoise

The no rarity hype seems to be catching up in Japan too, judging from some Japanese listings online and prices I have seen in specialty stores. Yet, not everyone seems to have heard the word yet, which makes such finds possible for the time being. What’s more, even specialty stores get a card’s value wrong from time to time ; which might lead to complete rip-offs, or to incredible deals.

Next time: Why sometimes the best place to find a rare promo card is anywhere but in the cards section.


Out of curiousity, how much did you happen to pay for them?

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I’ve probably got quite a naive image of what it’s like finding old stuff in Japan, but I’m definitely envious of what you describe. Please do keep us updated on what you find, especially any sealed packs and boxes.

Yes, seems inevitable…

Thanks everyone for your enthusiasm and curiosity! I’ll try to answer everybody’s questions with the tiny bit of insider knowledge I have accumulated over the past month :
**The interest level for No-rarities is high in Japan :**Judging from discussions and auctions sites, No-rarities seem indeed to be quite popular right now in Japan. But this popularity does not seem to be a recent trend : in this Japanese blog post from over two years ago, the author was already noticing a high amount of queries for terms such as 「旧裏面 初版」– literally “old-back first print”, one of the most common names for what we call “No Rarities” in the west. (The other common name for these in Japan is 「マーク無し」“Markless”, and this last term’s common misusage in Japanese auctions seem to indicate there is indeed quite a lot of hype, and along with it quite a lot of misinformed sellers.)

In that same blog post, the author remembers these no-rarity cards already being known of, and considered quite rare, back in the Neo era. They note, however, that at the time these cards were not as sought-after as rare promos or the then-new and elusive Shining Pokémon cards. One explanation they offer is that, by not having exclusive art, these No-rarities cards were not as eye-catching as others at the time. One last bit of interesting info from this blog post is that they traced one of the first printed mentions of these No-rarity cards back to the strategy guide 「ポケモンカード必勝大作戦」(Pokémon Card Game : Strategies to Victory), all the way back in April 97! I’m considering hunting down this old book myself to see if we can learn anything from it :wink:
Another indicator of Japanese collectors’ interest in the No-rarities : these cards are currently featured on Mandarake’s (Japan’s leader specialty store for geeky antiques) buy list, alongside rare Promos and extra-rares such as Shining and Crystal Pokémon. No other standard-set cards have received this treatment.

To sum up what I’ve learned : No-rarities have been known as elusive cards for a very long time in Japan, although they were not particularly sought-after in these early days. They have, however, been a popular item for Japanese collectors for at least the past two years.

**And yet, they can still sometimes be found for cheap :**I managed to get both my Blastoise and Zapdos for 2000yen each (roughly 20$), which is actually in the range of Mandarake’s buying prices for these same cards (and boy do they love their profit : they will gladly buy your Mint Rayquaza Star for 25 bucks!). Clearly, not all sellers and collectors have caught up with these cards’ popularity and some good deals can still be made with some luck and basic Japanese skills :wink:

So, are we Westerners in the middle of a No-rarity bubble? Maybe, but it looks like the Japanese have been in it for much longer than us now, and still show no sign of getting out : as illustrated by sellers still trying to parade their gym leaders theme deck cards as “no-rarities”, or by some excited youtuber showcasing his newly-bought No-rarity Charizard before auctioning it back with a starting price of 200$, despite the fact said card is covered with dents, scratches, bends and actual black marker. Gosh, talk about mark-less.

All I know for sure is that, at the present time, these “old-back markless first prints” are a hot item for collectors both in and outside of Japan, and that they are very fun to hunt for. I hope I get to share more with you guys and gals in the future!


Awesome write-up!!

Thanks for giving us more terms to search Y!J with as well =)

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Thanks for taking the time to write this up.

Great post! Yes the bubble is for sure real. These cards were always known by most serious collectors, but the demand simply wasn’t there. Similar to the legendary set, gold stars, or other sets that had booms or bubbles–they always existed, but a surge in popularity occurred down the road. It took a mere 20 years for the no-rarities.

The most alluring aspect is that not even the Japanese know the exact origin.


That post is what I want for our forum. If I had a gold star, I would give it to you.


That was definitely an awesome post, from start to end. It makes visualizing so easy, thank you @hayo! Good luck with your collecting!

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Hey mate, which shops do you usually go to in Japan? It’s great knowing there’s other collectors here as I don’t see many people interested in old gen stuff.

Although mandarake buy their rays cheap, they sell them cheap as well :stuck_out_tongue: . I bought two mint 1st ed stars at 5k and 6k and they’ve both graded 10s which I’m insanely happy with.

Mandarake’s NRs generally sell for around 2k-4k depending on the card. I bought a gem zard NR for 20k recently. But what’s more confusing is how they price trainers at such high values. Lass costs around 6k in NR gem. I know they value trainers more for their playability, but seems weird this extends all the way to old sets as well.

Anyways, would be great if you could share your shop knowledge - I’m getting bored of going to the same shops now!

My main hunts are:

Yellow Submarine
Cherube チェルベ (they have almost everything, and a couple NRs but very expensive)
Amenity Dreams
And a few other shops dotted around the station which are quite obviously card shops.

But I’ve not found many shops with old cards apart from mandarake and cherube, if you know of others I’d be grateful if you could let me know. Possibly get an article up on Pokemon card hunting for collectors in Japan. Would be useful. I’ve searched for them before and a couple exist but never for old sets unfortunately =.

Haha, it feels like the forum has been invaded by people in Japan recently… i guess it is nice to see more westerners coming to Japan looking for cards (like myself). It is not an easy feat… but you guys are doing better than me :blush:

I haven’t found any major nice cards yet. Only been here a few months. I do more video games, and other items as well.

This is some of the places i’ve cleared in 12 weeks. I need to go a different city soon.

One shop which isn’t listed above is ‘hobby off’ ホビー オフ which i love!, and is everywhere, but has all second hand figures / toys / games / cards etc

Only some of the stars are tcg shops, others are gaming / figures.

I’m happy to share my card shop list over a beer if ever keen.

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Tokyo? Would be great to chat to likeminded people, so any time :blush:.

I was thinking of hopping over to Tokyo at the end of summer…August 21st ish. If anyone fancies meeting up and going card digging? But shotgun any no rarities we may find!


If I’m not busy then sure :blush: . Though I visit my local no-rarity haven each and every day just in case they restock :wink: :stuck_out_tongue: .

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YEAH AND BESIDES ANYONE WHO GETS THEM WONT BE ABLE TO TURN away MY ORGRANS. Unfortunately this cant be stablilized forever as I am running low on dem atm, and the plain tickets to mexi are getting expensive.