Hey guys, I’m FourthStarTCG on YouTube, I doubt many of you know me as I only have 115 subscribers. (Shameless plug) I do pretty awesome content, so check me out! Here’s an article I wrote about pack-fresh cards and their condition.
For those of you who aren’t aware of professional grading, here’s a crash course: many collectors will choose to have their cards graded by a private company. (PSA or BGS are the big ones) These companies look at the card and examine it for big things like scratches, edgewear, creases, and dents, and little things like centering and printing quality. After looking at all these aspects of a card, they grade it on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the worst (Poor) and 10 being the best. (Gem Mint for PSA or Pristine for BGS) The main reason collectors do this is to increase the value of their cards. One of the most expensive cards ever printed that I’m sure you all know of is the 1st Edition Base Set Charizard. An ungraded copy in near mint to mint condition will cost you up to $400. Send it to PSA and get a MINT 9, that card is now worth close to $1000. Bump that up to a GEM MT 10, you’re looking at a whopping $4,500+.
When a card can rise over ten times in value just because of its condition, it’s incredibly important what condition its in coming straight out of the pack. If I shell out over $150 for a 1st Edition Base Set pack, I want to know that the cards I’m getting will be in mint, if not gem mint, condition. For many, many Pokemon sets this was the case. However, around the introduction of Black & White, the quality of cards straight out of the pack started to go down. Almost all cards had slight edgewear and centering issues from the printing process. While this may not be a big deal to players and casual collectors, it’s a big issue to graders, where one little nick or off-center printing can mean the difference between making your money back on a booster box or being $50 in the hole.
I’ve opened up tons of packs over my somewhat short but informative lifetime, and here’s some simple odds. Any ex, ultra rare, or special card from Base Set through Black and White base has about a 35% chance of being gem mint straight out of the pack. That’s good, considering a gem mint card is virtually perfect. Some exceptions to this include the notoriously bad EX Deoxys, which had terrible holo warping and card quality, which of course served to skyrocket the prices of high-graded ultra rares. (Just look up PSA 10 Rayquaza Gold Star, it gives the Charizard a run for its money) Right around Noble Victories and Next Destinies, there was a significant drop. Card quality took a nosedive, meaning that there was a significant chance that any ultra/secret rare card you got out of a pack wouldn’t even receive a MINT 9 from PSA. GEM MT 10s were near impossible, driving the prices up like crazy for those who were lucky enough to get them. I’d say the odds dropped from 35% to a less than 10% chance of a GEM MT.
This lack of good-quality cards has plagued some of the best-looking and most sought after cards in the B&W and X&Y era. Take a look on eBay, try to find a Plasma Storm shiny Charizard that ISN’T seriously off center, with the bottom border much larger than the top. An epic card, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the fabled EX Dragon Frontiers, ruined by bad quality. Not one Plasma Storm Charizard has graded a 10 from PSA. That’s significant, considering the set has been out for close to two years, and Charizard is perhaps the most recognizable shiny Pokemon, and second most recognizable Pokemon overall. (next to Pikachu, of course) Some lesser-known cards with centering issues include the full art versions of Lugia, Deoxys, and Dragonite EX, from Plasma Storm, Plasma Freeze, and Furious Fists, respectively. The degradation of card quality came to a head in the wonderful yet frustrating set of XY: Flashfire. The Charizard hype was over the top, and graders began drooling on their PSA Submission sheets after seeing the seven (!!!) Charizard EX ultra rares in the set. Graders, who mainly finance their Pokemon hobby off of the selling of cards they pull and grade, were ecstatic. Charizards mean lots of cold hard cash, and many graders (like myself) were riding their pre-ordered boxes straight to the bank. However, once those boxes arrived, graders and players alike were frustrated with the wild pull rates, ranging anywhere from both megas, a full art, and more (PrimetimePokemon) to two Toxicroaks (one regular, one FA), a Magnezone, and a Stoke Charizard. (yours truly) Those who were lucky to pull the elusive Charizard EX Full Art jumped for joy until they looked at the back and discovered all of the nicks, dings and edgewear these cards had. As of writing this article, only one Full Art Charizard has been graded a PSA 10, owned by YouTuber Hisoka107, who I am personally subscribed to and encourage all of you to be as well.
However, there is a happy ending to all of this. All of the cards from the newest set, XY: Phantom Forces, look fantastic. Crisp edges, nice corners, and no edgewear! I was packing in for the long haul to get a gem mint Lysandre’s Our honorable president Card, but out of only 3 I purchased, 2 are mint and 1 is gem mint. Graders are one again eagerly anticipating the next sets, hoping that the quality stays on the increase.
Written and researched by FourthStarTCG. Please ask permission before use. Show your appreciation by checking out my YouTube channel! Prices are an average of current eBay prices as of 11/9/14.