Provenance of trophy cards

More and printer proofs (or whatever the heck they are) of old Japanese trophy cards are finding their way to Yahoo Japan auctions. As these cards make their way into the hands of overseas buyers, will it eventually be impossible to establish provenance of the cards that were actually awarded to the tournament participants?

@japanime, some of the Pkonno copies have the same holo pattern that is in the silver bible so that is one way to tell

I do think this is an interesting concept. Some of the more notorious examples of trophy cards that are owned by the big trophy collectors are pretty public in terms of PSA cert numbers. If people really start to heavily value these copies with more provenance the data is there (at least for graded examples).

This sounds interesting. His copies were the exact ones that were scanned for the book? I guess that makes sense but it seems cool.

In other words, the cards being sold by pkonno and others were printed by Media Factory, right? Authentic/official printer proofs?

@japanime , @miraclegro , Yep 100% authentic most likely they were ‘file’ copies but yeah interesting that it ended up in his hands since wasn’t a super high up employee you can see his name in the starter deck rulebooks, he made the rules or the typeface I can’t remember which but something like that!
Edit: Just checked and he is listed as ‘Manual Editor’


But does a PSA cert number serve as proof that the card is one that was actually given to a trophy winner? I would argue it doesn’t.

Over the years, I’ve brokered deals for a half-dozen cards purported to be “trophy” cards. These are cards that have since been PSA-certified, made headlines in record-setting auctions, and held up as “holy grails” of the hobby.

Now that we know there a whole bunch of printer proofs stashed away, how can we be sure that the “trophy” cards sold in the past weren’t in fact printer proofs? Of those that I brokered, all but one were delivered in common top-loaders, sans trophy case or any documentation that the card was once in the possession of a tournament winner. The buyers of the cards never requested me to find out whether the sellers were in possession of the original trophy cases or if the would include the cases with the cards, nor did it ever cross my mind to ask.

Because so few trophy cards had been made publicly available, we trusted the sellers when they listed the cards as authentic trophies. But those sellers never established when, how, where, and from whom they obtained the cards.

I’m hoping against hope that the sellers back then were honest in their claims, and that the cards were “real” trophies. But I’m starting to have serious doubts.


Great info. Thanks!

It’s not surprising, though, that a mid-level or even low-level employee would have access to printer proofs. I work in manga publishing, and can tell you that lots of employees have access to materials that collectors would love to get their hands on. (I should clarify that I’m in no way suggesting that the editor did anything inappropriate with the card proofs. How they got into the wild is anyone’s guess.)


I have also been wondering lately, since all the pkonno copies are surfacing. If owning the original winner case would add to the value of these very rare trophy cards?

@japanime Do you think these extra copies will surface for the lower prize cards, like the Kamex Computer Error, Unikarp and Trophy Khan? Or is it more of an issue at the top end?

I agree with all of this. There is no way to concretely say whether an individual copy was or was not awarded. However, because you (presumably) bought all of these cards from different individuals and because these extra copies would be EXTREMELY unlikely to be in the hands of anyone but someone involved in production (again this is a bit of a leap) it’s pretty safe to assume that these earlier cards pre-pkonno (as I believe he is one of the only individuals with access to the extra copies) were probably truly awarded. Anything he sells was almost certainly not awarded, but anything that’s been with western collectors for 10+ years before the massive monetary incentive that exists today could very easily be considered 90%+ to be an awarded copy. Like you said though, there is that uncertainty. I am neither a high profile buyer/collector nor do I particularly care about whether the copy was awarded or if it was an extra (given what we currently know about the extras) but I could see someone wanting to be strict about it and in that case there is no 100% guarantee. Someone above (I’m typing on mobile so I can’t check) mentioned thread original trophy cases and I think that’s probably the best you can get.

Obviously we don‘t know where the previous „official“ copies came from. The only way to know is if you have the original winner‘s case. But even if, the card in the case might have been exchanged. My point is, for the cards that are not different I don‘t think it matters if you have an extra or official copy. But for the Neo trophies without the winner‘s name the value could be different either higher for the no-name cards (as they are sort of prototype status) or lower (as they werent officially released).


I think this is a good point. Since the cards are identical, there’s very little reason to be upset. A card that was supposed to have 4 copies (1997 Pikachu) potentially having whatever 1/3 of a sheet is is a substantial increase in terms of percentage but is absolutely nothing in terms of meeting the actual demand. When you can’t tell the difference and the cards are still obscenely rare there really isn’t much harm done. The history is still there to an extent. Again, I can see the emotional side of the history not being 100% there but in my opinion it’s enough either way. Given what I know/assume about the extra copies I would easily give up my whole collection (a few thousand but not nearly enough to truly afford one) for any Pikachu trophy (97 or 98) that would be authenticated by PSA, awarded or not. I believe many others agree with this and we aren’t at a point of “awarded or bust”

1 Like

I’m definitely in agreement on that point. The printer proofs are truly rare and therefore valuable cards, and should be regarded as such.

But they’re still not the same thing as the cards that were actually awarded.

I own a 1973 Oakland A’s World Series ring that has the name of the team’s owner on it. However, it wasn’t the actual ring awarded to the owner. Rather, it is a jeweler’s sample. It was one of several that were created for team officials to examine and offer their approval before the jeweler began making the actual rings that would be awarded to the players and personnel.

The ring is still quite rare and rather valuable. But like those sample trophy cards that are now popping up all the time, it’s not the real deal.

And here’s the thing. Before I bought the ring, the seller disclosed that it was a jeweler’s sample. That’s what honest sellers do. And in doing so, they prevent the waters from being muddied.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Pokemon trophy cards, it may be too late to establish provenance. That ship has already sailed into the muddied waters.


If this is the case (and non-awarded trophy cards are seen as ‘legit’ copies) i’m just surprised that this can be the case for trophy cards; IMO there isn’t a big difference with [forExample] the FPO cards (both illegitimate copies, just taken away from the factory)

I mean; i get that the trophy cards are seen as an legit card since they have been handed out as prizes, but these extra copies are just as ‘officially released’ as the FPO ones.

I think its crazy that the community says these extra copies are pretty much the same as the original ones, but FPO’s are totally not done and not a real collectible (because they were a test-print and there was no intention to release these): same can be said about the extra trophy cards? Where do we draw the line then? Or do we just listen to the ‘big names’ and copy whatever they say?

*Edited the format, im on mobile typing this rn*


The thing is we can never be 100% sure if a copy was officially released or is an extra. Owning several of the cards that had extras popping up recently, I am not in favor of those extras but as long as we can‘t distinguish them there is no point in valuing one or the other more or less.

1 Like

I hope the dear trophy collectors of e4 can take a joke :wink:
On a serious note though: I get that even with the extra copies, these are still some of the rarest items in Pokemon. To me it still feels like the line is drawn arbitrarily.


If the card was not awarded to someone it is not really a “trophy”. I like the analog with the ring mentioned above. You could make a similar case with something like an Olympic gold medal or an Oscar statuette. If it is just an extra copy, it is not really the same thing. The appeal of owning someone else’s trophy price is also something I do not entirely get either. Imagine if Messi bought a world cup gold medal from one of the German players after having lost the final in 2014 and then called it a day haha. …and yes, I do know this does not really compare to collecting insanely rare Pokemon cards. :slight_smile:


As I mentioned in another post recently, it would be preferable to have a trophy that you were 100% sure was an awarded copy but the cards are still so rare that if you actually want these cards in your collection you don’t really have the luxury of worrying about whether a card was one of the ones awarded to a winner or one of the cards that was cut from the same sheet and preserved as an extra copy by Media Factory.

The fact that these “extras” were likely printed on the same sheet and at the same time as the ones awarded to the winners is honestly close enough for me. When you think about it, there aren’t any other cards in the hobby that we would even think about the importance of “which person got to own this card first?”

In the case of the Snap Bulbasaur I recently bought, all 5 copies of the card that have surfaced have been “extras” … So the original winner of the card seems to have never released any of his 20 copies. After 21 years, it seems like there’s a pretty good chance that the winner’s 20 copies will remain buried. So does it make the card any less special to me that my copy will be an “extra?” No, not at all.


Try replacing the word “trophy” with “incredibly rare Pokemon card” for a second.

At the end of the day do people want the “trophy” or the “incredibly rare Pokemon card”?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted a Snap Bulbasaur because (besides the fact that Bulbasaur is my favorite Pokemon and that the card is ultra nostalgic for me and came out in 1999 and that I love the N64 and the card is an incredibly unique) it is one of the rarest Pokemon cards in the world. The fact that its existence is associated with a contest does indeed make it extra cool. But whether a copy was given to the person who took the Snap photo or was printed on the same sheet as those other copies isn’t as big of a deal as the rarity aspect.