Stages in a Collectible’s Lifetime and in which can we place Pokemon TCG

A collectible goes through three stages (if it doesn’t die earlier) during its lifetime. These are Speculative, Established and Mature.

Let’s see how it gets to each of them and, then, talk about Pokémon TCG specifically and in which stage it is right now.

The Speculative Stage

A speculative collectible is that in its first 30 years of existence. This comes from the Harry Rinker’s 30 Year Rule, which states that for the first years of anything’s life, all its value is speculative.

Some disagreement and discrepancies may arise between experts, regarding if this timeline should start when people really start collecting those ítems, or when the object is first manufactured.

I think this should be decided having the concrete collectible in mind and not as a rule of thumb.

For example, Pokemon TCG wasn’t seen as a collectible for the general public at the beginning, but more as a card game. But to be fair, being cards, there were also some people (although a minority) that simply collected them.

On the other hand, things like video games were bought to play with. Very rare would be to see someone in early video game times that bought one to collect.

So, regarding this 2 examples, we could say that with Pokemon TCG we will probably not be completely wrong starting the timeline when cards were firstly manufactured, while, on the other side, the video games one could begin when it started attracting collectibles

In this speculative category we could put collectibles such as Pokemon TCG, Magic The Gathering, modern comics and video games.

During this first stage, these types of collectibles often experience pumps that typically end up in speculative bubbles. This ignition is normally caused by influencers or mass media. When these bubbles burst, some collectibles disappear while others emerge stronger than before.

These ups and downs continue until the collectible disappears or mutates and evolves into an established collectible.

Established collectibles

Established collectible is that that has been collected for a 31 to 50 years period.

If you check the market for any of this type of collectibles, it has probably gone through many ups and downs during its early life time, even past through some speculative bubbles (or even could be in one).

But interest in them has been proved by collectors for a long period of time, and the market starts to flat down a bit. At this stage, market cap has grown, so influencers and mass media are not able to move the prices so easily. Bubbles occur less frequently and huge swings in price stop being so frequent.

Good examples of established collectibles could be vintage comic books and vintage sport cards (prior to the 1970s).

Mature collectibles

Lastly, a mature collectible, is that which has been collected and traded for more that 50 years.

The market of a mature collectible is much more stable and growth/decay normally occurs slowly.

In this stage, the collectible has already demonstrated its value to collectors and has survived multiple speculative bubbles. The market is now established, and most collectors feel a genuine passion for the object itself, looking beyond the possibility of making money or a “good investment.”

Prices can be high or low, but there is not as much volatility as in the previous stages. In this stage, collectors focus on the historical and cultural value of the object, as well as its rarity and quality.

Keep in mind that even though a collectible can achieve a mature “status”, that doesn’t mean that speculative bubbles can’t occur, or that interest from collectors can’t disappear or decrease massively.

An example could be stamps as a collectible. It’s clearly a mature market, in which first collectors appeared in 1774. Its market has evolved during all these years. It had its baubles and highs/lows in demand. Nowadays, interest in stamps is low and very few collectors remain active in comparison with what it used to be.

Examples of mature collectibles are coins, currency, antique bottles, high end art…

Also take in mind that when a hobby passes from one stage to another, it can mutate. Interest from collectors can change from one part of the hobby to another, making them prefer collecting other things within it. We will see an example of what this could mean as we put all of what we have just learned into Pokemon TCG context.

In which stage is Pokemon TCG now?

If we use time as the way to measure, and take the manufacturing date of the hobby as the starting point (as discussed earlier), Pokemon TCG is still in a speculative stage as a collectible.

Being first released in Japan by The Media Factory on the 20th of October of 1996, the hobby is almost 27 years old. Approaching the 30 year mark that would make it an established collectible.

Pokemon TCG has passed through 2 main speculative bubbles that could have destroyed it… but ended up making it stronger.

The first one was in 2016, with the successful worldwide launch of Pokemon Go, which made people remember that Pokemon TCG existed, having been stagnant and forgotten for many years.

This made many people return to collecting and added others to the hobby, which established a wider and stronger base of collectors ready to explode with the next bauble…

In mid 2020 and early 2021, with the help of the US Government giving away money because of COVID and influencers like Logan Paul, Pokemon TCG experienced a huge speculative bubble that led to astronomically high sell prices and a huge mania.

As with every bubble bursting, lots of people made lots of money, and many others saw great losses…

Being correcting in prices and interest since that burst, the hobby seems to have reached a new and stronger base of collectors. Interest is higher than before the last bubble, and some could argue that we are still in a mania phase, with an astonishing interest for modern products that never seems to stop being printed…

Probably the pandemic has delayed the entry of Pokemon TCG into an established collectible status, and probably we will have to see the hobby reach 33 or 35 years old until it really stabilizes itself and settles down after the 2020-21 great pump.

But, the truth is, that we are probably seeing enough evidence that this will eventually happen and that growth in the hobby will continue.

Which is some of this evidence?

Even though we could probably list plenty of points of evidence for why we might think the hobby will strengthen, I can quickly think of three:

  • Generational relief. Yes, I can see how children of my son’s age range (3-6) are totally into collecting Pokemon cards. This is essential for a hobby lasting throughout the decades… and it’s happening.
  • Pokémon is the world’s most valuable media franchise, with an all time revenue that approximates the 100 billion dollars. The 25 Highest-Grossing Media Franchises of All Time
  • The Pokémon Company shows no intention to stop growing. Video games and new Pokémon continue to be created; a new animated series is going to be launched after 25 years of Ash and Pikachu; there are rumors of a Pokémon human-type series by Netflix; Merchandising and toys are everywhere; Pokemon TCG continues releasing expansions (that sell completely) and huge events are organized worldwide…

And meanwhile all of this happens, there’s NO one on planet Earth (or almost) that doesn’t know who Pikachu is.

Pokemon is really STRONG.


Even though probably Pokémon TCG will be here for the long run and become an established collectible (who knows if a mature one someday), remember what we said about collector interests veering and the hobby mutating as it changes stages.

No one knows if by then, people will be looking for Rainbow rares (yes, the same ones that people are tired of now); or chasing Mid-Era rare cards or promos; or if everyone will be looking for only sealed products. Maybe plastic is rejected and raw is King… who knows.

So just be prepared to see variations in tastes and, why not, more volatility and turbulence during your journey. Place your bets and get ready!

But, above all, just continue collecting whatever you really love. :slightly_smiling_face:

Some questions for you:

How do you think collectors’ interests will change throughout these years to come?
What type of event do you think will ignite the next huge mania phase?
Any other thoughts?

Thanks for reading and have a GREAT day! :smiley:


I know the 30 years aren’t reached yet, but I just can’t see Pokemon as a speculative hobby (definitely established in my opinion). There’s genuine rarity in the hobby (as opposed to artifical rarity), it has survived multiple down phases, there’s a proven community of collectors that collect consistently and regardless of price development etc…

I also disagree with the notion that bubbles (i.e. huge price spikes followed by an equally huge fall of those prices) are still an issue for Pokemon. It’s more like prices are spiking from time to time, but only retrace by a fraction of the rise (similar to the S&P500).

If anything, I would differenciate between pre-XY Pokemon and post-XY Pokemon. The latter might be speculative because I don’t see the same fundamentals for modern Pokemon that vintage has (that means, TPC started to drastically increase card production and buyers started buying cards solely for preserving the cards in pristine condition). For modern Pokemon to become established, it would have to be able to thrive on demand alone, and I don’t know if that alone makes for a durable foundation.


Thanks for reading @ripguyfawkes .

I completely agree with that last point.

I also think that pre-XY and post-XY are completely different animals.

Even I can’t agree in that Pokemon TCG as a hole is not a speculative hobby (for much that I love it), it will be hard for me to think of post-XY as established when all this post 2021 mania really ends and Pokemon TCG ages 30>.

Pre-XY is clearly much more established. It’s the only part of Pokemon that has surged as an organic collectible.

The clear example is how children (like me) played with Base Set Charizards at school, in the floor and without sleeves.
Now everyone sleeves almost every card and they are kept NM forever…

The scarcity that surges from there (in quantity and condition) is something that post-XY will never have. And that is one of the reasons for which I think, in the long run, pre-XY will always be more valuable than post-XY for true collectors.

Fundamentals, as you say, are totally different. And yes, I don’t think that demand alone will be able to thrive post-XY sustainably.


Why have you used post-XY? The XY and SM print runs - perhaps even Rebel Clash in SWSH have much smaller print runs than the rest of SWSH.

Besides Evolutions, what else was overprinted in XY?

In SM, was anything even overprinted? The number of ultra rare cards ballooned to crazy amounts without really improving pull rates.

edit: Also, even though SWSH was printed at record amounts, because of the awful pull rates, I think it will still hold up better than SV which has increased pull rates and I doubt print runs will go down significantly. Having said that, this is a good thing for longevity as they definitely need to bring in more kids. SWSH pre-TG rates would alienate people over the long run.


Fates Collide and Roaring Skies were notoriously printed into the ground. Not to mention everyone’s favorite set, Steam Seige…


Primal Clash was the moment to in which print run doubled in the XY era, and continued the same in Roaring Skies. Even though rest of sets of XY were no so printed after that.

But for me it has most to do with what I was saying about organic collectibles.

The fact that about that time there was a horde of new investors and speculators entering the hobby because of Pokemon Go, is what I think made the shift.

The concept of mass produced scarcity and a much higher rate of everything being kept in NM “by rule” was stabilised. Organic collectivity started to die slowly.


XY is a time that many modern JP collectors gravitate towards due to the amazing promos. There were still rare cards like the art academy cards and Pokémon was still small. I view XY like a golden age for modern Japanese due to the crazy card releases. They caught lightning in a bottle and I don’t think they’ve able to replicate the same thing since.

SM and especially SWSH is where they started printing the cards in all the Asian languages and is a different era in my opinion, the era of globalization. Very few cards are rare due to mass printing, even the lottery and trophy cards

Last thing is that Pokémon is not established. There is a stigma that it’s a child’s game. You tell people you collect Pokémon there is a chance they will laugh at you. Sports and comics do not have the same stigma. If Pokémon can overcome this, we’re golden. Also, the current Waifu craze prob is not helping the situation…


At the same time, Pokemon is more global than sports cards has ever been or will be.

Aren’t sports cards mainly an American thing? Baseball, NFL, hockey, basketball.

Comics are perhaps more global, but also less so than Pokemon.

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On the other hand, here in Europe there’s no one collecting such sports :grin:

Most collectors do so with Football (soccer) cards. This is the only thing here. All kids collect football… nowadays and when I was a kid… is the most collected in Spain by far.

In Spain, and most Europe, Football is THE sport. All other are super minor in comparison. Maybe F1 and moto GP are the second, then basketball.


In finland ice hockey cards still are widely collected, a lot more than football or any other sport, probably relates a lot to what country is good at what. Nothing compared to pokemon but anyway :slight_smile:


Pokemon is definitely more global. it’s more ingrained in the culture in Japan. I think there is a national Pokemon holiday there. This is not the reason I collect Japanese, but I know that if Pokemon fails in the US, the Japanese cards will likely still retain their value in Japan and I could sell the cards overseas.


In my opinion, XY was undoubtedly the era that transitioned Pokemon from the classic era to the modern era, both for the video games and in the TCG. Aside from the huge printruns for some expansions, it’s also worth taking a look at the number of graded Japanese promos (taken straight from current PSA pop reports):

Era Year Total number of Japanese promos graded at PSA Number of Japanese promos graded a PSA 10
Black & White 2010 64 36
Black & White 2011 1381 851
Black & White 2012 3586 1997
Black & White 2013 2364 1472
X&Y 2013 385 268
X&Y 2014 11906 7735
X&Y 2015 13947 11102
X&Y 2016 25435 20266
X&Y 2017 379 289
Sun&Moon 2016 3384 2377
Sun&Moon 2017 17788 12854
Sun&Moon 2018 45998 30889
Sun&Moon 2019 26239 18779

Before X&Y, The number of currently graded Japanese promos at PSA fluctuates between 2000 and 5000 per year. It was in X&Y when many people and influencers started seeing cards as investment instead of as collectible, and TPC reacted accordingly by ramping up print runs. The biggest offenders are the poncho-wearing Pikachus and the Mario&Luigi Pikachus, many of which reached a PSA 10 pop of over 1000 (completely unheard of before XY). Sun&Moon amplified this development, but it didn’t start it.


Conversely, couldn’t you say that only from XY onwards did they make good looking promos?

Obviously that might be subjective and/or controversial, but when looking back at old promos, I have near zero interest prior to XY.

XY basically made FA promos of all types popular (ponchos, battle festa/highlights, modern/dynamic full arts). There are of course exceptions - Shining Mew, some PLAY Promos - but otherwise a lot of the promos are pretty drab looking before XY.

No, I can’t say that. As you already said, this is a subjective take.

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My favourite Promos are Wizards Black Star Promos :grin: :pray: so yes, this is quite subjective.

This is what makes sense for me. As I said before, this is at the same time at which Pokemon Go was launched and Pokemon TCG “suffered” its first bauble and mediatícese push.

Here is where organic collectivity started dying slowly, and replaced by mass produced scarcity.

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XY definitely had the most popular promos introduced to the TCG.

Can you help define the two?

Isn’t anything collectable inherently “mass produced scarcity”?

There were always fewer holos than commons.

And print runs for coins or stamps or whatever for special occasions are basically also mass produced scarcity.

Organic collectibility are items that when they were produced, people who bought them did it to use them. They didn’t buy them as collectibles.

Examples could be Magic The Gathering and Pokemon TCG early sets, where people bought them to play with them… even in the playground without sleeves.
Also early comics like Action Comics #1, which people bought for 10 cents and then threw away once read.

These items arise as collectibles organically, through time. And the loss of many of them or the difficulty to find them NM (because people didn’t worry about that then), holds their value up in the long term.

When products are manufactured directly to collect, they are modern mass produced items… which are everything but rare. And are always kept in perfect condition… which doesn’t help to its value in the long term and makes it much more speculative.

Examples are Funkos or most modern MTG/Pokemon TCG.

This could be a summary of this materia… I will do a full article about it.


I don’t think that’s what happened during XY with the ponchos or Mario pikachu. I think you’re telling a false narrative.

When the ponchos and Mario pikachus came out, they were not hot and they were sitting on the shelves at retail. There were no lines or lottery system. The team rocket case you could preorder and the solid gold pikachu as well. Because many people didn’t order those, that is why they are very expensive now. Thr gold pika is even viewed as a trophy card. I would say a lot of the cards from XY have organic collectibility (buying them because they want them and not necessarily to invest or make money)

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That’s not exactly what organic collectivity means.

There is no organic collectivity nowadays in Pokemon TCG. People buy to collect, and not to use the items.

The hobby emerged from the organic collectivity in its early days, that comes from people and kids buying the product to play with it (and not to collect).

When people buy to collect, the organic collectivity concept dies.

Pokemon is a hobby that emerges from organic collectivity (that is good enough. After that, every hobby mutates), contrary to something like Funkos, that people bought directly to collect and maintain always in NM condition.

Did I explain myself?

With regards to the other thing that you are saying, it’s true that those products were not hot.