Successful collectors just got “lucky”

I saw a comment that said collectors with expensive cards that were purchased a long time ago just got lucky. I thought this deserved some discussion because I have thought about this before as well and I wanted to generate a discussion.

There are definitely times where I wish I could go back and purchase cards at a much cheaper price.

However, this viewpoint of just “getting lucky” does not give credit to the early collectors that were willing to put money into Pokémon cards when they were worth almost nothing.

The early collectors took great risk putting money into these cards not knowing if they would ever increase in value. And they took action. Action is everything.

It is easy to say you would have purchased at prior price points but that is only with the knowledge that the prices increased in recent years.

If you knew that PSA 10 1st edition Zard would be $150k in 5 years, we would all buy today at $50k. But the reality is that we don’t know what will happen and that makes it a risk to pull the trigger on buying at current prices. This same analysis applies at all levels of purchases for any type of asset.

Bitcoin is another perfect example. Early adopters look like super lucky people today because Of the massive prices increases. But to put your life savings into a crypto currency when no one even knew what it was took incredible guile.

There will always be new opportunities just like this but you have to be willing to jump in when it is not a sure thing to get the biggest return.

Edit: I got back into collecting with Pokémon Go, so I am not an early collector that bought a bunch of cards 10 years ago at low prices.


I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, too. Like many things in life, there are multiple factors at play.

Early (which I’ll arbitrarily define as pre-2010) collectors likely didn’t think of what they were doing as “investing”, mostly because every Pokemon item combined was essentially a minor, minor drop in the bucket to classical investing or even investing in other collectible markets.

At the same, though, people on E4 don’t usually credit folks like Scott & Gary (among many others here) with being genius investors who had unique financial foresight - we credit them for their pure knowledge of the hobby. Obviously experience collecting Pokemon can aid in determining which cards happen to be “good” or “bad” investments in a financial sense, especially now as markets are much more optimized, but no early collector’s origin story is “I started buying up Pokemon cards when they were generally worth pennies to make a quick buck” - instead, it’s usually “I started collecting Pokemon because I enjoyed doing so.”

Of course there’s luck involved! Most *anyone* who bought Pokemon cards in the early days who’s held them until now has experienced unprecedented growth. For me, then, what determines someone’s credibility is much less about the size and scope of their collection than it is about their willingness to engage with the community, and Pokemon is lucky to have a wealth of people who do so.

On a personal note, I started “collecting” in 2003, when I was 6 years old. Obviously, I didn’t have a lot of spare money back then, but as I continued to engage with Pokemon throughout my elementary/middle school years, I amassed a pretty decent collection of ex-era cards and sealed product. Unfortunately, I sold almost all of my cards at the end of high school to help pay for college (I kept my sealed product and memorabilia, which I’m super grateful for.) Although I stayed engaged with the hobby, only at the tail-end of college did I rediscover my passion for it and begin to rebuild my sets. In a sense, I feel lucky to have found Pokemon so early in my life (and therefore feel I have a good deal of knowledge and experience) despite not ever having much money to spend on my personal collection, which, at times, makes me feel unlucky.

That’s my take! Ultimately, so many people out there have collections of items with little to no monetary value - it’s all sentimental. We should all feel lucky that the thing we love and collect also happens to have monetary value!


A lot of people who ‘got lucky’ did so as a by-product of just wanting to collect x/y/z cards. ‘Getting lucky’ implies that the original intent of the purchase was to make money off of it at a later date, which is not what a lot of more experienced collectors had intended when they were buying cards in the late 2000s/early 2010s.

So yeah of course it’s lucky to buy something and have it be worth 50x more years later, but the context is important. It’s completely different to someone buying a stock at x price and then the price shooting up years later because the company is bigger. People explicitly buy stocks with the intent to make money off of them.

TL;DR: Yes it is lucky, but it doesn’t matter.


I agree with some of your points. I don’t know the context of the comment you’re referring to, but I think the majority of rational people who say this aren’t trying to say that early collectors don’t deserve their success or that they didn’t know what they were doing. My understanding is they’re simply pointing out that it took some luck for them to have come out on top in the ways that they did. I hear it from successful collectors people all the time - that luck played a large role in their success. The point that people are trying to emphasize is that past results does not equal future success. Just because a collector was successful up to this point doesn’t mean they have a crystal ball. Like you succinctly pointed out, we don’t even know for sure today that a $50k Zard will be $150k someday. For a collector to be able to acquire a Zard, hold on to it, and for that card to appreciate to $150k in the future, it will take some amount of luck (along with some legwork and engagement in the hobby, of course!).


Just desire and persistence in my case :blush:. Prospecting for future value wasn’t the original motivating factor at all, though it was my expectation that values would increase and supply would gradually decrease.

There was a time that I’d tapped all my sources and couldn’t find the product I wanted to buy, so I’d say if I was lucky, it was more or less luck to find all that I could’ve wanted when I wanted to.


I believe Scott mentioned in one of his videos that the most successful people in the Pokemon community are Collectors. People that simply collect what they like and keep them tucked away for years and years to come. Not 1 or 2. More like 10, 15, 20 years from now. Pass a huge collection on to your kids for example. Whatever you want to do. But if you simply build a collection and forget about prices you improve your chances of prices going up greatly. The best factor is time. Also it depends what you collect. A common card shouldn’t have a ton of demand years to come but if it’s a desired card you should be fine. Also diversifying yourself is always a good thing. Whether that’s with Pokemon and Stocks or Bonds. Real estate etc. Whatever you want to do. Or diversifying in Pokemon is as simple as collecting trophy cards and set cards. Or multiple languages. Multiple sets. Different Pokemon different eras etc. If your not purely driven by money there is a much higher chance of being successful. And if it’s cards you enjoy your less likely to sell early. And nothing in life is risk free. If for some reason everyone stopped caring about Pokemon or a major crisis happens sure they will go down in value. At the end of the day who knows. Just have fun and enjoy the ride :slight_smile:


Time and patience are your friends in terms of collecting. I mean this kind of stuff could go to 0 tomorrow but if you genuinely like it, the value matters a little less I feel @admiral77

I think it is not so simple as if we had the money to buy these cards 10 years back, actually! I certainly didn’t have the disposable income that I have today 10 years back. I sold 2 gold stars as a kid (more like got scammed), which sucks, but I’m working towards completing a set of gold stars in Japanese today. Sure it costs me a lot more to get those back, but at least I still have the ability to do so.

The worst thing to do is compare. It is not a race and we all have different collection goals. I think PSA and BGS grading, as well as all the hype on youtube has led to this type of comparison. But if all of us took out the cards from our cases, would we really be able to tell the difference between one NM card from another?

I highly encourage watching David Persin’s videos regarding why he chooses not to grade his collection. It is an alternative perspective to how top-end collectors think (I’m sure you’ve already watched Scott’s channel about the benefits of/premium associated with graded cards (PSA 9/10)).


So best place to start is to look at the definition of ‘luck’ which is:

success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions

You could argue that it was their action to buy the cards and keep them.

Personally I think it depends on their intension, did they buy them thinking they were really cheap and had reason to believe prices would increase, if so then maybe they made a good analyse/prediction given the information they had which I wouldn’t say is 100% luck but then again this is a market you have no control over so there is a part of luck that plays out.

If price increasing was not even a thought and they solely want it for their collection then yeh I guess they are lucky but as most collectors they won’t be selling them anyway so probably won’t see that luck in terms of money.

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the comparison with bitcoins is fundamentally wrong. The most successful guys in this hobby collected out of genuine interested in the cards, not because of the monetary potential.


I was going to write something but your post just sums it up. I started buying trophy cards in 2006 and never thought or cared about the potential future value.


I’m sure a lot of people were confident the value would increase over time. I’d be surprised if many of them envisaged such explosive growth so quickly.

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I know I feel very lucky :wink:


To some extent, everyone with a collection that blew up in value over the last number of years got lucky, as I don’t think anyone had a serious thought a number of years ago that the value of cards would be what they are now.

And as others have mentioned, the most successful people in the hobby are collectors who were early to the game, not “investors.”

Having said that, go back to the Pokegym forum in 2009 and I was asking people if they thought $700 for a PSA 10 1st edition Base Set Charizard would be a good investment.

Clearly, I never would have been making such an investment if I hadn’t loved the cards. I am a collector above all, not an investor.

But even going back to 2009, part of the reason I was willing to put money into the hobby is because I believed that these cards could be a type of an investment (just one I enjoyed much more than other investments).

So call it a lot of luck with just a pinch of foresight.


There’s luck in everything. I mean, none of us has a crystal ball. But to downplay having the sack to ante up and buy, when no one else was (and is), is pretty weak. And potentially more suited for the “sour grapes” department I might add.

It completely depends on the person. I am sure there were many who did not buy their cards to make money and some that did. I know I bought my cards just like enlighten bulbasaur with both goals in mind. Some of my purchases are more value investment type purchases and some are more pure enjoyment purchases the don’t make sense financially. However, if I were purely trying to make money I would not be buying any pokemon cards. Thus I got very lucky that I love these cards so much.

One thing I can feel confident in is that nobody predicted the current insane growth and everyone who was buying right before this spike got very lucky. That being said some I am sure were more bullish than others and some maximized their money and profit more than others. Wether that was luck or skill or some of both only the individual really knows.

All that being said, having a huge collection does not mean you are a skilled investor. Paying less than everyone around you and outperforming a market is what makes you a skilled investor. People with small amounts of money and small collections can still be extremely skilled investors, it is all about ROI vs. the rest of the market plus time. The longer a person has successfully been doing something and making smart moves the less likely it is random luck and the more likely it was methodical and intentional skill.


Yeah pretty much as everyone else has said. Foresight / collecting not investing / pure luck.

Some had the foresight because of the rarity fundamentals of the WOTC era and early Nintendo era cards, but we have to bear in mind that those who acted on that foresight took a huge gamble due to the fact that between 2003 and 2015 there was a very quiet market and *relatively* low interest in Pokemon TCG. High risk = high reward/high losses.

Others simply built amazing collections because they stuck to their convictions and love for the hobby, regardless of prices. It’s paid off for them too as a nice side-effect, rather than as an investment venture. Then again, people with that level of dedication to the hobby may never sell their most prized items, and therefore never realise the full potential financial gain.

I personally began the ‘just collecting for the love of it’ route back in 2010 when I was at university around 2011, unfortunately I had very weak personal convictions and thought negatively about what I was doing, due to the lack of everyone else’s interest. This is one of my biggest life regrets and biggest lessons learned. If I’d have stuck to my convictions I’d have a multi-7-figure collection by now. I have the historic ebay sales feedback to back that up. The lack of worldwide interest in the hobby and stagnating market really put me off injecting serious amounts of money into what was essentially nostalgic cardboard. The risk-averse side of my brain put a stop to it. “What the hell am I doing, spending £150 on a Skyridge booster box?! I don’t even have a job!!”. Combine that with a lack of financial maturity and understanding of investment principles and I was never gonna make it… :thinking:

Then of course there is a category of people who simply got lucky, whether that was through forgetting old collections or stored-away product etc.


Missing out on that Skyridge for £150 really sucks when you think about it today, but you know what they say hindsight is 20/20. So I wouldn’t put too much thought to it. Hopefully you still have quite a large collection and items you’re really fond of. I’ve also had way to many times where I either regret not buying something or regret selling something, but it can’t be helped. At least you were lucky getting in on collecting before the market exploded (even though you sold a lot). No one could ever really predict the scale of how big the market would become.

I would say the got lucky applies to the majority of the investment channels that started collecting within the last year or two.
Especially the last 6 to 12 months. Many of those people are going to Youtube to tell people how to invest because I have expensive product, look how much percent profit I made, etc.

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“Luck” is a word people use to justify why they didn’t put in the effort and/or take a risk. The highest risk was when cards were “cheaper”, as there was no indicator of growth.

Also these cards didn’t fall in anyone’s lap, it’s entirely about effort. I know collectors who have been around as long as me with the same means, and they simply made different choices.

It’s like fantasizing about buying google at launch. You didn’t, because it’s the most speculative. Everyone wants a sure thing = taking less risk. The people who bought early weren’t lucky, they just didn’t care about the risk.


This is why we get the weekly threads on here of new people asking “hey, what should I start collecting? I want to be able to flip this in a couple years for decent profit and I don’t know what to buy right now”

nobody knows what is going to happen