Trading Cards: Who's Laughing Now?
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Trading Cards: Who's Laughing Now?

Friday, April 20, 2012 by cyberacoustics

Okay, I’ll admit it: back in the 90s I, along with my son, got caught up in the Pokemon craze. It was fun, and brought back memories of when I was kid, collecting baseball and football trading cards. We all know what happens to them when you grow up and move away, though—they hit the yard sale circuit. Bye bye, Mickey Mantle. I was determined that this was not going to happen again with my son, so I made a plan. You might say I went a little overboard.

I bought boxes, not packs, of first edition releases, which are still in their original wrapping, along with acquiring complete sets. My son thought I was crazy and over the years he would poke fun at me, asking me “How much are the Pokemon cards worth Dad?”

That all changed today, when my son sent me a link from Unplugged, where Mike Smith lists some of the most priciest collectible cards that are not sports-related. So to all you mom and dads out there: you may want to think twice about selling little Johnny’s card collection. Here are some cards whose value might surprise you.

Pokemon: Pikachu Illustrator  

Price: About $20,000
"Gotta catch 'em all!" is the catchphrase of this celebrated franchise. Doing that with Pokemon trading cards, though, might require a second Pokemortgage. The rarest find in the game is this Pikachu Illustrator card. Never officially sold, never released in English, and worth somewhere around $20,000, the cards were given away as prizes in a Japanese drawing contest and only four are thought to exist. Good luck finding one — and good luck paying off that Pokemortgage.

Magic: The Gathering: Alpha Black Lotus  

Price: $3,000-$4,000
It’s expensive, addictive, and majorly successful. Magic: The Gathering remains one of the most popular trading card games in the world—and there’s a huge card-collector market associated with it.

Case in point: the game's Black Lotus card is widely regarded as the priciest regular-issue Magic card in existence. Fans say it's one of the best cards in the entire game, but you probably won’t be able to find out, since not only does it cost as much as a perfectly good car, it's typically restricted or banned outright in competitive Magic play.

World of Warcraft CCG: Spectral Tiger  

Price: $500-$700
The World of Warcraft collectable card game isn't quite as famous as the online RPG that inspired it, but the relationship between the two games is increasing the values of the cards regardless. A good example is this Spectral Tiger card, which is work about $600. It’s a valuable card in both the trading game AND the online one. If you redeem one in the online game, your character will be given an ultra-rare rideable tiger. (Who doesn’t want one of these, really?)

Pokemon: Charizard, First Edition 

Price: $2,000-$2,500
The fierce, fire-breathing Charizard is a familiar face to any Pokefan, but his corresponding trading card is a much rarer sight. Holographic versions from the first edition of the Pokemon game, printed in 1999, can easily be worth thousands if in pristine condition. It might be tricky finding it, though—there are many sellers that claim the cards are in mint condition, but the reality is somewhat different. Additionally, you CAN use this card in-game, and with a stunning amount of hit points and a strong attack, you can also win, which most likely makes it harder to find in perfect condition.

Garbage Pail Kids: Nasty Nick, First Series  
Price: Around $600
The Garbage Pail Kids first appeared on the scene in the 80s as an alternative to their cuter counterparts, the Cabbage Patch kids. Much to our surprise, there are apparently still collectors of both. But which cards are worth the most? We’ve seen cards like a proof version of the famous Adam Bomb Garbage Pail card on eBay for around $4,250, but that price MAY be slightly inflated. Nasty Nick, however, is a solid investment, if you can track down a mint condition of the first card in the first series.

Yu-Gi-Oh!: Cyber Stein  
Price: $400-$500
Unfortunately, this card has nothing to do with a robotic German drinking glass. Think: a robot version of Frankenstein’s monster. Kind of a letdown, right? Not if you’re the person who sold this card for $23,000 in 2004. These days, though, the same card sells for around $450.

Digimon: Lucemon Gold Print 

Price: $400
Even though it started as a tamagotchi (remember those?), Digimon eventually became a Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon competitor, and some of the cards are quite valuable. Check out this hard-to-find gold print of well-known bad guy Lucemon. This card recently was sold for around $400 on eBay. For that money, maybe Lucemon isn’t such a villain at all.

How about you? Have you held onto trading cards that may be worth something someday? After seeing all these cards, I feel a lot better about my personal Pokemon collection.

-Steve Murphy, CA CFO

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