Why I love collecting TCG

Other than videogames, one of my other turbo-nerd interests are trading cards, specifically Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!! I’m no player of either game but I certainly do like to collect the cards and keep up with the current events where Yu-Gi-Oh is concerned since I also operate a very small ebay buying/selling business purely for selling Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I’ve found discovering which cards are worth money and keeping up with what’s trending in the meta to be fascinating and I’ve had some fantastic scores this year alone. But this isn’t a post where I’m going to be blabbering on about investments and my best sales; this is going to be me discussing my personal collections and how I got into these card games in the first place.

The Pokemon Trading Card game was the first obsession and I got into it right at the very beginning when the Base Set came out here in the UK (I believe I actually started with the cards before the Gameboy games) and a friend at school gave me my first card for free. It was either Machop or Charmander (I forget which) but I soon got hold of Koffing too and so the collection began.

Base-Machop
Humble beginnings…

Of course, the big problem as a kid was the price of booster packs! At £2.49 for an 11-card pack which often had nothing too interesting inside, it was difficult for my parents to justify buying many for me and so I had to rely on trades, the odd pack here and there (when I was allowed one) and decks for birthdays/Christmas’. Later on when I got an official pocket money (or allowance) sum to last me a month, I could buy more packs BUT I also had to make that money last so I STILL couldn’t go crazy. It was often frustrating to go to school with other kids whose parents bought them tons of packs over the weekends, brand-new binders etc. because every Monday, they’d be showing off all of the new foils or “shinies” that they’d acquired. Still – in hindsight – it was better that I learned the value of money and wasn’t spoilt I guess so there is that little life lesson to be thankful for. Besides, having less to work with made those trades all the sweeter. I once somehow managed to trade a ‘rare’ Base Set Dugtrio for a common Onix by arguing that Onix could “easily swing its tail around a chop Dugtrio’s head off”. Ignoring the dark outcome of that hypothetical battle for the moment, it was an epic trade.

The scores were cancelled out by some of the terrible deals that I made though (something I’m sure all TCG collectors can relate to!). One in particular saw me buy a Fossil booster pack for £4.99 from a market before they were officially available in UK shops and pull a holo Hitmonlee card. Needless to say, I was hot stuff come Monday morning in the playground but what did I do? Yep, I traded Hitmonlee away on that first day! Another poor trade was exchanging my booster-fresh Neo Genesis Typhlosion for a Japanese version of the other Typhlosion card from the same set only to later discover that the card I’d received was a fake. Doh!

Anyway, I collected the cards all the way up to Legendary Collection before quitting in secondary school, partly because of growing up and partly because of there simply being nobody to trade with anymore as things such as cool clothes, girls and tech became the things to chase. I briefly returned to collecting current cards during the very early ‘EX’ era and collected from EX-Ruby/Sapphire up to EX-Unseen Forces before binning the hobby for a second time. These new cards just didn’t appeal to me anymore due to poorer (in my opinion) artwork and a focus on the newer generations of monsters that I wasn’t as interested in. The EX holos were usually awesome though, even if the earliest examples were laughably unplayable in the game itself.

RayquazaEX-1
Cards like this convinced me to keep collecting into the early EX/Nintendo era of the TCG.

Fortunately,  I didn’t sell my collection of cards once my brief second stint of collecting was done and so when I decided to get back into the hobby again (around 3-4 years or so ago now) I had a pretty good base to build on. After all, I’d always kept my cards in great condition and organised by set so going for full sets of the original Wizards Of The Coasts-published expansions (the most nostalgic sets by far) was more a case of filling in the gaps rather than beginning from scratch. I decided to not bother with Legendary Collection since buying the same cards a third time (if you factor in Base 2 to the mix as well) was a step too much, especially since I had very little from that set in the first place. The same applied to the three Wizards ‘E’ series expansions (Expedition, Aquapolis and Skyridge) because those sets are huge and the holos extremely valuable in some cases.

So I limited myself to Base 1 through to Neo Destiny and honestly, considering that this period pretty much summed up my original collecting days, it seemed quite fitting and nostalgia-infused to try and complete these sets. The added bonus of this kind of collection also being an investment of sorts is another plus that has to be remembered because these classic cards are constantly going up in value. Obviously nobody can predict the future’s interest in such things but for now, buying old-school Pokemon cards seems a pretty safe investment. Thus far, I have managed to finish Base 1, Jungle, Fossil, Team Rocket and Base 2. I should be working on the Gym sets next but due to rising asking prices, I have decided to skip ahead and try to get Neo Destiny done next since even the core holos from that set can cost between £20-£30 apiece for the most desirable ones – that’s before considering the going rates for the ‘Shining’ cards.

I have very little interest in the new sets of cards to be honest and it’s largely down to the fact that I stopped following the games after Diamond/Pearl so I’m very unfamiliar with the monsters and in any case, I’m no fan of the designs that I have seen or the crazy CG-orientated artwork on a lot of the cards. The days of Ken Sugimori’s simple watercolour artwork or the primitive CG of “CR CG Gangs” is where the appeal lies for me. I DO however pick up some of the full-art cards when I can because they are absolutely stunning at times with their embossed/textured surfaces and artwork which usually impresses me when the regular cards can’t.

ZapdosComp-1
It’s incredible to see how much card design has evolved since that all-important debut Base Set.

But it isn’t just the Pokemon TCG that has my collecting attention. At the start of secondary school, I became aware of the existence of Yu-Gi-Oh!! and it didn’t take very long for another collecting bug to infect the inner workings of my impressionable mind. As with Pokemon, it all began innocently enough with my first card being given to me for free. That card was a copy of Succubus Knight from the first booster set (Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon) and so it began. I bought the obligatory copy of Starter Deck Kaiba (in 1st Edition!) and then booster packs from then on when I could. Money was still tight as a teenager however so as with Pokemon, I couldn’t afford to amass as many cards as those I was trading with at school and building a collection was doubly harder given how brutal the pull ratios were in those older Yu-Gi-Oh sets. A standard 24-Pack booster box would only contain six foils, possibly seven if said box also had a “Secret” rare card so as you can imagine, you had to be lucky to pull a foil card. In contrast, twelve out of thirty-six packs in a Pokemon TCG booster box would contain foils so the strike rate was a lot better. Younger Yu-Gi-Oh players/collectors have grown used to kinder box ratios and all packs coming with a Super Rare foil card at the very least so those early days of Yu-Gi-Oh were a very different time.

YGOSuccubusK-1
The first Yu-Gi-Oh card I ever had. It was only in recent years that I discovered that the art was censored!

What really sold Yu-Gi-Oh to me was that even though it was still a children’s card game, the artwork was so much darker and more grown-up. Here we had cards based on dragons, demons and ancient Egyptian evils. Tombs, magic and all manner of bizarre creatures also contributed to my fascination and I was easily hooked. Sadly, the newer sets don’t quite captivate me in the same way because things have grown more cartoon-like with anime-inspired designs and a greater quantity of comical cards or art that simply no longer interests me as a collector. The golden period for me personally was between Labyrinth Of Nightmare and Ancient Sanctuary; this was where the card art peaked with it’s darkest and most fucked-up designs and where some of the most famous (and broken) cards made their debut. In general however I do appreciate the cards right through the GX era and I am usually able to find cards from beyond that which I want in my collection.

Unlike Pokemon however, I did sell my collection off once I’d had enough the first time so getting back into collecting Yu-Gi-Oh was a steeper hill to climb. Fortunately, I’d kept a few cards that I’d held onto for sentimental reasons and these included the likes of my 1st Edition SDK Blue-Eyes White Dragon, secret rare Thousand Dragon and Ultra Rare LOB-coded Red-Eyes Black Dragon so there were a few desirable cards already ticked-off. My second era of collecting started with me simply buying cards that I liked or had fond memories of but due to purchasing many large joblots of cards, I accidentally found myself with lots of semi-complete full sets so after much organisation, I decided to go for full sets from Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon up to Enemy of Justice which was where I’d originally halted buying Yu-Gi-Oh back in the day. I also have many boxes and binders of promos, OCG (Japanese) cards and other stuff that I like enough to keep from sets beyond those that I collect.

So far I have only been able to complete Rise of Destiny but those early GX-era sets are quite small and less valuable so I actually managed that one without intending to and only had to purposely buy the last four cards which weren’t even that expensive. I’m taking my time however since my attention is also focused on Pokemon and the buying/selling side of Yu-Gi-Oh which can be quite lucrative if you know your stuff. I also like to follow the meta and pick up certain cards as future investments since card prices fluctuate massively and old cards can suddenly gain value if the community finds a worthwhile use for them within a new tournament-viable strategy. As well as potentially rewarding, I simply find all of this very interesting which is why I do it!

I do apologise for all the reading in this post but any future TCG-related posts will certainly be shorter and more to the point. This was just an intro of kinds before I start including TCG here on Darkstalker90 Gaming. I will still predominately be focusing on videogames but sometimes there just isn’t anything I feel like talking about so I’d like to have a few different subjects to mix things up a bit, this being one of them.

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