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Beginner's Guide to Collecting Pokémon Cards - Everything You Need to Know

Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Pokémon Cards – Everything You Need to Know

Looking to get into Pokémon Cards? Here’s everything you need to know! Written by a Pokémon collector.

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Getting into Pokémon can be overwhelming not only because of the sheer number of cards you can collect but also the number of releases that Pokémon comes out with each new year. There’s a lot to keep up with, but it’s a lot of fun as well to hunt for your favorite cards, open up packs, and watch your collection evolve over time!

I’m a ’90s kid, so few things are as nostalgic and as exciting to me as Pokémon cards. Well into my adulthood, they still bring as much joy today as they did back then. Needless to say, a lot has changed over the years when it comes to collecting Pokémon cards, but it’s been incredible to see the evolution of Pokémon over the years from the original base set to the more recently released sets, such as Sword & Shield.

Wherever you are at in your journey, whether you are just now getting into Pokémon altogether or you are jumping back into collecting again, I wanted to write a comprehensive guide to Pokémon cards and talk about all of the things I wish I knew when I started collecting. In addition, I’ll go over some important things you need to know, like the different ways you can buy sets, and look out for, including how to tell if you are getting a fair market price on a card, as well!

And to keep you updated with the latest releases, don’t forget to check out every new Pokémon TCG product releasing in 2023.

That all being said, here’s everything you need to know about collecting Pokémon Cards!

Things to think about before starting your Pokémon collection

Have an idea as to what you want your collection to look like before you start buying

I know from experience how easy it can be to come in and see all of the different cards that have been released over the years and want to pick up everything, but with the cost of some of these cards, it’s always good to have an idea as to what you are wanting to collect before you start buying them to keep you somewhat focused, whether that be vintage or modern cards, you want to collect all of a select Pokémon’s cards, you want to collect all of the Trainer or Galarian Galleries, etc. Find what makes you happy, because, at the end of the day, this is what matters the most.

If you are looking to invest in some Pokémon cards, in addition to collecting them, your goals will be somewhat different. You’ll want to have one collection for fun and another for investing. I tend to keep the cards that I pull and don’t want in my collection for trades or to sell up in the future for other cards I want. Definitely something to consider, because you might as well use the cards you’ve pulled to fund your collection!

Buying modern vs vintage Pokémon cards

Do you want to buy modern or vintage Pokémon cards or both?

You can collect vintage or modern Pokémon cards or both. I grew up in the ’90s and was lucky enough to find a few of the cards I had as a child, so I collect a little bit of both, but depending on what you are into as well as your budget, you may want to choose one over the other.

Vintage Pokémon card collecting can get pretty pricey depending on what you collect, but there are sets as well as cards that are cheaper if you are looking to add some to your collection. Just because modern cards are newer, though, doesn’t mean that they are always cheaper. Some of the cards that have been released within the last few years are going for hundreds of dollars as well depending on the demand as well as their scarcity. Sometimes it all comes down to their aesthetic and their art too. The Galarian, Secret Rates, and Alternate Art cards we’ve been getting as of late in these newer sets are absolutely beautiful, and we’ve seen some go up in price as a result.

That all being said, it is much cheaper to pick up packs of modern cards than vintage if you are looking to open up packs. But if you only have a few choice cards you are looking to buy, buying them individually may be the way to go. When you buy cards individually, you can get into the higher range, but there are still a lot of beautiful cards from both the original packs as well as the modern day that are affordable to pick up.

One thing to note if you are wanting to collect vintage Pokémon cards is that the 1st edition warrants a higher price than any of the releases that followed it. If you don’t care about owning a 1st edition, you can often find an Unlimited version of the same card that is lower priced!

Do you want to open up packs or buy cards individually?

There is no wrong way to collect Pokémon cards, but one of the first things you’ll want to ask yourself is: Do you want to open up packs or do you just want to buy the cards you like the most outright? I personally do both, because I enjoy the excitement that comes with opening up packs and pulling cards, but I also know that sometimes, given the odds of pulling some of the cards I want, it’s sometimes best to just pick them up at my local game store or on sites like TCGplayer.

Whether you want to open up packs or buy your cards outright, or a little bit of both, here are some of the best places you can buy Pokémon cards right now. If you decide you want to open up packs, there are different ways you can do so. Packs come in all kinds of releases from Elite Trainer Boxes to Ultra Premium Collections and more. I’ll get into each and what they often come with below!

Different ways to collect Pokémon cards

Pokemon Booster Packs
Pokémon Booster Packs

Pokémon Booster Packs

Booster packs are individual packs of Pokémon cards. The most recent packs to release, Scarlet & Violet, contain 4 commons, 3 uncommons, and 3 foil cards, so in total, you get 10 game cards. Each pack also comes with one Energy card and 1 code card, which you can redeem on Pokémon TCG Online or Pokémon TCG Live.

If you are buying packs before the Scarlet & Violet series, you are only guaranteed at least 1 foil card in a booster pack. So what you get in a booster pack, varies on the set. As far as price goes, booster packs have an MSRP of $4.99 USD.

Pokemon Elite Trainer Boxes
Pokémon Elite Trainer Boxes

Pokémon Elite Trainer Boxes

Elite Trainer Boxes, or ETBs, come with a set number of packs as well as extras, like promo cards, damage-counter dice, card sleeves, coin-flip dies, and Energy cards. The number of packs as well as the items included in each box vary from release to release. For instance, the Crown Zenith Elite Trainer Box comes with 10 Crown Zenith booster packs, while the new Paldea Evolved Elite Trainer Box comes with 11 Scarlet & Violet—Paldea Evolved booster packs, so definitely check the description of the item to see exactly what you are getting in the box.

To give you guys an idea as to what these boxes can come with, the Crown Zenith Elite Trainer Box comes with a collector’s box, 10 Crown Zenith booster packs, a player’s guide, an acrylic VSTAR marker, an etched Lucario VSTAR foil promo card, damage-counter dice, 65 Lucario card sleeves, a competition-legal coin-flip die, a code card, 45 Energy cards, and 2 acrylic condition markers.

Elite Trainer Boxes are one of my favorite ways to pick up packs because you can often find them for lower than MSRP or use discount codes or membership perks at stores, like Barnes & Noble, to get them for even lower prices. Elite Trainer Boxes retail around $54.99 to $59.99 USD, but as mentioned before, you can often find them at or use membership perks to get them for even lower prices.

Pokemon Booster Boxes
Pokémon Booster Boxes

Pokémon Booster Boxes

If you want to open up a lot of packs in a set, Booster Boxes are one of the best ways to go. Booster Boxes are something I’ll especially buy when there are a lot of cards I want in a set. Typically, Booster Boxes will come in a display box that highlights prominent Pokémon in the set. They also tend to come with 36 booster packs, so Booster Boxes allow you to buy a lot of packs in one go.

To give you an idea as to how these are priced, the Paldea Evolved Booster Display Box is retailing for $161.64 USD, so each pack is around $4.49 USD. With booster packs retailing for $4.99 USD, you save some money when you buy them in a Booster Box.

Pokemon Special and Premium Collections + ex and V Boxes
Special and Premium Collections + ex and V Boxes

Special and Premium Collections + ex and V Boxes

There are different types of boxes you can collect also, like Special or Premium Collections, ex, and V Boxes. These boxes come with a set number of packs as well as a few extras, such as promo and oversized cards. Some even come with figures, like the Shiny Zamazenta and Shiny Zacian Premium Figure Collection Boxes.

Some of my personal favorites right now are the Eevee V Premium Collection, which comes with 9 booster packs as well as 9 promo V cards featuring all of Eevee’s Evolutions, and the Shiny Zamazenta and Shiny Zacian Premium Figure Collection Boxes, which come with an etched foil promo card, 65 card sleeves, pin, and figure of their featured Pokémon as well as 11 Crown Zenith booster packs.

Pokémon Ultra Premium Collections
Pokémon Ultra Premium Collections

Pokémon Ultra Premium Collections

Ultra Premium Collections, like the Celebrations Ultra Premium Collection, Arceus VSTAR Ultra Premium Collection, and Charizard Ultra Premium Collection, come in premium boxes and they come with booster packs and extras, like playmats and coins. They often come with promo cards too.

The Charizard Ultra Premium Collection, for instance, comes with three Charizard promo cards, a Charizard V, Charizard VMAX, and Charizard VSTAR card, that are exclusive to this box. The Arceus VSTAR Ultra-Premium Collection, on the other hand, comes with a metal Arceus VSTAR card, so the types of promo cards that come in each vary as do the extras.

These Ultra Premium Collections can retail anywhere from $99.99 USD to $119.99 USD or more depending on the release and what they come with.

Pokémon Tins
Pokémon Tins

Pokémon Tins

There are different types of tins you can pick up as well, including Mini Tins as well as larger tins that often feature a specific Pokémon. Some tins come with foil cards, but this will vary depending on the tin. All tins come with a select number of booster packs. To give you guys an idea as to what these tins can come with, the Eevee Evolutions Vaporeon V Tin comes with a Vaporeon V card, 4 booster packs, and a code card, while something like a Paldea Friends Mini Tin comes with 2 booster packs, a sticker sheet, and a Pokémon art card.

The Mini Tins retail for around $9.99 USD, while the larger tins retail for around $19.99 USD or more depending on what they come with.

Ungraded vs graded Pokémon cards

Graded Pokémon cards go through a grading process with a reputable company, most notably PSA and CGC. When you send your cards in to get graded, they grade your cards on a 10-point grading scale. If you are in the market for graded Pokémon cards, the higher the grade is, the higher the cost.

When you buy cards ungraded, you’ll often see people listing cards as DMG (Damaged), MP (Massively Played), LP (Lightly Played), and NM (Near Mint). The higher the quality, the higher the cost with damaged cards being the lowest-priced cards and NM being the highest-priced cards you can buy.

The only way to know exactly what quality of card you are buying is to buy a graded card. If you buy ungraded cards, you are buying based on an estimated range of quality, and these cards are assessed as such by the individuals who are selling cards themselves. It’s always best to look at images or see cards in person if you can so that you can verify the quality of the card yourself. A few basic things to look for are corner sharpness, scratches in the holo, knicks or dents, look at the back of the card for any white around the edges, centering, etc.

Where to buy Pokémon cards

There are a number of different retailers that sell Pokémon cards online, in-store, or both. I’ve bought from a lot of places over the years and I did a post outlining the best places to buy Pokémon cards, both singles and packs if you’d like to learn more.

Tracking your Pokémon card collection

One of the best ways to track your Pokémon card collection is TCGplayer because they have one of the most extensive databases of Pokémon cards. In addition, they are more accurate in terms of fair market value than other sites like eBay, so they are one of the best places to keep track of the value of your cards as well.

TCGplayer allows you to post public trade lists if you’d like, where other users can see what you have available to trade as well as your want list, so they can see what you are willing to trade for. You can keep your want list private if you don’t want to trade, but still want to keep a list of the cards you are still in search of. And then, of course, you can track the cards you own as well.

Like most apps and sites, TCGplayer could use some improvement in terms of user-friendlessness and some functionalities don’t work as they should, but they have one of the most accurate and extensive databases out there and their prices tend to be more accurate as well.

Best way to store Pokémon cards

How to store Pokémon cards

I recommend storing your Pokémon cards in a binder that doesn’t have rings. If your binder has rings, it can dent or damage cards, especially those that are closest to the inside of the binder. I also highly recommend getting a binder that has side-loading sleeves rather than top-loading sleeves, because your cards won’t fall out of your binder. One that has a zipper and can be sealed is preferred as well because it keeps dust out of your binder.

My favorite binder I’ve owned so far is the Vault X Premium Card Binder. It has all of the above things I mentioned that you want to look for in a binder and it is one of the most premium-feeling and it is the best Pokémon card binder I’ve owned to date.

I also highly recommend getting some card sleeves to put your cards in before you place them into your binder for added protection. The more exact-fit sleeves you can get the better. Another thing to note is that it is important to store your binders upright rather than sideways.

Tips if you are buying cards individually

Be patient when buying new individual cards

When a new set is announced, the hype is real, and oftentimes, you’ll see cards going for higher prices than they’ll go for in the weeks, or the months, that follow. This definitely varies from card to card, but it’s generally best to watch how a card fairs over time to make sure you buy them at a good rather than an inflated price. To give you an idea, the Charizard V Alternate Full Art card was going for around $193 USD in May 2022, but it’s now going for around $153 at the time of this post. Not as large of a drop as we commonly see with other cards, but savings nonetheless.

That being said, in most cases, if you want to get one of the harder-to-pull or hottest cards in a set, you’ll want to wait a bit to see how it fairs in the market before buying it. Most of the time, you’ll see that card lower in price with time and you’ll be able to pick it up at a better price.

I always consult TCGplayer to ensure I’m getting a fair price on a card, but they also have graphs showing how a card’s price has changed over time. You’ll commonly see a card drop in a few weeks and then raise again in the future back to its high.

These are all the things I wish I knew before I started collecting Pokémon cards. I hope this post was helpful and happy collecting!

More in Pokemon TCG

Best Places to Buy Pokémon Cards Right Now

Best Places to Buy Pokémon Cards Right Now

Whether you like to buy cards individually or enjoy the thrill of opening packs, these are the best places to buy Pokémon cards right now. Recommendations from a Pokémon collector.