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Investing in Modern Pokémon Trading Cards: 3 Fantastic Cards You Can Add to Your Collection for Less than $5

Chill Clinton is a trading card enthusiast and investor who operates an online trading card store.

The recent boom of the Pokémon card game market in 2019 and 2020, followed by the subsequent downward correction in prices after the release of Chilling Reign in June of 2021, has opened a unique opportunity for new investors to enter the exciting world of Pokémon card investing.

However, with so many options, and with prices often exceeding $100 per card (even on modern printings), many newer investors who want broad exposure to the Pokémon market may not know where to focus their time and resources. This is especially true if they don't necessarily have the capital to purchase large volumes of high-priced cards.

You Don't Need Thousands of Dollars to Start Investing in Pokémon Cards

New investors without ample experience or funds, in my opinion, should focus their attention on relatively low-priced cards with significant potential upside. But it's not always clear which lower-priced cards may be significantly under-valued, and which will likely never attract the collector attention needed to multiply in value over the years.

The purpose of this article is to help break down those barriers to entry by introducing investment-minded collectors to three cards, priced under $5 as of September 2021, which I believe have significant potential for growth in value.

Always Do Your Own Research

Before we get started, I think it is important to note that, while I am a Pokémon trading card dealer and investor, this list is for informational purposes only. It should not replace your own research and careful consideration.

Zacian saw its debut in the Pokémon Sword and Shield Base Set, first appearing on promo cards released in 2019.

Zacian saw its debut in the Pokémon Sword and Shield Base Set, first appearing on promo cards released in 2019.

1. Zacian—SWSH04: Vivid Voltage $4

If you're just getting back into Pokémon, and you don't recognize the character above, don't worry. Zacian is a Pokémon that was introduced to the card game in 2019, via cards released to promote the latest block of sets: Sword & Shield.

Since then, Zacian has received 14 unique printings, with their values ranging from $.50 for the holographic Zacian from Rebel Clash, to $40 or more for the secret rare Zacian V from Sword and Shield Base Set.

The brand focus on this armored dog-like creature has even manifested in a themed Elite Trainer Box (a bundle manufactured by the Pokémon Company which includes booster packs, card sleeves, dice, and a promo card) dedicated to Zacian, which currently retails for 15-20% more than its MSRP on marketplaces such as Ebay.

The Pokémon Company has made it clear that they are interested in promoting Zacian as an iconic modern Pokémon character.

The Pokémon Company has made it clear that they are interested in promoting Zacian as an iconic modern Pokémon character.

With 14 unique cards and a collectible sealed box dedicated to Zacian, all produced in under two years, it is evident that the Pokémon Company is interested in elevating Zacian to the status of some of its most iconic "legendary" Pokémon.

Whether this happens or not will depend on a number of factors. However, with new generations of children constantly encountering Pokémon for the first time, it would only be reasonable to suspect that icons from our younger years—characters such as Charizard, Lugia, and Ho-oh—will have to share the spotlight with new characters, attracting similar interest from future generations of collectors.

About the "Amazing Rare" Zacian

The particular Zacian card I recommend thrifty collectors should consider picking up is from Vivid Voltage. It is a part of the "Amazing Rare" collection, which is presently composed of nine cards: six initially released in Vivid Voltage (March 2020) and three subsequently released in Shining Fates (February 2021).

This is a unique rarity class, never before included in Pokémon sets, which has yet to be expanded since Shining Fates, with Evolving Skies (August 2021) marking the third set to not include "Amazing Rares" since their latest printing.

Presently, these card range in price from about $10 for Rayquaza to about $1.50 for Yveltal. However, these prices have pulled back significantly since early 2021, and with rumors abound that Vivid Voltage will not receive any further reprints, the Vivid Voltage amazing rares are unlikely to see any significant decrease in value moving forward.

Whether the Pokémon Company decides to retire this rarity type, or chooses to begin assigning the "Amazing Rare" designation to future cards, I believe this original set of nine will attract significant collector interest moving forward. Between their fantastic rainbow burst holographic accents, and relative attainability as a nine card collection, there should be enough long term interest to nudge the value of these cards upward.

However, if you're familiar with the "Shining" collection from the Neo expansion of 2000–2001, you may realize that the value of the cards in a unique collection depends significantly on the interest in the character featured.

That's why, among all of the iconic characters that have received "Amazing Rare" printings—from Celebi to Raikou to Kyogre—I am most interested in betting on the long term growth of Zacian as a central legendary Pokémon, and securing as many copies of this early printing as possible.

In the television show, Marnie is a gym leader who specializes in dark-type Pokémon.  Some cards featuring this character fetch up to $70 each.

In the television show, Marnie is a gym leader who specializes in dark-type Pokémon. Some cards featuring this character fetch up to $70 each.

2. Marnie—SWSH120—SWSH: Sword & Shield Promo Cards $3.50

Marnie is a character introduced in the Pokémon video game with the release of Pokémon: Sword and Shield in November of 2019. In the game, she is a rival gym leader with expertise in dark-type Pokémon.

If you are familiar with cards from Pokémon's vintage era, you would know that human characters from the anime and video game have been featured as trainer cards since Base Set. However, since Noble Victories (Released November 2011), the Pokémon company has printed full art trainer cards featuring many of its most iconic characters from the narrative world of Pokémon, driving increased interest in cards featuring these characters among enthusiasts.

N is the first character from Pokémon to be featured in a full art illustration, released in 2011 during the Black & White expansion.

N is the first character from Pokémon to be featured in a full art illustration, released in 2011 during the Black & White expansion.

At this point, you may be asking why I'm talking about full art trainer cards. Well, of Marnie's five unique printings, three are full art trainer cards. And not only are these exceptionally rare and sought after cards, fetching high sales prices, but one of them currently sells for upwards of $70, making it one of the most in-demand full art trainers currently available to the market.

Marnie Tournament Collection Box

Perhaps in response to the interest in Marnie's character among the secondary market, in August 2021, the Pokémon company released the Marnie Tournament Collection Box, which MSRP'd for $39.99, but which instantly jumped to $70–$80, where it remains even now, with demand for this product not able to meet supply.

This sealed product features seven booster packs, card sleeves featuring Marnie and Morpeko, dice/other goodies, three copies of the promo card which I am recommending investors consider picking up, and one full art promo card that currently goes for up to $40.

Therefore, presently, the only manner through which new copies of the "autographed" Marnie can be injected into the market is through opening these boxes, barring future re-releases of this product which is unlikely to occur at scale because this product was not released to promote any new sets, but simply to move packs of older sets from Sword and Shield.

And with such a low present population against demand, there will likely be sustained interest in these promos from collectors who are either unable or unwilling to acquire the Marnie Tournament Collection Box at nearly twice its recommended MSRP.

I also find the autographed promo so interesting at a price point of $3.50 due to the likelihood that it and the full art promo may be the only promo cards to feature Marnie as the central character since, eventually, the narrative world of Pokémon will continue to expand and feature new characters. Another minor feature of this card that adds to my confidence in its wide collector appeal includes its unique holographic pattern and inclusion of Morpeko in the illustration, making it the only card currently to feature Marnie with one of her Pokémon companions.

Scorbunny is a "starter" Pokémon in the same vein as Charmander, Cyndaquil, and Torchic, first debuting with Pokémon Sword and Shield.

Scorbunny is a "starter" Pokémon in the same vein as Charmander, Cyndaquil, and Torchic, first debuting with Pokémon Sword and Shield.

3. Scorbunny—Shining Fates: Shiny Vault $2.50

If you've ever watched the Pokémon anime or played the video games, you would know that every trainer begins their journey with a starting Pokémon. In the first generation series, these Pokémon were the iconic Charmander, Squirtel, and Bulbasaur.

However, with each subsequent generation of Pokémon, these starters are replaced with brand new basic Pokémon, with the latest trio featuring Scorbunny as the fire-type option.

Now, at this point, you may be scratching your head, wondering why I am recommending a card that you would expect to see printed as a common. But if you take a second look, you will notice that this particular printing of Scorbunny from Shining Fates is actually an ultra-rare, designated by the reflective silver star near the bottom left portion of the card.

In fact, it's one of a around 100 "Shiny Vault" cards featured in Hidden Fates and Shining Fates, sporting a predominantly textured holographic illustration.

Presently, cards from this collection vary wildly in value, with cards like Scorbunny currently fetching among the lowest prices and other cards going for as much as $60. Among these higher priced "Shiny Vault" cards is none other than one of the most beloved starters: Charmander.

Charmander from Hidden Fates is one of the more expensive cards from the "Shiny Vault" collection at roughly $25 per card.

Charmander from Hidden Fates is one of the more expensive cards from the "Shiny Vault" collection at roughly $25 per card.

Now, you may see where I am going by bringing up the relative expense of Charmander. Despite being printed in a set with a far smaller population of printed cards than Shining Fates, I believe that this printing of Charmander may be indicative of the future ceiling we could expect to see from Scorbunny, the only other fire-type starter featured in the "Shiny Vault" collection.

Of course, it is unlikely that Scorbunny will ever reach $25 per card due in part to the relatively higher population of these Scorbunny cards, compared to Charmander.

However, at $2.50 Scorbunny is presently among the absolute cheapest "Shiny Vault" cards, which makes it an ideal card to pick up if you believe that there may be sustained collector interest in completing the Shiny Vault set, and/or you, like me, can envision a future where collectors, with the capital and means to purchase individual cards, will remember Scorbunny, not Charmander, as one the first Pokémon they watched on tv, trained for battle in the video game, or wore on their pajamas.

Start Small and Grow Your Collection With Time

Just like a trainer from the world of Pokémon, you want to start small before venturing out there to "catch them all."

By starting with these low-cost cards, you can easily track the growth of your investment, get a feel for what it is like to acquire and protect a valuable Pokémon collection, and enjoy the experience without posing a significant risk to your wallet.

Then, if you find yourself in a position where you can start to invest more in Pokémon trading cards, you will already have the skills and knowledge you need to find great deals online or at local trade shows, strike when you feel the prices are best, and, most importantly, know when it is time to sell.

Happy collecting!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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