How To: Value Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic, and Other Trading Cards

Are my Pokemon Cards Worth Anything?

By Brent Gourley

March 8, 2020

[Note: If you are wanting to have someone appraise your cards, click here]


Like many other collectibles, trading cards have a value that is determined by what people are willing to pay. Figuring that out can be very difficult for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason, and the likely reason you are here, is because it is hard to know where to begin and what is even worth looking up. So to get you started, I will tell you what you need to do to appraise your cards. This includes determining the condition of your cards; assessing whether a card is worth appraising; and, finally, what the card is worth.

Assessing Condition of Cards

So let's start with assessing the condition of your cards. This is very important because the value can be heavily influenced by a cards condition. For instance, as of March 8, 2022, the value of a Base Set Charizard in Near Mint condition is about $275. However, that drops to about $200 in Light Played condition. The slightest difference in condition can significantly decrease the value of the card. That being said, how exactly do you assess condition?

There are several guides available to determine condition and many people have differing opinions on a cards condition. For the most part, everyone agrees with the following determination for grading...

  • Near Mint – Very few minor imperfections if any. This can include tiny white spots on cards or minor, hard to see scuff marks from shuffling.

  • Light Played – Border or corner wear, and scuffs or scratches are acceptable as long as it is not excessive. You should only see a few of these minor imperfections and there should be no bends or rips.

  • Moderate Played – In my experience, this is the most common condition for improperly stored cards that have been left in binders. Moderate Played cards can have creases that are noticeable, but the card maintains structural integrity. The card may also have a moderate amount of scratches, scuffs, and/or whitening.

  • Heavy Played – Cards in Heavy Played condition have major wear, creases, bends, whitening, and structural integrity issues. The only difference between Heavy Played and Damaged is that a Heavy Played card is still be playable if sleeved.

  • Damaged – Damaged cards are significantly worn to the points that they are no longer viable for competitive play. There may be parts of the card missing or the card is too flimsy. If a card has water damage or has gunk stuck to it, it is considered damaged. Note, if your card has food or any other substance stuck to it, most people will consider the card worthless or undesirable.

(Note: Many of the details about card conditions came from TCG Player)

Removing Bulk for Faster Appraisal

With the condition of your cards in mind, it is now time to determine if the cards are worth appraising. Just because your cards are in perfect or near perfect condition does not necessarily guarantee value. Rarity is sometimes a factor, but not always. Commons and Uncommons can sometimes be valuable if they are desired vintage cards or if they are very usable in competitive play. The problem is you can't just look at a card and know that it is desirable or usable in competitive play unless you are already well knowledgeable about the cards. However, you can narrow down how many cards you have to look up by removing the bulk.

Bulk cards are not worth very much. Most card shops will give you what is known as a bulk rate for them. Bulk rates change based on market demands and the card shop's current supply. Typically, that rate is between 2 and 5 cents for Pokemon and 0.2 and 2 cents for Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic. A card will typically fall into the bulk category if it meets any of the following criteria...

  • Any common cards with very few exceptions. Commons can be identified with certain characteristics. Pokemon cards have a solid black dot on the bottom corner (diamond for uncommon, star for rare, foil star for ultra rare). Yu-Gi-Oh commons are all non-holos. Magic commons have a black set symbol (silver for uncommon, gold for rare, red for mythic).

  • Any newer cards in damaged or heavy played condition that are not mythic or ultra rare.

  • Basic Energy cards (Pokemon) or Basic Land cards (Magic).

Removing bulk based on that list may significantly reduce how many cards you have to look up. However, you may still have cards valued under $1. You can use apps like the one from TCG Player to scan cards and it will give you an approximate value.

How to Value Your Cards

You can use the value from the TCG Player app to appraise your cards, but if you want more accuracy, I recommend a little bit more research. My preferred method depends on the value that TCG Player came up with. Under $10, I will click through on TCG Player to see all on the listings for that card. Then I will go to filter and select the condition of my card. Most of the time, that price is an accurate price for the card.

Now, for the cards $10 and over, I typically look those up on eBay. To appraise cards on eBay, look at the sold listings. Active listings are not always reliable. When looking at sold listings, look at several cards in similar condition to yours. You will want to look at a few sold listings for reference. There are a lot of items on the sold list that were won in auction and not paid for. There is an issue with people going on eBay and either bidding very high on cards or creating eBay listings and buying the item with another account. They do this to try and manipulate the market by claiming the cards are more valuable than they actually are. So to try and assess value, you should look at the lower sold prices.

Unfortunately for those who are not familiar with any of the trading card games, it may be very difficult to know what your cards are worth. The above information should be helpful. However, if you are still unsure, check with your local card shops and see if they offer appraisals and how much it costs to get an appraisal. If you are in the Dayton, Ohio area, you can click here for information on getting an appraisal.

Disclaimer - The above guide is not a substitute for a professional appraisal. It is, however, a generalization of the method that I have developed in my 9 years of running a card shop.

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