The enduring popularity of the Pokemon Trading Card Game has led to some rare cards fetching high prices on the secondary market. In 2013, a very rare Japanese card went on sale for $100,000. However, such ultra-valuable cards are the exception. In order to discover how much Pokemon cards are worth, you'll need to consider several factors.
Identify the Card
In order to determine the value of a Pokemon card, you'll need to know exactly which card you're dealing with. On the right side of the card -- either about halfway down or in the bottom right-hand corner -- is a symbol identifying the card's set. See the Resources section for a list of set symbols. A number at the bottom right indicates the "collection number." For instance, a card might have a collection number of 2/62, meaning that it is the second of 62 cards in a set. Once you know the set and collection number, you have a unique identifier for your card.
Evaluate the Card
A card's value is based on its condition, rarity and effect in game terms. Valuable cards are often "graded" for quality by professionals, but for most cards this shouldn't be necessary. Simply look at the card: Are its corners bent, or is it creased or wavy? If it's free from these defects, it should maintain much of its value. Cards in poor condition have almost no resale value unless they are extremely rare. Card rarity is also important: Look for the rarity symbol near the bottom right corner of the card. A black circle indicates a Common card. Uncommon cards have a diamond symbol, while Rare cards have a star. The higher the rarity, the greater the value.
Check Price Guides
Even a card's rarity and condition aren't enough to know its full value. Cards that are particularly useful in the game are worth more. As a result, older cards tend to be worth less than newer ones, unless they're from one of the very earliest sets. Price guides such as the Beckett online Pokemon Price Guide can be useful to give you an idea of relative value. However, cards on the open market can often go for much less than their list values.
Check the Market
Looking at online auctions is probably the best way to determine the actual value of a card. Don't judge by posted prices, which are often optimistic; search for completed listings and look at the prices cards have actually sold for. Don't be surprised if they vary quite a lot. Online Pokemon forums often also have sale and trade sections. The experienced collectors in these communities can give you a rough idea of the value of a card.
Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.