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Finding Values in a Changing Market

Unless your head is planted firmly in the ground, you might have noticed that Pokemon had some market growth recently. The rapid expansion of the collector and player base in the hobby has shaken a lot of ground that sat dormant for years. I blame Whiscash.

Overall, this is great news. More people buying means more sales, more liquidity in investments that used to sit for a long time, and more attention from The Pokemon Company. And let's be honest: any knowledgeable collector that was paying attention between 2006 and 2012 had a lot of reasons to believe The Pokemon Company would rather cut its own head off than listen to advice on what its own collectors actually wanted.

All of this change also means it can be difficult to find values on pokemon collectables. This isn’t always the case. Anything you’re pulling from packs is probably accessible on eBay sold listings, Ludkins marketplace, or a similar reliable pricing outlet. But what do you do with uncut sheets? Trophy cards? Sub-100 copy promos? PSA graded cards? Knowledgeable people only have so many hours in their day and they aren’t likely available to price out everything for you unless you’re willing to pay them generously by the hour for their hard-earned expertise.

I’m going to give a handful of different ways you can price items. You may have to try more than one of these methods. You might have to try all of them. In the end, being lazy isn’t going to get you anywhere anyway so don’t be afraid to do your homework on any item of particular value. These are the methods the pros use:

1) Feel it out with high list prices and an offers option.

“Something is only as valuable as what people are willing to pay.” I’m so tired of hearing this trope disguised as advice. My stomach churns every time I see a random person on the internet spouting it as wisdom. But it isn’t totally false so let’s acknowledge it up front. There is nothing to lose by putting something up online for a price you’re comfortable at. In reality, if you couldn’t be happy selling it for a lower price anyway, you shouldn’t even have the best offer option. For one-off items that require that “right buyer,” putting a conservatively high BIN with offers creates the best potential for back and forth conversation resulting in a satisfying deal.

2) Look for similarities to other sold items

Maybe you can’t find a sold listing for your base set uncut sheet. You can, however, find a Kangaskhan/Vaporeon holo uncut sheet. It can be reasonably assumed that Base Set memorabilia is going to command a premium over later Wizards of the Coast Pokemon TCG sets so you price it 50% higher and open your listing to offers. This is not a bad method and can help you with buying as well as selling. There are very few items in the hobby universe that dramatically diverge from common themes in pricing. Being knowledgeable will help guide you.

3) Be patient

With niche, expensive items, a seller has to be willing to commit the time to them that they require. Not giving sufficient time to a particular item is the number one way to undersell it. With more common cards like an unlimited Base Set Blastoise, sitting for two years on eBay unsold is likely an indicator that the item is overpriced. If you’re sitting for two years on a PSA 10 Championship Arena, you’re participating in standard procedure for such a sale. Do not be afraid to wait out the market if you’re not content with the offers you’re getting. You’ll either get to keep the collectable you wanted more than the offer prices or, eventually, someone will decide they’re willing to meet you at the price you have to have.

4) Don’t be afraid to pay a professional

This is a difficult piece of advice to write because it has a lot of challenges. Identifying someone worth paying to help you with your items can be challenging. You should be skeptical of people who are just popular. A great personality has nothing to do with market knowledge. At the same time, if you notice someone with similar items consistently selling, offering to buy a little bit of their time for advice is likely to be well-received and met with more value than you’re paying out in the first place. If I had even $5 for every time someone asked me for pricing advice on their cards I’d be sitting on some nicer collectibles. No one wants to have to say no when they’re asked for advice but the practical constraints of a demanding field might force us to. When you offer to respect the “time is money” barrier, you signify that you’re serious about valuing what you have and understand that you’ll have to put real work into moving the item(s) for the best possible price.

If all else fails, set the price yourself.

I wish there were an easy answer. Guides and market trackers are great for common cards that sell every day but truly rare items have no magic solution. If following the steps above isn’t getting you to a place where you’re comfortable enough to sell the item, just name your price. The worst people can say is no. And if you sell it, we have new precedence to work with as a community. The secrecy of private sales prevents a lot of convenient pricing information from being available, so those limited to public avenues of marketing may become frustrated when the only sales that can be tracked back to people are met with “I cannot disclose the sale price.” And while it might be a nice dream to have every price available at our fingertips, as technology so often prepares us to expect, the experience that comes with figuring out prices is valuable in itself as a way of making you a better collector, seller, buyer, and analyst.

‘til next time,

Charlie Hurlocker