Yup, that's right! PSA does not grade 3 out of the 10 Snap Pokemon cards.
Snap cards are incredibly rare Japanese cards--only twenty of each made. There are ten variants in total that span over two competitions. Remember the Nintendo 64 Pokemon Snap game? If not, you may be slightly younger than the rest of us, or you may have a memory like a goldfish. Either way, you can find more information here.
In 1999, the Japanese CoroCoro comic held a "Best Photo" competition where individuals could take their best in-game "Pokemon Snaps" and submit them, hoping to be deemed the best. That very same month, the TV Tokyo variety show 64 Mario Stadium did the same. As their prize, the winning contestants (just ten of them) were awarded twenty Pokemon cards each with their winning image printed on them. Since then, the cards have become incredibly difficult to find and obtain due to the lack of public knowledge about them, short print runs funneled entirely and directly to the individual winners, and Japanese cultural tendencies to not sell awards.
Over the years, you may have heard Pokemon collectors refer to a particular book dubbed the "The Silver Bible." The Silver Bible is an Official Pokemon book that contains every Japanese card and product from 1996 to 2000.
In this book, you'll find one of the only official references to the Pokemon Snap cards. Below is an image of all ten.
These images have been scanned and placed all over the internet, but most importantly they've been implemented on Bulbapedia. Newbies and collectors within the hobby use Bulbapedia to seek information about Pokemon cards both old and new. The problem occurs when Bulbapedia's information is wrong. But it's hard to blame them as their images are scanned from the primary source (Official Pokemon Book), which was incorrect in the first place. Let's take a look.
Below are two images: the first one is a card in hand and the second is from the official Pokemon book.
Aside from a difference in lighting, can you spot the difference? If you didn't, that's okay. Take a look down the bottom right-hand border of the cards. The real copy has Japanese writing and the one in the book does not. Regardless of this discrepancy, I shipped the card to PSA and eagerly awaited the grade.
The result was N9, which means "items we do not grade due to being an obscure issue or not fitting in our holders." I called PSA to find out what was going on; was it fake? Surely not. I've dealt with thousands of Japanese cards and PSA did not send the dreaded grade of N4: questionable authenticity.
The Charmander Snap Card is one of the world's rarest cards, so what was the problem? The problem was this: due to the card being so rare, PSA simply did not have enough information on what they called a "variant" of the card. I immediately went to The Silver Bible for an answer. In there, I noticed that Squirtle, Articuno and Charmander did not feature any writing in the bottom right corner, but the other seven variants did.
Now I was on a hunt for them; I had to prove that the book was wrong. I contacted everyone I knew who could help. I managed to track six of the ten variants down with images except for Magikarp and... you guessed it: the Squirtle, Articuno and Charmander.
Months went by, and cash offers were still coming in for the Charmander, but I wanted to wait until I found one of the cards in question (with or without writing) before selling it. Thankfully, luck struck and a person contacted me inquiring about the Charmander and what grade it received. I explained what had happened and that I was desperately looking for the other three variants.
Lo and behold!
There it was, the beautiful Squirtle--which I don't think has been in the public eye until now. Don't worry; I asked their permission to display it. After six months of hunting these cards down, I'm finally able to prove that the Pokemon book is wrong. Not so "holy" after all. However, I'm not the High Sparrow, and there was no malice or intent to shame the book; the primary objective has always been to gain further insight into the rare and obscure Snap cards. That knowledge, in turn, helps the hobby and community for the years to come.
Before January 2017, I had not seen a Snap card in person before. That very same month, I obtained the Charmander for grading and a Poliwag! Two of the rarest cards in the world in the same month. The Charmander led me on a six-month journey, but the Poliwag (with writing in the corner, might I add) found its way to being the only PSA 10 Snap card on the planet.
Me (left) and a happy Giovanni's Mew (right).
I'd like to thank everyone who was involved in my endeavor because we finally found the answer: PSA still will not grade the Charmander. I hope they will grade it in the future, although that seems unlikely. After finding the Squirtle, I can finally list the Charmander for sale. Here it is--exclusively on the LC Marketplace.
By Barney Ludkins