Shining Legends comes at an interesting time for investors paying attention to the Pokemon TCG secondary market. Old school Wizards of the Coast (WotC) ultra rares can be broken down into a few straightforward categories.
-Team Rocket’s Secret Rare Raichu (First “Ultra Rare” card)
Throughout all of the WotC time period there were fewer ultra rare variations than there are in a single modern set. But the biggest anomaly in WotC ultra rares is their divergence from the traditional wisdom “Older/Rarer=Better.” 1st Editions are more valuable than Unlimited, holo cards are more valuable than non-holo cards, and nothing is as value as 1st Edition Base Set. The logic can be applied to almost every concept in Pokemon card buying/selling. However, for the longest time, the WotC ultra rares seemed to work in reverse. Crystals were the most valuable, despite being the newest, followed by shinings and trailed by the Raichu SR.
While we don’t have print numbers to confirm it, it was often speculated that the print runs were so dramatically different for each of the set runs that the resulting scarcity of later sets was overcoming the age. I am open to this explanation but am not convinced it is the primary reason. I believe consumers have, for over a decade now, preferred the look of Crystal cards to their predecessors and were least enthralled with the secret rare Raichu which bears no unique features with which to differentiate it from a standard holo card within the same set. But even I cannot fully explain the lack of interest in shining cards. They have always commanded abysmal prices relative to the 1st edition holos before them and the crystal cards after them. It wasn’t until as recent as 2014 that they gained any traction and it was 2015 before a PSA 9 copy earned more than a NM+ ungraded copy.
Why am I rambling about old WotC shinings in a Shining Legends set review?
It’s hardly a secret that the new shinings pay homage to the WotC classics. That’s fantastic as a collector as we see old concepts from popular sets reproduced in unique ways. But as an investor, I have to proceed with the caution that is due to the type. If you bought a fat stack of PSA 10 1st Edition Shining Charizards in 2014, you made a haul and did incredibly well for yourself. But if you bought mint Shining Charizards in 2002, you made a significantly worse investment given the other options available at the time. I’m going to spit my Pokemon investing catchphrase at you again:
The question is not whether something is a good investment. The question is if it is the best investment.
So what do I make of Shining Legends? I’m cautious. We have a lot of unknowns at this point in time. We do not know how long the set will be produced. We do not know how many different products the Pokemon Company is going to shoehorn Shining Legends packs into. We still are not certain on pull rates for all of the cards, though we can narrow down the shinings to roughly 1 in 15 packs and the SR Mewtwo GX is seemingly less than 1 in 100 packs. And with such a long history of difficulty for WotC shining values, I question whether the nostalgic connection the buying generations have to the Neo sets is strong enough to carry a modern print run and clean it out of store shelves/secondary market outlets (the necessary prerequisite to significant value increases).
Now that we’ve covered my caution, I’ll get to the cards that I am still keeping my eye on. I don’t think the whole set is a dud and I do believe there will be sufficient interest/low enough print runs to carry a few cards and poise them for solid growth in the future.
1) Shining Mew
The Japanese Shining Mew is one of the most popular shinings to have been produced despite its complete lack of scarcity to this date and massive print run for the time. People have never been able to get enough of this card. The whimsical, blue Mew looks great and the holo effect is a nostalgic sin but the popularity of the card has always outpaced even the most eager estimates made by well-known collectors with their fingers on the pulse of the market.
In the same way that the disappointing levels of interest in shinings makes me approach the set as whole cautiously, the market pull of the old Japanese shining mew gives me confidence in the popularity of the Shining Legends iteration. And even though English copies of the card are blowing Japanese copy values out of the water with the Pokemon Center direct-purchase early release, I’m still favoring the Japanese version for its artwork. The English copy will almost certainly hold more value in the long-game, as English set cards pretty much always do, but my collection couldn’t ignore the Japanese silver border for its work in complementing mew’s shining effect.
2) Mewtwo GX Secret Rare
Wow. This card looks incredible. And that’s always a good sign. There are very few cards in the game that are stunning in and of themselves (Sunset Mew comes to mind), but this is definitely one of those cards. Anyone who enjoyed the original movies is going to be interested in possessing the first card to actively refer to the origin of the Pokemon itself. The cyberpunk vibe proves that Mewtwo was stylistically ahead of its time. To boot, the card has the scarcity that it needs to do well. We don’t know exact numbers, as I mentioned above, but the early release did not result in a flood of cards to the market and buyers are proving less tepid with this gem than they have been with other cards in recent years.
Ultimately, I believe this will be a stand-out card in the long run and I look forward to purchasing a copy for myself. The difficulty of obtaining packs at a low cost with these fifth-set releases will help the value and keep too many copies from going straight to large stores. If Generations can do decently despite its volume and fad-like market splash, Shining Legends looks to really capitalize on the market circumstances.
Final Opinion: Be Selective
I’m a full set skeptic. I never recommend buying full sets as I don’t believe very many people are interested in them. Shining Legends is going to get the same treatment from me. Even for full sets of the shinings we are going to see more interest in the first couple of months than we are ever going to see in the future. I will probably pick up one or two of each shining just to hedge my bet but I’m reserving most of my money for singles of the two cards I have listed above.
This is also the first set that I’m going to be setting a little sealed product aside for since Generations. The success of Generations ETBs for me (200% growth in 6 months? Yes please) has me convinced that the ETBs are going to be the sealed product of choice for people looking to bust packs in the future for these sets without standard booster box/booster pack releases. I have tame expectations for them and do not recommend buying them at MSRP as an investment. Nevertheless, it is worth the small risk to buy a case of 10 ETBs in the $330 range, give or take, to me in the event they do take off. If nothing else, sealed product trades extremely well. And I’m doing everything I can to avoid the risk opening the product myself holds with a return to poor centering and low-tier production quality, as I noted in the collector’s review.
‘til next time,