What Are Pokémon Cards | Pokémon TCG Explained

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Before we examine what Pokemon cards are and how they came to be, we need to first understand just what Pokémon is.

What is Pokémon?

Pokémon is a short form for “pocket monsters”, and there are hundreds of Pokémon in the Pokémon universe and many more waiting to be discovered.

Created by Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures, Pokémon is a Japanese franchise that has been around for more than 20 years spanning several media outlets.

The Pokémons themselves are amazing creatures of different shapes, sizes, and capabilities who live in the wild or alongside their human partners (called “Trainers”).

Pokémon exists as a TV show, a trading card game, video games, and toys, and has become one of the most famous franchises in the world

History Of The Pokémon Cards

The first Pokémon card pack was released on October 20, 1996, and contained 102 cards. By 1999 it had increased in popularity and was being shipped into North America and the rest of the world.

This was made possible by a series of events. In 1997 Pokémon was turned into an animated TV series in Japan with the storyline of a young trainer on a journey to become a Pokémon master.

A year after the first Pokémon TV series dropped, a movie hit cinemas in Japan, and it was a huge success also.

Then there were Pokémon card tournaments springing up from different corners where players could battle it out to win a championship, and helped to further popularize the franchise.

What Are Pokémon Trading Cards?

The Pokémon Trading Card game (TCG) is a 2 player game that uses a 60-card deck to play a winning battle. It is a great form of entertainment for children and adults alike.

It involves building decks around special Pokémon characters and taking turns in attacking your opponent or defending against your opponent.

You can either build your deck from scratch or start with any of the theme decks. Winning the game requires strategy, planning, and sometimes luck.

With new sets of cards (expansions) being released each year, the TCG continues to evolve and expand for both players and collectors, making the game stay super interesting.

How Many Cards Are There?

There are over 9000 unique English language cards and over 6000 unique Japanese cards. All of these are in specific sets, with 98 card sets released in America and 91 in Japan, including special sets.

Types of Pokémon Cards

There are three different categories of Pokémon Trading Cards you’ll find in the Pokémon universe.

1. The Character Cards:

There are different Pokémon character types, from fire, water, dragon, or psychic (there are about eleven in the TCG). Each of these cards also indicates how ‘powerful or evolved’ the character is.

2.  The Energy Cards

These cards are necessary for powering up the Pokémon throughout the game. There are basic and special energy booster cards depending on your type of Pokémon.

3. The Trainer’s Card

These cards are used to wield other necessary things you need during each battle from supporters, to the stadium, and battle items. The rule of use for these cards is indicated at the bottom of each of them.

What People Do With Pokémon Cards

There is a whole lot you can do with the Pokémon cards.

You can trade it with other players for the cards you want or sell them online. This is one of the most popular uses of Pokémon cards.

People collect these cards as a special hobby or to keep them and sell them at a later date when the price has increased.

The cards are also used to play the Pokémon game as a fun way of relaxation and learning.

Where Do People Buy Pokémon Cards?

You can easily get Pokémon cards from your neighborhood Pokémon store or any other card shop around you.

If no store nearby sells Pokémon cards, you can get the latest releases on major online retail stores and special trading sites online.

Special Pokémon trading sites will be very helpful if you are looking at getting some kind of specific rare or new Pokémon cards.

Here is a list of online sites where you can easily buy Pokémon cards:

1. Amazon ( www.amazon.com )

Amazon would provide you with a variety of PTC you can buy from.

2. eBay ( www.ebay.com )

You can easily get a wide variety of specific Pokémon cards for purchase from thousands of retailers who put them up for sale on eBay.

3. Invasiontoys  ( www.invasiontoys.com )

Invasion toys provide you with a list of unique card products and online card codes.

4. Dicebreaker( www.dicebreaker.com )

This is a well-detailed site where you can easily purchase a PTC and also the Pokémon Universe accessories.

5. Gamenerdz( www.gamenerdz.com )

There are multiple trading card games you can buy here. As far as card types go, you can choose from booster packs, booster boxes, card tins, singles, and more. You can also buy trading card accessories such as deck boxes or card sleeves.

6. Card Cavern Trading Cards ( www.cardcaverntradingcards.com )

On Card Cavern, you can find card products such as Pokemon, Final Fantasy, and Weiss Schwarz cards.  You can also find Pokemon Trading Card Game Online codes to use in the game.

7. TCGPlayer ( www.tcgplayer.com )

TCGPlayer is a popular site for anything trading card-related.  You can get anything from Dragon Ball Super, Flesh and Blood, and our beloved Pokémon.

8. Pokémon ( www.pokemon.com )

There is a huge amount of offerings for Pokemon cards, games, apps, and animation on this site, from some of the first base sets to the latest editions.

9. Troll and Toad ( www.trollandtoad.com )

Troll and Toad has a wide selection of Pokémon cards in stock at all times. They offer affordable prices, great selections, and an awesome shopping experience.

10. Untapped Games.( www.untappedgames.com )

Here you can find single cards, sealed cards, and supplies to protect and display your cards. Prices may not be too affordable but you are sure to find some super awesome collections here.

Where to buy valuable Pokémon cards

While most people are only interested in a collection of Pokémon cards they can play with, some people are mostly interested in collecting the rarest Pokémon cards they can lay their hands on.

This might be because they are just interested in collecting rare cards or building a set deck, or they are hoping to collect these cards in hope that the card might rise in value significantly over time.

Knowing where to get such cards is important so that you do not get scammed or purchase the card at a hiked price.

The most expensive and rarest cards are mostly sold via auction, to reflect their extreme rarity and value.

They are graded by experts to guarantee their authenticity and condition, providing a level of comfort and reassurance for buyers that they are bidding on the real thing.

Auction houses such as PWCC and Goldin often hold auctions for trading cards including Pokémon cards, and also have dedicated eBay pages that see cards go under the hammer online.

How To Play Pokémon TCG

The amazing Pokémon trading card game is super fun and can be played by people of all ages. Learning to play the game is also easy too, from picking up the basic rules of attacking and status effects to getting to understand how evolutions work.

Here is everything you need to know to play the Pokémon TCG well and win, whether you are casually playing with a friend or competing in an official play;

Firstly, to understand the game, you have to understand its objective and what you are supposed to do. 

How To Start:

The game’s objective is to use a deck of cards to battle by taking turns using attacks and abilities to defeat your opponent. Two players play at a time, each with a deck of 60 cards.

● The Outline

A player shuffles the deck, while another player draws a hand of seven cards and the top six cards are set aside as the prize card.

A player adds one of the cards to his hand if he defeats the opponent’s Pokémon. The player who claims all six first claims the victory.

A coin is also tossed to see which player goes first and while a player can have a total of six Pokémon in play at once, only one – the active Pokémon – can perform attacks during each turn; they are called the active card.

The rest remain behind the active Pokémon card in wait to battle against your opponent. This row of cards is called the Bench.

Both active Pokémon and benched Pokémon cards can be evolved and have energy attached to them. You lose when you have no remaining Pokémon card in your field to replace your active card.

● Taking Turns

When each turn begins, an active player will draw a card from the top of their deck and if he runs out of cards, he loses.

At each player’s second phase, you can do any and all of the following:

I. Play any number of basic Pokémon from your hand to your bench.

II. Attach one (and only one) energy card to a Pokémon from your hand. This can be your active Pokémon or a Pokémon on your bench.

III. Evolve a Pokémon by playing a Stage 1 or Stage 2 evolution on top of a basic or Stage 1 Pokémon, respectively. A Pokémon can’t evolve the same turn it’s played, and can only evolve once per turn. (Unless an item card like Rare Candy specifies otherwise.)

IV. Play any number of item cards.

V. Play any number of trainer cards. (Except supporter and stadium cards, which only let you play one per turn.)

VI. Retreat your active Pokémon to your bench by paying the retreat cost on its card in energy from your hand. You must then replace it with a Pokémon from your bench.

VII. Use any number of abilities on Pokémon

● Evolving Your Cards

You can evolve your basic Pokémon to Stage 1 and Stage 2 power Pokémon, equipping it with more ability to knock out your opponent.

This is done in stages, from stage 1 to stage 2, and each Pokémon card can only evolve once. The only exceptions are GX and EX Pokémon, which may be played straight away and do not require evolution.

You evolve a Pokémon by placing the evolved form on top of your active or benched Pokémon.

Evolution cures any special conditions, but does not allow you to use any previous ability or skill, only the present evolution ability. You can use evolution to strengthen your formation and strategy.

● Attack and Damage

Your active Pokémon can attack your opponent with the attack ability listed in the card, as long as the correct amount and type of energy is attached to the card. (The energy isn’t discarded unless specified.)

The damage each attack causes is assigned to the opponent’s active Pokémon card till it receives enough damage counters for defeat.

Once defeated, your opponent replaces the active card with another from the bench (if there are no Pokémon to replace it, the player loses).

Once you’ve attacked and assigned any damage and/or status effects, your turn ends and it’s your opponent’s go. The game repeats like this until one player wins!

● Pokémon Status Card Conditions

There are special conditions that can be utilized in the Pokémon Trading card games to help give you an extra advantage if used properly.

They include: Asleep, Burned, Confused, Paralyzed and Poisoned, and the positions of the cards are used to signify it.

Turning the Pokémon card counterclockwise signifies ‘Asleep’, upside-down signifies ‘Confused’ , clockwise signifies ‘Paralyzed’, putting a special token on the card signifies ‘Burned or Poisoned’.

In the case of multiple special conditions, the most recent condition is the only one applied.

Here are the  application of each conditions;


The 90 degrees counterclockwise position is used to show this status condition. In this condition the Pokémon can’t attack or retreat, a player would have to flip a coin to head to wake the Pokémon.


The 90 degrees clockwise position is used to show this status condition. In this condition, it can’t attack or retreat on the player’s next turn. Rotating the card at the end of a player’s next turn automatically cures paralysis.


The Pokémon card receives a burned token to show this status condition. A burned Pokémon card gets two damage counters (20 HP) at the end of each turn. Flipping a coin to the head will cure a burn.


A 180 degree rotation (making it upside-down) shows this condition. It is used to indicate the attack state of a Pokémon card. You flip a coin to attack with a confused Pokémon, On heads effects a normal attack, On tails, the attack fails and the Pokémon suffers three damage counters (30 HP).


A poisoned Pokémon suffers one damage counter (10 HP) at the end of each turn.

You can effectively cure a special condition by evolving a Pokémon or retreating it to the bench.(Remember that asleep and paralyzed Pokémon can’t retreat!)

● Winning

Winning is easy

Win by Knockout

Knock out six of your opponent’s Pokémon and collect all prize cards. Each time you defeat a Pokémon controlled by your opponent you claim one of the six prize cards. When you claim all six, you win.

Win by No card

Defeat your opponent’s active Pokémon, until they have no replacement from their bench, then you can also claim victory.

Is It For Kids Or Adults?

Although the packaging appears to reflect that it is mostly suitable for the younger age range, the game is designed to be played by anyone.

The Pokémon game has been systematically simplified enough so anyone can play. Many Pokémon TCG players are adults.

What Are Pokémon Cards Worth?

The value of a Pokémon card can fluctuate greatly due to several reasons ranging from the market, expert grading, and the condition or rarity of the card.

There are rare and common cards. A marker near the bottom of the card or its name will indicate rarity: a circle means the card is common, a diamond means it’s less common, and stars indicate that the card is very rare.

Over the years, Pokémon cards have been sold for around $195k to $200k. This shows that these cards, depending on their type, can be worth a fortune.

What is The Most Valuable Pokémon Card?

The most valuable Pokémon card without a doubt is the elusive Pikachu Illustrator card which sold for $5.275 million in July 2021.

A YouTuber named Logan Paul bought the Illustrator in exchange for a PSA 9 version of the same card, said to be worth $1,275,000, plus an additional $4 million.

A PSA grade of 10 means the card was in perfect condition. There is only one known PSA grade 10 Pikachu Illustrator card in the world, according to Guinness.

Why Are Pokémon Cards So Valuable?

There are many reasons why Pokémon cards are so valuable and often sell for very ridiculous prices.

● Most Pokémon Cards Are Rare:

Some Pokémon cards are incredibly rare to acquire (just imagine finding one of the first set Charizard or any card from the Jungle booster series).

It comes to a simple explanation of rarity, demand, and supply, where the lower the supply, the more valuable it is.

● Players rationale:

If players are super hyped about a certain character card, it automatically increases its value.

For example, Cynthia goes for around 80US for her FA. Her value is inflated purely because she is the best supporter that is playable right now.

● Age:

This is another factor that influences the value of some of the cards. Although some newer ones like full art Zekrom from the first Black are also rare and expensive as well, people would favor an older card because it is somewhat harder to come by.

● Condition:

Another factor that influences the value of a card is the condition that it is in. A card with a PSA of 9 will definitely be of more value than a card with a lower PSA.