The collectible trading card market has been heating up, and Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards have been gaining a lot of traction in the space of late. Collectors and investors are watching their collections of these cards pick up momentum, with valuations reaching new levels as the audience for the game gains new followers. The Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game was launched in 1999 in Japan and reached North American in 2002 with the release of the first set, Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
While breaking the Guinness World Record of having over 22 billion cards worldwide by 2009, buyers should have an understanding of supply and demand and how to appraise cards before they make any purchases.
Three main factors apply when trying to determine the value of a Yu-Gi-Oh! card. Understanding the rarity of the card (population) is the most important thing to consider. Each pack has a different subset of rarities. Generally speaking the more foiling or holographic highlights the card has, the rarer the card is.
For more specific information on Yu-Gi-Oh! Rarities see here.
In any given pack there are going to be cards that are more common and less likely to carry significant value.
The condition will also have a significant impact on the overall value of the card. As a general rule of thumb, the older the card, based on when the card was printed, the lower the population of top graded cards in the market. A more detailed discussion on conditions is provided below.
Scarcity, while the last of the 3 main drivers of value in a Yu-Gi-Oh! card, is often the most important. For example, a Beckett (BGS) 4.5 of the 1st Edition “Blue-Eyes White Dragon” from the 2002 Legend of Blue Eyes set sold in May of 2021 for $5500.
When collecting Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, it is important to understand the difference between raw and graded cards.
“Raw” means that the card is loose and has not been officially authenticated and graded by a company like PSA, BGS, or SGC on a scale of 1-10 based on its condition. The risk is much higher for raw cards, but if you find one in great shape, the upside can be much greater than buying a graded card. Cards that are already graded command a premium on the open market as you know exactly what you are buying.
With a raw card, the same conditions apply for determining how valuable that specific card is worth relative to the population of those cards made. The four main factors to look out for when buying a raw card include centering, surface, corners, and edges.
Certain Yu-Gi-Oh! cards have more value because they are just harder to come by. The first main set of the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards, the Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon is a scarce set, and top conditions of those cards are becoming more and more scarce.
Given that Yu-Gi-Oh! is a trading card game, players actually need to use their cards in matches at their friend’s house or local game stores. When playing with cards, trading them, or just transporting them, inevitably they can get damaged. Each time a card gets damaged, a mint copy of that card becomes more scarce.
Yu-Gi-Oh! has had many other avenues for releasing cards, including prize cards for their special Shonen Jump and Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series tournaments. Many of these tournaments had thousands of participants, and only the top 1-3 players received cards. In any given year, as few as a couple hundred of these cards were produced and released to the public via prizing for the top competitors.
Finding your collection of Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards that were stored in your parents’ basement is one of the ways many collectors are finding their way back to the game. When trying to figure out a card’s value, make sure to follow these steps:
Step 1: Look at the name of the card on the very top, note that many cards have very similar names.
Step 2: Find the set the card belongs to. The set has a 3-4 letter abbreviation followed typically by letters and/or numbers. For example LOB-000 or DLCS-EN137.
Step 3: Determine if the card is 1st edition or limited edition (typically in the same line as the set numbering or at the bottom of the card). If there is no 1st Edition or Limited Edition on the card, it is an unlimited version.
After figuring out exactly which cards you have, you can search for their values on eBay by searching for the card and filtering the results by “sold items”, which will give you a range of what similar examples have recently sold for.
- This was the first set released in North America. As the name of the set, the 1st edition Blue-Eyes White Dragon is one of the most coveted cards in the game with a recent sale of $55,100.
- Print run on this was limited as the game was just beginning, and collector demand for these cards continues to grow.
- Print runs of these come in “Wavy” or “Glossy” holographics. Wavy was the first print run as even more rare than glossy. These are a huge target for high-end collectors.
- Though “unlimited” prints of the Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon have some value, the valuations fluctuate when more packs are released into the marketplace.
- These were the very first set of local tournament store participation packs. The first pack came out in November of 2006, with the last one of the series (Champion pack 8) coming out in January 2015.
- The packs contained two common cards and one “rare,” “super rare,” or “ultra-rare.” These cards were very popular at the time but typically weren’t held as an investment, resulting in a low population of near-mint copies.
- Due to a popular, player-formed version of an older “format” of Yu-Gi-Oh! (Goat format), a lot of these Champion Pack cards have increased in value immensely. For example, Metamorphosis (CP01-EN003) from the very first Champion Pack is now selling for as much as $2,000.
- Video games for Yu-Gi-Oh! came with a pack of 3 promo cards that had a special kind of prismatic secret rare foiling that was unique to the promos. Dark Duel Stories is one of the holy grails in Yu-Gi-Oh! collecting.
- This game was released for the Nintendo GameBoy in March of 2002 and came in two separate runs. The first run contained three promos–Blue-Eyes White Dragon, Dark Magician, and Exodia the Forbidden One. The second run contained Seiyaryu, Acid Trap Hole, and Salamandra.
- Raw examples of Blue-Eyes White Dragon (DDS-001) currently sell for as much as $3,500-5,000
- Raw examples of Dark Magician (DDS-002) currently sell for as much as $1,500-$3,000.
- Raw examples of Exodia the Forbidden One (DDS-003) currently sell for as much as $500-$1,000.
- There are currently none of these sealed games with the original three promos on eBay, but in a recent auction, a graded one (WATA 9.6) sold for $21,334.
- A sealed example of the second run sells as much as $1,500-$2,000.
- Booster boxes (excluding a few sets) were released as 1st Edition and had reprint boxes that were called “Unlimited”. This inevitably caused a scarcity in sealed 1st Edition boxes. This scarcity became much more impactful when Konami announced that booster boxes would no longer contain “Ultimate” or “Ghost Rare” cards.
- The value of booster boxes depends on the particular cards you could get inside them, not just their age. “Strike of Neos” came out in February of 2007 and is currently being sold for around $3,000 on eBay for a sealed 1st Edition box, whereas “Rise of Destiny”–which came out in December of 2004–only goes for around $1,500 for a 1st Edition box.
- The collectible value of booster boxes is only increasing over time as I find them to be the most aesthetically pleasing thing to collect. Yu-Gi-Oh! always released boxes in a certain color scheme and the card in front always represented the most impactful card in the set from the Anime itself.
- Retro Pack 1 came out in July 2008 with Retro Pack 2 coming out in July 2009. Retro pack 1 came in mini boxes containing 3 booster packs, while Retro Pack 2 came in the same kind of mini box but also had a blister pack (3 packs and 1 promo card).The promo card varied between the North American run and the European run.
- Excluding LOB, the Retro Packs may be the most challenging product to find sealed.
- Retro Pack 1 mini-boxes sell for about $1,500, while a sealed case of Retro Pack 2 mini-boxes is currently listed for $30,000! There is one listing for the blister pack asking for $1,000. These items are so hard to come across and contain some of the most expensive collectible cards in the game within them. A Cyber Harpie Lady PSA 8 from Retro pack 1 sold for $1,924 in Febraury. A raw Blue Eyes Shining Dragon from Retro Pack 2 sold for $2,000 in March.
- From August 2008 – November 2009, The Duelist Genesis, Crossroads of Chaos, Ancient Prophecy, and Stardust Overdrive were never released as 1st Edition booster boxes, and 1st Edition packs could only be received through sneak peak events (pre-release events a week before the actual release) or through the collector tins of that year.
- Most notably, The Duelist Genesis contains the ghost rare of Stardust Dragon, which is the most sought after “Ghost Rare” in the TCG with raw near mint versions selling for as much as $3,000.
- Crossroads of Chaos contained Stardust Dragon’s anime counterpart, Black Rose Dragon. Raw examples of Black Rose Dragon sell for as much as $1,500-$1,800.
- Starting in 2019 with Rising Rampage, Konami announced that five cards in every main set would now have a new rarity called Prismatic Rare (soon to be changed to Starlight Rare). The ratio on these cards was about one Starlight Rare per every 1-3 cases (12-36 booster boxes) and was not guaranteed.
- One rare, super-rare, ultra-rare, and secret-rare would be given the Starlight rare treatment. The fifth card would be a variant card that was not actually in the set itself.
- The average price of “Starlight Rares” is around $250-$500, with some of the original ones selling for as much as $1000.
- Toon Chaos introduced a new rarity called “Collectors Rare” in 2020, that would be applied to new side sets that only featured rare and holo cards (no commons). Collectors Rares were not as difficult to pull, with a pull rate of around 3-4 per case.
- SJC/YCS events are part of the competitive circuit in Yu-Gi-Oh! and the prizes for these events are promo cards exclusive to the winners.
- Crush Card Virus (SJC) is possibly the most memorable prize card as it defined a format and was a Kaiba favorite in the anime. There is currently a PSA 10 listed for $150,000 on eBay, a BGS 8.5 for $50,000, and a PSA 4 was sold on May 20th (best offer, was listed for $19,000).
- Minerva the Exalted Lightsworn (YCS) was one of the most popular prize cards due to the fact that it was very competitive. A raw super rare sold for $5,900 in February of this year and there are currently no ultra-rare variants listed.
- The holy grail of Yu-Gi-Oh! promos would have to be “The Seal of Orichalcos” that was given to a select few Upper Deck employees and judges. There are currently none listed as these are extremely rare, but when they do pop up every now and then they go for around $10,000- $20,000 depending on the condition.
It’s very possible for the value of the Yu-Gi-Oh! market to start booming, as it is only in its early stages compared to other TCGs. The one factor that separates Yu-Gi-Oh! from its competitors is how much value players put into the game, not regarding the anime.
The TCG itself had a different cult following as there were many players that did not even indulge in the anime to the degree that you would expect. These players are all grown up and now they want to go back and invest in the things that made them feel such joy when they were younger. There is already such a scarcity of items, and some prices have already jumped.
It is not just the “Dark Magicians” and “Blue-Eyes White Dragon” cards that are going up; it’s also the cards that made formats what they are. Collectors want the cards that players consider “high rarity.”
It’s not hard to see that Yu-Gi-Oh is growing rapidly and presenting some interesting investment opportunities. It’s just important to do your research and have a full understanding of what to collect and what to invest in before you buy.