Tips for Parents New to the ‘Pokémon Trading Card Game’

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If your kids are like mine, there’s a pretty good chance they’ve spent a few years amassing Pokémon cards like some sort of dragon’s hoard. Mine were in that position until last July when J, owner of our FLGS (Favorite Local Gaming Store) decided to open up a Pokémon League for both elementary- and middle-school-aged kids. My kids were among the first to sign up. Now we were going from a household of Pokémon card hoarders to actual players. Our kids had dabbled in the idea of playing before enough that I picked up a set of Battle decks, but this was a big step forward in the hobby. We quickly came to notice there were three types of parents who accompanied their kids to Pokémon League:

  1. I collected and played as a kid and this gives my kid a chance to meet up with other kids to play since Pokémon cards are banned at school.
  2. I have never played, but I am involved in other geek hobbies like Warhammer, Magic: The Gathering, or board games with a lot of card-playing features. I may become a new player as an adult.
  3. I have no idea about any of this but want to support my kid/I am the adult who can bring the kids to events.

For the record, I am a Type 2 who has started becoming a player too. I have a friend with a kid in the League who is a Type 1. When J, the store owner, needs extra hands on deck to help kids out, we often step in and have been thus dubbed as the Pokémoms, a title I carry with geeky pride. As a Pokémom, I have interacted with a lot of Type 2 and Type 3 parents, and this is a collection of some of the knowledge I gave them that I have found useful to know.

Why Pokémon Cards Are Often Banned From Schools

It’s nothing personal, but Pokémon cards are known for causing such high amounts of drama that a lot of school administrators have found it easier to ban them. These are the general reasons why:

  1. Stolen cards. Cards, especially higher valued cards, were getting stolen, and unless a kid is found with a binder labeled with another kid’s name, it’s pretty impossible to prove that a kid stole particular cards because they very may well have the same ones.
  2. Unfair trades. Some kids were taking advantage of other kids not knowing the value of particular cards and deceiving them into unequal trades. Other kids were bullying friends/classmates into making a trade they didn’t want to make.
  3. Playing for cards. I want to highlight and emphasize that there is NO OFFICIAL POKÉMON RULE that winners in a game get to take a card from the other player upon winning. This is some sort of playground/street rule that kids thought was official and then treated it as such. What it usually lead to was experienced players destroying a new player to claim a more expensive card they owned and parents getting pretty upset if they had paid collector’s price for that card. 

Where to Learn to Play

‘Battle Academy’ is a great tool for learning the game. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

Many local gaming stores offer Pokémon events, but not all offer events designed to teach new players like kids how to play. You can call your local gaming store to ask, but emphasize you are looking for something that is casual/new player friendly and that the player in question is a kid. Some groups are meant more for people who are hardcore players with decks they’ve poured serious money into, and so are not really beginner friendly like the one our FLGS offers. Another option is grabbing the Pokémon Academy Board Game which contains several full decks and walks players through how to play a game. I highly recommend this for anyone with a new player in their house. You can also check out two older GeekMom articles on deck building and how to play.

How to Know Which Cards Are More Valuable

Some Pokémon cards are worth more than others. Usually, these cards feature an alternate art style that is rare and thus more coveted. The thing is you can’t always know what cards are valuable just by looking at them unless you are paying attention. One of my kids pulled a Pikachu card worth around $50 and didn’t realize it at first. His brother wanted one like it and when we went to look up the card, it caught my attention that the card was going for around $50 online. We took it to League and showed J, who confirmed it was in fact an alternate style and gave my kiddo a hard card sleeve to protect it. I realized we needed to pay more attention.

Lost Origin was the card series so I went online and Googled for the most valuable Lost Origin cards. The Pikachu in question was on it along with a few others. When we won a free booster box in a raffle the kids and I looked over the list to be on the lookout as we pulled cards. The other brother ended up with the same Pikachu card again, but this time we knew the worth when we saw it.

A few weeks ago he pulled and recognized a different card worth over $100. When in doubt, look up V Pokémon cards, VMAX Pokémon cards, VSTAR Pokémon cards, and rainbow-colored cards via a site like TCGPlayer if you want to know the worth. Those are the current card types I have noticed the most popping up on the most valuable card lists. Not all cards of these types are valuable, but they tend to be the types from which more valuable cards are pulled.

Know How to Avoid Fake Cards

Examples of official sets that can guarantee certain cards. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

There is nothing that breaks J’s heart more than telling a kid that most of their cards are fake and unusable in League Events. Yes, there is a huge issue with fake Pokémon cards. If your kid has gotten cards in any of the following ways, there’s a chance they have fakes:

  1. Trading with other kids unless someone who knows how to value cards has checked them out.
  2. Another kid passed off a collection of cards they didn’t play with anymore or a large bunch of cards got bought at a bargain price somewhere (garage sale, online bulk lots, etc).
  3. Unsealed cards which were bought online from a source that doesn’t authenticate them. If anyone is selling and promising cards of a certain rarity at a cheap price and they are not in sealed official packaging, assume they are fake. The company does release sets that feature certain cards but these would be in actual merchandise boxes and not loose. 

This gets tricky as eventually, your kid will want to add particular cards to their decks, and sometimes the easiest way to do that is to buy them individually. Safe places to buy non-sealed cards include:

  1. Gaming/hobby stores where cards are authenticated and priced. They tend to keep more valuable cards behind glass.
  2. TCGPlayer. The marketplace for TCGPlayer is safer than eBay proper because they have a system in place for protecting buyers from fake cards, including the ability to send the card in question to the company running the site to get a judgment. They have little grey symbols to let you know if a seller is a certified hobby store. Also, there is a blue symbol with a lightning bolt that lets you know if a card can be bought directly from TCGPlayer and has been authenticated. Go for the blue symbol cards.

Know Which Cards Are Tournament/League Acceptable

At present, any non-counterfeit cards that were printed in 2013 through to today are usable in official League events. The final card series in 2012 is eligible, but you have to know that a 2012 card is from that set so it’s honestly easier to just stick with nothing earlier than 2013. You can find the date at the bottom of the card.

Okay, trainers, I hope this was helpful, and may the next pack you open contain something pretty cool. Parents, if you’ve never played before, give it a shot. Your kids will love you participating in something with them, especially if they get to teach you how to play. 

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