Why modern English Pokemon booster boxes are dangerous investments
On Tuesday, we explored some examples of Pokemon cards that represent great deals in the current market as we move toward the close of 2022. You could also call them underrated. But what about the other side of the coin? How about the items that are actually on the opposite end of the spectrum and may be somewhat overrated in today’s climate? This brings us to the status of English Pokemon booster boxes. More on that in a second.
While I firmly believe that Pokemon is in a fantastic place moving forward, markets are never binary. There are items that flow under the radar, and there are items that are a little too glorified.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean that either of those things will remain static. What is underrated today could be overrated tomorrow, and vice versa.
Still, because we already examined some underrated samples, it’s only fair (and right) to mention something that is overrated, and to me (and to many who have been entrenched in the hobby for years), the most overrated item on the market in late 2022 is the modern English booster box.
Notice that I put a couple of qualifiers in there. The first one is “modern.” The second is “English.”
So while modern Japanese booster boxes typically always constitute a safe purchase and vintage English booster boxes will forever be essentially trophies for serious collectors, modern English boxes should always be approached with trepidation.
There are various reasons for this.
Let’s break down modern English Pokemon booster boxes.
English Pokemon booster boxes are no good
The Misguided Logic of Likening Modern English to Vintage English
Everyone knows about investing in sealed product now, so if you think your Evolving Skies box will be akin to a 1st Edition Base Set box or 1st Edition Neo Destiny box two decades from now, your logic isn’t entirely sound.
When Pokemon cards were first released in America in 1999, hardly anyone was viewing them as long-term plays. Yes, there were a few shrewd individuals who had spectacular foresight and stashed away some booster boxes, but, for the most part, everyone was cracking them open just to get the cards inside. This eviscerated the population of sealed boxes, making them a relatively rare and scarce commodity.
But today? Everyone and their goldfish is trying to invest in Pokemon, so you can imagine how many sealed Evolving Skies boxes will still exist 15-20 years from now.
In addition, condition is a major factor here. It’s difficult to find genuinely mint condition vintage English booster boxes, because people weren’t so particular in caring for them way back when. As a result, vintage boxes in top-tier condition command a premium because they are really hard to locate.
But since so many people are trying to make investment plays today, many are ordering cases of modern booster boxes (there are six boxes in a case) and just placing them on a shelf without even opening the outer box that contains the booster boxes. It’s kind of hard to damage a product when you haven’t even removed it from its packaging.
So what happens when people decide to start getting a return on their investment years down the line and everyone attempts to do the same thing with their minty fresh booster boxes? Supply and demand will rear its ugly head, and investors may end up getting hurt.
Pokemon is printing far more product today than it was back in 1999. You thought Base Set was an abundant set? Look at Evolutions, which was released in 2016. Or how about Champion’s Path from 2020? Then there was Shining Fates in 2021.
You get the point.
Pokemon is saturating the market with product, so much so that the company has had to open up new printing facilities just to maintain upkeep.
Like I said in a previous article: saturation is the death of hobbies.
Now this isn’t to say that modern English boxes are going to be worth nothing in the future. They still have an inherent value that other failed collectibles like Beanie Babies simply did not possess. However, you can’t help but feel a little queasy about the long-term potential of these booster boxes given the quantity of them available, especially when you couple that with the previous point about so many people stashing them away in their closets and attics for what they hope is a destined profit.
This is where things get really tricky. Unlike the first two points that are fairly consistent, this one is a bit unpredictable. It is the concept of reprints.
What do I mean by reprints? I mean when a set gets released in 2022 and then sees yet another wave of product hit the market in 2024 because the Pokemon company decided to print more of it.
The biggest offender of this—or at least the most well-known example of it—is Ultra Prism.
Ultra Prism was released in early 2018 and was widely viewed as a strong set. Not only was it very playable in tournaments, but it featured strong GX cards like Glaceon, Leafeon, Dialga and Palkia, not to mention popular Trainer cards like Cynthia and Lillie. Plus, you had the Solgaleo GX and Lunala GX Gold Rares.
So yeah. It was a pretty acclaimed set, and it didn’t take too long for prices to increase. As a matter of fact, Ultra Prism reached a point where boxes were selling in the neighborhood of $400-500, a very surprising feat for such a new set.
But then, it happened. Midway through 2020, over two years after Ultra Prism was officially released, Pokemon decided to reprint the set, causing booster box prices to freefall back down to $80. Prices have since recovered and are generally in the neighborhood of $400 per box, but that unexpected reprint absolutely destroyed the pockets of investors who bought a bunch of boxes on the increase.
This is something that doesn’t occur on the Japanese side. While reprints are a thing in Japan, they are very small, and they only print enough product to meet demand. Consequently, prices don’t move much in Japan during reprint phases.
But on the English side? The market goes haywire. You don’t know when English is going to reprint a set, and you don’t know how much of it it will reprint when it does.
Reverse Scams and Skittish Buyers
By “reverse scam,” I mean when a buyer scams a seller rather than the traditional line of thinking where a shady “businessperson” sells a faulty item to a customer.
How does this happen? Someone buys a booster box, opens it, and then, when they don’t get the pulls they want from the box, they claim the box was “resealed” or “tampered with.” It is not easy to win those cases as a seller on eBay, so there are times when customers can get away with scamming sellers. They reap the contents of the box and are able to secure a refund in the process.
Now, as for skittish buyers, this is when someone purchases a booster box to hold as an investment, but because they are so fastidious to a fault, the slightest imperfection on the box (even if it’s completely normal) may trigger an alarm and cause them to ask the seller for a refund.
I understand that this is something that applies more to the current market than the future, but if it’s happening now, chances are, it will also be occurring a decade from now, especially if prices do, in fact, rise.
It’s becoming harder and harder for sellers to safely sell modern product in today’s climate.
If you haven’t noticed, English booster boxes are fairly bulky and can certainly take up space. So unless you have an area big enough to adequately hold all of your product, you may run into storage issues if you accumulate a lot of boxes.
As I continue singing the praises of Japanese, Japanese booster boxes are smaller and more compact than their English counterparts, making them much easier to store. Could storage become a problem with them, too? Absolutely, but not nearly as quickly as English boxes.
You also have to be mindful of the fact that you need to store booster boxes in a place where the elements are not going to affect them. Humidity can cause some issues with the wrapping, and if condensation gets in there, complications could arise.
If you’re living in a small apartment, chances are, investing in booster boxes is not going to be too practical for you. That is, of course, unless you are able to store them at a different location (e.g. a storage unit or a family member’s home).
Storage might not be something that immediately comes to your mind when you are thinking about investing in English Pokemon booster boxes, but it is definitely a factor that deserves consideration.