We are now officially in the fourth quarter of 2022, and with the unofficial end of summer in our rearview mirror after Labor Day, the Pokemon card market should start to pick up.

While there are never any guarantees, this time of year is typically the best period for sales. Not just for Pokemon cards or collectibles, but for products across the board.

Why? Well, first of all, people will no longer be spending their discretionary income on vacations and summer activities. Not only are the kids back in school, but the weather is in the process of changing. Second, if you can believe it, the holiday season is just around the corner.

So, how should you prepare for these next several months if you are in the market for Pokemon cards? Which items should you be zeroing in on for the best value purchases?

Here are a few categories you should examine for some good bang for your buck moves as the year comes to a close.

Character Rares

If there is one thing we will all remember about the Sword and Shield era, it will be the advancement of Character Rares, which feature some of the best art the hobby has to offer, and at an affordable price to boot.

Notice I didn’t say Sword and Shield was the “introduction” of Character Rares, as they actually made their first appearance during the Sun and Moon era. We first caught a glimpse of them in the Cosmic Eclipse set (for Japanese collectors, you’ll know this set as “Dream League”), with cards such as Lt. Surge’s Magnemite and Dawn’s Piplup serving as a couple of the more recognizable examples.

But Character Rares didn’t really take off and forge a true identity until Sword and Shield, when they started appearing in various sets and capturing the hearts of collectors everywhere. In particular, Character Rares flooded the Japanese VMAX Climax set, arguably one of the greatest sets to ever be released.

Because Character Rares are so affordable, it is very easy to complete a set of them and slap them in a binder for a brilliant viewing experience. Or maybe you want to pick up a bunch to send off to PSA for grading.

Regardless of how you want to go about collecting them, Character Rares are a great use of the money you have set aside for your Pokemon card collecting.

PSA 9 1st Edition Base Set Commons and Uncommons

This is for those of you who like getting great value in graded cards.

Right now, it’s hard to find a category in which there is more value than PSA 9 1st Edition Base Set Commons and Uncommons. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. The starters in particular (so the Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur lines, as well as Pikachu) are pretty expensive, and cards like Arcanine and Dratini aren’t slouches, either.

But for the most part? You can nab a sizeable portion of these cards for well under $100 each. As a matter of fact, you can pick up a decent amount of them for under $40 in the current market, which is mind boggling.

We are talking about 1st Edition Base Set here, the first English set to ever be released. Good luck locating many ungraded mint condition examples, even for lesser species like Rattata and Pidgey. You just can’t find this stuff regularly anymore.

And think about it: if you want to grade your cards, why would you buy raw examples to grade when you can just buy one already graded in a PSA 9 for a manageable price? Currently, the cheapest tier for grading at PSA is $30 a card. This will almost certainly drop soon, but even if it dips as low as $15, you still have to take into account the cost of acquisition of the card in question. So let’s say you buy a mint copy for around $20 (good luck) and you send it to PSA at $15. That’s already $35, and if you plan on selling the card at some point, you then have to consider eBay fees and shipping costs. That’s also assuming that you are even fortunate enough to get a 9-grade at PSA.

I don’t care if it’s Rattata. I don’t care if it’s Pidgey. I don’t care if it’s Poliwag. Heck, I don’t care that it’s an Uncommon Trainer card like Defender or PlusPower. The fact that some PSA 9 1st Edition Base Set cards are going for $40 and under is crazy.

PSA 8 1st Edition Wizards of the Coast Era Holos (specifically Jungle through the Neo sets)

For those who don’t know what the “Wizards of the Coast era” is, it represents the time between 1999 and 2003, from Base Set all the way to Skyridge. Of course, not all of those sets had a 1st Edition print run, so here, we will only be focusing on the ones that did (excluding 1st Edition Base Set): Jungle, Fossil, Team Rocket, Gym Heroes, Gym Challenge, Neo Genesis, Neo Discovery, Neo Revelation and Neo Destiny. The reason I am omitting 1st Edition Base Set from this particular category is because PSA 8 holos in that set are very expensive.

But as for the rest of the Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) sets? These cards are starting to dip in price to the point where it’s silly not to at least give them a look.

Following the same thought process as PSA 9 1st Edition Base Set Commons and Uncommons, we are reaching a juncture where it’s cheaper to buy some already graded PSA 8 1st Edition WOTC holos than buying a holo raw and grading it yourself.

Yes, there are some exceptions, but in most cases, you can snag PSA 8 1st Edition WOTC holos from Jungle through the Neo sets for well under $100, which is incredible considering the cost of ungraded 1st Edition WOTC holos right now.

During the 2020 and early 2021 boom, these cards were hitting astronomical prices, but things have since settled. You won’t be picking them up for 2019 prices, but, at the very least, they aren’t as out of reach as they were a year ago.

No Symbol Jungle Holos

This is a pretty niche category, and I understand that most of you probably don’t know what it is, so let me explain.

Other than the Base Set, every Pokemon card set that has been released has included a set symbol on the card. On the original Wizards of the Coast template, that set symbol was on the bottom right of the art. Check out Jungle Jolteon for a clear example. See the little flower? That’s the Jungle set symbol.

Now, there was a printing error in the Jungle set where the holos were printed without that symbol for at least one print run. Look at this version of Jungle Jolteon to see what I am referring to.

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This is known as the “No Symbol Error,” something that only occurred during the Jungle set for a short period of time. And it only happened with the holos. All of the non-holos had the set symbol.

Are these cards incredibly rare? No. We aren’t talking about the Pikachu Illustrator or Trophy Cards here. However, they are certainly rarer than the variants with the symbol.

There was a time when No Symbol Jungle holos rivaled 1st Edition Jungle holos in price. This was more around the period between 2017 and 2019. But over the last couple of years, the 1st Edition Jungle holos have really separated themselves, leaving No Symbol Jungle holos in their own little niche between 1st Edition and Unlimited (cards without the 1st Edition stamp).

For that reason, No Symbol Jungle holos have a good argument for an underrated tag. Does that mean they are going to balloon in price? No. But they represent a really good value pick.

Japanese Promos

I feel like I’m a broken record at this point, because I have been singing the praises of Japanese exclusive cards in previous articles. But I can’t help but include Japanese promos in this list.

It’s hard to find better value right now.

For example, look at the Mischievous Pichu 214 S-P promo that was released back in late spring. Most serious collectors probably already know this, but this was the first Pichu card we’ve gotten since 2009, and it only dropped in Japan. It didn’t see an English release, and if history of how Japan typically handles its promos is any indication, it probably won’t. No, it isn’t Pikachu, but Pichu is still a popular Pokemon (I mean, it literally evolves into Pikachu), and you can currently acquire this card in sealed condition for around $7, if not less. That is insane value.

Then of course, you have the never-ending army of Pikachu promos that come out of Japan, most of which remain very affordable.

Like I said in my last piece: if you haven’t explored the Japanese market yet, you’re really asleep at the wheel.