To better understand this phenomenon, let’s backtrack a little bit and take a look at the most popular Charizard card ever from a set known as Base Set. We will focus on the 1st Edition version of the card. We’re not even going to talk about the rarer Shadowless and the more common, yet still valuable, Unlimited Edition printing. Those are some great investments, right? Yes, but to best understand why Charizard is such a big deal, let’s look at the Charizard card most serious collectors can afford if they budget right.
Base Set Charizard is the Most Iconic Pokemon Trading Card of All Time
Obviously, the Charizard #4 Base Set holo is the MOST ICONIC of all Pokemon cards. Of course, it should be, as it was the primary chase card in the 1999 Base Set, when Pokemon was at its height of popularity. At the time, Charizard was one of the most popular and feared Pokemon. In the original Red and Blue Game Boy video games, his original form of Charmander was the hardest of the original three starting Pokemon to raise. But, if you stuck with him, and evolved him to Charmeleon, then Charizard, you had a powerhouse of a Pokemon that could ride you all the way through the Pokemon League.
Back in 1999, Charizard was the one card every kid wanted. His card was one of the most powerful at the time in the Trading Card Game. So, of course, many kids played with the cards and didn’t take proper care of them. That includes the beloved Charizard. So, because of this, as copies have been snapped up by collectors, many of them are in less than your ordinarily desired condition. There aren’t nearly as many near-mint condition Charizard #4 cards out there as you may think.
As collectors looked to standardize the conditions of their cards in order for future resale, PSA has received a glut of Charizard cards over the years. So, the range of graded copies from 1 to 10 is immense. In 2020, the submissions haven’t slowed down.
Even since I began my research for this series back in June 2019, about a thousand more copies were sent in for grading by just a few months later. Now in early 2020, even more copies across all conditions have been sent in. I've revised the population count for this article twice now.
Look at this population report for 1st Edition 1999 Base Set Charizard Holos from Pokemon Price:
- 420 PSA 10
- 4334 PSA 9
- 2899 PSA 8
- 1550 PSA 7
- 107 PSA 6
- 589 PSA 5
- 329 PSA 4
- 194 PSA 3
- 103 PSA 2
- 187 PSA 1
(Population Counts as of 4/3/2020)
Talk about a range! Still, a lot of people early on knew that the first Pokemon cards were going to be a fairly good investment. As many serious collectors did with baseball cards, a few collectors did well to grade pack-fresh or near-mint raw copies to preserve their value. That’s why there are so many in high grade.
What is My Charizard Card Worth?
Of course, as kids become adults and wonder what their cards were worth, some people send them in just to see what those cards may get. That’s why you see so many poor conditioned Charizards graded. Many of the Charizard holos sent in for grading now are simply in order to establish a professional grade. The card is so popular that the cost of grading only adds to the value of the card, regardless of the eventual grade.
While this isn’t the case for more than 99.9 percent of trading cards out there, the Base Set Charizard card (first edition or not) is so iconic that even poor condition PSA 1 through good and excellent condition PSA 5 cards can still fetch $40! PSA 6 can fetch $60 or more. PSA 7’s fetch $80 to $100 or even more on a good day. So, if you have a base set Charizard laying around already, it’s going to be worth getting graded.
However, buying them raw to get them graded is very risky. Not only are you taking a risk of getting a grade of 7 or less, but there are a TON of fakes out there. This makes the grading process even more important, as it weeds out fakes. But, if you have genuine copies laying around, they are certainly worth grading, even if you have no plans to sell them.
Of course, when it comes to long-term investments, you are looking towards the already graded higher grade options. While a PSA 7 is probably fine just to have, the return on investment from appreciation really begins at PSA 8. There is a wide range of sales on these, anywhere from $90 to $150 to even north of $200! That’s partly due to the high population (2411). But, if you buy on the lower end and wait to post it for a Best Offer on the higher end of the sales range, there is room for substantial profit.
What Makes an Investment-Grade Charizard Card?
PSA 9 - or graded Mint condition - is where the investment game gets the most interesting. With Charizard #4, it is the grade with by far the highest population (3975), but also the biggest market. This is where the market value becomes around $200, but if you watch the auctions, you can score copies in the $150 range. So, the game here becomes buying the PSA 9s as low as possible to sell as high as possible. There’s a nice potential return on investment here if you are looking to buy and flip.
Of course, PSA 10 is for the long-term hold. $1300 to $1350 has been the fair market value in mid-2019. But, when the market is slow, you can grab copies for $1000 or less. In late 2017 and early 2018, they were going for as much as $2100! The population is also one-tenth of the PSA 9 population, so scarcity is a big factor in making this card the best investment.
Because of this card, Pokemon collectors consider Charizard cards among their top targets in top condition. That’s why whenever you are looking to collect Pokemon cards, the Charizard cards will often be the hardest to obtain. Whenever a new set is released, the Charizard cards are going to often be highly sought after targets.
Of course, you should collect the Pokemon that you like the most. But, if you are most interested in getting the most popular and best long-term investment, Charizard happens to be your best bet when it comes to Pokemon trading cards.
You can learn about four of the most wanted Charizard trading cards here.