A Guide to Topsun Pokémon Cards- The Oldest Pokémon Cards?

A Guide to Topsun Pokémon Cards- The Oldest Pokémon Cards?

Topsun cards are some of the earliest known Pokémon cards to have ever existed. They are separate from the TCG and were sold in packs of gum in Japan. I am fascinated by these cards and have done my best to put together a guide based on all we currently know about the Topsun cards.  

Are Topsun Cards the First Ever Pokémon Cards?

Contrary to popular belief, Topsun cards are not the oldest Pokémon cards and are not the first to be made. This rumor stems from the copyright date at the bottom of the cards being 1995 when really the cards were released in 1997. 

Topsun Copyright 1995

The copyright is misleading, but what’s more unfortunate is how far the rumor spread amongst the community. 

The 1995 copyright reflects the property of Pokémon itself, not the trading cards. To back up this claim, the official Top Seika website states that a contract with Shogakukan was established in 1997. Shogakukan held the rights to the Pocket Monsters anime and are the ones who gave Top Seika the green light to use the Pokémon IP for their candy. 

In other words, Topsun didn’t even have legal access to Pokémon assets until 1997.

Furthermore, the first piece of official merchandise, and licensed merchandise, weren’t released until 1996, as stated by Bulbapedia and Nintendo respectively. 

As others have suggested, Pokémon’s reputation may serve as evidence as well. Pokémon is well known to be strictly protective over its IP. For Topsun to have used Pokémon assets on their product in 1995 before obtaining a license would be highly unusual. 

For some reason, the debate still lives among various Reddit posts and obscure forums. Some say that Topsun cards were perhaps the first to be made but not the first to be released. However, all of the evidence previously submitted crushes this claim just as well.  

Why Everyone Claims Topsun was the First

The popular Youtuber UnlistedLeaf posted a video in 2020 where he states that the Topsun cards are the very first Pokémon cards “to ever exist”. With over 100,000 views, it’s not hard to understand why the rumor is so prominent today. 

Another Youtuber named Leonhart made a very similar video in 2020 where he too states that the Topsun cards are the “oldest Pokémon card ever made”. To his credit, he does mention the copyright date but claims that the actual year of release is “up for debate”. It is not. For your information, this video has received over 165,000 views.

Plenty of websites, journalists, and bloggers will probably reference UnlistedLeaf’s or Leonhart’s video and continue to spread this false information. 

A quick search in Google will come up with many results claiming that the Topsun cards are the original Pokémon cards. Even eBay listings will have something such as, ‘oldest ever Pokémon card’ in the title. 

It’s believable too since the cards themself actually have a dated look to them. Even when the Japanese version of Base Set came out a year earlier in 1996, Topsun cards retain this vintage look that the TCG cards just don’t have.

But the most incriminating action thus far is probably PSA’s labels displaying 1995 as the date for the Topsun cards. PSA, along with some other grading companies displays the card’s copyright date on the label. In the case of Topsun cards, this is misleading. Some companies such as BGS display the correct year of 1997, but most just default to 1995. 

The History Behind Topsun Cards

Release

Top Seika is a candy company based out of Japan, first established in 1956. They are responsible for the bubble gum in the Topsun Pokémon card packs. Today, although Top Seika has merged with Coris, they are still known for their bubblegum products featuring popular anime characters. 

Check out our complete guide to Topps Pokémon cards.

According to Pokéboon the original release of Topsun cards was back in March 1997, in Japan. Unfortunately, these cards were never released outside of Japan and never in any other language.

The set of cards contained 150 cards, one for each Pokémon (remember, no Mew yet!). And another additional 16 ‘prism’ holo cards. 

The Boosters and Gum

The cards were sold in booster packs, but that is where the familiarity ends. The packs were not made of foil as the TCG packs were, but instead thin cardboard. Each pack had a pull tab to rip the cardboard open, revealing two cards and a packaged stick of green apple-flavoured chewing gum. 

thumbnail IMG 8300

 

Above image attributed by: retrojunkct

Both the booster pack and gum wrapper featured the original artwork for Pokémon Green Version and Pokémon Red Version side by side. In Japan, these were the first two Pokémon games for Gameboy to be released. Red Version featured Charizard, while Green Version featured ‘Zard’s nemesis, Venusaur. 

Pulling a prism holo was quite a stroke of luck, as each pack only contained two cards, and each display box of 20 packs only contained one holo per unit. In other words, pulling a Topsun holo was a 1/20 chance. 

The Holo Topsun Cards (Prism Cards)

As previously mentioned, there are 16 different holo Topsun cards to collect. These are in addition to the 150 non-holos and have a unique back. Instead of the angled blue or green kanji, the reverse of the holo cards has a smaller depiction of the Pokémon along with stats and a short description.

It is worth noting that the holo cards are actually stickers. The face of the card can be peeled off of the cardstock. There is, however, not a lot of evidence of this since it would be a heinous crime for any collector to actually peel off the face of the card.

Topsun cards have exactly three different holo variations. 

1. Cracked Ice

The cracked ice holo pattern is actually still used today in not only Pokémon cards, but other trading cards too. The pattern depicts a jagged pattern that obviously resembles cracked ice. This is usually considered the most desirable variation among the Topsun prism cards.

2. Block

The block holo pattern is simply made up of squares with approximately 10.5 squares across the width of the card and 13.5 lengthwise. 

3. Checkered

The checkered holo pattern is hard to distinguish from the block pattern. It is essentially the same, but each square has been divided into four squares. When side by side, it is easy to see that the checkered pattern has many smaller squares to it. 

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Image attributed by: retrojunkct

Blue Backs Vs. Green Backs

Topsun cards are often deemed to be either blue backs or green backs. 

The first print run of Topsun cards had the text pattern on the back of the card in blue. The second round of production brought a green pattern instead. The blu backs can be thought of as the 1st edition Topsun cards. There you go, it’s that simple. 

Topsun green back blue back
A Topsun Green back (left) and blue back (right)

Blue backs do tend to edge-out green backs when it comes to value, however. This is because the very first print run of cards is almost always the most desirable by collectors. This is the exact driving force behind 1st edition cards for the TCG. 

I could not find way of knowing if a booster pack will contain blue or green backs since the packs stayed the same throughout. Some packs have a 6-digit number stamped on them, and I suspect that this can lead to the answer. 

There is no difference between blue/green backs aside from the actual blue/green text and the no-number error cards. 

The No-Number Error Cards

Upon the initial release of Pokémon Topsun cards, an error occurred when Topsun began their printing process but the Pokémon’s Pokédex number was missing from the face of the card. The error was corrected quickly, but many cards made their way to consumers. Of course, only the blue backs can have the no-number error. 

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The Pokédex number (number is not missing in image above)

These are referred to as the ‘no number error cards’. These are the most valuable Topsun cards due to their rarity and collectability. 

How to Spot Fake Topsun Cards

It’s not uncommon to see counterfeit cards when the value of an authentic one can potentially be six figures. 

Fake Topsun cards do exist, and they aren’t as uncommon as one would think. Thankfully, your chances of receiving a fake is low as long as you aren’t seeking valuable cards such as Charizard. Scammers tend to skip the lesser cards such as Kabutops, for example. 

Here are a few things to look for:

1. Gloss

Topsun cards are glossy. It’s odd to see if it’s your first time holding one, but they have a thick and very shiny gloss to both the face and back of the card. This is not only difficult to replicate but impossible to judge from a photo. If you receive one without gloss or a low level of gloss, it’s time to suspect a fake. 

thumbnail IMG 8297

2. Correct Coloring

This counts as any colors on the card that look ‘off’. Now, ink colors can vary during the printing process, but are often subtle differences. Any colors that are incorrect or outright wrong are indicative of a fake card. 

Furthermore, the card images are often crisp with clear lines and strong vibrant colors. Any blurriness is a reason to suspect. 

thumbnail IMG 8296

3. Corners

Topsun cards have different corners than typical trading cards. They are much more rounded and have little variation. Compare your card to some of the images in this article to check your corners. 

4. Size

Oddly, Topsun cards have a different form factor than the standard trading card. In our Pokémon card size guide, we list Topsun cards to be approximately 2 X 3 inches, or more precisely, 58.7 X 85.7 mm. 

If you receive a Topsun card that is the same size as a regular Pokémon card, unfortunately, it is fake. 

5. Text on Back

On the rear side of Topsun cards is Japanese text (Kanji) that says “Topsun” repeated. You’ll want to check that the text is either blue or green, inspect the color, but also look at the angle of the text.

The kanji is slanted at approximately a 30-degree angle. Just compare to the images we have here. It is possible that there are some slight variations out there, but anything more than a slight difference in angle will be indicative of a fake. 

6. Number/Name box Border

The most common Topsun cards to be faked are the no-number error cards. These cards fetch high prices, so there are more counterfeits floating around the market. 

The text box at the top of the card that contains the Pokémons name is a sort of pinkish color with a thin black outline. However, the no-number error cards do not have this thin black outline. 

There are known to be incredibly convincing Topsun fakes created, with only this mistake as an indicator. If you are purchasing no-number error cards, pay close attention to this small detail. 

Topsun Price Guide for 2022

It wasn’t long ago that Topsun cards were very affordable for the average collector. But sometime around 2020, they shot up in price along with all trading cards. This was a result of the ongoing pandemic, supply chain issues, and the amount of attention the hobby was receiving. And on top of all this, the widespread misinformation that Topsun cards are the first Pokémon cards to be made. 

The best place to buy Topsun cards has always been eBay. Since these cards are scarce, they are tough to find at local game stores and obviously, aren’t sold retail. 

The Average Price for a Topsun Card

On average, expect to pay $10-50 for a blue back and $3-40 for a green back. 

A Topsun booster pack is going to cost around $1,500-3,000 if you can find one. (Check eBay)

If you are interested in a popular Pokémon such as Pikachu, expect to pay a little extra. In addition to this, Charizard is an expensive card and will cost the most. 

Topsun Charizard Prices

Not unlike any other set, Charizard steals the spotlight when it comes to value. The original blue back Topsun Charizard is highly sought after.

We’ve created a simple table including the Charizard Topsun variations. As you can see, the price quickly increases with a high grade.

Name

Recent Sales (eBay)

Charizard (Green Back)

$230

Charizard (Green Back) PSA 10

$4,000

Charizard (Blue Back)

$290

Charizard (Blue Back) PSA 10

$25,000

Charizard (Blue Back) No Number Error

$2,300

Charizard (Blue Back) No Number Error PSA 10

$500,000

 

A note from the author

Hey there. My name is Oliver. 

To create this article, I spent weeks scrounging together every forum post, Youtube video, and blog post Google had to offer. I even reached out to these fellow creators to ask questions. However, there are still many mysteries surrounding the Topsun cards. If you are an expert or if you have any additional information, please contact me via the contact page.

Special thanks to shizzlemetimbers for helping me dig up some old web pages.

Also, if I made any mistakes, please reach out to me. Take care!

Author: Oliver CopelandOliver has been collecting Pokémon cards for a long time. He had a crush on Misty when he was 10.