How to Start a Pokémon Card Collection

How to Start a Pokémon Card Collection

Starting a collection can be daunting at first, no matter the hobby. When it comes to Pokémon cards, there is so much to know and so much to learn all the time. If you have friends, family, or even just a favorite Youtuber who collects Pokémon cards, you can understand how it can sink its claws into someone. Maybe you want its claws in you. Good, because this article is all about starting a collection- for dummies. 

The easiest way to start is to, well, just start. Ask your friends if they can donate cards to you to get started, or purchase some booster packs, sleeves, and a binder.

Is it worth it to collect Pokémon cards?

Pokémon has been one of the world’s biggest pop culture obsessions for over 25 years now. Pokémania has taken the world by storm twice, resulting in huge spikes in the card collecting hobby. A lot of collectors have 20+ years of cards under their belt. You might be wondering, is it too late to start now?

Well, first of all, it’s never too late. It’s true that millennials make up a large portion of the hobby, but Pokémon cards are primarily marketed to young people and young people who are collecting for the first time. The hobby is designed to be easy for newbies. 

The barrier to entry is small. All you need are some cards and curiosity. 

5 Things you need to get started

#1- Cards

Yes, this is obvious. How you get cards though, isn’t as obvious as you may think. Sure, you can swing by your local Walmart, Target, or Gamestop to pick up some cards, and that’s fine. But many people don’t have access to these big box outlets. 

The first option is to ask your friends or family if they’re willing to donate any cards to you in order to get started. Most collectors will have boxes of cards that they never plan on using or playing.

Free promotional cards are given out from time to time at participating stores. This could include the big box stores we just mentioned, but also smaller card or hobby shops.

The second-hand market is a great place to find cards also. Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, Kijiji, yard sales, thrift shops all have Pokémon cards on a regular basis, and often will accept trades if you don’t happen to have any cash. 

#2- Sleeves

Sleeves are absolutely necessary if you want to collect Pokémon cards. We have an entire article on card protection, but if you were to buy one piece of protection, please buy sleeves.

A standard size top loader (left) and a perfect fit sleeve (right)

A sleeve is a little plastic pocket that a card slides into. This protects the card from any light surface scratches, dings, or edge wear. There are a few different types of sleeves, and different brands. It doesn’t really matter what you pick at first, so long as you get some. 

Some Pokémon products come with sleeves, like the Elite Trainer Boxes

#3- A binder

You probably don’t want stacks of Pokémon cards laying around your house, so invest in a binder to store your cards.

Binders have pages that can hold all your cards in a clean and orderly fashion. There are a bunch of different binders to choose from, but the best ones have pages that are fixed with a binding, and side-loaded. This means that you cannot add or remove pages, and the cards slide into the pockets from the side. 

A binder with stitched pages and side-loaded pockets.

There are a few Pokémon card products that come with binders, however, these are often the cheap ones with top-loaded pockets (top-loaded pockets risk cards falling out of the binder if turned upside down). But any binder is definitely better than no binder.

#4- Goals

It’s easy and addicting to blindly collect cards. But there are so many that you’ll lose your way. 

Finding a theme can help with this. Some collectors collect gold cards, rainbow cards, vintage cards, etc. If you have deep pockets, you can collect vintage sealed products like booster packs. 

Gold cards

Eventually, though, you will find something out of your price range. When this happens, you’ll want to set the money aside or save up, and this will be impossible if you don’t have a vision in mind- a goal. We’ll talk more about this in a bit.

#5- Resources

Some Pokémon card products come with Trainer Guides- a small booklet with a setlist of the cards in the set. However, this is far from complete and only covers a fraction of the Pokémon TCG.

Instead, Google is your friend. Here are a few different resources to research everything about Pokémon cards.

There are also many apps for your smartphone that allow you to catalog the cards you collect. Just search for them on the app store.

Is it profitable?

Since the recent spike in Pokémon card prices, more people are becoming interested in the hobby as a potential side-hustle. 

While making money off cards as a side-hustle is doable, it’s much less rewarding than many alternatives. Buying and selling cards is an oversaturated market right now, and you’d have to dedicate a lot of time just to get your foot in the door. 

The best way to make money is to buy low and sell high. This is easily done long-term, but most people are patient and want to flip cards on a weekly basis. This is especially difficult as the card market is volatile. 

Investing in cards today that you expect will be of high value in the future is a smart idea, but won’t reward you in the short term. 

Is it profitable? It can be, but it’s difficult and tedious. 

What’s the best strategy to collect cards?

Earlier in the article, we touched on setting goals for collecting. This is the best strategy. Otherwise, you’ll be possessed by shiny object syndrome. This is when you buy every card you see that tickles your fancy. This Is fun, sure, but collecting is also about completing sets or card trios like the legendary birds for example.

ETBs from the set ‘Brilliant Stars’ on a Walmart shelf

A Pokémon card collection is just more awesome when it’s organized and full of complete sets. That being said, the key strategy here would be to purchase cards as singles. The only way to purchase cards individually is by buying cards second-hand. 

If you want to purchase a sealed product and open it yourself, then we have a whole other topic to cover.

Purchasing sealed products from a store like Target or maybe a local games shop can be fun too. Opening packs yourself is one of the biggest and most powerful draws of the hobby. You’ll grow your collection, but you’ll also spend a lot of money along the way. In fact, buying sealed products is the most expensive way to collect Pokémon cards.

Every set that comes out has a few chase cards. A chase card is one of the few that everyone is after. It usually features amazing artwork of one of the fan-favorite Pokémon. If you really want that chase card, you’ll probably go buy some booster packs and hope to get lucky. The truth is, you might. But you probably won’t. 


The topic of gambling in the Pokémon TCG world could be a topic of its own. Ripping open booster packs chasing after a single card is the most expensive and inefficient way to get that card. Sure, you could get lucky, but you probably won’t. The odds are stacked against you, and every time you buy a pack for $5 and hope you pull that $200 card, you’re gambling.

Unfortunately, this TCG is marketed toward children. 

When it comes to strategies for collecting cards, opening sealed products is the worst strategy. However, this is why many people love the hobby. If you really love ripping open packs, keep ripping! 

Buying a collection

Something we haven’t touched on yet is the option to simply purchase someone else’s collection. There are a few reasons why someone might want to do this. Perhaps they want to skip the growth phase and start out with more cards, or maybe they don’t want to collect at all, but just invest.

Pokémon card collections can be expensive, and they will almost certainly become more expensive as time goes on. If you’re not interested in the hunting and collecting part of the hobby and just want to invest, buying someone’s old collection is probably the most efficient way to go. 

The best place to buy second-hand cards is eBay. It is not uncommon to find listings of full collections on eBay, and if it’s listed as an auction, you could potentially snag it for a good deal. You’ll want to know the approximate value of the collection first, and this can be a tedious task. It’s best to pick out the holofoil cards and look up each one individually. Here is a guide for finding card values. 

Final thoughts

The Pokémon TCG is meant to be fun and accessible for everyone. That is one of the reasons why the barrier to entry is so small. The beauty is that this hobby can take hold and expand into one of the best leisurely activities. 

A collection can start with just a single card (mine did!) and grow into something really impressive. It’s never too late to start.