Chapter 3 of Learning Pokemon
Everything Parents Should Know About the Pokemon Trading Card Game

Learning Pokemon TCG is a series of blogs and videos that teaches you everything you need to know to start playing! This series is updated regularly to ensure all information is accurate.

While we have chapters of this series covering how to play and buy the Pokemon TCG, this chapter is for anyone with a kid in their life that has taken interest in the game. As someone who started collecting the Pokemon TCG at 9 years old, I cannot express how much it would have meant to me if my parents had taken the time to really understand the game.

Playing and collecting the Pokemon TCG was my gateway into the hobby of tabletop gaming. Through tabletop games I have met my best friends, had some of my most meaningful life experiences, learned incredibly important social skills, and have been able to continually challenge myself intellectually. In a world where it is normal for kids to play videos games and stare at an iPhone or tablet, the Pokemon TCG is an incredible form of entertainment accessible to children and adults alike.

If you want to understand your kids’ new interest, the first thing you need to know is that Pokemon is a trading card game. This means the cards come in booster packs. Booster packs are released in sets, roughly four times a year. Sets each have a unique name and feature around 200 new cards. The booster packs pictured below are from the set ‘Team Up’.

When you buy a booster pack, you get 10 random cards from the set shown on the packaging, in this case Team Up. These packs work a lot like sports cards (baseball, basketball, etc), where most cards aren’t particularly difficult to get and a few are really rare. A good comparable would be opening a Michael Jordan rookie card in a pack of basketball cards. Opening one of these super rare cards is beyond exciting!

My favorite memory of opening a pack is when my uncle took my brother and I see to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in theaters for our mutual birthday celebration (we’re 4 years apart). We had about an hour of free time after we bought our tickets, so he took us to a local Vintage Stock to buy a few Pokemon TCG booster packs.

Sitting in his back seat with my brother, I opened my packs so quickly that I only had one left by the time he asked, “Can I open one?”

I obliged, of course. He sat in the front seat, slowly reading each card and sounding out its name aloud.

“Is Char… ehhhh… zard any good?”

I was mid-sentence telling him not to mess with me when he turned to show me Charizard. Charizard was my favorite Pokemon and this particular card was the hardest one to get – I had been trying to find it since day one of playing the game! I still remember the incredible feeling of adrenaline and raw excitement as the opening crawl for Star Wars appeared on the movie screen. I still have that card and cherish it.

Like sports cards and all collectibles, these cards have actual value. The Charizard I talked about is still worth nearly $100 and any Charizard labeled ‘1st Edition’ sells for thousands of dollars. It is common to trade with other players for the cards you want or to sell them online. In fact, for a lot of kids trading is one of their favorite elements of playing the Pokemon TCG, and it’s a great way to connect with new friends.

Unlike most collectibles, though, that sit on a shelf or in a garage, you actually use these cards to get together with other people and play a game. Every player uses cards from their own collection to build a deck, which they then use to compete against other players.

I recently starting getting back into the Pokemon TCG, thanks in large part to my niece. She has been collecting the game for a few years. Knowing I played as a kid, she asked me if I could teach her to play. The first time I pulled out my decks from twenty years ago, it was like watching someone see ancient artifacts for the first time.

We didn’t have a local game store where I grew up (a town of about 2,000 people) and the nearest one was an hour away, so I started hosting local leagues out of the back of my uncle’s movie rental business. My older brother, the father of my niece who now plays, would occasionally drive me to The Movie Barn to play with other local kids, and on especially notable weekends, to the bigger events in Tulsa.

Even though those long car rides with my brother are some of my favorite memories, I’m grateful that the Pokemon TCG and tabletop game stores in general have grown significantly over the past twenty years. There are millions of players all over the world, and most cities have at least one local game store hosting leagues or events (like our store in Tulsa, Oklahoma).

If your kid doesn’t already have somewhere they go regularly to play and trade with other players, the official Pokemon TCG website has a great tool for looking up the places nearby hosting these kind of events. While I spent hours and hours at home reading through cards and building decks, our weekly meetup at The Movie Barn is where the magic happened. If it’s feasible for you to take your kid with any kind of regularity to these meetups, I cannot recommend it enough!

When I started collecting the Pokemon TCG, you could only find booster packs at local hobby game stores. Now, you can find them at places like Wal-Mart and Target for $4 each. While buying a few packs from Wal-Mart and Target is pretty convenient, it usually ends up costing more money and leading to less variety in the cards your kid will get from their booster packs.

Booster packs are sent to most retailers in boxes, also known as booster boxes (pictured above). These boxes have 36 booster packs, with each pack containing 6 common cards (most frequently included cards), 3 uncommon cards, and 1 rare card (least frequently included cards). Occasionally, the rare card is replaced with a super-rare card.

When you buy one pack at a time, it’s possible to get the same cards over and over or to never open any of the super-rare cards. It’s also possible, although unlikely, that you open a lot of really rare cards. When you buy an entire booster box, you get a more even distribution of cards. While there is no guarantee, boxes almost always come with a handful of these super rare cards and a wider variety of the common and uncommon cards – so they’re regarded as a better deal.

On top of getting better distribution from a booster box, the price is also much lower. Buying an entire booster box of 36 packs at MSRP (manufacturers suggested retail price) costs $144, but buying a booster box online is usually between $89 and $99. We sell them for $89, which comes out to under $2.50 a pack.

Knowing that buying packs by the box would give my niece a better variety of cards and save my brother money, I mentioned it to him. He understood why he should buy packs by the box, but ultimately the convenience of being able to grab a few packs at Wal-Mart whenever my niece earned them was just too convenient. I started looking online to see if there was anyone offering solutions for parents like my brother and was surprised not to find any.

I knew it could be better, and I knew that we could save my brother and his wife a lot of time and money. This is what directly led us to creating a Pokemon TCG Subscription.

With a subscription, you can get as many booster boxes (36 booster packs) as you would like – for most parents, that’s one box. Once you sign up (which is free), you are automatically charged two weeks before a new set releases, and then the booster packs get delivered right to your door.

If you’ve ever been concerned about whether or not you’re buying the right packs – these will always be the right packs! It is worth noting that most kids are used to only getting a few packs at a time, so if I had been given a full booster box as a kid, I might have passed out from excitement!

With 12 weeks or so between every set (new sets typically release in early February, May, August, and November), I recommended to my brother to use these packs over time to reward behavior, celebrate achievements, or to schedule a regular night to open a few packs with my niece and play with her. I remember after I had been playing Pokemon for a few years, my dad decided to let me teach him the game and play against me. Having someone at home show interest in my hobby was beyond meaningful!

If you are interested in learning, we have a chapter that breaks down how to play. If you have any questions though, reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter and we’d be happy to answer them!

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