Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Pokemon TCG - Complete Base Set Overview

Welcome to the first of my Pokemon TCG complete set review type things. I will be doing these from a personal point of view of course based on my own history with the card game. Launched in 1999, the original Base Set was the very first expansion released and kick-started a craze for the cards which were themselves based on an already out-of-control craze in the form of the Pokemon games. Base Set (also called Base 1) isn't even one of my favourite sets but since it was the starting point of a collecting obsession back when I was a child, it still offers a heavy dose of extreme nostalgia whenever I look back at the cards today.

Without further ado, here is the complete set! Apologies for one of the images which was a bit blurry but fortunately it's only commons! My phone camera is crap.

What I really love about these old cards is the simplicity of them. From the incredible hand-drawn artwork of Ken Sugimori and Mitsuhiro Arita to the primitive yet charming CG of Keiji Kinebuchi and CR CG Gangs, these cards are really nice to look at and don't need over-the-top foil effects or outlandish EX versions to look good. The majority of these were collected back in the day so all I have had to do upon returning to collecting several years ago was hunt down the missing foils and non-holo rares. This was the first set that I fully completed since I wanted to do them in order and it wasn't too difficult or expensive to do. Base Set cards sold a lot of copies and were printed several times so there is a healthy supply out there but on the flipside, loads of poor condition cards given that they are the very oldest Pokemon cards available and were traded/played with a lot. As for my favourite card in the set? You'll probably be expecting me to say this one:

The Base Set Charizard is indeed a beautiful, iconic card that is worth a fair amount of money (£30-£50 in good condition FYI) and I was dead pleased to somehow win this one for below £10 around 3 years ago but is it my favourite of the set? Naaaaaah. That honour goes to...

This is a beautiful card in my opinion and the attack power was a real head-turner back in the day despite the costs involved (which nobody cared about as a kid; it was all about pure numbers!). The hardest card for me to obtain was (surprisingly) Venusaur:

The three 'starter Pokemon' evolutions all come with a bit of a tax on top of the general value of the other foil cards in the set but Venusaur isn't too bad compared with Charizard. In fact, this card isn't too expensive at all but I was determined to dodge inflated Buy It Now prices and win the card for a good price. I should explain that I research the actual selling prices of particular cards and form an average figure of what I want to pay for said card(s) based on this research. After that, it's a case of simply sticking to my guns and refusing to go higher. Venusaur - for some reason - was the one card that caused me a bit of trouble while I was playing to the rules I had set myself. I've found the same thing happens with every set and usually with cards that I didn't suspect at all but those are stories for when I review those sets.

I will finish with some general tips for anybody else thinking of collecting the Base Set or finishing off an existing collection.
  • All holofoil Machamp cards are 1st Edition so don't pay more than a few pounds for a copy in nice condition. A lot of sellers mistakenly believe that the 1st Ed stamp makes it a valuable card but unlike the rest of the foils, this isn't the case with Machamp. The card was only available as a 1st Edition copy inside the two-player Starter Deck so was easily available to everybody and there are loads of copies out there.
  • Ninetails, Hitmonchan, Gyarados and Mewtwo are also easy to come by as they were instantly available in the four theme decks. This does also mean that there are loads of tatty examples out there though. Expect to pay slightly more for Mewtwo due to its popularity as a Pokemon in general.
  • Look out for reprints of the cards from the Base 2 and Legendary Collection sets as they are identical save for the set symbols (Base Set has no set symbol) and won't count towards a complete set. E-bay sellers often list cards wrong or don't even state which set they are from so check first.
  • 'Shadowless' cards have a slightly different background pattern (less shadows as the name suggests) and are worth considerably more money per card, especially with the foils. Shadowless cards were only a 'thing' with the Base Set and don't exist in any other set afterwards. Avoid these if you just want to complete a general set or else things will get expensive.
And that's about it, I think. I have a lot of nostalgia for this set (Base Charmander, Machop and Koffing were my first ever cards) and having it complete is a nice feeling. As I said earlier, it isn't my favourite set by a long shot but it is the birthplace of the TCG and so the significance is there. More importantly, these cards hold some great memories for me of simpler times, trading with friends and not having adult worries!

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