Tomy Scratch Cards Series 1 and 2 (1997)
I am very excited to be talking about Tomy Pokemon Scratch cards this week as they are a personal favorite and many collectors know very little about their history. Tomy scratch cards were the fourth set released by Pokemon, joining the Topsun and Bandai sets, as well as the more mainstream Base/Jungle/Fossil sets that would define the TCG in the international market. Unlike the Topsun and Bandai sets however, the Tomy scratch cards were meant to be played, not simply collected. The game was actually quite dynamic! A player would scratch off the silver foil (similar to a lotto ticket) to reveal the Pokemon’s data, such as Hit Points, level, and attack moves, which would decide how much damage would be done to the opposing player’s Pokemon. As scratching the cards was essential to playing the game, it’s no wonder that unscratched versions of the cards can be difficult to track down, which is great for us collectors.
Both series 1 and 2 were released in 1997 in Japan. Each series contains 36 cards and 6 prism holofoil cards unique to each series. Each pack contains five unscratched cards, and the odds of pulling a Holofoil card was about 1 in every 5 packs, so with 15 packs per box you can expect 3 holofoil cards on average for every box opened. Holofoil cards can sometimes be duplicates however (I myself have seen two holo Moltres come from the same box) so chasing specific Holofoil cards can be difficult, though the chase can be very rewarding. The Tomy cards all feature Ken Sugimori’s artwork, including the Kangaskhan trophy card art, so every card regardless of resale value is beautiful to look at and holds a place in Pokemon history. The Tomy cards were only ever printed in 1997, and though attention around the set has been picking up, they are still scarce in comparison to other sets of the time.
AND NOW THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THINGS…
Finding Tomy booster packs these days is pricey, a series 1 pack will rarely be sold under $250 and series 2 commands an even higher price point, so ripping 5 of these to chase a holo can certainly get expensive rather quickly. The good news for collectors is that even the non holo cards can still be valuable. The three starters, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander, all sell for around $275-$300 graded in a 9, and the second stage (Ivysaur, Wartortle, and Charmeleon) also can sell for north of $200. Kangaskhan, Gyarados, and Snorlax from series 1, and Alakazam, Flareon, Vaporeon and Chansey from Series 2 all have large price tags if you can score a high grade, so it's not quite a “holofoil or bust” situation.
The population of these cards at both PSA and Beckett are wildly low considering how old this set is. There are a total of 5 PSA graded 10s for both sets put together, Pikachu being the only holo card with a copy graded in a 10. You didn't misunderstand me, there are seriously only 5 PSA 10’s from both Series 1 and Series 2, and no repeats, meaning each “10” is a Pop 1. Beckett’s population report is poorly organized and makes checking populations more difficult, however there is no known BGS 10 Tomy Scratch card that exists. There is a $200,000 bounty out for the first holo Charizard (series 1) to be graded a 10 by PSA by a collector in Italy, so the financial upside to ripping this set certainly exists. A PSA 9 Charizard will still sell for around $5,000, and the Dragonite and Mew probably would as well, but recent sales simply don't exist, save for one sale of the raw Mew card for $1100.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, THESE ARE JUST SUPER COOL
Whether you want to go bounty hunting for the elusive perfect Charizard, attempt to grade the first 10’s of cards that have been around longer than some collectors, or just have fun collecting the nostalgic artworks and unique card layout, the 1997 Tomy Scratch set is certainly worth a look by anyone interested in collecting vintage Pokemon. The artworks are iconic, the cards are unlike any other sets Pokemon ever released, and the short lived print run prevented over saturation in the marketplace, making each unscratched card feel like a real treasure. Happy hunting out there!