To celebrate the new year, and the 1 year anniversary of this project, I went through the archives and took out all the “valuable” cards we’ve pulled this year. It’s quite a collection, I can’t possibly show them in a single post like this. The best way to see all of these amazing anime cards is on video, it’s a whole hour of hit after hit. This article will focus on what makes an anime card valuable in the first place.
Table of Contents
- What Makes an Anime Card Valuable?
- Numbered Cards
- Special Materials
- Relic Cards
- Booklets and Tri-Folds
- Other Valuable Anime Cards
What Makes an Anime Card Valuable?
Seems like an easy one to answer eh? The rarer a card is -> the more valuable it will be, right? That is essentially true, but how do you know which card is rare? Sure, they have rarity levels like R, SR, SSR – rare, super rare and superior super rare respectively. Really though, those are all still just base level cards and would rarely sell for more than a few dollars.
Truly valuable cards are known to be rare for some provable reason. For example if a card has a serial number stamped on it – well you know that is unique in some sense. It may say “X out of 299” meaning you have card X out of 299 total copies. That’s 299 copies, ever, in the whole world. So you know exactly how rare that card is. That’s not the only way though, autographed cards are by definition rare as long as they are really signed autographs. Sketch cards are also rare, usually considered unique.
Just being rare isn’t always enough though. Over the years there have been many trading card sets with very rare cards that simply are no longer in demand. Franchises nobody cares about, or franchises that have fallen out of favor culturally somehow. It won’t matter how rare a card is in those categories, you will still have a small market to sell into.
Cards can also become valuable for gimmick reasons, things like the metal cards or cards with memorabilia encased within. These cards maybe have inherent value from the material itself, for example a card printed on 10g of gold – which is a common top end card in AliExpress sets. Let’s take a look at some of those categories now with examples from the Archives own collection.
This is the easiest category to understand. These are trading cards with a serial number stamped onto the card itself. This means the specific card was printed normally, then separated from the rest and modified in some way. Maybe it had a different foil treatment, or a different color, or it had an autograph added – something was done to make that card “special”. Then the card was marked individually, even if there are 200 “blue” variants in a set each is stamped like 1/200, 2/200, 3/200 – theoretically you could find and buy all 200 have a monopoly!
Above you see the lowest numbered card I own, a 1/1 Edge mat relic autograph. This is not an anime card, but I still wanted to show you how that looks on western cards. This is a 1/1 meaning there is no other copy like this in the entire world, I have the only one. The trick is – the only difference between this one and the the next level up, which is 10 copies, is the color around the relic. The 1/1 is read, the x/10 is blue – that’s the only difference. In that set there are well over 200 cards with this same type of relic and autograph, just with different colors. I keep using the term “relic”, this just means some artifact that is embedded inside the card, we will talk a lot more about those later.
These are anime cards, they come from the Star Wars Pre Release set published by Step Inn Games Ltd which we now know as Cartoon House. I’ve opened a ton of this product so I have a lot of high end cards from it. These two SSP cards, SSP stands for “super short print”, feature Han Solo and Darth Vader which simply amazing foil backgrounds – really you should go look at those in the video. The back above is from the Vader card, it is copy 168 out of 200 total copies. The Han is copy 117 out of 200. Nobody else anywhere should have that exact stamp on their copy.
At this point you might be asking yourself – what exactly do we mean by “valuable”, how much money are we talking here? Well, that varies a lot from card to card and also through time. Usually cards are priced really high right after release as everybody scrambles to figure the set out. Then the price will drop, and keep dropping as the set falls out of favor. Eventually though the truly rare cards from that set, assuming people care about the franchise, will recover to their market correct value – the value that somebody is willing to pay for them. As an example that Vader SSP is listed for anywhere from 80$ – 300$ on Ebay when I wrote this. The box it is pulled from costs 14$.
Some more numbered cards from my collection, the video has all of them if you want to see more. The SpongeBob /199 came from the BobiCard set and the Minions /699 came from the Card.Fun set. Those two are difficult to price since those sets are not very popular. The characters are popular though so to the right collector, with the right context, you could still fetch a good price. Spider Man is easier as that set is quite popular, this /199 EX is worth around 50$ right now.
Cards don’t need to be stamped to have known value, printing materials can also grant a card inherent value. Often sets will include “metal” cards as promotional cards at events, case promotions or even as chase cards within the set itself. Sometimes the metal cards will also have a serial number giving them even more value. Still, even an un-numbered card like that silver JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure card is known to be incredibly rare. Likely there are far less copies of that card in existence as there are of the /699 Minions card we saw earlier.
You might have noticed I put metal in quotes at first. This is because, while these are technically metal cards they are rarely precious metal like gold or silver. Typically these are some sort of cheap alloy that is then plated in whatever color is desired. This doesn’t make them any less cool, it’s just important to understand because there are also precious metal cards. Many sets feature actual gold or silver cards, either with a 5-10g bar embedded like a relic, or the card itself is printed onto the actual precious metal. These cards will always come with an export certificate either in the pack you pulled it from or with the redemption package.
10g of gold is worth around 700$ right now. That’s the value a pawn shop would/should give you for it. Likely the rarity of the card combined with the franchise increases that value dramatically. Pulling or receiving one of those cards can be life changing money to many people.
Above are 2 more metal cards. These are interesting because you cannot pull them from packs, not even the 1-per-box “hit” packs. These are redemption prize cards from the Big Face Studios Chainsaw Man set. That was a high demand set that sold out quickly. These two cards are “prize” cards, meaning they would be inside of a case – if you bought an entire case. The idea is that you, as a vendor, buy a case and sell the boxes. People open the boxes, find the prize cards and redeem them with the prizes that were in your case. It’s all a self-contained system without needing to mail anything back to a central manufacturer.
Those two cards are worth around 30$ each.
One more, just for fun, this is a Harley Quinn metal card from the bootleg “Batman” box. These metal cards are promos and should be in every single box. There are many variants though and each is priced differently. This particular one is worth from 60$ – 100$ right now, it came from a 15$ box. If you’ve been keeping score I’ve shown you just about 1000$ worth of anime cards – if you let me include the Edge relic. Only 500$ if you don’t.
I promised we’d talk about relic anime cards, and here we are. The term “relic” here just means that there is some non-trading-card thing embedded in the card. In the sports world it is typically a piece of the players uniform, or the wrestling mat like on that Edge card above. In anime cards we need to get a bit more creative. The two above are from the Overlord franchise and feature relics like pieces of cloth that are meant to be from a dress, or a powder that would be used to coat bones to represent the skeleton character.
Another type of relic card we often see are “manufactured” relics. This means that the company producing the set also produced some other items for the set like coins, patches or medallions. These are not artifacts on their own, they only exist as part of the set, and still they can be quite valuable! The Churchill challenge coin and stormtrooper cards above are worth a little bit, but the one in the middle is the real gem.
That’s a gold coin card from the Mitaka Museum Studio Ghibli set. It is not real gold, I’ve never been lucky enough to pull any precious metal cards. Still, it looks amazing and it is really heavy. That card is not listed on Ebay right now, it is also a numbered card at /188. There is a silver version of this coin that is on Ebay for 225$, the silver versions are to /444 so that gives you some idea of the value on this gold one. I estimate around 500$.
Another popular relic type amongst anime card sets is the film cell relic. The three cards above are all examples. The left is from Chainsaw Man and is to /118, the middle is from Bleach at /488 and the right is Doraemon at /118. Film cell relics are rarely special on their own as you can cheaply print as many copies of a film as you want and any given copy has thousands of similar looking cells for any given scene. It’s the combination of the cell, with the stamped trading card that grants value.
Yet another type of relic are actual historical relics, lol. I’m not kidding either, I have quite a few in my collection already. The left there is an Antoni Patek watch dial face, an actual dial from a real Patek watch – these are 100,000$+ watches. This card is from the Pieces of the Past collection and comes in a lighted jewelry case. The middle card is also really interesting, this is from the Long Dog Cards/RRParks collaboration set The History of Egypt from kickstarter. It is an actual set of mummy beads from a real Egyptian mummy. That final card is from Meow World and is an ancient Chinese coin.
Finally these are what are called “Sketch” cards. In the western world they would be hand drawn 1/1 of cards added to the set by a real artist. Marvel card sets often include many sketch cards as their primary chase elements. In AliExpress sets that sometimes happens. For example on the left is a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure sketch card, this is limited to 25 copies – but each copy has basically this same sketch on it.
The other two cards here are deceptive, they look like sketches but these are printed cards – not hand drawn. They are still both very short print cards from desirable sets. Center is an RX-0 sketch from Duel Gundam series 1, and right is a sketch promo card from Big Face Studios Chainsaw Man.
Booklets and Tri-Folds
This is another category of typically high value, super rare trading cards. In the sports card world a booklet card might be a card that opens like a greeting card would and has an autograph on one side and a big piece of the players uniform on the other. Other common examples are team “booklet” cards where a single card will fold out into a tri-fold with every player’s autograph on it – these are typically incredibly rare chase cards.
In the anime world the concept in similar, you saw above that Overlord dress relic is in fact also a folding booklet card. Above is a folding relic card from Bleach featuring a manufactured patch on the right and a hand painted image on the right. This card is over 240pts thick, you will usually need specialized sleeves and toploaders to store these types of cards. They even make acrylic cases to allow you to display the card unfolded without creasing it.
This last tri-fold I’ll show you comes from the latest Goddess Story release, you can pull these directly from normal packs. Goddess Story tri-folds sell from between 20$ – 100$ depending on the characters, I can’t find a comp for this card yet so I’m unsure of it’s value.
Other Valuable Anime Cards
As I mentioned at the start, there are a lot of factors that can make an anime card valuable. In this section we will talk about cards that aren’t relics, or booklets, or special materials or even numbered – these are just regular cards that happen to be rare or otherwise valuable.
Up top are three “Promo” promotional cards. This just means you can’t pull them from packs. Usually they come with a case, like that gold Freedom Gundam card – it comes with cases of Little Frog’s excellent Mechanical Story set. The vendor I bought some boxes from included it with my order, that’s the exact purpose of these cars – to be promotional for the vendor. They are usually the best looking cards, but also not in the actual set which gives them another level of exclusivity. Be careful though because sometimes the rarity level “PR” is used, as in that JoJo card on the right – it is not a promo, you can pull PRs from packs they are just incredibly rare.
Three more quite valuable cards, although not top rarity cards and also not limited cards. The Flash card on the left comes from Kayou’s newest DC trading card set. That is a really exciting set because it is fully licensed unlike most of the sets we look at. That card is selling today for 100$, it is not limited just very rare.
The middle ZR level card, also from Gundam Mechanical Story, is a “Case Level” hit. This means that over time collectors of the set have figured out that this rarity, ZR, appears exactly 1 time in every case. This set has 36 boxes in a case so that means pulling a XR is a 1 in 36 box chance. Good Luck. On the right is an MR from Kayou’s Marvel Hero Battle another licensed anime card set. This is not a top rarity card, CR is the top, but MR is rare enough that good ones – like this silver Guardians card – go for around 50$.
Two more. On the left is DJ Lance Rock! This card is a chase card from the original Yo Gabba Gabba trading cards set by Press Pass. I own an entire case of that product, let’s not ask questions about that right now. These DJ Lance cards are lenticular, meaning the image changes as you move the card. I did a video teaching you how such a card is printed if you are interested. This card is valuable due to it’s rarity, it is a 1:36 pack pull, that means you need to open 36 packs on average to pull one. There are 6 variants in the set, each still worth around 8$-10$ today which is twice the cost of the hobby box itself.
That’s a pretty thorough overview of the various types of high value anime cards available these days. Now of course, any card can become valuable at any time. Even printing errors can make individual cards thousands of times more valuable than the non-error version. I’ve shown you a small sample of valuable cards we pulled here at the Archives just in 2023. The video version shows all of these cards in high resolution with good lighting so you can really see how incredible they look.
Just in this article you’ve seen just about 3,000$ worth of anime cards. I’m not trying to brag or anything, I don’t even think I’ve been that lucky. It’s just to show how vibrant this market is right now, there hasn’t been a better time to jump into the hobby then right now. If you want to learn even more about the investment side of things, I have an article for that too. Until next time!