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“Should I get it graded?” The WotC Era

August 10, 2022

A good chunk of questions I see on the Pokemon TCG social media groups are to do with Grading. ‘Should I grade this?’ ‘Where do you grade?’ ‘How long does it take?’ etc. Funnily enough, we get those same questions through the store a lot as well. People dig up their old childhood collections buried beneath the boxes of Christmas decorations in the loft, they go online to see what the cards are worth and usually either look to sell them or complete their sets and indulge in some childhood nostalgia. Naturally we get a lot of calls looking for advice, and because grading has now become so widespread a lot of people ask if they need to be graded to sell them.

The answer is, of course, no they don’t. The vast majority of Wizards of the Coast era cards that pass through the store, especially the most common sets of Base to Team Rocket, have received some classic childhood love. Edgewear, creases, holo scratches and the like are all fairly common, and thus most of the cards aren’t what we would consider gradable, but they’re still worth something. Take the classic Charizard 4/102 unlimited edition from Base set, perhaps the most iconic Pokemon card in the world. ‘Zard fetches the highest raw (ungraded) price out of any holographic card in Base to Team Rocket. The average copy we see is worth around £150, and is usually the equivalent to a PSA 5 or 6. As of April 2022, the price of grading through PSA is $50 for the Economy service, with a 4 month turnaround. A PSA 6 is worth £200, so at the current cheapest service you would effectively be breaking even if you sent your Charizard at that price. However, a PSA 7 can add another £100 to the price quite easily. Because Charizard is so popular, it shouldn’t be difficult to quickly flip it online and save yourself the hassle if you want the money quickly, but how do you tell if it’s worth waiting that extra time to get it graded? Everyone’s personal idea of the condition varies. Any idea how many calls we get where people say they’ve got a near mint 1st edition Charizard, only for them to come in and present us an unlimited version peeling at the corners? It’s still worth something, but certainly not as much as they might have hoped and nor is it really worth grading.

 

So PSA is currently $50 a card, which makes it very difficult to send anything that isn’t Charizard, Blastoise, or Venusaur (or some of the other popular Pokemon from later sets like Gengar and Dragonite) and make money off it, so what are the alternatives? Well, for the purpose of making the biggest buck there really isn’t a good option. Other recognised companies like Beckett and CGC that have been grading for years are also fairly expensive for a lot of low-end cards these days, as well as having a similar turnaround time. A lot of new grading companies popped up during the Pandemic in the UK (and more still are to this day) to offer services at a much cheaper and faster rate, but then the next question is are they trustworthy and do they add value to your card? Without getting into great detail, for now the latter answer is no. PSA has been grading for over 30 years, it is not difficult to see why people place so much faith in their grading services compared to much younger companies, some of which are less than a year old. This isn’t to say grading with a newer company isn’t worth your time, you just have to be prepared to wait much longer on your investment instead of getting it back in a slab and immediately sticking it on ebay for a premium. Sometimes it works, often you end up getting the raw price + grading fees.

If you’re intending to keep the card to display or just hold onto, The Brotherhood always recommends finding a company whose slabs you like, but also making sure to keep informed about their grading quality and methods. The fact is that every company is different. Many do subgrades and break the final grade down into four categories (Surfaces, Centering, Edges, and Corners), but some do an average for the final grade, while others won’t give you a final grade more than .5 of a score above your lowest subgrade (for example a 10 in surfaces, corners, and edges can still only get a 9 if the centering is an 8.5).

 

Obviously this can all be very overwhelming whether you’re a long-time collector looking to start grading or just someone who discovered their old collection in the loft. So my next recommendation is to always bring the cards in person to a reliable source to get pregraded if possible. Don’t post pictures online, because everyone and their uncle thinks their naked eye is an electron microscope and you simply can’t see all the possible imperfections from an iPhone camera. A UV light and a magnifying glass is honestly the bare minimum you should be using for WotC cards. Then if you do notice imperfections it’s tough to figure out how that will affect the final grade. PSA has a helpful guide for their grading standards on their website here, and you can very easily see the first quality differences between a 10 grade and a 4 without even looking closer. They even tell you how much leeway there is on centering between an 8 and a 9, for example. You’ll quickly notice they prioritise the front of the card over the back, which means even a slight imperfection on the back can still be graded a 10, a fact I’ve noticed from some of my own graded cards where I might have cautiously expected a 9.

However, with all of the above in mind, you can see there is value even as a PSA 6 from some of the higher end cards, so your cards don’t have to be all 9s and 10s to be worth grading, and that brings us to the most important point. Every card has its own value and not everything is worth grading. A PSA 10 uncommon Magikarp from Base Set is worth $60~, which means even if your copy is pristine it’s still not really worth grading at the current price; the same goes for the majority of the non holos. You still need to do your research into the raw price compared to the graded price. For another example, a PSA 6-8 Chansey 3/102 also from Base set ranges from $20-$50 just based on some sold data from April. This card was just as hard to pull as Charizard back in the day, but you would actually lose money by sending it off as opposed to just selling the raw copy. Why are the prices like this? Because now we come full circle, with the average copy being rediscovered in the loft 20+ years later in that PSA 6 quality, whereas the PSA 9s and 10s are incredibly scarce because not only was Pokemon not as popular back then, but also how many kids kept their stuff sleeved and toploadered straight from the booster pack? I certainly didn’t, but I enjoyed them all the same.

 

Modern Pokemon is a whole different story, and as I gaze over my Chilling Reign full arts with alignment dots up the wazoo, it’s a story for another day…

 

Anime, I Choose You!

June 17, 2022

Whether your friends debate various shows, or you have been swept up by the current anime hype, you are here looking for answers.

Simply googling the term ‘Anime’ must not have helped much. The Anime world is vast and ever-expanding. Hundreds of list recommendations, Wikipedia ambiguities and confusing hypes can overwhelm a newcomer.

But don’t give up just yet! Here are five reasons to help you give Anime a chance:

 

Variety

What is it about Anime that attracts so many fans? It is flexible animation category with endless variety and diversity in subjects and genres.

This, however, creates a big trap for newcomers: what do I choose for my first show? 

When we get out of our comfort zone to try something new, first impressions matter. We know we are investing free time into Anime and we want it to be worth it. Most people who reject anime usually start off with a highly popular show that has received a lot of hype and is on top of most recommendation lists; it might suit them, it might not, they are truly running a 50/50 chance of deciding if anime is for them or not.

Touch red if these shows have been suggested to you as a beginner: Deathnote, Fulmetal Alchemist: The Brotherhood, Naruto, Attack on Titan, One Punch Man, Dragon Ball or One Piece.

What I see there is all action/suspenseful anime. What about a person that loves romance? Historical period shows? Wholesome, slice of life? High School? You can’t expect recommendation lists to be that subjective. They play with statistics and with what most viewers prefer. There is, however, anime for all kinds of people. Some may require more time to find their right one. Hint: if you know you prefer some types of movies/shows over others, don’t google “best anime 2022”, make it specific, i.e. “top romance anime 2022”.

You must remember that, like all entertainment, watching anime is filled with trial and error.

 

Art

When we think of the Simpsons, it’s an easy bet that we will picture Oscar’s minimalistic form. Anime has been associated in the past with a set of common characteristics; characters with large eyes, shiny hair or mouths drawn to the shape of a ‘U’.

But Anime is a form of art with as many styles and artistic choices as there are stars.

Here are three completely different art styles in anime:

Princess Mononoke

Demon Slayer

Ranking of Kings

The ‘art factor’ is one of the biggest obstacles of entering the world of anime. Just like plot and characters, art can either be off-putting or the very thing that sucks you over to the Otaku Side.

The art of an anime series depends on the artistic style of the mangaka (manga author) and the the animation studios that produce it. Many manga are beautifully illustrated but can sink when a studio animates the series poorly (I’m looking at you Yuri on Ice!!). 

Taste and preference go beyond the illustration of the manga and into its animation which can truly skyrocket an anime. Some recent examples, can you feel these images move?

Attack on Titan

Demon Slayer

Jujutsu Kaisen 0

 

Language and Culture

Anime provides a very distinct window into the Japanese language and culture. Don’t get me wrong, not all things in anime reflect the Japanese’s cultural and societal behaviours.

But they do give out certain elements that can make audiences excited; beautiful city and country landscapes, Sakura trees shedding petals in spring, societal norms in need of breaking, coffee vending machines. 

The list goes on and on. As a newcomer, expect to catch many new linguistic expressions and adopt them into your vernacular – kawaii, arigatou, itadakimasu!  

Engaging with another culture is very contagious, especially one so different from the western cultures we are so used to experiencing. After the first or second show, you will be able to identify more and more cultural elements and how a different way of life is depicted in the art of anime. ill you want to watch some more.

Your Name

Chihayafuru

Storytelling 

It is a challenge to define the uniqueness of storytelling in anime. It makes the mind boggle, trying to find that x factor that makes anime different from other entertainment media. In books, films or TV shows, you can subconsciously discern whether a story is good or not. If you have a voracious nature, like me, you can go further and identify which parts of the given show (plot, characters, structure etc) did not work out for you.

Anime storytelling works slightly different. They usually will vary in pace, structure and of course, direction. These vary according to their chosen genre. From epic plot to comedic satire, there are endless options. Anime can truly be masterful and give you stories that will stay with you forever. 

A valid (and short) example, take “From me to You”, romance. Negative opinions usually address the slow pace of the story, the way characters are always fidgeting around their love-subject, or continue to contemplate future actions rather than taking them. 

From Me To You

Toradora

Romance is a complex part of Japanese society. It isn’t always easy to express emotions directly and they handle intimacy in a very discreet and different way than we do. As an art form, mangaka attempt to narrate experiences in a way we are not used to, since our cultures differ. This is why action/intellectual or adventure anime are usually recommended to beginners and Romance or Slice of Life genres, which might be more individualistic, are up to being discovered from a newcomer in due time. 

Community

Anime has a multitude of fandoms, as many as there are shows out there. You encounter the very work of such fandoms when you search for reviews, recommendation lists and articles. It is easy to access anime communities via Facebook groups, fan-wiki pages that allow comments and of course by joining groups from big names in the anime world (MyAnimeList, Crunchyroll, Funimation etc).

Be warned, there is some toxicity here and there. Big debates about what constitutes a spoiler. However, all around, anime fans are highly welcoming to new viewers and excited to suggest and discuss their favourite shows.

I feel lucky to be an Otaku in this day and age. Cosplays, social media, Comic Cons, Japanese Festivals, we are truly surrounded by acceptance and true celebration of anime. 

 

CONCLUSION

Give it a try.

Try to find an anime in a genre you enjoy watching, shuffle through anime lists and find big hitters in them.

Nothing can ever beat the sensation of realising how cool some anime moments can be.

 

Welcome to the Otaku side all,

Stacy 🌸