Why your old Pokémon trading cards could be worth a fortune

Old Pokémon cards collecting dust from when you were a kid could be worth thousands - with some selling for enough to give you a house deposit.

Trading cards are seeing a nostalgic burst of popularity around the world, and New Zealand is no exception.

"It is pretty much a given that if you grew up in the 90s or pretty much anything since, Pokémon was a part of your childhood!" says Matt Rogers, who runs the gaming business Card Merchant.

"With the trading card having just celebrated its 20th birthday Pokémon TCG has been around for a long time. The surge of Pokémon Go a few years ago helped, and a second surge of YouTubers starting to collect and showcase the cards recently has created another big buzz."

Could your old cards be a goldmine?

Rogers says as cards usually only stay in print for a small amount of time, after this they become hard to find.

"As people need those last few Pokémon to finish their collection, some of the more sought-after ones start fetching a serious premium," he tells Newshub.

"If you have a mint condition Charizard from 20 years ago you could well be sitting on a house deposit, but your scuffed-up poor condition commons are not going to be worth much!"

Tomas Mendes is one of those lucky enough to own a 'house deposit' cards - a first edition holographic Charizard he calls the "holy grail".

He's selling it on Trade Me, where it's the most expensive Pokémon card up for grabs with a buy-now of $39,999.

"The price is very volatile, it moves with the market. At the end of last year it was worth about $23- $24,000 and peaked at about $45,000 a few months ago," Mendes says.

The ultra-rare Charizard card.
The ultra-rare Charizard card. Photo credit: Tomas Mendes / TradeMe

His cards are so valuable he stores all his collectables in a safe that's not - he emphasises - at his house.

But he's not in it for the money. Mendes says he loved Pokémon as a kid. He played every Game Boy and Nintendo game and started collecting the cards.

"I started collecting when I was 13 or 14 in school and kept going," he tells Newshub.

"As time went on I got more income and my collection got bigger and bigger and in the last year-and-a-half the market has exploded and my collection is very sought after."

Mendes isn't alone. He says prices are being driven by fans getting older, getting more money and rediscovering their childhood hobbies.

"People just want to feel young again and nostalgic and that's why prices are going up," he tells Newshub.

So if you still have a stash of cards from when you were a kid, could they be worth a house deposit?

Rogers says if you're holding onto an old card, it's not just the rarity that makes it valuable.

"Condition is an important one as a lot of people who had these cards as kids played with them and did not keep them in protective sleeves," he says.

"If you do have an unopened box though, you could be talking real money," Mendes adds.

"There's old packs from Wizards of the Coast, the first company to print the cards, those packs sell anywhere from a few hundred to several thousands."

Mendes says it's this thrill that drives collectors.

"The entire fun and excitement is you could open a $8 pack from Toyworld and get a $800 card inside - or you could get a $2 card."

But with the high prices come allegations of dodgy behaviour - and Kiwis are warned to watch out for scams.

"The money can get very high and unfortunately that always leads to greasy-fingered scam artists wanting a piece. There are fakes in the market too which is a huge problem because to people that do not have expertise in the TCG market some are hard to tell the difference," Rogers says.

For example, a highly-expensive set of Pokémon boosters was up for sale on TradeMe until buyers became suspicious and demanded they be professionally checked for legitimacy.

"These were all sought-after sealed booster packets but when we assessed them it was obvious someone had opened and glued the booster back together," Rogers says.

"Someone had spent a lot of time opening all this product, taking out the rarest money cards and gluing the rest back together to try to rip people off.

"We knew that with this sort of thing it is going to go around and rip someone off so we demanded that it be sold to us at bulk card rate, it was very important to us that those cards did not leave the store and we were going to do whatever it took to ensure that did not happen. We opened all the packs and have sorted them into bulk packs for kids."

If you are a millennial looking back at your childhood, getting nostalgic and thinking about picking up a pack of cards, Mendes' advice is to do it for the love and join the friendly New Zealand Pokémon community.

"Try to get into Pokémon not to make money, but because you love Pokémon, you love the cards and the art. Do it and have fun."