Shiny PokÃ©mon hype has jumped out of the games and into real life with one trading card game fan whoâs trying to collect one of every monster color variant that currently exists. Good news: he only needs one more card. Bad news: some people are selling it for as much as $30,000.
Shinies were digitally introduced in PokÃ©mon Gold and Silver to give players even rarer creatures to catch. Unlike standard versions of PokÃ©mon, Shinies have unique color variants and only a roughly 1/8000 chance of ever showing up. That rarity has encouraged some players over the years to focus primarily on trying to collect every Shiny options, ultimately creating an end-game all of their own. Itâs a hobby that is filled with frequent heartbreak whenever a catch fails and exceedingly unusual moments of exaltation when a long hunt for any specific monster is finally rewarded.
But shinies donât just exist in the video gamesâtheyâre also present in the card game. While many collectors chase the rarest and most expensive cards, some like Toby have created their own unique collecting goals, and in his case the project is inspired directly by the PokÃ©mon games themselves.
âBy my count, there are roughly 378 cards in the Pokemon TCG that feature shiny Pokemon,â Bird Keeper Toby, a PokÃ©mon YouTuber, wrote on Instagram yesterday. He now owns exactly 377 of those 378 options, meaning that heâs this close to completing a shiny compendium in the card game. The one heâs missing? A gold star Umbreon. Itâs an ultra rare card from a 2007 promo set tied to real-world events, meaning that the opportunities to obtain it were comparatively limited. And so, itâs currently listed by one seller on Ebay for $30,000 for a version with an immaculate quality rating from official grading services, otherwise known as a PSA-10.
âIf there is anyone out there with this card at a reasonable price or even damaged I would be so so grateful to complete my collection,â he wrote. While a good-condition card is expensive, Toby is willing to settle for scratched or even bent cardsâso he could likely find a shiny Umbreon for much, much less.
For a long time, Shiny PokÃ©mon were even rarer in the card game as most are printed in the standard color options. But the 2019 Hidden Fates expansion, which is based around PokÃ©mon Sun and Moon, introduced a bunch more. Thatâs when Toby decided to really commit to trying to get them all. âIt was like Thanos collecting the infinity stones bit by bit,â he told Kotaku in a phone call. âI was going around collecting these Shiny things through trades and occasional purchases.â
The journeyâs taken a lot of research to figure out which Shinies even exist. While new shinies like Espeon and Mewtoo from sets like Hidden Fates are well documented, there are ones from early on in the trading gameâs history, or from Japan, that can be harder to track down. Toby has one Shiny Altaria from Japan that includes an avatar for one of the composers on the PokÃ©mon anime in the art. According to Toby, there are only five with PSA-10 quality ratings that people know about, one of which belongs to him.
Some of those cards include Smeargle, a favorite of Tobyâs from Gen 2. Heâs also collected every version of that PokÃ©mon printed in the card game. They might be worth anything to anyone else but they mean something to him.
The endeavor has also taken a lot of patience. âIn the games you can spend hours or days being repetitive until the Shiny appears but ultimately you know which PokÃ©mon you are going for,â he said. âWith the cards itâs a little different. To seek them out via trades or good deals online you have to be more opportunistic and be able to recognise a good deal when you see it. Some of these cards are rare enough that they arenât just available to buyâand certainly not affordably year aroundâand when auctions come up you have competition from other collections. So itâs a different kind of patience needed.â
To make the hunt fun and exciting, Toby has imposed a few rules. For one, he tries to mainly trade for the cards rather than buy them outright. When he does buy, heâll settle for cards that might be damaged in some way that keeps their cost reasonable and the entire project from getting too out of hand. âI didnât and donât have the money for that,â he said.
How much money has he spent on cards these last several years? He wonât say. He wonât ballpark how much his current Shiny collection is worth, either. But itâs probably nothing to sneeze at, given the increasing demand (if not frenzy) surrounding the hobby of late. While some, like his Red Gyarados card, have been through the wash, others are in protective slabs and rated PSA-10. Lower ratings can hurt a cardâs value by hundreds or even thousands of dollars in some cases (or more with extremely sought after cards).
Tobyâs even fonder of some of the damaged cards. âIt means that theyâve been played, that theyâve been loved,â he said. âYou can kind of see your own childhood in that. Itâs part of the nostalgia, a little bit. Donât get me wrong, a high quality card in a slab is excitingâItâs gorgeousâbut thereâs something to be said, it adds a level of personality and charm to them that I think is at the heart of the hobby.â
Heâs not above selling the entire collection if it can go toward a big life investment like a house in the future, though. âOn the one hand this is a cool collection and I think itâs awesome,â he said. âOn the other hand itâs cardboard. Itâs cardboard that I love, but there are plenty of other cards that I love too.â