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How playground sexism led to one of the rarest original Pokémon cards

Swaps and scratches have left shiny Chansey hard to find in a good condition.

Sexism in playgrounds during the late 1990s and early noughties resulted in one of the rarest Pokémon cards today, according to an expert in the TCG.

Jared Mast, a veteran Pokémon card collector and consignment manager at auction house Goldin Auctions, told Dicebreaker that the first-edition holographic Chansey card released in 1999 had become extremely difficult to find in perfect condition - designated as Gem-Mint 10 by leading card grader PSA - as the result of numerous playground swaps that scuffed and scratched the shiny card.

A factor in many of these swaps, Mast added, was the sexist view held by younger players that Chansey - a light pink Pokémon with a kangaroo-like egg pouch - along with pink fairy-type Pokémon Clefairy, was a “girl Pokémon”.

“A lot of kids traded Clefairy and Chansey because they were kind of like the 'girl Pokémon' of the groups,” Mast said. “And a lot of people who played with Pokémon were guys. There were obviously girls involved, too, but this is just a generalisation. For that reason, Chansey is one of the toughest holographics [to find].”

Adding to the difficulty in finding Chansey and Clefairy in nearly-untouched condition are the cards’ light-coloured foil backgrounds, which are more susceptible to scratches and visual damage than other cards with darker artwork.

“The first-edition Chansey holographic was a light-back foil, so there's a lot more scratches on that - and same thing with Clefairy because of the fact it's not a dark background,” Mast said.

PSA notes that only 48 first-edition holographic Chansey cards rated at Gem-Mint 10 have been graded by the company to date, compared with almost 400 cards evaluated to be in Near-Mint 8 and Mint 9 condition respectively.

Unsurprisingly, the difference in availability between the grades has led to a similarly large gap in value. A Gem-Mint 10 first-edition holographic Chansey is estimated to be worth more than $32,000 on average, compared to under $2,000 for a Mint 9 card and $640 for a Near-Mint 8 card.

Comparatively, 65 Gem-Mint 10 first-edition holographic Clefairy cards have been graded to date, with an estimated value of around $11,000. Nearly 400 Mint 9 cards have been identified - each worth approximately $1,000 - with just over 300 Near-Mint 8 cards worth between $500 and $600 a pop.

Despite Chansey’s rarity and value, Mast said that the card is primarily sought after today to complete a full set of first-edition Pokémon cards from the 1999 base set, rather than as a standalone card.

“Is it super desired? Not really, unless you're building a set,” he said. “It's one of those cards that's super tough and very expensive. It does have a lot of demand and a low pop [population count] but, at the same time, it's too niche for me.”

Pokémon cards have exploded in popularity - and value - during 2021 as the result of multiple record-breaking sales, including several to celebrity fans such as rapper Logic, YouTuber Logan Paul and DJ Steve Aoki. The demand for hard-to-find cards worth money even led US retailers to pull trading card game products from their shelves in spring to curb the behaviour of customers fighting over more recent rarities.


Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis

Editor-in-chief

After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.

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