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.