Foreign Base Sets

Today we will be taking a look at the release of Pokemon’s base set internationally. The North American launch is well documented, and with four variations in printing, it offers collectors a fun challenge if they decide to try and complete a full set. After its English release, the base set was printed in nine more languages, four in 1999 (German, French, Spanish, Portuguese) and five more in 2000 (Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Italian, Dutch). While Pokemon was wildly popular all over the globe, first edition printings of these sets were still extremely limited in comparison to even the English unlimited printing, and finding booster boxes can be almost impossible. This makes collecting them a fun challenge as you attempt to find every language variant of your favorite card from base set. The holo patterns from the languages released in 2000 have a “cosmo” holographic pattern similar to English Team Rocket and Gym heroes, giving these copies a different flair from their 1999 counterparts. If you intend on collecting a full set of 10’s for certain pokemon in every language…you would find it quite literally impossible. Learning that the population of base set cards in other languages is wildly low shouldn’t be surprising. The grading companies that dominate the western market are all in the United States, making it quite a task for someone in Portugal or Germany, for example, to be consistently sending cards in to be graded. Add this to the fact that nobody had any clue Pokemon cards would ever be worth as much as they are today, and you can begin to see how daunting it would be to attempt to collect a complete set of tens in every language from a set that was released 23 years ago.

And this is what I wanted to highlight: how scarce these cards really are and the collecting frontier that opens up. How exciting it is that there is not a single 1st edition Italian Charizard graded in a 10 that exists at PSA, CGC, or Beckett? Or SGC (lay off, they’ve been around longer than Beckett).  Charizard, the one card from base set that would be worth the sweat to get graded internationally, still doesn’t exist in a 10. In Chinese, whether Mandarin or Cantonese is unknown, there is one. ONE. Portuguese comes in with a whopping two, Dutch with five, and Spanish and Korean follow up with a strong seven. And if the population of Charizard is this low, you can count on the other cards in the set being just as low, if not lower. Italian in particular appears to be almost impossible to find. Of the big three starter evolutions, only Venusaur exists in a 10 in Italian, and that card is a Pop 1. This is a chance for some crazy card chasing.

Booster boxes of these foreign printings are very difficult to track down, but that makes an opportunity to jump in when these boxes do surface even more exciting. Even if you can get your hands on just one pack, heavy or not, you could be the owner of the only graded 10 versions of those cards in the world. I think it’s beautiful that after all these years we still have so much to chase from the Pokemon set that started it all. While you may not speak 10 languages, the artwork from base set is as recognizable in Korean as it is in Italian as it is in English, and collecting copies from these foreign printings can be as rewarding as it is difficult. There is still the opportunity to own a 1/1 base set Charizard, and being able to say that in 2022 is very exciting. Happy hunting!

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