PSA Set Registry
Collecting the 1999 Pokémon Fossil 1st Edition Card Set
A Rock-Solid Investment?
by Kevin Glew
To young Pokémon enthusiasts, it must seem like these cards are from the Stone Age.
In fairness to them, the 1999 Pokémon Fossil set was the last Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) Pokémon series of the 20th century, and that was almost two decades ago.
"The Fossil set is the third [WOTC] Pokémon set, but more importantly, it's the last set that completed that 151-card Pokédex," explained Scott Pratte, a well-known Pokémon trading card expert. "I would say that the 1999 Base [Complete 1st Edition], Jungle, and Fossil sets are in a category of their own because they're the original sets. They have the rookie cards of all of the original Pokémon."
The original Pokédex refers to the 151 Pokémon characters deemed first generation Pokémon.
The 1999 Pokémon Fossil 1st Edition series was WOTC's third Pokémon release. At 62 cards, it was their smallest set.
The cards in the Fossil 1st Edition series boast yellow borders with the Pokémon's name and HP at the top above the artwork. The 1st Edition stamp (Edition 1), the Pokémon's vitals (type, length, weight) ensue, followed by the Trading Card Game information. A sentence describing the Pokémon's special abilities can be found on the lower portion above the copyright data.
Pratte says this series offers iconic artwork, which was predominately done by Ken Sugimori and Mitsuhiro Arita.
"These are like the rookie cards of these Pokémon [characters], and the artwork has made them all iconic. That's why I like collecting the Fossil set. It's just beautiful artwork," noted Dylan Blaney, who owns the No. 4 Current Finest, 1999 Pokémon Fossil 1st Edition set on the PSA Set Registry.
The Fossil cards can be differentiated from the other 1999 Pokémon issues by their set symbol, which resembles the skeletal hand on the Aerodactyl Pokémon (#1). This symbol is located under the lower right corner of the featured artwork (on the opposite side of the "Edition 1" stamp).
The card backs flaunt the Pokémon name and branding and have blue borders.
This set offers four different levels of cards that are sequenced in order by rarity (see accompanying chart).
Following in the footsteps of the 1999 Pokémon Jungle series, Fossil offers rare holographic cards (#1 to #15), as well as a second subseries featuring the same Pokémon in non-holographic form (#16 to #30).
The Jungle series, released a few months before Fossil, is comprised of 64 cards. The most common explanation for the Fossil series having two less singles is that Mew, who was featured on a holographic card in the Japanese Fossil series, was not included in the English offering.
Bulbapedia, an online Pokémon encyclopedia, indicates that the Pokémon Fossil 1st Edition cards were originally slated to be released "around January 2000," but the release date was bumped up to October 10, 1999. The Fossil cards were available in 11-card booster packs that consisted of seven common cards, three uncommon cards, and one rare card. Holographic cards were inserted in approximately one of every three packs.
There were three different Fossil 1st Edition pack wrappers that highlighted different Pokémon - Aerodactyl, Zapdos, and Lapras. There were 36 packs in each booster box. The 1st Edition packs and booster boxes are clearly marked with the "Edition 1" stamp.
"Unless you were waiting outside of a trading card shop on the day these sets were released, buying 1st Edition booster packs or boxes was near impossible since they would all practically sell out that same day," said Jobin Abraham, who owns the No. 7 Current Finest, 1999 Pokémon Fossil 1st Edition set on the PSA Set Registry.
Pratte believes that 1st Edition Fossil cards were distributed more widely than 1st Edition Base. He even remembers having a few 1st Edition Fossil cards as a kid.
"I would say that the 1st Edition Fossil cards were much more accessible than Base [cards] and probably [were distributed in quantities] on par with Jungle," said Pratte.
But Fossil 1st Edition cards are still relatively tough to track down today. It should be noted, however, that another "unlimited" version of these cards was produced in much higher quantities and is far less valuable. The "unlimited" cards do not have the small circular black stamp on the left (that says "Edition 1") below the character box on the front.
Unopened booster boxes and packs are in high demand and have become increasingly difficult to track down.
"I remember buying a booster box about two-and-a-half years ago for $500, which is crazy because now they're double that price," said Blaney. "You just don't see a lot of them on the market right now ... They're definitely becoming more scarce."
And if collectors are lucky enough to track down and purchase a box, they're hoping to pull the holographic cards. The most popular holographic single is the Dragonite (#4). This card presents the popular Pokémon against a dazzling rainbow background.
"The Dragonite [card] just has fantastic art," said Pratte. "It's a very popular Pokémon [character]. For some reason, the dragons are always very, very popular. In my opinion, I would say it's probably the standout card in this set."
Tim Hall, who owns the top 1999 Pokémon Fossil 1st Edition set on the PSA Set Registry, agrees.
"Dragonite is very popular because it was such an awesome Pokémon in the TV series and games (similar to Charizard's popularity in the Base set)," said Hall.
Hobbyists say the rainbow holographic background on this card is difficult to find blemish-free. Of the 501 submitted, there are 109 PSA GEM-MT 10s.
Pratte says the Gengar holographic card (#5) is also highly coveted.
"Gengar was part of the original ghost line, which consists of Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar. Everybody knows those three Pokémon and loves that original ghost line," explained Pratte.
Gastly and Haunter were featured in the Base Complete 1st Edition series, and collectors had been eagerly awaiting Gengar's cardboard debut.
Of the 429 evaluated, there have been 78 PSA 10s.
Aside from the Dragonite and Gengar singles, the three legendary bird cards - Articuno (#2), Moltres (#12), and Zapdos (#15) - are also very desirable.
"The legendary bird [cards] are always pretty prominent no matter what set they're in," noted Pratte. "The 'legendary' term was reserved for the rarest Pokémon and typically the most powerful. In the game, you would encounter Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos in these caves and you had one opportunity to catch them. They were very difficult to catch. They're legendary in the game; they're very powerful and they're difficult to collect, so people have a higher appreciation for them."
Of the three legendary bird cards, the Articuno (#2) is the hardest to uncover in top condition. There are 80 PSA 10s.
The Zapdos single is also highly sought after. If you look closely at the 1st Edition version of this card, you'll notice an error.
"Even though Zapdos is a basic Pokémon, the holographic Zapdos card has a space for the evolution box punched out of the holographic foil," explained Abraham. "This misprint can be found on all of the 1st Edition Zapdos [cards], while only some of the unlimited Zapdos have this misprint."
There are 119 PSA 10s.
Hobbyists seem to agree that the Lapras holographic card (#10) is the most elusive in high grade.
"Lapras is the rarest holo, with only about half the population of PSA 10 cards [55 in total] compared to the others," noted Hall.
"Every set has a card that is difficult," added Pratte. "I think three or four times, the Lapras [holographic card] has sold for over $1,000 in PSA 10 because so many people needed it to finish this set."
One of the most common condition flaws on the Lapras, and in general on cards in this series, is the chipping of the blue borders on the back. Also, the holo material on the 15 holographic cards is often found scratched or "silvered."
Pratte explains that "silvered" (or "silvering") refers to the silver of the holographic layer showing through on the front border. "It's basically the exact same issue as chipping on the back of cards, but on the front, it is considered 'silvering' because of its color," explained Pratte.
"With a lot of the holos, I think the main factor is silvering," said Blaney. "A lot of the older cards are going to have silvering even right out of the pack, which makes it tough, but it's also a fun challenge."
Pratte says that in his experience, the Fossil cards have been more difficult to uncover in flawless form than the Jungle cards.
"The Fossil cards seem to have more silvering," said Pratte. "For some reason, some cards have strong silvering on the front straight out of the packs."
Prices for unopened 1999 Pokémon Fossil 1st Edition booster boxes have risen in recent years, as have the prices for key, high-grade singles.
"Based on the most recent sales of 1999 Fossil 1st Edition sealed product, a sealed booster box can go from anywhere between a price point of $900 to $1,000 and sealed [ungraded] booster packs can go for anywhere between a price point of $20 to $25," explained Abraham. "Around August of 2016, sealed booster boxes were selling between $800 to $900. So, this is clearly indicative of the increased popularity and market value of the set due to its scarcity. The price is not likely to decline in the future either."
"I think one of the factors [driving this set's popularity] is that guys like me, who have grown up collecting these cards, have become self-dependent [over the last two decades]. They have jobs now and some extra [spending] money, so I believe they probably just started buying cards for fun and then they realized that these cards are hard to find, so that's when it became a hobby for them," said Blaney. "It seems like a lot more people have entered the hobby and it's made the prices go up because these [1999 Fossil 1st Edition] cards are getting more and more scarce."
Abraham offers a similar assessment.
"Over the past few months, the Pokémon card collecting community has increased dramatically," he said in a June 2017 email interview. "The vast majority of today's collecting community consists of young adults that used to either play Pokémon and/or watch Pokémon as children, and with the massive resurgence of Pokémon throughout the world, many people are coming back."
"With the surge in demand for Pokémon cards from the first generation, we've seen drastic increases in the market value of these cards. This set has been out of print since 1999, and considering how rare the 1st Edition cards are, the future looks bright for this issue."
For more information on the 1999 Pokémon Fossil 1st Edition gaming card set, please visit https://www.psacard.com/cardfacts/non-sports-cards/1999-nintendo-pokemon-fossil/32552.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Thank you to Scott Pratte for his assistance on this article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of July 2017.