PSA Set Registry
Collecting the 2000 Pokémon Gym Heroes 1st Edition Card Set
A Hobby Workout
by Kevin Glew
It's a workout putting together a high grade 2000 Pokémon Gym Heroes 1st Edition set.
Not only were a relatively small number of these cards produced, but at 132 cards, this was also the largest Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) Pokémon set released to that date.
"This was one of the biggest sets at the time," said Zack Browning, who owns the No. 2 Current Finest 2000 Gym Heroes 1st Edition set on the PSA Set Registry. "The [1999 Pokémon] Fossil and Jungle sets were 60-some cards each; Base [Complete 1st Edition] had 102. I think Base 2 may have been 130, but Gym Heroes and Gym Challenge, they were huge sets."
Unlike previous Pokémon WOTC sets, the English series is significantly different than its Japanese counterpart. Referred to as Gym 1, the Japanese series contains 96 cards that focus exclusively on the four Kanto gym leaders: Brock, Misty, Lt. Surge, and Erika. Gym Heroes, meanwhile, boasts 36 more cards and includes singles that highlight more than just those gym leaders.
"Gym Heroes focuses on Brock, Misty, Lt. Surge, and Erika, but it also contains some cards featuring Sabrina, Blaine, and Rocket," explained Jobin Abraham, who owns the No. 5 Current Finest Gym Heroes 1st Edition set on the PSA Set Registry.
Also, for the first time in an English WOTC Pokémon series, the set symbol is not the same as its Japanese counterpart. The set symbol on the English cards, which is located to the lower right of the artwork on the front, is an amphitheater that features a black stage with white tiers. This symbol also distinguishes the Gym Heroes cards from the previous English WOTC Pokémon cards.
The cards in the 2000 Pokémon Gym Heroes 1st Edition series boast yellow borders with the Pokémon character's name and HP at the top above the artwork. The 1st Edition stamp (Edition 1) and the Pokémon's vitals (type, length, weight) ensue, followed by the Trading Card Game information. It should be noted that these cards do not offer flavor text at the bottom. "Flavor text" is the term used to describe the text that had been previously found at the bottom of the card fronts which relays information about the Pokémon's background but has no bearing on the mechanics of the game.
For example, flavor text can be found at the bottom of the 1st Edition Base Charizard card (see included image) where it says "Spits fire that is hot enough to melt boulders ... " However, if one examines a 2000 Gym Heroes card, this flavor text (or character background information) is missing at the bottom of the card. In its place is a headshot of the gym leader that is the focus of the card. And this additional artwork squeezed the Weakness, Resistance, and Retreat Cost data over to the bottom left.
"Aesthetically, that [additional headshot] is what differentiates Gym Heroes from any other set," said well-known Pokémon trading card expert Scott Pratte. "That's a big difference in this set."
The card backs flaunt the Pokémon name and branding and have blue borders.
This set offers four different levels of cards that are sequenced (with some exceptions) in descending order by rarity (see accompanying chart).
Released on August 14, 2000, the Gym Heroes 1st Edition 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 four Gym Heroes 1st Edition pack wrappers that highlighted different gym leaders - Brock, Misty, Lt. Surge, and Erika. There were 36 packs in each booster box. The 1st Edition packs and booster boxes are clearly marked with the "Edition 1" stamp.
It should be noted, however, that another "unlimited" version of the Gym Heroes cards was manufactured in much higher quantities and is 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 Gym Heroes 1st Edition booster boxes and packs are in high demand and have become increasingly difficult to track down. Browning recalls buying a booster box for $300 in 2013.
"Based on the most recent sales of 2000 Pokémon Gym Heroes 1st Edition sealed product, a sealed booster box can go from anywhere between a price point of $1,000 to $1,100 and sealed booster packs can go for anywhere between a price point of $25 to $30," said Abraham. "The price is not likely to decrease in the future either."
Pratte says that fewer Gym Heroes 1st Edition boxes were probably produced than some of its WOTC predecessors.
"The Gym boxes are unusual because that was when the Pokémon craze had started to slow down," explained Pratte. "It was still popular, but it wasn't like everyone and their mom was going to the store to buy every single series. The initial explosion was starting to dissipate a bit, so there was less of a supply of the Gym Heroes boxes on the market, and that's why you have less of the product today than you do of the Rocket, Fossil, or Jungle [Pokémon series]."
Pratte adds that there isn't one huge, standout card - like a Charizard - in the Gym Heroes set. But the offering's first card, Blaine's Moltres, is coveted because it boasts attractive, Ken Sugimori artwork and it's the first Pokémon single that required five Energy cards to launch an attack.
"That card is tough to obtain in high grade," said Browning. "It's difficult to acquire with decent centering or in good quality, possibly due to its location on the sheet."
Of the 152 submitted, there have been 33 PSA GEM-MT 10s.
Erika's Dragonair (#4) is also sought after by collectors.
"Erika's Dragonair has appealing artwork," noted Pratte. "The Dragon cards in general have a strong following and they look cool."
Browning offers a similar assessment.
"There are a ton of Dragonair fans," he noted. "I think a lot of people wish they would've seen Dragonair as a holo in 1st Edition Base."
There are 52 PSA 10 examples.
The Sabrina's Gengar (#14) is also in high demand. Gengar was part of Pokémon's popular original ghost line.
Abraham says this is one of the set's toughest cards to obtain in flawless form. Of the 161 evaluated, there have been just 37 PSA 10s.
Browning points out that this is also the first Pokémon set to offer stadium cards. There are seven stadium cards in total: No Removal Gym (#103), Rocket's Training Gym (#104), Celadon City Gym (#107), Cerulean City Gym (#108), Pewter City Gym (#115), Vermilion City Gym (#120), and Narrow Gym (#124).
In the Gym Heroes set, the stadium cards served as a subclass of trainer cards and were based on the gyms overseen by the Kanto's gym leaders. The stadium cards presented a new twist in the Trading Card Game and could impact the player's strategy and power.
"As a kid, I remember trying to collect them all, but I couldn't figure out what all the gyms were," said Browning. "The stadium cards are not holos, so they get overlooked quite a bit."
One of the most common condition flaws on cards in this series is chipping on the back blue borders.
"You can't escape the blue backs with the WOTC cards," noted Pratte. "They just always hit you with that whitening."
Browning says that when he examines these cards under light, it looks as though a dull blade was sometimes employed during production.
"Right away you can tell if the edges are smooth, or sometimes you can see some white fraying on the side," he said. "You'll also see some factory nicks on the corners of the cards."
The current market for the 2000 Pokémon Gym Heroes 1st Edition cards is strong, but not as heated as it is for the Base (Complete 1st Edition) series or even the Fossil and Jungle 1st Edition cards.
"The Gym Heroes [1st Edition] set is one that will always be unique and stand on its own as a series," said Browning. "It will always have a strong demand, and there will always be a want and a need for it."
However, Browning continues, the set also currently finds itself somewhere in between the original (First Generation) and Neo (Second Generation) sets in terms of popularity - and fighting to advance. "It's a cool set and highly collectible," but if a collector has the financial means, he feels they are more likely to invest in the original Base set over this one. Still, he says, "it's fighting for its place" amongst these top two sets.
Pratte agrees that this set does have to fight for its identity, but he still sees a bright future for it.
"This set doesn't have all the traditional elements that made the early Pokémon sets appealing, such as rookie cards and that type of thing. But honestly, when people ask me about what direction prices for early Pokémon trading cards are going, my answer is just 'Up!'" said Pratte. "I just don't see any reason for it to drop in price, unless something catastrophic happened in the general economy. In my opinion, a lot of people were just unaware that a market for these cards existed, and I think that a lot of people that grew up with these cards are just now getting into it."
For more information on 2000 Pokémon Gym Heroes 1st Edition trading cards, please visit https://www.psacard.com/cardfacts/#7non-sports-cards.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of September 2017.
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