PSA Set Registry
Collecting the 2000 Pokémon Gym Challenge 1st Edition Card Set
Another Workout for Pokémon Collectors
by Kevin Glew
Pulling a high-grade Charizard card is the "challenge" that most collectors face when opening packs of this early Pokémon issue.
The 2000 Pokémon Gym Challenge 1st Edition series boasts the third Charizard single (Blaine's Charizard (#2)) produced by Wizards of the Coast (WOTC). Previous Charizard cards could be found in the 1999 Base (Complete 1st Edition) and 2000 Team Rocket sets.
"Any time you get Charizard in a set, it's going to be a draw," said Zack Browning, who owns the No. 2 Current Finest Gym Challenge 1st Edition set on the PSA Set Registry.
In fact, the presence of this powerful and iconic dragon is one of the main reasons that the Gym Challenge set is more desirable than its predecessor, Gym Heroes.
"Gym Challenge has always been more sought after than Gym Heroes even from the beginning, and that's partly because of Charizard," said well-known Pokémon trading card expert Scott Pratte. "Any set with a Charizard - especially when you're talking about Wizards of the Coast sets - is just going to be noticeable because of the Charizard card alone. The thing with this set is that it also has a lot of other powerful Pokémon, such as Arcanine and Venusaur, in relation to the game."
Like the Gym Heroes set before it, the Gym Challenge 1st Edition series is comprised of 132 cards, which makes it 34 cards larger than its Japanese Gym 2 counterpart. The English Gym Challenge series shines the spotlight on four Kanto gym leaders - Blaine, Giovanni, Koga, and Sabrina - and offers colorful and memorable artwork.
"A lot of artwork in here is done by Ken Sugimori, who is like the godfather of Pokémon artwork," noted Pratte.
Browning adds that the Pokémon in this series are frequently portrayed in attack mode.
"Wizards of the Coast got more aggressive in the artwork," explained Browning. "If you look back at the early artwork [in previous sets], they just had Pokémon in these general poses. With this set, almost half of the Pokémon are in attack mode."
Also, for the second time in an English WOTC Pokémon series, the set symbol is not the same as its Japanese equivalent. 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 white stage with black tiers. This is the opposite of the Gym Heroes' symbol which exhibits a black stage with white tiers.
Cards in the 2000 Pokémon Gym Challenge 1st Edition series boast yellow borders with the 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. These cards do not offer flavor text at the bottom, but rather a headshot of the gym leader that the card is focused on. This additional artwork squeezed the Weakness, Resistance, and Retreat Cost data over to the bottom-left corner.
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 order by rarity (see accompanying chart).
Released on October 16, 2000, the Gym Challenge 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 Challenge 1st Edition pack wrappers each highlighting a different gym leader, either Blaine, Giovanni, Koga, or Sabrina. 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 Challenge 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 Challenge 1st Edition booster boxes and packs are in high demand and are becoming increasingly tough to track down.
"I would say Gym Heroes and Gym Challenge are similar in their availability," said Pratte. "I don't know if I could say I see significantly less [unopened boxes] of them than the Jungle, Fossil, or Rocket [sets], but in my experience, a 1st Edition Gym Challenge box is more difficult to find than a Jungle or a Rocket box."
The prices for Gym Challenge 1st Edition boxes have also risen in recent months.
"You used to be able to find them for $600 to $800 on eBay, but now, a lot of them are $1,100 just starting out," said Browning.
One sealed Gym Challenge 1st Edition booster box commanded $1,300 on eBay in July 2017.
Among the notable cards in the Gym Challenge 1st Edition set is Koga's Ninja Trick (#115). When you compare this card to its Japanese counterpart, you'll notice that a swastika-like symbol appears in the background on the Japanese version. This has been edited on the English version.
Furthermore, if you look closely at the Blaine's Charizard holographic card (#2), you'll notice that the symbol on the top line of the text in the Roaring Flames attack section is a fighting-type symbol when it should be a fire-type symbol. Also, the word energy immediately after this symbol is spelled with a small "e" at the beginning rather than a capital letter. These flaws were not corrected on the Gym Challenge 1st Edition cards, but the symbol was fixed at some point during the unlimited print run.
Of the 352 Blaine's Charizard singles submitted to PSA, there have been 141 PSA GEM-MT 10s.
The first holographic card in this series, Blaine's Arcanine, is also highly sought after.
"The significance of this card is that it's the first card to have a 120 attack which made it very powerful in the game," explained Pratte.
Browning also lauds the artwork on this single, but says this card is not particularly difficult to find in high grade. There are 71 PSA 10s.
The Erika's Venusaur holographic card (#4) is another coveted single. Venusaur is a part plant, part dinosaur Pokémon that blooms when it absorbs solar energy. Like the Charizard, it's popular because of its status in the Red and Blue video game.
"The 'big three' [popular characters] in Pokémon are always Charizard, Blastoise, and Venusaur," noted Pratte.
Of the 220 Erika's Venusaur evaluated, there have been 53 PSA 10s.
Another desirable holographic card is the Rocket's Mewtwo (#14).
"It had three attacks or three things that it could do [in the Trading Card Game]," explained Browning. "I believe it was the first card with three attacks."
With three attacks, there was more text on the card.
"Because it had three attacks, the illustration on the Rocket's Mewtwo card is compressed," noted Pratte. On other Gym Challenge cards, the artwork is found within a taller box, whereas on this particular card, "it's almost like a slender rectangle because it had so much more text on the card," Pratte explains.
There are 90 PSA 10s.
Browning adds that the holographic Giovanni's Persian card (#8) is likewise a popular draw for collectors because it's tough to find in high grade.
"It comes out of the pack with factory lines and is often off-center," said Browning.
Of the 195 submitted, there have been just 28 PSA 10s.
Among the common cards, the Lt. Surge's Pikachu single (#84) commands somewhat of a premium because there are a large number of Pikachu collectors. There are 29 PSA 10s and 20 PSA 9s of this card.
On top of the error on the Charizard card, you'll also see a few other miscues in this series. The Misty's Seel single (#91), for example, has a white space around Seel's tail that shouldn't be there, while the Snapping Pincers' attack on the Giovanni's Pinsir single (#24) is supposed to do 20+ damage rather than 10+ damage.
Browning says that in his experience, there's a better chance of obtaining high-grade cards for this series than there is for some of the previous WOTC series. The biggest condition flaw he sees is print lines.
"It looks like a scratch on the holo, but it's not really a scratch; it came like that from the factory," said Browning. "There are also some slight centering issues."
The current market for high-grade 2000 Pokémon Gym Challenge 1st Edition cards is relatively strong, but it's not as competitive as it is for the Base (Complete 1st Edition) series or even the Fossil and Jungle 1st Edition cards.
"You have Base, which is soaring, and you have Jungle and Fossil, which are lagging behind," said Browning. "Then it seems like most people skip all the way to Neo, the second generation ... Gym Challenge is almost like Gym Heroes, it lags behind the earlier sets and the Neo sets because these Pokémon are not new; they've been out there for awhile and there are multiple cards before them. What's sad is that these cards have such great artwork and there's certainly a progression. In my opinion, they are better than the original sets just based on the pure artwork."
So what will the market for the Gym Challenge 1st Edition set be down the road?
"It's a bit tough to tell what the future is for Gym Challenge," said Pratte. "It's difficult to gauge with the Gym sets because I would say Base, Jungle, Fossil, and Rocket all have strong identities. I get the idea behind the Gym Challenge set, but for me, it doesn't have the same impact that the other sets do." What Pratte does believe, however, is that many Pokémon fans are either discovering or re-discovering these sets as adults with disposable income, so they are starting to collect them in larger quantities. "And they want to get all of the Wizards of the Coast Pokémon cards in PSA 10 - at least the holo cards - so I don't see the Gym Challenge set decreasing in value for that reason," he says.
For more information on the 2000 Pokémon Gym Challenge 1st Edition trading card set, please visit https://www.psacard.com/cardfacts/non-sports-cards/2000-nintendo-pokemon-gym-challenge/32555.
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 October 2017.