The Pokémon TCG’s Obsidian Flames was always going to be an awkward, middle child of a set. Released before the fuss of Paldea Evolved and its Iono frenzy was over, but also just a month ahead of the inevitable deafening noise of Pokémon 151, if it weren’t for its Charizards it might have been entirely overlooked. But then, Charizards.
The result has been interesting. We have a set that is packed with some of the most wonderful art the card game has ever seen, and it’s all going for a song. Prices were inevitably high on the opening weekend, but then immediately hurtled off a cliff and into a sinkhole, with even the four Charizards losing 75% of their value in less than two weeks.
It is, by my reckoning, a combination of two factors. Firstly, as previously mentioned, people are so hyped for 151 that Obsidian Flames exists in the shadow of the next set’s pre-orders. Secondly, the pull rates on those Charizards are way higher than anyone was expecting—they’re simply too easy to pull. Which is good!
Unfortunately, that’s not true of the set as a whole. I bought my own booster box and Elite Trainer Box, along with other packs here and there, meaning I’ve opened over 50 packs to get an idea. And wow, it’s been sucky.
We did, I should stress, pull the big card, the Special Illustration Rare Charizard. Were we to sell it, it’s fair to say I’d get about half of the money back, but then I’d also have to prise it from my eight-year-old’s vice-like grip, and it might get damaged in the process. But beyond that, it was weirdly scant pickings. Pull rates have been tough to swallow since the joy of this year’s Crown Zenith, but in my experience, and that of watching the rich ol’ YouTubers tear through hundreds of packs, Obsidian Flames has felt the worst. Everyone’s got themselves a Charizard of some sort, but also towering piles of bulk.
Which is such a shame, because this set is just packed with artworks I would love to collect. The Pidgey trio alone would be wonderful, but we didn’t even manage a regular Pidgey ex in all those packs.
So as you might imagine, the numbers on this set are way lower than we’re used to. This is a set with gorgeous art, a lot of it in teeny windows on the bulk, along with some very playable cards for the TCG. In that sense, it’s well worth picking up—just with modest expectations. All that said, here are the top-ten priced cards in the set.
Gloom Illustration Rare
Yeah, it’s definitely a very pretty card…if you ignore the Gloom.
Obsidian Flames contains a huge array of beautiful Illustration Rares, including the moody Scizor, the amazing detail of the Palafin, and the outrageously cute Lechonk. Yet all of those cards can be picked up for under $4! The eternally drooling Gloom? It’s fetching more than double at $8.50.
Still, that’s incredibly cheap compared to the prices you’d usually see taking up the top 10. Usually when we compile these lists, we don’t feature anything going for under $15.
It’s not like the card itself is enormously playable. It has the dick move of letting you switch in one of your opponent’s benched Pokémon, but its only attack does 20 damage, and this is a Stage 1 card!
Cleffa Illustration Rare
There are a couple of Illustration Rares that beat the Gloom. The first is this Cleffa, which is one of the most striking Pokémon cards I’ve ever seen. It contrasts so well with the Gloom, the opposite extreme, in which its beauty is in its sparseness. It’s magical, and that’s not bad going for a monster as dull as Cleffa. (Sorry to the Cleffa fan.)
It’s also super-useful if you’ve got a deck that’s boosted by a lot of cards in your hand. For no Energy at all, it lets you get seven cards off your deck, with your opponent hopefully too dazzled by its prettiness to remember to knock it out for just 30HP.
Tyranitar ex Ultra Rare
With the ultra rare terastalized Vespiqueen and Eiscue selling for around three bucks, Tyranitar is the only non-Zard to trouble the top 10 at just shy of $15. This is a tough card to get into play, given you need to evolve it from the mostly useless Larvitar and Pupitar. The Pupitar’s feeble 60 damage attack also hurts one of your own benched Pokémon for 20, but there’s a reason you might not want to use Rare Candies to skip it to get this ex in play.
That one-Energy attack might cost you the top two cards of your deck, but does an almighty 120 damage at a low cost. But the two-Energy Lightning Rampage takes advantage of any damage you did to your bench with the Larvitar, hitting for 250 points.
Some berk spent $125 on one of these graded a PSA 10, but given it’s the only recorded sale so far, expect that number to at least halve for future purchases.
Ninetails Illustration Rare
Here’s something else that’s fascinating about the valuation of this set, if you’re a nerd like me: The audience has quite strongly disagreed with The Pokémon Company when it comes to which cards they see as most valuable. While we’ve got a couple of two-gold-star Special Illustration Rares to come in this list, many of the others in the category are nowhere to be seen.
For instance, the Eiscue ex SIR by Flying Pikachu artist Toshinao Aoki has been deemed a miss, currently fetching under $8. The lusciously illustrated Revavroom ex is about the same price, as is the adorable special version of Poppy. In other sets, these are cards that would have easily fetched $20+, especially in the first few weeks. And as for the once sought-after Gold Hyper Rares? Both the Fire Energy and the Artazon golds are yours for $6.50.
Beating all of them is the single-gold-starred Ninetails Illustration Rare, at just over $15, proving that rarity can be easily made less important than beauty. Because oh wow, this card is a stunner. This is by artist Shie Nanahara, whose incredible work has been seen on Magic and One Piece cards, and as of this year is making waves in the Pokémon TCG. Her break-out Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR was one of the best cards in the incredible Crown Zenith, while Paldea Evolved’s Gothorita showed a whole other style. This Ninetails is just breathtaking.
Pidgeot ex Special Illustration Rare
One of the two Special Illustration Rares to beat that Ninetails is the Pidgeot ex, part of a trilogy of cards by illustrator Banana Jerky. All three are splendid, but it should be noted that the Pidgeot is being boosted because it’s a really sought-after card in the TCG’s meta.
An earlier version of the card from the Leaf Green era appeared in a lot of World Championship decks, which is likely part of its surge of appeal. However, nothing can explain how it is that the Double Rare full-art version is currently selling for less ($6) than the far more common regular ex ($6.50.) Everyone’s gone bonkers.
This SIR version currently at over $17, meanwhile, which demonstrates why Jerky is such a brilliant recent addition to the TCG, with an extraordinary six cards illustrated in Obsidian Flames alone, alongside a Bellsprout/Weepingbell/Victreebel trilogy in the forthcoming 151.
Geeta Special Illustration Rare
Artist “DOM” smashes it yet again with this wonderful Special Illustration Rare for Geeta, following on from Paldea Evolved’s wonderful Grusha. It’s such a treat to see a female supporter card being illustrated in a way that is in no sense sexualizing, while demonstrating incredible flair. It’s fetching bang on $18.
I’m also delighted to have been proven incorrect about my guess that we’d see Geeta failing to get fan attention by dint of being the first Indian trainer to appear in a Pokémon game. It also definitely helps that the card artists have chosen to depict her with eyes smaller than a football, unlike the weird-ass version in the Scarlet and Violet games.
I’m not sure I’d want Geeta anywhere in my deck, however. Attacking Energy from your deck to your Pokémon is not exactly a rare ability, and hers comes with the bizarrely detrimental effect of preventing you from attacking if you do.
Right, that’s it, it’s all Charizard from here on out.
What we have here is what scientists are calling The Charizard Effect. This is where people are so convinced that any card with a Charizard on it is valuable that any card with a Charizard on it becomes valuable. This even applies to what is, technically, bulk.
This Dark-type terastalized Zard is, in the inflation-riddled terminology of the Pokémon TCG, a “double rare.” This puts it as equal to cards as unnoticed as the Victini ex ($1.80), Houndstone ex ($1.18), and Clawf ex ($1.11.) It’s also one of a bewildering 20 ex cards in Obsidian Flames. Were the pull-rates not so dreadful, they should be common as muck. And yet, right now the most basic version of the Charizard ex is selling for $24. Or, as I always equate these things, six more packs of Obsidian Flames.
It’s not even that exciting of an ex. It needs to be evolved, so it’s tough to get into play. When you do, it’s cool that its Ability means you can immediately load it up with the Energy it needs to attack, with one left over for another card, but its attack is only really any use late in the game, and only then if you’re losing. 180 is a powerful attack for two Energy, certainly, but to make it into a destructive force, you need your opponent to have taken a bunch of prize cards. However, say they’re one card from winning, that does mean this would deal 330 points of damage a turn.
Charizard ex Special Illustration Rare
It’s the exact same card, but prettier. 5ban Graphics have a sweet deal going, creating these full-art terastalized cards for every set. Obsidian Flames features Eiscue, Vespiqueen, the Tyranitar we began with, and of course this Charizard.
The question is, do you want to be playing a live game with a card worth $37, especially when you know that value is only likely to go up in the next decade? It’s the desire to show off versus the desire to prevent that edge whitening.
Charizard ex Hyper Rare
Rather embarrassingly, the official Pokémon website is still pretending Gold cards are too exciting and secret to show in the catalogues. While this was once a cute idea to suggest some cards were “Secret Rares,” with the loss of this designation, it’s probably about time to lose the gimmick, too.
Especially given how, since the dawn of this new era, collectors seem to have abandoned Gold cards as cruelly as they did Rainbow Rares a couple of years ago. After the initial excitement of, “Oooh, shiny,” people have come to realize they amount to the same thing: The same as the regular version of the card, but less pretty. So it is that the technically secret “Hyper Rare” version of Charizard is currently almost half of the price of the Special Illustration Rare.
Still, if Gold cards have their day again in the future, you can imagine this could be worth hanging onto, currently selling for around $58.
Charizard ex Special Illustration Rare
And here, inevitably, it is. The one card to dominate them all, outpricing everything else in the set by a country mile. While its price is fluctuating pretty dramatically, after an initial burst at $260, it’s currently hovering around $110.
The price drop was partly that usual opening weekend madness, and partly that it’s pulling much more frequently than anyone was expecting. But the Zard Tax means it’s still managing to stay over the $100 mark, and has spiked a few times over the last few days to $130.
Price Charting records one PSA 10 sale so far, at $753, and a single PSA 9 for $196. These aren’t to be trusted, however, given those are some suspiciously fast turnarounds for gradings, and of course a single sale is indicative of nothing.
TCG Player is more pessimistic on the price, reporting recent sales of the ungraded version between $90 and $100, although then lists it currently on sale from $106 to $223, so who knows.
This strikes me as one to topload and store, because while we see a lot of Charizard cards eventually losing most of their value, they tend to be the most cartoonish. This card by Akira Egawa, however, is beyond stunning, and has the capacity to become timeless.
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