Japanese Pokemon cards have always been recognized for their superior quality. The Japanese simply put more time and effort into their domestic version of the Pokemon franchise. Nonetheless, the American marketplace seems mostly unbothered by the fact that our cards are comparatively lackluster. The centering always sucks. The edges always have whitening. Even the retail shopping experience itself, plagued by scalpers and unequitable distribution, is an utter nightmare. Simply put, Americans pay more money for a worse product.
So — what can be done? It’s unlikely that American consumers will unify and revolt which means there is really only one option left: diversification. Let us suppose you’re tired of getting shafted and want to start investing money into Japanese Pokemon cards. This immediately prompts a good question: what is the cheapest way to do it? Do I need contacts in Japan? Is there some ‘head honcho’ under-the-table exporter I can reach out to? How do I get started?
This is going to sound crazy but you will have to just trust me on this one. eBay, of all places, is actually one of the cheapest ways to acquire genuine Japanese Pokemon retail product. It seems counter-intuitive but the theory behind it makes sense. eBay is a massive platform with an infinite number of buyers and sellers. Given that Pokemon products are homogeneous, and that every Japanese person has the same opportunity to become a vendor, then this means that market forces converge to create what is essentially a perfect market. All sellers are constrained by the exact same information which results in an extremely competitive and uniform pricing structure.
2. Plaza Japan
If you’re interested in purchasing sealed cases, Japanese toy stores like Plaza Japan can sometimes offer marginally better deals on certain products. This is not true for every product so make sure to perform your own due diligence. An examples is provided below.
Let’s take a look at a set like Star Birth. On eBay, the cheapest price for this product currently lists at $69.98 which includes free shipping.
By comparison, a case can be purchased from Plaza Japan at an approximate unit price of $61.88 — a modest discount. However, as mentioned earlier, Plaza Japan does not offer competitive pricing on every single product. There are many examples where the product could be more affordably sourced from eBay.
3. Contacting eBay Sellers
In theory, both the buyer and the seller stand to gain from evading the eBay platform and transacting privately via e-mail. eBay has fees, often around 10%, and splitting the difference between the two parties can result in a marginally lower price. However, this arrangement is a violation of eBay’s Terms of Service and is unlikely to happen unless you are able to contact the seller outside of eBay. Even if you do pull this off, the price savings would likely be 5% at best. This is not an amount that most sellers or buyers would risk their eBay accounts over.
I wish I could have made this article longer but the truth is that eBay is genuinely the cheapest place to purchase Japanese Pokemon cards. There is no room for speculation on this. The Japanese domestic market for Pokemon is tightly controlled and exporters are all bound by the same fundamental costs: retail pricing and shipping fees. Sure, there are probably some private Facebook groups who can shave off a dollar or two from the mean price, but none of them are going to offer the wholesale pricing that astute buyers are looking for.
It’s also worth noting that these products are not intended for sale outside of Japan. No Japanese distributor is going to wholesale these out of the country. Every single product has to be purchased by an independent entity and then intentionally exported. Simply put, there is just not a lot of money to be made with Japanese Pokemon cards which means market prices for in-print sets are going to be extremely uniform across sellers.
If you want the convenience of buying Japanese Pokemon products from an American retailer, you can always consider checking out Poke Cellar’s Japanese Pokemon Cards section. Just remember: no one has special access to this inventory. Not even us. If you want to save money, you’re better off buying it straight from the source (eBay). If you want to save time and not deal with any importation issues, buy it from us.