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The Short Run: A Market Recap of Generations vs Evolutions

The 20th anniversary release sets left a lot of people with a lot of confusion. Generations, the set brandishing “20th Anniversary” in its advertising and release, contained cards that looked like unexciting, generic “XY” releases. Evolutions, on the other hand, contains all the base set artwork reprints. The let down of Generations was cured for many people in the Evolutions release. But was it cured for too many people? The hot topic post-Evolutions release was not “should I buy this set to invest in it” but “how much should I sock away?” Everyone insisted that you should buy a case of boxes and binders of singles to remove from the market. After all, look how much base set is worth these days! It is my opinion that this was terrible advice and anyone that gave it should have their poke-credentials removed. Looking at it now, Generations is smashing Evolutions in the secondary market. Let’s look at why Generations was and is a better investment than Evolutions. Release Dates:

The most overlooked factor in the value of Generations over Evolutions is release dates. Generations is an anniversary set, meaning it has a one year print window instead of the typical two year print window. A standard set is continually printed for two years after its street date. This is true of every major TCG. An anniversary set automatically cuts that in half. This contributes heavily to long-term scarcity as people rip through packs during the hype and little product gets left on shelves after the year has passed.

Reprint Possibility:

Whether Roaring Skies, Ancient Origins, and Primal clash were re-prints or re-releases is an argument for another article. What we do know is that their releases after the supposed end of production complicates the formula for investing in sealed product as it is released. The two years past street date is a 20+ year precedence that was broken by Pokemon for undisclosed reasons. As such, we can safely assume that any set could potentially be released again down the line as long as it was produced by the current intellectual property license holder (No, WOTC cards can’t be reprinted). What you cannot reprint is an Elite Trainer Box that says “20th Anniversary.” It wouldn’t make any sense and would be a complete waste when functional reprints of cards within the TCG are so easy and common.

Release Style:

Generations didn’t have boxes. For many people, this was a huge downside. What do you hold on to for investing’s sake? I’m a fan of the ETB personally but the earliest monthly collection box (Mew) is performing increasingly well already sitting at double the release-date MSRP earned on average through eBay sales. ETBs peaked at $100 and have come down a little but are still consistently earning $70+ and are pushing the $80 barrier again. If you want Generations packs or singles, you have to buy an expensive secondary product with only a limited number of packs inside. That’s annoying for collectors who want to bust sealed product but it is a dream come true for investors looking for abnormal scarcity. Evolutions? Everyone and their grandmother has entire boxes of that tucked away. Perhaps that’s why they are selling for less than $80 a box consistently to this day. It is the worst performing modern set for booster box values. Worse than the laughable Fates Collide. If you aren’t familiar: that’s pretty bad.

The Cards Inside:

While Evolutions has lots of nostalgia packed inside, card single prices are so incredibly low that opening packs is a guaranteed loss unless you can pull a Mega Charizard EX Full Art AND grade it a 10. The singles are admittedly more desirable. If money weren’t a factor, I’d take the holos in Evolutions over almost any Ultra Rare from Generations. But money is a factor and not everyone shares my nostalgic interests. Generations was perhaps the most overlooked set in terms of singles. The set includes a Charizard EX, Blastoise EX, and Venusaur EX, three separate EX eeveelutions, foil energy cards (always popular with players long after sets have passed), and classic pokemon as holo rares like Articuno, Gengar, Raichu, Machamp, and others. This is important because the best performing modern boxes are sets that are collections of cards with moderate value. It is not likely that a modern et is going to have a card go up to $100+ in value. It is feasible that a year or two after release, certain cards will start to climb past the $20/$30 mark. With Generations, we aren’t looking for a home run card. We’re looking for a handful of base hitters. Generations looks to have this power. Evolutions does not.

Performance of Similar Sets:

Generations is an overlooked set crowded out by hype for a set beside it in release order. When we look at sets with these traits, what do we find? Legendary Collection and Call of Legends are perhaps most similar. Legendary Collection is a reprint set but it was hugely unpopular until recent years when people have taken an interest in the hideous reverse holo pattern that was only possible because of a poor design-forgiving generation. There is something other than the depictions within the set driving the value and it was long overlooked. It is now hugely valuable in sealed condition. Call of Legends was considered a huge dud when it was released. The cards inside are only now picking up traction as a collection of cards with a little value all over the place. As such, boxes are being opened again and we have a 400% growth over release date box prices. Generations follows these themes. Evolutions? It is most similar to Base Set 2. Base Set 2 remains lacking in value, save the single charizard and a couple cards that picked up a few bucks in price after 15 years. Base Set 2 growth hasn’t even kept up with inflation until this last year or two and packs are widely available. Evolutions is looking to be more of the same.

So where should I put my money?

I’ve been arguing since their releases that Evolutions is a terrible idea for investing and Generations is superior. Is Generations a good call? It might be too late to take advantage of most of the growth but the sealed product continues to grow while Evolutions has flatlined below cost at release. If you’re going to pick one or the other, absolutely choose Generations.

'til next time, 

Charlie Hurlocker