Over the weekend, a fairly unassuming Pokemon card saw a sudden, shocking price increase on TCGPlayer. Entei V, a bulk ultra rare card from Brilliant Stars that has been sitting at $1 for more than a year, suddenly spiked up to $10, $20, even $35 overnight. At the time of writing, it seems to have stabilized at $11 – a five-times increase over what you could have paid just a week ago.
The price spike on this seemingly useless old card comes from the introduction of a brand new card, as is often the case in TCGs. Iron Valiant, introduced in the new Paradox Rift expansion, is at the core of a new deck archetype that finally makes good use of Entei V. Though the two have no apparent synergy, clever deck builders have found a way to combine Iron Valiant, Entei V, and a few other cards like Magma Basin and Radiant Charizard to round out the Iron Valiant deck’s back-line strategy. Entei V isn’t a linchpin to this deck’s strategy, but it fills an early game gap that makes the deck more consistent.
The deck made a few appearances in online tournaments in the last week, and last Thursday Pokebeach published an article about the card’s newfound relevance. Over the weekend, the Latin America International Championships were held in Brazil, where the deck started to make big waves. A player named Noah Sawyer got a lot of attention after finishing day one with a record of 6-2-1 using the deck, which he calls Kibbles and Bits. Sawyer went on to take second place in the international tournament, finishing with a 13-3-2 record.
Entei V started to see a bit of a price climb over the last week on TCGPlayer thanks to the online buzz about the new deck, but by the end of Day 1 of LAIC, prices had skyrocketed. There were listings for as much as $35 as people tried to take advantage of the hype for a new deck and unload a previously unplayable card. Many sold for $20 on the 19th to people that either didn’t want to wait for prices to stabilize, or were afraid they would go even higher.
To a certain degree, this is a natural function of the TCG market. Most cards are valued according to their playability. When they become more playable, the demand for the card increases, and the prices go up, it’s simple supply and demand. I’m neither surprised nor alarmed by the fact that Entei V is worth more now than it was before the Iron Valiant deck proved its viability, but I am highly suspicious of the sudden, dramatic increase, which likely could not have occurred without an intentional effort to manipulate the market.
Someone, or a group of people, has almost certainly artificially inflated the market. If you look at the price history on TCGPlayer, you can see exactly where the manipulation occurred. Up until November 12 this card was selling for a few bucks, averaging around $3, but starting on November 13, it suddenly cost $7, then up to $10 a week later during the tournament, and is now at about $11. The entire market was bought up over a day or two when they were cheaper, and relisted for more than twice as much.
This phenemenon isn’t exclusive to the Pokemon TCG of course. Magic deals with online price manipulation frequently, and the new TCG Disney Lorcana is starting to see some of the same tactics.
There are still listings up for $25, $35, and even one for $75. I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about these opportunists trying to overcharge for a popular card, but from the sales history it looks like hardly anyone has paid over market rate for the card, thankfully. What does worry me is how quickly and methodically the market price seemed to increase in one day from $3 and $7, and how the success of the deck at LAIC drove the price even higher.
A centralized online market is good for TCGs in a lot of ways. It provides easy access to price information to help players and collectors understand what their cards are worth, and it can help keep prices fair in local markets since they are always in competition with the online market. But it’s also incredibly easy to manipulate TCGPlayer.
A couple weeks ago you could have bought every single Entei V on the market for under $200 and relisted them for twice the price. It’s especially galling when you consider the card isn’t even an essential part of the deck it’s succeeding in. Its price does not reflect its actual value, but rather the opportunistic nature of TCG sellers.
Next: How Charjabug Won A Major Pokemon Tournament