In the same way that Pikachu is the poster child for Pokémon, it’s hard to imagine the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise without the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. This iconic monster has stood the test of time, receiving countless reprints and appearances in all media throughout the franchise’s 25-year history. To honor its legacy, PSA has launched a Blue-Eyes White Dragon Master Set on the PSA Set Registry. Comprised of 156 cards, this set is available to anyone with a graded Blue-Eyes White Dragon in their inventory.
How did this monster become so revered? A good place to start would be to revisit its first appearance in the Japanese Official Card Game. Although Bandai released a handful of sets prior, the 1999 Japanese Starter Box Blue-Eyes is considered its official OCG “rookie card,” as it was the first one produced by Konami, Yu-Gi-Oh!’s current manufacturer. The image featured on this card is still considered the most iconic Blue-Eyes artwork, being reused time and time again throughout the franchise, showing up as recently as 2021’s Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG Masterpiece Series. The longevity of this artwork speaks to how beloved it has remained over the years.
For most North Americans, however, their first exposure to Blue-Eyes White Dragon was in the pilot episode of the 4Kids Yu-Gi-Oh! TV show, which aired in September 2001. In the episode, Blue-Eyes White Dragon is established as one of the rarest cards in the series and serves as a major plot point to establish Seto Kaiba as the series antagonist. However, even those without cable got a taste of this monster’s power when it was included in the eponymous 2002 Yu-Gi-Oh! Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon, the first English booster set. It was also featured that same year in Starter Deck: Kaiba, one of the first fully playable decks.
To grasp how Blue-Eyes White Dragon became such an icon, it’s important to understand the unique qualities of the card as it related to older styles of gameplay. In the early days, before Synchro summons and other mechanics ramped up the speed and complexity of the game, monsters without effects (known as normal monsters) were the standard for many decks. The game placed a bigger emphasis on summoning monsters with increasingly high attack values until you overpowered your opponent with brute force. Some have referred to this as “caveman Yu-Gi-Oh!” style of play. This rudimentary strategy positioned Blue-Eyes White Dragon to become extremely useful, as it had an attack value of 3000, which was nearly unparalleled. Additionally, there were multiple support cards, like Flute of Summoning Dragon, which rewarded players for building Blue-Eyes-centric decks.
Today, collectors have a wide array of Blue-Eyes White Dragon cards to chase, each incredibly valuable in high PSA grades. The pinnacle of any Blue-Eyes collection is the 1999 Japanese JUMP Festa promo card, but other highly sought-after iterations include the 2002 Yu-Gi-Oh! Magic Ruler Blue-Eyes Toon Dragon and the recent ghost rare Blue-Eyes Alternative White Dragon from 2021 Yu-Gi-Oh! Ghosts from the Past. Early promos, like those distributed with the 2002 Dark Duel Stories Game Boy game, also fetch very high prices and serve as grails for serious Blue-Eyes completionists.
With Konami launching exciting new issues nearly every year, and fans continuing to chase them for their secondary market value and nostalgia, this legendary dragon shows no sign of stopping.