PSA has officially announced that it has resumed grading certain cards lacking rarity symbols from the 1996 Japanese Pokémon Basic Set. Throughout the course of the series, most Pokémon cards include special symbols on the lower corners of each card that denote its rarity. A circle indicates common, a diamond indicates uncommon, a star indicates rare, and there are a few less-common symbols that indicate other unique rarities. However, in the first print run of the 1996 Japanese Pokémon Basic Set, all cards were printed without these symbols. While subsequent printings added these symbols later, cards from the original print run that lacked the symbols became highly valuable, as they were the original, first issues of the card.
Between the multiple print runs of the Japanese Basic Set, however, there were some errors that took place, most notably involving the printing of incorrect numbers on certain cards. Unlike the English releases, early Japanese card numbers followed the numerical ordering of Pokémon as dictated by the Pokédex in the video games: Bulbasaur was #1, Ivysaur was #2, and so on. However, when the first print run took place, incorrect numbers were assigned to two Pokémon: Venusaur and Raichu. Venusaur was printed with the number 68 (which, according to the Pokédex, belongs to Machamp) and Raichu was printed with the number 25 (which belongs to Pikachu).
When this error was first recognized, PSA halted grading of these cards out of caution, due to a lack of a reliable source to confirm that these two cards were intended to have different numbers by the manufacturer. In the past, cards not matching up with manufacturer-issued checklists have been linked to counterfeits. Recently, a reliable source surfaced that confirmed the validity of these cards: the Pokémon Card Winning Strategy, a guidebook published in Japan by Pokémon in April 1997. This book included a checklist of each “No Rarity Symbol” card from the original print run, and lists Venusaur as #68 and Raichu as #25, including images of both cards. With the help of this reliable source, PSA was able to confirm that these numbers were, indeed, noted by the manufacturer, and the No Rarity Symbol versions of Venusaur and Raichu could therefore be graded by PSA once again.
Reliable sources are valuable to the PSA research team in ensuring quick identification of items and efficient processing of customer submissions. As important as sources are, it’s also crucial to staff PSA research and grading positions with TCG specialists who can utilize their knowledge to improve efficiency even more. If you are passionate about TCGs and wish to join the PSA team, apply today.
The No Rarity Japanese Basic Set is one of the most iconic releases in the history of the franchise, so the fact that Venusaur and Raichu can now be graded and added to PSA collections everywhere should give collectors reason to celebrate.