We were lucky enough to have a customer of ours grade her First Appearance Lugia card through Black Label Grading this year. It surprised everybody when it was sold for a record $25,000!
We spoke to our customer, Amy, to hear her story and how she came across this rare card.
“I recently sold a BGS 9 Topps First Appearance Lugia for a record $25,000, but it wasn’t a high-end seller selling some card they just picked up – it has much more of a story.
I have collected Pokémon since I was old enough to walk. I remember being the height of my dad’s knees when he would come home from work with a pack of Topps Merlin Stickers, he’d bought from the corner shop. They would be added to the pile I walked around with, wrapped up in a hair tie, until one day, he came home with the album for me. I would stick those stickers in that album, and if I had doubles, they just went on top!
I kept my cards in a Team Rocket tin that was beat and scratched, with the best cards at the front taking most of the beating (my Charizard and Venusaur bore the brunt of it). I remember getting packs and theme decks from Woolworths – but one of my favourite memories is with my auntie who has since passed. She never had kids, so my brother, cousin and I would stay with her every other weekend to give our parents some well needed rest! I was the oldest, so I got to stay up for longer and watch QVC with her. My birthday was coming up and they were selling the brand-new Gym series theme decks – and I wanted a Blaine’s theme deck so bad. I loved Charmeleon and the artwork on these new cards had me hooked in. She ordered it via phone for me and even got a shout out for doing so. This is really starting to show my age now!
I grew up into my teens and so the cards were packed away, but never thrown away. I got a full-time job straight out of college and living at home I had a lot of spare money. Instead of putting it into a savings account, in 2012 I started buying Pokémon again. Anything that caught my eye including; sealed toys, quirky Japanese items, sealed packs, boxes, complete sets, comics, bags, plushies, random bundles – I dove straight back in. My parents weren’t happy as they could see the money I was spending because I was using their PayPal! They couldn’t believe the stupidity of spending £20 on base set booster packs when they used to buy me them for £3; they don’t mention it much anymore! One thing I always picked up was Topps cards. Maybe because Topps Pokémon products were the most accessible products to British kids, or maybe because I loved the style of the cards. I would buy sets, and part sets, and singles, and packs, and boxes. I would put sets together and sell them as a pastime, but I always made sure I had at least one of everything.
One day searching through eBay in 2013, I saw a listing titled ‘Pokemon first appearance hologram cards’. The starting bid was £5 with free postage. So I bid, and no one else did. It was a complete set of 6 cards all in near mint condition. From what I remember the seller sent them sleeved, wrapped in cardboard. In my great 2013 wisdom, I took them out of their sleeves and put them into my Topps Movie 2000 binder, which was the classic ring binder with Ash and the gang running on the front. Great artwork and binder (I still have it), but it is not for storing high end cards. And that is where they stayed! They came with me when I moved out of my parent’s house in 2015. They survived the mini purge I did in 2016 for a deposit on a house, because these cards did not have value. They moved into the house I still live in now and they were piled up with all my other binders that lay in the bottom of my wardrobe under the leaky roof.
They lived there for a few years until me and my partner were doing a big clean and we pulled all my Pokémon stuff out. My step kids were older, and I thought they would like to see what I collected, so over the next few weeks we sat on my bedroom floor and went through all the slabs, comics, binders, everything I had. One night I got to my Topps binders, and I immediately remembered why I collected these cards – the variations of different prints, the chase cards, film frame cards, clear cards, I knew them all. I get to the last page of my last Topps binder, and I find these cards. I don’t really remember getting them or having them as a kid. I try to Google information on them, search for them on eBay and I can’t find anything, so I did what everyone else did, which was to put them on Facebook, on the Pokémon pages asking for help. It was about 11pm and the posts can take a while to get approved, so I locked my phone and tried to get some sleep. The post must have been approved about half an hour later because the vibrations from my phone woke me up. I had about 50 comments on my post and dozens of DMs. Unfortunately, most of them were low ball offers and people trying to take advantage of someone who, honestly, didn’t know what they had. In between all those DMs was a member of the community who was the admin of one of the pages I had posted to. He told me not to respond to anyone offering me money for these cards. He told me these cards can be worth thousands and to send him some videos of the condition, so as any normal adult would do, I got out of bed at 1am and proceeded to take videos on my landing so I didn’t wake my partner. He said they are in amazing condition and need to be graded.
As a collector I had never graded any of my cards before. It was not like it is now where there are middle companies for the graders in America and even UK grading companies, and even if there was, it wasn’t worth it. I had a few graded cards in my collection from a few random grading companies, mainly PSA and 1 BGS slab. I loved the quality of the BGS slab and the gold label, so when the admin recommended to choose between those 2, I thought BGS were my option. He told me about Black Label Grading, who had only just opened at the time, but they were the first official BGS middle service in the UK. They were a family company and would take good care of me he said, so I went ahead with blind faith!
I sent the cards to BLG who were very understanding of my nerves and kept in contact with me; they were very personable and were genuinely interested in the cards and my collection in general. It’s always reassuring when a business like this is run by genuine collectors. They were sent off on the lowest available service because I didn’t have the money to send any higher. It was early 2021, so the hype train was still high for Pokémon and grading services were clearing their backlogs, so the grading fee for 6 cards on the lowest service open was £300, which is a lot for me personally, and I’m sure many other collectors.
I got a personal message 5 months later to say my cards were graded and were on the way back! They were excited about the return for me, and it showed. I filmed my reaction to opening the submission when it came back and you can’t see me, but you can hear the fist-pumping! The Lugia and the Slowking both got the BGS 9 grades and happy is an understatement. I knew that this was big, but I still didn’t understand how big.
It was always my intention to sell the cards, as I couldn’t justify owning such valuable collectibles when my family could use the money. I sold the Bellossom, HootHoot, Ledyba and Slowking after being unfortunately ripped off by a builder, which made a hard time for my family a little easier. I have been in contact with the other people that own the BGS and PSA graded 9’s of the Lugia and sought advice on value. They were all so lovely and it really gives you faith in the community. During conversations trying to sell the card myself, I was hoping for $15-18k, but was told by potential buyers that the figure was too high, and I even got to offering the card for $12k, which was also turned down by buyers. I was convinced of it’s worth and didn’t need to sell the card straight away, so I decided to hold out.
I decided recently the time had come and as much as I have enjoyed the years of having this card in my collection, it was time for someone else to own it – someone who could make the most of it and I could spend the money on my family. I hadn’t been able to afford to take my children away for the past 5 years, and they were growing up. I wanted to make some memories with them. I spoke with a friend of mine who works with PWCC and I thought, “Let’s just go for it! The worst that can happen is I end up with a few thousand pounds, and that’s not a bad worst-case scenario.” I was very nervous sending it considering I couldn’t afford to insure the parcel. Very nervous! But it got there after 10 days, despite paying next day delivery.
It went to auction a few weeks later. There were promo videos, people sharing it on their stories on Instagram, it was amazing to see this card that had been sat in the bottom of my wardrobe under a leaky roof for years, now being shared all over the world. It sat about $8,000 for a few days going into the last couple hours. I woke up at 1:30am to watch it finish after 2am with extended bidding. I was watching a UK Youtuber who streams the auctions, @PokiChloe, while also refreshing the site on my phone. I really wanted it to hit $10k, because with PWCC if you hit $10k they give you 10% on top, so $10k is really $11k and that would be massive for me. I’m in bed, trying to be quiet, not waking up my partner, and I can see the computer screen shared on my TV and it looks like there’s 5 figures next to my card – I refreshed my phone, and it was $12k! It was amazing, but then, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 …in an instant! I’m shocked, but I can’t jump up and scream like I want – I did end up accidentally waking my partner and she watched it end with me, more shocked than I was. It ended up selling for $21,000, and with buyers’ premium it was $25,200.
I had a lot of messages when I woke up, 95% of which were lovely and offering congratulations. I did get a few that weren’t as appreciated, but the majority were so lovely, it was overwhelming. I didn’t get much work done that Monday!
So, from buying for a fiver, sitting in a wardrobe for years, to eventually being graded through Black Label Grading and selling for a record 5 figure fee. I think it goes to show that collecting what you love is always the best thing to do. I have never had the money to put into buying Pokémon, but now I make up for that with research and time. Research everything, know what you’re looking at and time is just as valuable as money. I’m no investor, but some things have worked for me so far.”
Thank you, Amy, for putting your trust in Black Label Grading with such a valuable card. We were honoured to help you in your journey to selling this incredible piece.
If you are interested in grading your collectible trading cards with Black Label Grading, get in touch today!