New and Returning Collector's Guide to Pokemon TCG!

March 08, 2017

A new and returning collector’s guide to the Pokemon TCG’s latest expansion: Sun and Moon

The Pokemon trading card game has experienced a popularity renaissance over the last year and half. Children that grew up with the game are starting to use their adult salaries to complete old collections, Pokemon Go has brought a whole new generation of fans into the Pokemon universe, and the Sun and Moon video games are perhaps the best pokemon video games ever released (a bold statement, to be sure). It is not an exaggeration to say that the world has once again contracted a case of Pokemon fever. If you want to find more info, we have a comprehensive rarity guide broken up into two parts here and here

The face of an illness: Pokemon Fever

If the world learned anything from the last time it caught Pokemon Fever, it’s that there is only one reliable treatment for the condition: booster packs! Lots and lots of Pokemon TCG booster packs. The newest set in the Pokemon TCG: Sun and Moon was released in English on February 3, 2017 and whether you are a new collector, returning from a collecting hiatus, or a grizzled veteran of the Pokemon TCG, there are a number of reasons to get excited about collecting this new release.
The face of collectors that started in Base Set

Brand New Pokemon

 Sun and Moon introduces 54 new Pokemon to the TCG. Included in this number are eight Alolan variants of existing Pokemon, including Alolan Diglett and Alolan Dugtrio.

A number of popular Pokemon from the Sun and Moon video games make their appearance in this set, including the legendary Solgaleo and Lunala, and the starter Pokemon evolution lines of Primarina, Decidueye, and Incineroar.

The Sun and Moon starter Pokemon evolution lines
The starter Pokemon evolution lines in Sun and Moon

If your goal is to collect a card of every Pokemon in the pokedex (which is currently up to a staggering 802), this is your first chance to collect the newest Pokemon.

Pokemon GX

Sun and Moon introduces a brand new card type to the Pokemon TCG: Pokemon GX. These special Pokemon are inspired by the Z move mechanic in the Sun and Moon video games. In the video games, you can attach something called a “Z Crystal” to one of your Pokemon and, once per battle, cause that Pokemon to unleash an ultra-powerful Z move that can turn the tide of the fight. Each Pokemon GX card has a special “GX Move” that you can unleash with potentially game breaking effects but, like the video games, you can only use 1 GX Move per battle. Eleven unique Pokemon GX are available in Sun and Moon, including: Lurantis GX, Lapras GX, Espeon GX, Umbreon GX, Lunala GX, Solgaleo GX, Tauros GX, Gumshoos GX, Primarina GX, Decidueye GX and Incineroar GX.

Primarina GX

New Ultra Rare and Secret Rare Cards

Part of the fun of collecting Pokemon cards is acquiring the rarest cards available. When the Pokemon TCG was released in 1999, there were four possible card rarities: Common, Uncommon, Rare and Holo Rare. Today, the range of card rarities has been greatly expanded. In each pack of Sun and Moon, collectors can obtain Energy Cards (1:1 pack), Common cards (5:1 pack), Uncommon Cards (3:1 pack), a reverse holo card (1:1 pack), and a rare (or better) card (1:1 pack). You can tell a card’s rarity in part by the symbol in the bottom left corner of each card. Energy cards have no symbol, common cards are marked with a circle , uncommon cards are marked with a diamond , and cards with a rarity of “Rare” or better are marked with a star . 
Beyond “Rare”, there are 3 additional levels of rarity. Rare Holos (approximately 1:3 packs) have a wavy holofoil pattern in the background of their picture.

Rare Holo Arcanine

There are reverse holo versions of every card with a Rare Holo or lesser rarity. Reverse holo cards have a holofoil pattern covering everything but the framed picture in the card (compare the standard (left) and reverse holo (right) versions of Arcanine below):
Rare Holo GX cards (approximately 1:6 packs) are the “standard” version of Pokemon GX cards (as distinguished from the Ultra Rare and Secret Rare versions discussed below). All eleven Pokemon GX are available in this rarity.

“Rare Holo GX” Lapras GX

Ultra Rare cards (approximately 1:18 packs) include full art versions of certain supporter cards (Ilima, Lillie, Professor Kuki and Team Skull Grunt) and Pokemon GX. Each Pokemon GX has an Ultra Rare and Secret Rare version in this set except Incineroar, Primarina and Decidueye. Ultra Rare cards have card numbers from 138/149 to 149/149.

Ultra Rare Ilima and Tauros GX

Secret Rare cards (approximately 1:48 packs) include full art versions of certain trainer cards (Nest Ball, Rotom Dex, Switch, and the very valuable Ultra Ball), energy cards (Psychic and Metal energies), and Pokemon GX. The Secret Rare Pokemon GX feature the same basic art as their Ultra Rare counterparts, but with a beautiful rainbow foil pattern. In Sun and Moon, you can tell if a card is a Secret Rare based on the card’s number. In this set, each card is numbered out of 149 (e.g., the Ultra Rare Tauros GX is card number 144/149), Secret Rare cards have a card number that exceeds 149 (e.g., the Secret Rare Tauros GX is card number 156/149).

Secret Rare Lapras GX

The official checklist for this set offers another easy way to keep track of a card’s rarity and is available here, but note that Secret Rare cards are not included on the official checklist. Other websites like Bulbapedia and contain complete lists of the entire set.

Set Size Matters

Sun and Moon is one of the largest Pokemon sets ever printed. Including Secret Rares, this set has a whopping 163 cards to collect (not including reverse holos)! Of those cards, 12 are Ultra Rare and a massive 14 are Secret Rare (the largest number of Secret Rares in a single set in the history of the TCG). If you are a completest collector like myself, the prospect of collecting such a massive set with so many exceptionally rare cards will be both exciting and very challenging.
If you or a loved one are suffering from Pokemon Fever, don’t wait. There is a cure available in the form of the newest Pokemon TCG release. Whether you are a new or returning collector, Sun and Moon may be the treatment you need.
Thecardpletionist has been collecting Pokemon TCG cards since the game’s English release in 1999. You can read more from the author at