Hidden Gems - Neo Premium Files

July 19, 2018

In a world where everyone collects the same Pokemon cards, it’s hard to make your collection stand out from the crowd, especially on a budget. Enter Hidden Gems, a series of articles that highlights affordable and unusual card releases to help add some variety to your collection. Today we’re looking at a series of promotional sets that fortunately remain relatively affordable in today’s secondary market: the Neo Premium Files.

As the name suggests, the three Neo Premium Files primarily feature Pokemon from the second generation of video games: Gold and Silver, and while these older releases seem to have been overlooked by many new collectors, when Premium File 1 released in the Winter of 1999, it was a huge deal for kids all over the world.

Back in late 1999, when Pokemon was at the height of its popularity, the playgrounds of America’s elementary schools were a haven for wild rumors and juicy gossip. The favorite topic of discussion? Speculation about the next generation of Pokemon games. Gold and Silver were scheduled to be released in November 1999 in Japan and even though the games wouldn’t hit the United States until October 2000, American kids were desperate to grab whatever poorly translated information they could about the Japanese release. Magazine editors at the time were more than happy to cater to our ravenous Pokemon hunger, running full cover previews of the games in just about every kids magazine in print. It was in this environment that my peers and I first learned about Premium File 1, and it blew our collective minds. Here a folder that contained every evolution of all three brand new starter Pokemon?! And the final forms are all holos?! What could possibly be better?!

Demand was so high for the product that many brick and mortar gaming stores imported stock of Premium File 1 and charged exorbitant prices for the privilege of owning one of the coveted folders. I remember seeing singles of the final form evolutions selling for $10 each, which in today’s dollars is about $10 million. Premium File 2 garnered a similar reaction at the time of its release. This was likely due, at least in part, to the inclusion of the first ever reverse holographic cards in the TCG and a very cool looking holographic Charizard. By the time Premium File 3 rolled around, Pokemon fever had started to cool, and many stores passed on stocking the product in the States. Those that did still sold it at very high mark ups, sometimes charging $30 or more. As crazy as prices were in the early days following the release of the Premium Files, they can be obtained for a much more reasonable $10-20 a piece today. So what happened? My best guess is that because demand was so high for new Pokemon cards, Media Factory and the Pokemon Company were prepared and produced stock to meet demand. When demand eventually cooled, there were still tons of unopened binders sitting on store shelves and, over time, the price settled to where it is today. That’s all speculation of course, but now that we’ve covered the history of these releases, it’s time to look at the folders themselves.

As an initial point, it’s worth noting that nearly all of the cards featured in the Premium Files were eventually released in English. Many cards were simply added to the corresponding English neo set, with all of the cards from Premium File 1 added to Neo Genesis and all of the cards from Premium File 3 added to Neo Revelation (with one small difference, more on that below). The cards from Premium File 2 were incorporated into the English game in a less uniform manner. The three Unown, Espeon and Umbreon were all added to Neo Discovery, Entei and Pichu were released as black star promotional cards, but Eevee (an alternate art reprint of Eevee from Japan’s Neo 2 expansion) and Charizard were never released in English. Why Wizards of the Coast was unable to bring Charizard, one of the most popular Pokemon at the time, into the English game is beyond me, but whatever the reason, Premium File 2 is the only way to add these cards to your collection. One final regional difference worth mentioning is a discrepancy with a card found in Premium File 3. Celebi is the only holographic card in the Premium File (a noticeable reduction from the 3 holos released in the two preceeding Premium Files) and while it was ultimately included in our Neo Revelation expansion, it was released in the West as a non-holo card.

What are your thoughts on the Neo Premium Files? For my money, they’re an easy way to get some nostalgic, Wizards/Media Factory era cards at a reasonable price, but let me know your opinion in the comments below.

Thecardpletionist has been collecting Pokemon TCG cards since the game’s English release in 1999. You can read more from the author at http://thecardpletionist.blogspot.com/ and follow him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/thecardpletionist/