Retrospective: Legendary Collection

March 13, 2018

Today’s retrospective article examines one of the most popular reprint sets in the history of the Pokemon TCG: Legendary Collection. Released on May 24, 2002, Legendary Collection featured cards from Base Set to Team Rocket (with a single black star promo thrown in for good measure) using the original card templates from those early expansions. As most collectors know, Legendary Collection was not Wizards’ first reprint set in the Pokemon TCG, that honor belongs to Base Set 2. Like Base Set 2 before it, Legendary Collection was not released in Japan, it was a Western exclusive expansion. Unlike Base Set 2, which collectors and players viewed with disdain at its release, Legendary Collection proved to be a very popular expansion for most players and collectors. This is in part because the set introduced a number of concepts into the game that would become enduring staples of the Pokemon TCG. The most important of these, and the reason that the Legendary Collection remains so popular to this day, was the debut of reverse holographic cards.

At the time of Legendary Collection’s release, Pokemon was still being produced and distributed by Wizards of the Coast, the same company that made the very first TCG, Magic the Gathering. It should come as no surprise that Wizards used the information it learned from Magic to influence its development and production of the Pokemon TCG. Reverse holo cards, like many of Wizards’ other TCG staples, had their origins in Magic, debuting in the February 1999 Urza’s Legacy expansion. After a few sets gathering reverse holo experience in Magic, Wizards introduced the concept into the Pokemon TCG in Legendary Collection. But the reverse holo cards from Legendary Collection are nothing like the reverse holos of today, they are gorgeous firework patterned cards that even after 16 years continue to be sought after by collectors. 

Charizard standard foil (left), Charizard reverse foil (right)

That is HOT. Probably even hot enough to melt boulders.

See what I did there?

But while the reverse holos are the main selling point for this set, there are a number of additional items that are worth mentioning. First, a look at some of the stats for the set.


Total cards in standard set


Reverse Holo cards


Theme deck exclusive variants


Box Toppers



In most sets, theme deck exclusive variant cards and box toppers usually evoke a reaction somewhere between a snore and yawn from collectors, but in Legendary Collection, both of those items were and remain major items of interest. Let’s take a quick look at each of them in turn.

Theme Deck Variants

Legendary Collection was released with two corresponding theme decks: Turmoil and Lava. In today’s market, Lava is the more valuable of the two. This is because (surprise, surprise) Charizards sell and this theme deck was designed around Charizard. Even better, it features an exclusive, non-holo version of the fire lizard, cranking desirability up to a white hot level. Turmoil, like Lava, featured exclusive non-holo versions of otherwise holographic cards from the expansion: Dark Blastoise and Dark Raichu.

Non-holo theme deck exclusive cards

The Legendary Collection theme decks were also notable in that they each contained a randomly inserted reverse holo card from the main set, offering collectors another avenue to obtain one of these highly sought after cards besides booster packs.

Box Toppers

Another new collectible introduced to the TCG in Legendary Collection was the box topper, a special (in this case oversized) card that could only be obtained by opening sealed booster boxes of the expansion. These gorgeous cards feature four popular Pokemon cards from the expansion (Charizard, Dark Blastoise, Dark Raichu, and Mewtwo) with an excellent, almost checkered riff on the firework reverse holo pattern from the main expansion.

Charizard Box Topper next to the reverse holo version

Given the gorgeous reverse holos, the theme deck exclusive cards, and the box toppers, it’s easy to see why master sets of this expansion can sell for over $1,000 on the secondary market today. What are your thoughts on Legendary Collection? Let me know 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 and follow him on Instagram at