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The New Tyrant of TCGs

The Short Print version of Yamato and Uta are sitting around $150, while the SP Nami is worth nearly $280.

Making a venture into the trading card game market is a losing gamble. There might’ve been a better chance in the 90s before Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering took over, but those heavyweights still dominate the market even today. With the majority of the customer base already owning a few shoeboxes full of their chosen TCG cards, there’s hardly any room for new games to squeeze in, and they quickly become irrelevant or just something for only niche collectors to hunt down.

That was not the case with One Piece. The anime’s card game was released in North America near the end of 2022, and since then whether it’s a Target, GameStop or even a local card shop, the OP booster pack racks have remained bare. Even the official One Piece Card Shop U.S. locations struggle to keep cards in stock because in the current market, each pack is essentially a lottery ticket.

The chase card for the latest set, OP-05: Awakening of a New Era, has skyrocketed in value. The Monkey D. Luffy manga alternate art originally sold for an impressive $1,500 but has more than doubled since then and is now pushing five grand. This is an inordinate amount of inflation, especially given that from Jan. 2 to Jan. 9 the card jumped from $4,000-$5,000 in value.

While One Piece’s rampant success and imminent overtake of the market has come as a shock to the TCG community on X, formerly known as Twitter, and fans alike, it makes more sense upon closer inspection. One Piece has been long accepted as one of the “Big 3” anime, with the other two being Dragon Ball and either Naruto or Bleach depending on who you ask. It’s ranked No. 3 on IGN’s list of the Best Anime Series of All Time and No. 19 on MyAnimeList’s Most Popular tab while remaining one of the longest-running anime at 1,089 episodes over 24 years. There’s clearly no lack of interest in the show, and the Straw Hat Crew runs into plenty of memorable characters on their adventure to populate a trading card game roster.

On top of having a huge pre-built fanbase, the game itself is refreshingly short-paced and action-packed, adopting something similar to Dragon Ball Super’s leader structure and a sped-up Hearthstone resource management system. Unlike other games that allow a bit of variation in card choice and how many cards can be in a deck, the OPTCG limits every deck to 50 cards and to cards the color of their chosen leader. While some might find this a bit limiting, it is an effective way to keep everyone on equal footing.

Luckily enough, the two U.S. store locations are in New Jersey and right here in Plano at Mitsuwa Marketplace. They post product restocks when they get them and have weekly tournaments in-store with impressive turnouts. Local card shops also hold tournaments and events, all of which can be found and sorted by location in the BandaiTCG+ app.

The longevity of the cards’ popularity remains to be seen, but if the game’s frenetic growth over the last year is any indication of its long-term success, then there’ll be people chasing down packs for years to come.

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Sean Stroud
Sean Stroud, Editor in Chief

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