Pokémon cards have seen a huge resurgence in popularity over the last few years. Both kids and adults are collecting, trading, and playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG). With demand so high, Pokémon cards can get quite expensive, especially rare cards or complete sets. This leaves many fans wondering – is there a way to get Pokémon cards for free?
In this detailed guide, we‘ll cover all the best methods for scoring free Pokémon cards in 2023 without spending any money.
Why Are Pokémon Cards So Expensive?
Before we dive into getting free cards, let‘s discuss why Pokémon cards have become so expensive lately. Here are some of the main reasons:
Nostalgia: Pokémon came out in the late 90s and was hugely popular. Now millennials have disposable income and are buying up cards for nostalgia.
Limited supply: Rare, vintage cards from the 90s were printed in small quantities. First edition or shadowless cards are highly sought after.
Influencers and streamers: YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok personalities have driven interest and prices up recently by opening packs on camera.
Investment potential: Some rare cards like Charizards can sell for thousands. High-grade cards are seen as collectible investments.
Competitive play: The Pokémon TCG continues to grow as an eSport. Strong tournament decks containing competitive cards are expensive.
Quality control: Cards need to be graded by PSA or BGS to verify their mint condition. Perfect 10 grades command huge premiums.
As you can see, a whole range of cultural and economic factors have collided to make Pokémon a hot collector‘s item. That‘s why getting cards for free is so appealing to fans!
Take Advantage of Promotions and Giveaways
One of the best ways to score free trading cards is to keep an eye out for promotions, contests, and giveaways. Here are some places you may find free Pokémon TCG products or codes:
Local game stores: Many collectible and gaming stores run promotions to drive foot traffic. Follow comic book shops or gaming cafes in your area to see if they post about Pokémon giveaways on social media or mailing lists.
The Pokémon Company: The company behind Pokémon runs sweepstakes and contests on their website or at live events. Sign up for newsletters and follow their social accounts to hear about free card opportunities.
Official Pokémon TCG online newsletter: You can subscribe to get news and promo codes emailed straight from The Pokémon Company. Codes can unlock free digital booster packs and decks.
Pokémon Center: This official online store has merchandise beyond just the TCG. Sign up for their newsletter for chances to win products.
Pokémon GO: Niantic‘s hit mobile game has tied in more with the TCG lately. Participate in events for codes.
Major retailers: Big stores like GameStop, Target, and Walmart often run Pokémon promotions. Follow their social media and circulars for card giveaways.
Gaming and pop culture conventions: Events like PAX, ComicCon, and TwitchCon frequently give away exclusive Pokémon TCG products and codes to attendees.
Staying on top of all the latest Pokémon news, deals, and events in your area gives you the best shot at claiming free cards from promotions and contests before supplies run out!
Use Free Online TCG Simulators
If you‘re looking to play the Pokémon TCG for free rather than collect physical cards, online simulators are the way to go. These browsers and apps let you build decks and battle without spending any money:
Pokémon TCG Online: The official online version allows you to unlock free digital booster packs by completing tutorial challenges. You can trade cards pulled from packs to build decks.
Pokémon TCG Live: Set to replace Pokémon TCG Online in 2022, this new platform will be free-to-play with no booster pack purchases. You‘ll get a daily login bonus and rewards for completing achievements.
Tabletop Simulator: This popular Steam game has a very active Pokémon TCG modding community. All cards are available for free.
LackeyCCG: An open source, customizable card game engine with a Pokémon TCG plug-in and online play options.
Untap.in: A browser-based tabletop simulator that supports fan-created Pokémon TCG sets and casual games.
PlayingCards.io: A simple browser card game with a Pokémon deck available. Great for beginners learning the game mechanics.
While you won‘t be collecting real-world cards, these simulators are a fantastic way to build your skills, test strategies, and play Pokémon TCG for free!
Check Dollar Stores and Discount Stores
Dollar stores and deep discount chains like Ross and TJ Maxx can actually be great places to find Pokémon cards on the cheap:
They often have older unsold stock from previous sets available for under $1/pack.
Badly damaged packs or mystery repacks are sold at a discount. You may find treasures hidden inside!
Shop carefully and check expiration dates. Very old or weather damaged cards may not be playable.
Visit frequently and ask staff when they expect to get trading cards in stock. Time it right and you can score some deals.
Be willing to open the packs rather than reselling sealed product for profit. Dollar store pulls can have amazing value.
Obviously you shouldn‘t expect to pull rare Charizards from a Dollar Tree pack. But when budgets are tight, discount stores are a decent option for building your common and uncommon card collection over time.
Buy Bulk Lots and Mystery Boxes
If you don‘t mind loose cards or random selections in big mystery lots, you can often get amazing deals when buying in bulk:
eBay: Carefully vet the seller, but you can find huge eBay lots of 100, 500, or even 1000+ common and uncommon cards for very cheap.
Facebook Marketplace: Search for people selling mystery cubes, boxes, or tins full of random Pokémon cards in your local area. Meet up to purchase and sort through them.
Craigslist: Like Facebook, Craigslist can have local collectors selling bulk lots of cheaper cards to clear out inventory.
TCGPlayer: This website has listings for massive lots of 1000+ cards sorted by set for affordable prices.
LGS: Your local gaming store may sell random bulk boxes for as low as $5-10 for hundreds of cards. Look behind the counter or ask at the register.
Sorting through bulk lots takes time but can help grow your card pool exponentially. It‘s a thrill not knowing what you might uncover in these Pokémon grab bags!
Participate in Local Leagues and Tournaments
If you‘re interested in playing the Pokémon TCG competitively, local leagues at game stores are a great way to get rewards:
Earn promo cards: Stores give out special promo cards each season as participation rewards. Just show up and play to start collecting!
Win prizes and packs: League challenges and tournaments offer prizes of booster pack codes or products to top performers. You get free cards for playing well!
Learn to trade: You can network with other competitive players who may be willing to trade their spares for cards they need.
Qualify for big events: Earning points gets you invites to regional championships where you can win even more cards and scholarships.
Playing in your local Pokémon league is a fun way to meet fellow fans, improve your skills, and potentially walk away with free cards and other prizes for participating.
Check Out Pokémon YouTube and Twitch Channels
There are many popular Pokémon TCG content creators across YouTube and Twitch that frequently give away cards to fans and viewers:
UnlistedLeaf often does pack opening videos where he gives away rare pulls in the description.
RealBreakingNate runs big subscriber milestone giveaways of rare cards on Instagram.
Maxmoefoe has a series opening fans‘ mail, including card submissions which he reviews on camera.
Rattle streams packs opening on Twitch and runs regular contests.
PrimetimePokemon does daily pack openings and holds drawings for viewers who engage in chat.
Derium‘s Pokemon has videos opening fans‘ bulk submissions where they keep some of the best finds.
The giveaways do favor loyal subscribers and followers who actively engage, but it‘s possible to get lucky! At minimum these channels give you ideas for deck strategies.
Ask Your Local Library
Believe it or not, your local library may have Pokémon TCG starter kits available to borrow!
Many libraries offer board games, video games, and trading card games as part of their circulating collections. Explore the catalog at your local branch.
The kits given out contain two 30-card themed learn-to-play decks, game mat, tutorial booklet, and damage counters. Everything you need to learn and play!
When you return the kit, request to keep the two basic decks so you have some cards to start your collection. Many libraries will allow this.
Support your library through programs, volunteering, or donations. Librarians may be willing to purchase gaming collection items for loyal patrons if asked.
Libraries aim to provide free educational resources to their communities. That can include Pokémon cards through youth gaming initiatives! Don‘t overlook this potential source.
Check Garage Sales, Thrift Stores, and Flea Markets
For savvy deal hunters willing to search, garage sales, thrift stores, and flea markets can turn up cheap Pokémon cards:
Parents often sell off their kids‘ outgrown card collections at yard sales for cheap.
Thrift stores frequently have random TCG products donated, though selection is hit or miss.
Flea markets can have vendors selling discount gaming items alongside other wares.
Inspect cards closely for damage or excessive wear before purchasing. Haggle prices if condition is poor.
Early weekend mornings are best as sellers are setting up and eager to unload items.
Search carefully as cards may be scattered around or mixed into piles of other toys.
It takes time and effort, but digging for discounted cards at secondhand sales can pay off. You never know what hidden deals or unwanted treasures you might dig up!
Teach Others How to Play
As the official Pokémon TCG rules outline:
If you teach a new player how to play the Pokémon TCG, you can request a Guest Instructor Support Kit from The Pokémon Company International. This kit contains everything a new Pokémon TCG player needs to get started.
To qualify and request a Guest Instructor Support Kit:
You must have directly taught at least four people how to play the Pokémon TCG.
Send a request form within six months of completing the lessons. You‘ll need names/contact info of players you taught.
If approved, you‘ll receive two 60-card Relentless Flame and Torrential Cannon decks plus accessories like dice and status markers.
By volunteering to grow the Pokémon community and teach newcomers, you‘re awarded with free starter products from the Pokémon Company themselves. A great option if you have younger family members or friends who want to learn!
Enter Official Tournaments and Events
Participating in official Pokémon TCG tournaments, leagues, and other sanctioned events is a guaranteed way to win free cards:
League Challenges: Earn foils, promos, and boosters for participating in these local competitive events.
Premier Challenges: Slightly larger tournaments that give out more valuable prizes for top finishers.
Regional Championships: The highest competitive level, awarding invitees special trophies, large prizes, and travel awards.
Prerelease Events: Get new set releases early and keep the 60-card prerelease build & battle box.
World Championships: The Pokémon Worlds invite the top players globally for huge prizes and extremely rare promos.
The higher you place in official events, the greater the rewards. But even entering at the ground floor gets you free cards, experience, and higher Championship Point totals toward bigger tournaments.
Redeem Codes Found in Packs
Keep an eye out for code cards included in physical Pokémon TCG booster packs and ancillary products:
Booster packs contain code cards that can be redeemed online for a matching digital pack. Great for collecting digitally at no added cost.
Elite Trainer Boxes and other sealed products contain codes for bonuses like unlocking theme decks or cosmetic items.
McDonald‘s Happy Meal Pokémon toys contain TCG pack codes on the packaging.
Even individually sold promo cards may have an accompanying code to get that card digitally.
If buying packs for collecting, be sure to keep the codes and redeem them even if you don‘t play online. You can also trade duplicate codes with other collectors.
Complete Your Pokédex
This one requires patience, but steadily filling out your Pokédex on Nintendo Switch games like Pokémon Sword/Shield earns you free digital booster packs for the TCG video game:
For every 100 Pokémon species you register by catching, you‘ll unlock a booster pack code.
This works up to the current max Pokédex size of just under 900 mons, so up to 8 free booster packs!
Packs contain random cards that you can use online. Trade duplicates for other cards you need.
This works retroactively, so booster packs unlock as you reach each 100 milestone.
Catching Pokémon in the video games takes time, but nets you free digital cards for your efforts! Perfect foravid Switch players.
Card Generosity From Family and Friends
One of the best sources of free Pokémon cards can be gifts from generous family and friends:
Making your interest in Pokémon clear to loved ones means they can gift you packs or cards for birthdays and holidays.
Friends who no longer collect or have extra cards may pass bulk lots on to you for free just to declutter.
Caring for younger relatives like little cousins? They may repay your playtime by sharing their card hauls.
Visiting grandparents often results in surprise gifts. Elders enjoy indulging their grandkids‘ hobbies.
Help parents out with chores without being asked. They may repay your initiative with Pokémon treats.
With Pokémon‘s cross-generational appeal, cards can make great gifts from those who know you love the hobby. Don‘t hesitate to drop gentle hints about your interests!
Creative Card Art Contests
Some Pokémon fans choose to draw their own custom card designs. You likely won‘t earn real playable cards this way, but contests award other neat prizes:
Pokémon Create-A-Card Art Challenge: This annual contest has past prizes like Nintendo Switch systems, Pokémon Center gift cards, and the winning art on real cards.
The Pokémon Company International HQ Card Design Contest: Design a card representing TPCi‘s London headquarters for chances to win merchandise and Switch games.
GAMA Trade Show Contest: At this tabletop gaming industry show, student artists compete to draw cards representing GAMA‘s charity of choice. Winners have received scholarships.
If you love drawing Pokémon and making card ideas, entering reputable contests like these can earn you prizes, exposure, and even potential job opportunities if you impress the judges!
Make Your Own proxies
Can‘t afford the card you need to optimize your deck? Craft some proxie placeholders!
Printouts: Print scans of the original card on paper at the proper size and slide into a sleeve in front of a basic Energy card or card backing.
Altered basics: Take an existing common card and carefully draw over it to recreate the card you want, matching things like stats and attacks.
Apps: Websites like Anvil.app and MPCautofill.com allow you to upload card images, change text, and print proxies on premium card stock. Useful for playtesting!
3D printing: Services like MakePlayingCards.com allow you to upload card images and have a custom deck 3D printed on demand. The ultimate proxies!
While proxies can‘t be used in official tournaments, they‘re great for casual playtesting and perfecting your deckbuild before buying real copies of the rare cards you need most.
As you can see, with some effort, creativity, and luck, it‘s totally possible to score amazing free Pokémon cards in 2023.
Now get out there, catch ‘em all, and master the Pokémon TCG without going bankrupt! By taking advantage of promotions, codes, trading, discounts, gifts, and all the methods above, you‘ll build an aweome collection while keeping your wallet happy.
Have any other great tips for getting free cards? Let us know in the comments!