I’m not trying to communicate that I think it’s all around positive to have a really expensive Pokémon card that is critical to some decks functioning (including rogue decks). I think this is a problem that we all must live with, and in the mean time we as a community should look for the positive implications behind this. Tropical Beach demands its high price for a reason, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Simple factors dictate the price of a card. How rare the card is, how many people want it, and how good it is. This seems obvious to many of you reading this I’m sure, but it’s still a necessary place to begin the conversation. On the subject of rarity, there are probably close to 1500 English copies of Tropical Beach in existence. No card that is in a set is this rare. Even if you consider full art EX Pokémon, they have regular art counterparts. Rational individuals unwilling to pay the price on the full art version will simply choose to buy or trade for their less expensive counterparts. This isn’t an option with Tropical Beach. The number of people who want this card is high relative to the number that exist. It isn’t primarily collectors like with Tropical Wind or Tropical Tidal Wave, the competitive player base needs this card. Tropical Beach is a game changing card. It’s very good. There is no realistic alternative. If you tried playing Battle City instead of Tropical Beach in your Blastoise/Keldeo/Kyurem deck you’d probably watch your win percentage plummet.
The card is going to retain its current price level because it will continue to be rare. Despite the fact that Pokémon as a company frequently releases tins and those tins have recently included competitive Pokémon, we can’t expect that to happen with Tropical Beach. Why not? If this was the plan, it would have happened already. Various internet sources have made suggestions for Pokémon to try and devalue Tropical Beach and increase its accessibility. If suggestions like making it in a tin or including it in the World Championship Decks had resonated with Pokémon’s release strategy they would’ve taken advantage of that business opportunity already. Even if they reprint the card for Worlds 2013, and Worlds 2014, it will still be incredibly rare.
Pokémon players will continue to want Tropical Beach. It seems incredibly unlikely to rotate out in September. Realistically, cards rotate out of the modified format but the player base has observed a pattern: cards are typically legal for 3 different World Championships. Mew EX and Gardevoir (Secret Wonders) are good examples. Luxray Level X is the counter example, but keep in mind that Luxray was prevented from seeing his 3rd World Championships because of the unprecedented midseason rotation that happened. There is no tangible chance that in the next week Pokémon announces they’re closing up shop to eliminate organized play from being a factor to keep the demand of Tropical Beach high.
Pokémon and organized play continuing to exist are only relevant factors if Tropical Beach continues to be good, which most indicators point to. Tropical Beach will continue to be a staple in Blastoise and other Stage 2 decks. Based on the information coming out of Japan, Blastoise will still be a relevant deck for Worlds. Also, any Stage 2 deck that doesn’t have an attack to get set up on the first turn is going to want to run Tropical Beach. Virbank City Gym is a nightmare for any deck that doesn’t run Hypnotoxic Laser, and Tropical Beach might just be the best counter stadium possible in those decks for the foreseeable future.
Another less obvious factor is that in addition to Pokémon continuing to exist and Tropical Beach continuing to be played in competitive decks is the idea that Pokémon will still be as much fun as it is now, enough fun to keep other people playing. It is possible that I won’t be competitively playing Pokémon in a year from now (this is true for any Tropical Beach owner). Life can get in the way. Given everything we know right now, we have reason to believe there will continue to be buyers for Tropical Beach in the future.
Tropical Beach can be rationalized as an investment (I’m not prepared to argue it is or isn’t a rational investment). It has the potential to increase in value (again, not a guarantee, but a possibility). It’s one thing to spend even $30 on a card, never expecting a return on your investment. It’s simply the cost of playing a trading card game. While many hobbies might have items that cost about $100, it typically isn’t part of the cost of playing Pokémon. Tropical Beach as an investment helps potential buyers overcome this emotional hurdle.
So while Tropical Beach demands a high price, and will likely continue to do so, I think it might be a unique situation. I’m unconvinced this is what Pokémon wanted to happen in terms of their secondary market. My hope is that whatever lesson they take away from the high price of Tropical Beach, the corresponding solution isn’t to continue printing mediocre cards as a prize for qualifying for World Championships. I enjoy seeing good cards. Anything I’m missing on Tropical Beach? Disagree with me completely? Let us know in the comments.