Do you have proof: A look inside the high-stakes world of Pokemon trading

As the saying goes, "the proof is in the pudding." But in the world of Pokemon trading, the pudding is in the proof.

It is two in the morning and I am online, multiple tabs open, getting the research I need to make an informed trade. Hmm, I think, the rates are going down with the advent of the event in Germany. I should sell now before the market drops out completely. Typing rapidly, my latest electronica playlist thumping in my ears, I post a trade, hoping to get an offer before the opening of the shops in Berlin. 

No, I'm not trading stocks or commodities. I'm trading Pokemon.

Although, it does feel like this at times...

The folks over at r/pokemontrades on Reddit take their trading very seriously. It's a lot more involved than seeing who has what you want and working out a deal. There are rules. There is protocol. We have a certain way of doing things. This attention to detail is what has made r/pokemontrades the center of the serious Pokemon trading universe. 

A Game of Categories

In the world of serious Pokemon trading, there are many subcategories that one could specialize in. The first major distinction is between event and non-event Pocket Monsters.

Non-event Pokemon can be bred or captured by anyone with the patience and skill. Examples of non-event Pokemon include specially-bred competitive Pokemon with perfect stats and Pokemon parents with special moves or abilities that can pass these down to their offspring.

While special, non-event Pokemon tend to be valued lower than their event counterparts due to the way they are obtained. As mentioned before, anyone with the right tools and frame of mind can obtain these Pokemon from scratch.

Event Pokemon are the crème de la crème of the serious trading world. These can only be obtained by special events, and as such, are quite rare. Event Pokemon can be further broken down into in-life, serial code, Wi-Fi, or other. Each of these categories are given certain values based on the difficulty of obtaining. For example, in-life event Pokemon are very valuable, while Wi-Fi event Pokemon are much less so due to the fact that they are easily farmed.

No... Not this kind of farming.

Each of these event types offer a further subcategory: soft reset (SR) or not. Soft resetting is the process of checking a Pokemon's stats and then soft resetting (not a full reset because that takes forever) the game, thus forcing the game to "reroll" the stats. This is done until the desired stats are obtained. This can take 1 reset or 1 million. As such, event Pokemon with good stats due to SR'ing are more desirable than their non-SR cousins.

Style and Flair: Keys to Success

While you do have to have a personality to trade successfully, when I say "flair," I don't mean stylishness or originality. I'm referring to the system adopted by traders at r/pokemontrades.

"Trade flair does not exist for aesthetic purposes: it was set up to provide a way for users to help judge trustworthiness when trading with people." - Flair Guide

As seen in the graphic to the left, in order to succeed in the Pokemon trading world, you have to make a lot of confirmed trades. A confirmed trade is one in which both parties get something from the transaction and register it on FlairHQ, r/pokemontrades' Flair tracking application. When a user reaches the requisite number of trades, they apply for the flair through the FlairHQ site. The mods of the sub review the user's trades, ensure everything is in order with the sub's rules, and approve the flair application. The user then gets the icon next to their user tag to show the rest of the traders' that they are experienced and trustworthy.

Like many users, when I started out, I was something of a breeder. I made a name for myself trading breedables, egg move mothers, and Hidden Ability fathers. As I got more trades under my belt, I started to trade for bigger and rarer events. Now I deal almost exclusively in rare events. 

Just Looking for Some Kind of Proof

So how can a user be sure that a particular rare event is legitimate and not hacked into the game? This is where r/pokemontrades sets themselves apart from other trading communities. To make any kind of big trade on the sub, the two parties must provide some kind of proof that the Pokemon was obtained legitimately. Proof is often in the form of photos or video taken during the obtaining process.

A good example of proof

The entirety of the redeeming process should be captured, with a representative photo from each screen included. Traders typically create a spreadsheet (here's my personal spreadsheet) to track the Pokemon they own and the proof they have for each. 

Pikachu Mogul

The world of Pokemon, trading is serious business. There is a lot of work that goes into crafting and maintaining a reputation. Many successful traders follow many sources of Pokemon news so they know the very second that a new event is annouced. As events happen all over the world, a good trader has to have an understanding of the flow of the economy. When are traders typically active in Japan? A successful trader will know this and use it to their advantage to obtain rare events from overseas.

As I mature and grow in my love of Pokemon, I find myself drawn to this fast-paced world. It gives the serious player something to do after all the gyms have been beaten, the title of Champion has been claimed, and the PokeDex has been filled out. At the end of the day, the Pokemon series is about collecting, and online Pokemon trading is a natural extension of what draws so many fans to the series in the first place.

I hope to see you on the trading floor! 

Published Aug. 15th 2015
View Comments
  • Michael Slevin
    Yeah as someone who loves Pokemon and the competitive scene trading is crazy and exhilarating! Also, as you mentioned, a great way to extend a Pokemon game's life (beyond gyms and the Pokemon League) is to play online and build a strong competitive roster. Cool article!

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