CGC Cards Registry Featured Set: Pokémon 1st Edition Gray Stamp

Posted on 2/7/2024

Pokemon Mattster's set is over 90% complete with several Gem Mint 10 and Pristine 10 cards. Don't miss a Q&A with the set owner!

Base Set Pokémon cards are some of the most sought-after cards in the Pokémon TCG, especially in higher grades. Sometimes, the 1st Edition stamp on Base Set 1st Edition cards appeared more gray than black. This could have been because the card printer was low on ink, the ink on the card didn't have time to completely dry before being stacked together with other cards or the die pressure was too low to fully transfer the stamp ink to the card.

This phenomenon is called a "gray stamp" in the card collecting community. Gray stamps vary in color — some gray stamps are lighter than others — but they are all unmistakably lighter than the typical black 1st Edition stamp. In addition, gray stamp Pokémon cards are much rarer than regular 1st Edition cards.

The added challenge of finding gray stamp Pokémon cards is right up Pokemon Mattster's alley! His The Rarest of the Rare set is a whopping 94% complete and includes several Gem Mint 10s, and even a couple of Pristine 10s!

Click images to enlarge.

We caught up with Pokemon Mattster to talk about all things "gray stamp" and what he loves about the CGC Cards Registry. Check out the Q&A below!

Q&A with the Set Owner, Pokemon Mattster

How did you get started collecting Pokémon cards?

I started collecting as a kid when the Pokémon TCG was first released. I believe I was in fourth grade. I played the Game Boy games and watched the show, but the TCG was all the craze. I fondly remember making trades on the playground and after school, and frequently searching for new cards at the mall and local card shops. Not many kids knew how to actually play the game back then, so the goal was always to "catch them all." I still have my binder collection from childhood, which includes the complete Base, Jungle and Fossil sets in Unlimited.

Like many, during the pandemic I decided to dig my cards out of storage. I was instantly hit with a wave of nostalgia. This is when I decided it would be fun to complete the early Wizards of the Coast sets again, but this time in 1st Edition and graded by CGC.

What interested you in collecting Gray Stamp cards specifically?

It’s all about the hunt. Most Pokémon cards are readily available given all the different marketplaces these days. The biggest hurdle just tends to be the price tag. With gray stamps, the biggest hurdle isn’t merely the price, but instead actually finding the cards in the first place, and finding them in decent condition is even harder.

There are also many interesting aspects about the stamp variants found on Base Set cards. When I first learned about thin vs. thick stamps, 3D stamps and gray stamps, I figured they were all just different stamp variants. I soon learned that gray stamps stood out from the others. Thin and thick stamps only show up on holos, and there seems to be a roughly even split so one is not necessarily rarer than the other. Non-holos only have thick stamps, sometimes with a 3D effect, which I don't believe has ever been seen on a holo. Meanwhile, gray stamps are the only variant that occurs across the entire set, and they are generally quite hard to find. Both their rarity and the variations of the stamp color — from slightly gray to barely visible — offer layers of challenge.

It is also interesting that holos with gray stamps seem to only be thin stamps, and Machamp only seems to have a gray stamp with the shadowed version. In general, there is a lot of mystery surrounding gray stamps and the reason they exist. Some speculate they are a result of low ink on the printing press. Others think they are from too little pressure during the stamping process, while others think they are from stacking the cards before the ink is fully dry. It could be some combination of these, but we may never know for certain!

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What is your favorite card in this set and why?

I would say that my Gyarados graded CGC 9.5 would have to be my favorite card in the set. Gyarados has always been one of my favorite Pokémon, and this copy is in beautiful Mint+ condition and has one of the lightest gray stamps I've seen on a holo. I often struggle with choosing between a lighter stamp versus a better condition copy of a card for my collection, so finding a card with both qualities is the ultimate find. This is part of what makes the gray stamp hunt never ending.

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Is there a card that was difficult to find? If so, do you have a story about how you were finally able to locate it?

My favorite thing about gray stamps is that they're all difficult to find. The holos are quite hard to find, especially in good condition, but the most difficult are actually the non-holo rares, which account for the only six gaps remaining in my Registry set. Some collectors claim non-holo rares don't exist with gray stamps, but I have actually been able to find a few, with the only caveat being that the stamps are only slightly gray. This is yet another mystery surrounding gray stamps.

Charizard is obviously the most expensive card in my set, but it actually wasn't too hard to find. Meanwhile, some of the less popular Pokémon such as Magneton and Poliwrath actually took me the longest to track down. Magneton was the last holo I found, and it happens to be the worst condition of my holos (graded CGC 4), but I was nonetheless super excited to find a copy to complete all the holos in the set.

Click images to enlarge.

How has the CGC Cards Registry helped with your collecting goals?

I have always had a somewhat competitive nature, and the CGC Cards Registry helps bring friendly competition to the world of collecting, which I absolutely love. The CGC Cards Registry can actually be credited for my gray stamp obsession. I started out casually collecting gray stamps, but once I realized the CGC Cards Registry offered a gray stamp Registry set, I soon began extensively searching for them and became hooked.

One of the things I love most about the CGC Cards Registry is that it allows collectors to focus on their particular interests. As every collector knows, you can't collect everything, so finding your niche and collecting what you love most is what it's all about. The CGC Cards Registry really supports collectors in this way. Ultimately, the CGC Cards Registry helps me narrow down my collecting goals, showcase my unique collecting interests and compete with other amazing collections.

About the CGC Cards Registry

The CGC Cards Registry is a free online platform where collectors can register and display CGC-certified cards, compete with other collectors and get inspired. The CGC Cards Registry is also a great organizational tool for your collection. Begin adding your CGC-certified cards in the CGC Cards Registry here.

If you don’t see a set for your cards, please request a set. You may also review our CGC Cards Registry FAQs for details on how to make requests for new sets and slots.

The CGC Cards Registry team is here to help. Questions or comments? Want to connect with other collectors? Visit the CGC Registry Chatboards!

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