Tomy Scratch FAQ

History, Art, Scarcity – this set is peak Pokemon.


When Was 97 Tomy Pokemon released?

The official release was made public with advertisements in the May 1997 CoroCoro magazine from Japan. Sample picture below. 

View more images of the magazine, here.

Are these the first Pokemon cards?

Almost! They’re part of the “First Four” of Pokemon sets,  which all pre-date the US release in 1999,  The First Four includes the 1996 Carddass (Sept 96), 1996 Japanese Base (Oct 96), 1997 Topsun (PSA mistakenly labels as 95) and 1997 Tomy Scratch sets (May 97).

TopSun and Carddass were primarily art cards, so 97 TOMY is the 2nd ever playable set.

Carddass was a vending series, so Tomy Scratch is the 3rd ever product sold in retail boxes and packs.

How can I tell if my card is unscratched?

Basically, none of the panels on the back should be scratched off. This includes the moves across the top, the character box and the HP meter down the left hand side. If that is scratched off it reveals downward pointing pink and red triangles. See image:

Do "scratched" cards have value?

Not nearly as much as “unscratched”. Go with “unscratched” Tomy Scratch cards if you are an investor. The appeal of these cards is how rare they are in “unscratched” condition due to the nature of the way these were played with and exhausted during gameplay.

Compared to modern sets though, even “scratched” Tomy Scratch cards are rare, so who knows what the future will hold. Will the scratched ones be the equivalent of the “unlimited” 1999 Base cards compared to the “1st Edition Shadowless” cards?  Time will tell. Unscratched are king for now, though.

**UPDATE March 2021** – PSA has begun grading 97 TOMY and designating them as “scratched” or “unscratched”. While “unscratched” may sell for multiples more, I believe “scratched” cards, especially holos, might find a bit of value in their own category, now that PSA grades them.

How much are my "unscratched" Tomy Scratch cards worth?

It depends on the card, the condition, whether it’s graded or not and what the grade is.  I have been collecting these for two years, chasing them all over the globe, with the expectation they will rise in value. I can personally vouch for their scarcity and that they’re very tough to find!

With 1999 1st Edition Shadowless cards going for six figures, and these cards being vastly rarer (albeit less known in 2021), who knows what the future holds?!  Feel free to email me to discuss values of your cards!

Which Artists Illustrated the Tomy Scratch cards?

Arita, Sugimori… the OG greats worked on the art for this set. This original artwork would show up in later sets, so it’s great to own these first prints.

One collector even has had a pack signed by Mitsuhiro Arita himself!

How is the Tomy Scratch game played?

Players each grab a random card from their pack and then flip a coin to decide who goes first.

The top panels are scratched off to reveal the character’s possible moves.

The coin toss winner decides which random panel (in the main area) to scratch off first. That panel will either reveal one of those top moves and a damage total, or it will be a dud, with no move and zero damage.

The opponent takes the damage revealed, and scratches that off of their HP meter (for example 30 damage is 3 panels on the HP). They then go back and forth taking turns until one player reaches zero HP and loses the match. The next card is pulled for battle and the players repeat, with the winner of the last round getting to go first.

It’s easy to see why few of these cards remain “unscratched” in 2020s!


What is the difference between Series 1 and Series 2?

Series 1 was the first release and Series 2 was released shortly after in the same year as an expansion booster box.

The sealed retail packaging is easily discerned between the two:
– Series 1 packs are mostly blue and Series 2 packs are mostly red

Series 1 Retail Tomy Scratch

Series 2 Retail pack & box

Two big tells on the cards include:
– Series 2 has a black bottom border where Series 1 has a grey bottom
– Series 2 has a lightning bolt box on the back










Who grades 1997 Pokemon / Tomy Scratch Cards?

 PSA now grades TOMY Scratch Cards!  Prior to 2021, BGS was the sole grader of the Tomy Scratch Cards. They grade both series 1 and series 2 cards.  CGC also is said to be grading these cards, too, although none have surfaced.

Currently, I only know of five graded BGS Charizards, the highest of which is a BGS 9.5.  PSA currently has two graded Charizards, an 8 and a 9.

View Pop reports here.

Does PSA grade the Tomy Scratch Cards?


As of 2021, PSA now grades the TOMY Scratch cards and designates each card as either “Scratched” or “Unscratched”!! The “Unscratched” are expected to be traded at a significant premium, but this is an exciting development. Look for the population to grow as cards are submitted.

Here is a link to the Pop report info for PSA, BGS and CGC: 

Where do I buy 1997 Tomy Scratch Cards?

They were sold retail in Japan three decades ago, so you’re not going to find them at Walmart! 🙂

I’ve found most of my cards in the following places:

* Japanese merchant sites (Mercari Japan & Yahoo Auctions Japan)
* Instagram users who posted cards or packs
* Efour forum members who posted cards
* eBay, especially eBay international

Click here to view my page with a guide on how to shop for these – including website links, japanese translations and hashtags to search.

Now that interest in this set, and Vintage Japanese Pokemon is expanding, I expect to see more eBay listings in the USA. 

What does the text say on the packaging & instructions?

I’ve hired a Japanese translator to help translate the cards, packs, boxes and advertisements, as well as instruction cards! She was instrumental in helping me understand the details of game play.

Also, the main slogan is “Scratch & Battle”!  🙂

I’ll post a video with translation details, once ready. 

Scratch & Battle!


* HP Gage on the left side
* Lv is the character’s profile
* The four top panels are the player’s possible moves (which can be found randomly in the bottom 12 panels)
* The bottom 12 panels are where players take turns revealing moves.

Questions? Cards for Sale?

Get in touch, I love these cards. 🙂