Official Pokémon Binders Have Evolved
As far back as I can remember (which is admittedly a very short amount of time), official binders for the Pokémon TCG have been incredibly hard to come by. Whilst you could by a binder featuring a Charizard and the Pokémon logo, these were manufactured by companies like Ultra Pro, and were not directly from Pokémon. Some of them, like the Ultra Pro premium binder produced for the 25th anniversary, are exquisite capsules for your delectable shiny cardboard. I employ mine to house cards from many different eras of the game, showcasing how the designs have changed over time. Unfortunately, many do not live up to these standards; with bland designs, mediocre card security and a cheap feel.
Thankfully, it seems these days are finally over. With the release of the very special Scarlet and Violet 151 (named after the 151 original Kanto Pokémon that make up the set), the Pokémon Company have released a selection of products that we have never seen before. We have the 151 Poster Collection, featuring minimalist artwork of the original 151, as well as a Mew Ultra-Premium Collection for fans who are searching for a truly special hit of nostalgia. However, the item that piqued my interest was the Binder Collection, which I cracked open to start my master set. When I did so, the quality of the binder gave me a very pleasant surprise.
What’s In The Box?
Pokémon ‘Collection’ products often contain lots of small pieces and bonuses; promo cards, jumbo cards, accessories, TCG Live codes etc. The Binder Collection is not like this. It has a no-nonsense attitude, with just 4 packs and a binder, no extra fuss. This makes practical sense to me, since many collectors and players will buy the binder collection for, well, the binder. If having nothing else in the box means that the quality of the binder can improve, then it seems like a great trade off, and the binder really does deliver.
You’ll immediately be struck by the lush, coated feel of the exterior. Smooth, but not too shiny, it bears artwork broadly the same as a 151 pack, featuring Mew and a Poké ball. It is held shut by a white strap, which makes a satisfying elastic twang. A zipper, which can be found on high-end binders, would be more secure, but this strap should be ample for most use cases. I have also noted a slight indent where the strap lies on the binder, but this hasn’t affected my precious cards.
Inside, the standards get even higher. Each card is side loaded into the binder, rather than the less secure method of using a gap in the top of the sheet. Side loading gives the cards more protection inside the binder, since they don’t fall out if the binder is turned upside-down. As with all binders, I recommend sleeving each card before adding it, with a standard size, clear sleeve fitting perfectly snug into the card slot. There is space for the entire master set of 151, plus a bunch of other cards (such as duplicates or reverse holos, since you should NOT put more than 1 card into the same slot!)
I’m extremely impressed with the quality that Pokémon have put out here. This binder is a rival to the high-end output of Ultra-Pro, with massive potential for amazing artwork, like what is featured on Pokémon Centre deck-boxes and sleeves. I would gladly purchase more official binders like this in future. *Stares at The Pokémon Company with puppy-dog eyes*.
As well as the binder, you’ll receive four SV 151 booster packs to kickstart your Kanto collection. By contrast, the Poster Collection features five booster packs, but considering that binders are more expensive to create, this seems to be a solid number for the price. Unless you really like Mew, or really want an official binder, you are probably purchasing this product because you are interested in the 151 set, but does it live up to the huge hype?
Is Scarlet & Violet 151 Good?
Ok, I’ll expand a bit.
Being the first set to feature the original 151 Pokémon (yes, they weren’t even in base set), the TCG community was more interested in the release of this set than in whether the sun rose the morning afterwards. While it seemed to lack playable cards, the real purpose of the set was nostalgia for the early years of this beloved franchise. Having only been really into the TCG for the last few years, I’ll admit that I occasionally come across a Pokémon that I’ve never heard of before. But in 151, I recognise every Pokémon, and take great joy in constantly pulling little friends that I have fond memories of.
The idea of a binder collection for this set in particular is pretty genius; who doesn’t want a full set of the original 151? Many more collectors are trying to achieve a master set than normal, and a binder is needed for that. A bonus of trying to collect all the cards is that even commons and uncommons can get you excited. For example, I have opened more than 20 packs of this set, but I am yet to pull a humble Metapod. When it stops using ‘Harden’, breaks it’s camouflage and finally emerges from a pack, I’m going to use ‘Flail’ and squeal as if I’d pulled another Charizard.
Beyond the first 151 cards, there are a variety of beautiful ultra rare, full art and golden pulls, taking the full set to a neat total of 207 cards (perfectly filling 23 binder pages). These include full evolution lines of the gen 1 starters, the most playable of which seems to be the Blastoise line. Blastoise ex, along with 330 HP, has the ability ‘Solid Shell’, allowing it to take 30 less damage from attacks. That means you need an attack that does at least 360 damage to one-hit KO it, which is an incredibly difficult feat. In fact, the playability of the set overall is better than expected. For example, the basic Charmander from 151 has become relevant, since having 70 HP and a single energy attack that can discard a stadium has made it a foundation of Charizard decks.
Even the energy cards in this set are quite special. Every so often, the energy card in your pack will glisten brilliantly, with spirals and sparkles glowing in the background of the energy logo. They make a gorgeous edition to any deck, and serve as a good consolation for times when you don’t pull anything new. From my experience, the pull-rates in 151 are quite good. They are by no means exceptional, and it is important to remember that you aren’t guaranteed an amazing pull from four packs, but I have got many great cards in my 20 packs, including 2 ultra rares and a gold.
In fact, I’m going out on a limb, and saying that Scarlet and Violet 151 is the most fun set I have ever opened. Perhaps even more fun than Crown Zenith, a set that I (and many that are more experienced than me) championed as the best set to open previously. There are so many ways in which a 151 pack can make you smile, and almost all of the artworks are simply amazing to look at. Even if you have loved Pokémon for years, but never touched a TCG card, or are looking for an entry point into the game as a casual fan of the series, I cannot recommend this set, or indeed this product, highly enough.
It was inevitable that the Pokémon Company would eventually release a set that immortalized the Kanto Pokédex in one, definitive collection; but the fact that they have chosen this moment says a lot about the state of Pokémon as a whole. The TCG is more popular than ever and is continuing to go from strength to strength. The anime has transitioned away from the iconic Ash Ketchum, revolutionising itself with new characters and adventures. The main video games are *trying* to go open-world, maturing to fit the desires of modern gamers.
Pokémon is evolving, and this brilliant curation of where it all began sets the benchmark, allowing them to leap towards bold, innovative new ideas. I simply cannot wait to see the moves that this new form has.