The "Alpha" of Dragon Ball Sets
By Kevin Glew
It's the Black Lotus or Charizard of Dragon Ball cards.
That's how veteran collector Mike Smaili describes the Son Goku - The Awakened Power Secret Rare single that's the highlight of the 2018 Dragon Ball Super - The Tournament of Power (ToP) set.
"The moment I saw that card I instantly fell in love with it," said Smaili. "It gave me that 'I want as many copies of it as I can possibly get' feeling that I hadn't had since the original [Pokémon] 1st Edition Charizard art."
On top of the card's dazzling artwork, its average pull rate was just one per case and Smaili estimates that only 300 to 500 were produced, making it more elusive than the highly coveted Magic: The Gathering Alpha Black Lotus card.
The Awakened Power single is also the most powerful Dragon Ball card ever made.
"It's literally an auto win card," noted Smaili. "The card power on it is 45,000 and there's never been a card that has gone above this. It actually says you win the game when attacking with it."
The sheer strength of this single is likely one of the reasons that Bandai, the Japanese card maker, manufactured it in such small quantities.
"I don't think The Awakened Power card was meant to have a lot of production because it was just so overpowering, and in the interest of balance, Bandai didn't want to have too many out there," said Smaili. "And even with stores not being able to keep up with demand and distributors not able to fulfill orders, Bandai refused to print more."
This card is also tough to find in pristine condition. Smaili says it's regularly plagued by print lines and white specks on its back.
"Also, the card game was much smaller when this set first came out, so most of the people who pulled it were just players and they didn't really care about condition," said Smaili. "So, a lot of the copies are not mint. A lot of people just wanted to play with the card."
So, considering all these factors, it's easy to understand why The Awakened Power single has taken off in value. Smaili can recall purchasing these cards for $60 each. In March 2020, one PSA GEM-MT 10 sold for $650 on eBay.
"You have all of these challenges that make it desirable to collectors in addition to its playability," said Smaili. "So on top of attracting collectors, its auto-win ability also attracts players."
It's clear that The Awakened Power card is the Holy Grail single of the 176-card Dragon Ball Super - The Tournament of Power set, which was released on May 25, 2018.
"I would consider this set to be the Alpha set of Dragon Ball in terms of being the rarest and most valuable," said Smaili.
Dragon Ball was created by Akira Toriyama in Japan and introduced as a manga series in 1984. It has since been expanded into a major media franchise that includes TV shows, movies, video games and branded merchandise.
The main story of Dragon Ball revolves around the travails of Son Goku, who practices martial arts and possesses supernatural strength. After a sheltered childhood, Son Goku comes in contact with a teenage girl named Bulma who convinces him to search for seven orbs known as Dragon Balls, which summon a wish-granting dragon. During his journey, Son Goku makes many acquaintances and friends, begins a family, learns about his roots and battles villains who also covet the Dragon Balls.
Dragon Ball Super was the fourth anime sequel to the original series and its plot picks up from the Dragon Ball Z series that saw an adult Goku and his friends defeat rivals Frieza, Cell and Majin Buu and restore peace to the Earth. In this series, Goku uncovers new powers and travels to other universes to face stronger opponents.
Dragon Ball trading cards, themselves, date back to 2000 when they were unveiled for Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT by Score Entertainment. These cards were made by Score for six years, but they failed to attract much of a following. Bandai then took its first, short-lived stab at creating Dragon Ball cards in 2008.
It would then be a six-year gap between that and when Panini released Dragon Ball Z cards from 2014 to 2017. Later in 2017, Bandai decided to revisit these cards and they unveiled their own card game that would initially be marketed in conjunction with the release of the new Dragon Ball Super TV show and movies but was later expanded to other sagas and worlds following the game's success.
The Tournament of Power is the fourth Dragon Ball Super set released by Bandai, but the first Themed Booster set. The previous trio of sets had been general sets where the theme was very broad.
"With the Themed Boosters, they were one-and-done sets," explained Smaili. "They were meant to be more limited in their release because the storyline and the theme of the set was intended to be more focused. They didn't want it to be a general set. The Tournament of Power was the first Themed Booster set, so in some sense it was the first set. It was the first Themed Booster, limited production set."
Bandai made just two more Themed Booster sets - World Martial Arts Tournament and Clash of Fates - but they weren't as popular as The Tournament of Power offering.
"The Tournament of Power [set] was a much grander stage, an epic stage. It meant a lot to the history of the show," said Smaili.
The Tournament of Power offers eight different levels of cards (see accompanying chart).
It should be noted that the common and uncommon cards have regular and foil versions.
"You can think of foils as variants of the originals," explained Smaili, adding that the foils also command a premium because they're tougher to pull from packs.
Smaili says most collectors want both regular and foil versions for their sets.
"I think most completionists would say that if you want a complete set, you would need to collect both the regular card and the foils," said Smaili.
The Dragon Ball Super - The Tournament of Power cards had a single wave print run. The cards were available in 12-card booster packs and there were 24 packs in each box. Within each pack, a collector could expect to pull eight commons, three uncommons and one rare.
Unopened booster boxes have recently sold between $600 and $700.
The Tournament of Power cards generally showcase game information and the card name at the top above the colorful artwork that's spread across the card. More game data is printed down the left side and at the bottom, where you can also find the card's power.
"The art is insanely beautiful on these cards," said Smaili.
Jamie Thornton, a UK collector of PSA-graded cards from this set, agrees.
"The quality of the art and foiling on these cards is really above and beyond all other sets," he said.
Most cards offer the generic Dragon Ball branding on the back, but the leader cards present additional artwork.
"The leader cards are a special type of card. When you're playing the game, you start out with one form and then you are able to trigger the other form, which means the player is supposed to flip the card to the other side," said Smaili. "Only leader cards have art on both sides in this set. Every other card is just like in PokÃ©mon and Magic [issues]; they just have branding on the other side."
Smaili says the leader cards do not command a premium, unless they are their respective foil versions.
When collectors open packs, they're hoping to pull the Son Goku - The Awakened Power Secret Rare card (TB1-97), but they're also happy to pull one of the four Special Rare (SPR) signature cards: Universe 7 Saiyan Prince Vegeta (TB1-4), Beerus, Universe 7 Divine Vanquisher (TB1-30), Son Goku, Hope of Universe 7 (TB1-52) or Frieza, Emperor of Universe 7 (TB1-77). Inserted at a rate of four per case, these cards flaunt facsimile signatures of the English voice actors of these characters.
"The signature cards would be your next best after The Awakened Power," said Smaili. "Up until this point, you have never seen any Dragon Ball card produced with the signatures of the voice actors."
Not surprisingly, the aforementioned Son Goku, Hope of Universe 7 Special Rare (TB1-52) is the most sought-after.
"Anything that has Goku's name on it is going to carry a premium, and as a collector, it's exciting to have the Son Goku card signed by the voice actor who I grew up watching [and listening to] as a kid," said Smaili. "It doesn't get better than that."
Of the 209 Special Rare cards submitted, there have been 148 PSA 10s and 56 PSA MINT 9s. A PSA 9 example sold for $160 on eBay in February 2020.
Smaili says that like The Awakened Power single, the Special Rare cards are tough to uncover in flawless form.
"A lot of the signature cards have white specks" said Smaili.
He says these white specks are visible on the card back.
"From a collector perspective, this added another level of rarity," said Smaili. "Not only are they hard to find because they're Special Rares, they're also difficult to obtain in high grade."
Smaili says there are also Super Rare versions of the Beerus, Universe 7 Divine Vanquisher (TB1-30) and Son Goku, Hope of Universe 7 (TB1-52) that generate considerable interest, as does the Super Rare Foreseeing Hit (TB1-8).
Of the 32 Foreseeing Hit cards evaluated, 20 have been deemed PSA 10s. A PSA 10 example was being offered for $35 or Best Offer on eBay in April 2020.
Smaili has noticed a steady growth in demand for cards from The Tournament of Power set and an increasing number of hobbyists are having these cards graded by PSA. Thornton has witnessed the same trend, adding that The Tournament of Power set is definitely the top Dragon Ball Super issue to him.
"It's the set I began chasing and the one I continue to chase, and it remains the face of the card game for both players and collectors," he said.
Smaili offers a similar assessment.
"It has pretty much become the premier Dragon Ball collector set," he said. "Any collector that's introduced to Dragon Ball Super is always referred to this set first, and there are multiple reasons for that. One, it was limited; it was a one-and-done print run. Two, it has the most iconic card in the set, as well as the most powerful, most popular and hardest to pull. Three, it has amazing art. These are all factors that collectors love. That's why this set is hands down the Alpha of Dragon Ball sets."
For more information on the 2018 Dragon Ball Super Tournament of Power trading card game set, please visit PSA CardFacts.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [emailprotected] if you have any additional information or comments. A special thank you to Mike Smaili ([emailprotected]) for providing the cards featured in this article. Please note the PSA Population Report statistics, Set Registry rankings, and pricing quoted are as of May 2020.
Super Saiyan 3 Goku at full power has a battle power of 24,000,000,000, 2 billion above Kid Buu's level.
Universes 1, 5, 8, and 12 were exempt from participating in the tournament due to their inhabitants having an average Mortal Level above 7. The eight other Universes, such as Universe 7 (level 3.18) or Universe 9 (level 1.86), are left to fight to determine which one of them deserves to be saved.
The highest power level ever officially stated in the Daizenshuu guides is Super Saiyan Goku's power level of 150,000,000 while battling Frieza on Namek.
We had Gohan no longer hesitating to fight his enemies. And of course we had Vegeta being broken down to the point where he tearfully begs a man he hates to do something he himself could not. In the Tournament of Power, we've had characters we never expected making turns we never expected.
Goku: 76, even though you might think his IQ could be even lower sometimes, he often proves he can do some smart things too, especially while fighting and especially during DBZ.
Hey guys, I've recently started creeping around DBZ Forums and Pages, and the general consensus seems to be that Goku is a Galaxy Buster, or at the very least a Solar System Buster. The reasoning is generally using Frieza (the first DBZ character shown to destroy a planet) and Goku's progression since then.