Pokémon TFG: Analysis of figure distribution in boosters

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Systematic problems uncovered in distribution
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  • Friday, October 20, 2006

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This editorial has been written by Archaic. It expresses the views of the writer, not necessarily those of Bulbagarden networks.
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This is an editorial by Archaic.
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Liam Pomfret, a.k.a. Archaic, is the webmaster of Bulbagarden since December 2002. A long time member of the online Pokémon fandom, he has worked on numerous Pokémon websites as an administrator, moderator and news correspondent since early 2001.

Offline, Archaic is an academic involved in the study of online consumer privacy behaviours, and is currently in the process of working towards his PhD. He has taught for undergraduate subjects relating to Marketing, Management and International Business Strategy, and has guest lectured on the topic of online communities for post-graduate students.

Pokémon Trading Figure Game logo

Hello everyone. This will be the first of a series of weekly articles I intend to write on the Pokémon Trading Figure Game. Let's see if I can actually manage to keep to that schedule. Most will not be quite as serious as this, but I felt that there wasn't any good reason to delay the publication of this information as a warning to other people who've already started to get into the game.

During the Journey Across Oz Pokémon 10th Anniversary tour, I was employed by Croftminster (the company that is responsible for the distribution of the Pokémon Trading Card Game in Australia) to demonstrate the new Pokémon Trading Figure Game at the two events held in Brisbane. As part of my payment for running these demonstrations I recieved an entire box of Pokémon TFG boosters containing four individual cartons of eight boosters each for a total of 32 boosters and 64 figures. In terms of value, each carton of boosters is roughly equivalent to a booster box of the TCG.

After having noticed a number of irregularities when purchasing my own boosters in stores, specifically issues with Poison and Paralyze counters (an issue of which the manufacturers are now aware) and odd distributions of some figures, I decided to use this box to do some serious study so we wouldn't just be speculating in the dark. While the results and conclusions I may draw from a single carton may not be enough to reach any definitive position, I believe it's quite obvious from the data I've collected that there are issues that need to be corrected before the sale of this game in America and Japan.


The cartons are stacked in layers of two inside each box. Carton 1 will be top left, 2 top right, and so forth. Boosters are stacked in layers of four inside the individual cartons. Booster 1 is top layer top left, 2 top layer top right, 3 top layer bottom left, and so forth.

While all care was taken to ensure that the carton and boosters were not mixed up during this test, there is some possibilty that the exact order of the cartons was confused, or the exact order of boosters within each layer of the first two cartons (before I realised the potential for figures in a booster to be influenced by the figures in boosters next to it and started taking precautions) to have been confused.

Carton 1

  1. Feraligatr, Golem
  2. Charizard, Absol
  3. Charizard, Dratini
  4. Charizard, Brock
  5. Spearow, Golem
  6. Spearow, Mudkip
  7. Marill, Mudkip
  8. Marill, Pikachu

Carton 2

  1. Dratini, Pikachu
  2. Sentret, Marill
  3. Sentret, Zangoose
  4. Marill, Golem
  5. Zangoose, Nidoran♂, two Paralyze counters
  6. Sentret, Zangoose
  7. Machop, Misty, Max Revive Trainer card
  8. Absol, Nidoran♂, two Paralyze counters

Carton 3

  1. Spearow, Murkrow
  2. Spearow, Corsola, Long Throw Trainer card
  3. Feraligatr, Pikachu
  4. Feraligatr, Zangoose
  5. Spearow, Dratini, X Attack Trainer card
  6. Marill, Corsola
  7. Charizard, Brock
  8. Marill, Absol

Carton 4

  1. Marill, Murkrow
  2. Absol, Nidoran♂, two Paralyze counters
  3. Marill, Zangoose, Max Revive Trainer card
  4. Sentret, Pikachu
  5. Zangoose, Nidoran♂, two Paralyze counters
  6. Marill, Pikachu
  7. Doduo, Dratini
  8. Sentret, Dratini


Before getting onto the main issue at hand, I'd like to note that, while we'd already established that Paralyze and Poison counters are getting mixed up in the boosters through extended observation of people opening random boosters, the data here provides nice confirmation of that.

It's also interesting to note that the Trainer cards seemed to come out at an even average of one in every eight boosters. Before now, we didn't have any idea exactly how rare those were. However, considering that this would mean the number of boosters one needs to purchase just to get eight cards, even though the eight cards in the base set may be labeled as "common," it's going to be difficult for most to complete the full set. One can get three cards each in the four-figure starters, but these tend to be the same three to four cards. In the boosters I opened, the only card which isn't commonly found in boosters was the Long Throw. Of course, without further data, we can't be sure on the real relative rarity of these cards, so further speculation there will need to be left for another day.

As far as the distribution of the figures goes... As we had guessed, there is an obvious issue here. While there are 59 figures in the Next Quest set total (including six Crystal versions of the EX rares, 10 Pearl figures of the normal rares and an extra Referee figure that's only available in the nine-figure starter sets), out of the 64 figures pulled from the boosters, only 18 of the figures in the entire set were represented. As further insult to injury, four of these figures (Charizard, Feraligatr, Murkrow and Pikachu, being two EX Rares, a Rare and an Uncommon respectively) are found in the standard four-figure starter packs, thus making their value in boosters dubious at best. TCG players might wish to think of them as being along the lines of a First Edition Base Set Machamp.

Figures received (ordered by set number)

  • Charizard x 4
  • Feraligatr x 3
  • Absol x 4
  • Dratini x 5
  • Murkrow x 2
  • Corsola x 2
  • Golem x 3
  • Mudkip x 2
  • Pikachu x 5
  • Zangoose x 6
  • Doduo x 1
  • Machop x 1
  • Marill x 9
  • Nidoran♂ x 4
  • Sentret x 5
  • Spearow x 5
  • Brock x 2
  • Misty x 1

Figure rarity

  • EX Rare x 7
  • Rare x 14
  • Uncommon x 18
  • Common x 25

Figure rarity excluding duplicates

  • EX Rare x 2
  • Rare x 5
  • Uncommon x 5
  • Common x 6

Surprisingly, this distribution over the entire box of boosters seems fairly stable and reasonable. Unfortunatly, the distribution of these individual figures in each booster is significantly off, with more than a few boosters having both an EX Rare figure and a Rare figure. The breakdown in rarities in each individual carton is equally bleak, as you can see below.

Carton 1

  1. EX Rare, Uncommon
  2. EX Rare, Rare
  3. EX Rare, Rare
  4. EX Rare, Rare
  5. Common, Uncommon
  6. Common, Uncommon
  7. Common, Uncommon
  8. Common, Uncommon
  • Total = 4 x EX Rare, 3 x Rare, 5 x Uncommon, 4 x Common

Carton 2

  1. Rare, Uncommon
  2. Common, Common
  3. Common, Uncommon
  4. Common, Uncommon
  5. Uncommon, Common
  6. Common, Uncommon
  7. Common, Rare
  8. Rare, Common
  • Total = 0 x EX Rare, 3 x Rare, 5 x Uncommon, 8 x Common

Carton 3

  1. Common, Rare
  2. Common, Uncommon
  3. EX Rare, Uncommon
  4. EX Rare, Uncommon
  5. Common, Rare
  6. Common, Uncommon
  7. EX Rare, Rare
  8. Common, Rare
  • Total = 3 x EX Rare, 4 x Rare, 4 x Uncommon, 5 x Common

Carton 4

  1. Common, Rare
  2. Rare, Common
  3. Common, Uncommon
  4. Common, Uncommon
  5. Uncommon, Common
  6. Common, Uncommon
  7. Common, Rare
  8. Common, Rare
  • Total = 0 x EX Rare, 4 x Rare, 4 x Uncommon, 8 x Common

This unusual distribution of the figure rarities among the cartons would seem to be caused by the tendency toward boosters being likely to contain at least one figure from boosters adjacent to it in its layer, the booster immediately above or below it inside its own carton and the boosters adjacent to it in the adjacent cartons. While I haven't subjected this to any substantial statistical analysis at this time, simply due to the lack of sufficient data, looking at what we have, it's obvious that the likelihood is statistically significant.

More data

A member of the TCG league in Brisbane passed onto me this list of the contents of boosters he had bought at the league store. While we cannot be sure of the exact positions in each carton of these boosters, we do know at least that the first eight were in one sealed carton, and that the next four were the first layer of a second. While I hesitate to use these to further solidify my conclusions, I have to say, the implications for the distribution of figures from these boosters are somewhat disturbing.

  1. Eevee (Pearl sub-set version), Groudon
  2. Eevee (Pearl sub-set version), Kyogre
  3. Brock (Pearl sub-set version), Lugia
  4. Brock (Pearl sub-set version), Lugia
  5. Brock (Pearl sub-set version), Lugia
  6. Golem, Ho-Oh (Ho-Oh was apparently broken when the booster was opened)
  7. Brock (Pearl sub-set version), Lugia
  8. Eevee (Pearl sub-set version), Groudon
  9. Ho-Oh, Golem
  10. Ho-Oh, Kyogre
  11. Murkrow, Kyogre
  12. Murkrow, Groudon


In conclusion, I believe the above documented box of the Pokémon Trading Figures to be concrete evidence that there are systematic problems in the distribution of the Pokémon Trading Figures within the two-figure booster packs. While there may be no problems in the overall distribution of figure rarities, the likelihood of anyone finding identical figures in boosters purchased is unacceptably high to the point where trading of figures between friends and people at leagues will likely be hampered. These people probably would have purchased them from the same store and the same stock of boosters. No doubt this will lead to those who find themselves on virtual gold mines of rare figures (such as the person from my local league above) purchasing large quantities of boosters, allowing them to control trade and on-selling of individual figures at a level totally beyond what we've ever seen for the Pokémon TCG.