Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game

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The backside of every Yu-Gi-Oh! Card. Copyright: Konami.

The Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game is a collectible card game created and distributed by Konami. The first set of cards was released in Japan in 1999 and, following its success there, was launched in North America and Europe in 2002 and Canada and South Korea in 2003.[1] New physical cards continue to be printed and sold in booster packs, decks, tins, and other forms of product. Many of the rules and design elements of the trading card game were based on the fictional Duel Monsters game, which featured heavily in the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga created by Kazuki Takahashi. The Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game has since been spun off into multiple animes, mangas, and video games, most recently with the video game Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel released in January 2022.

Yu-Gi-Oh! has spawned multiple ethical debates over its 20 year lifespan. Issues of legality have arisen in the debate over unofficial online simulators and the Konami vs. Upper Deck lawsuit. Other provocative ethical issues related to the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game include Konami's business practices, card censorship, deceitful actions on the secondary market, and the rising cost of trading cards.


From left to right: a Normal Spell card, an Effect Monster card, and a Normal Trap card. Copyright: Kazuki Takahashi.
There are three main types of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards: monster cards, spell cards, and trap cards. Each type of card has multiple varieties: for monster cards, these are Normal, Effect, Fusion, Ritual, Synchro, Xyz, Pendulum, and Link monsters.
An Xyz Monster card. Copyright: Kazuki Takahashi.
For spell cards, these are Normal, Continuous, Equip, Quick-Play, Field, and Ritual spells. Finally, for trap cards, these are Normal, Continuous, and Counter traps. In addition, monster cards all have an Attribute, Type, Level, Attack, and Defense.[2]

Each card has a name. Players can play up to three cards of a given name in their deck. Each card also has a colored frame whose color corresponds to their card type. In the bottom left of each card, there is a Passcode which can be used to unlock that card for play in many of the officially licensed Yu-Gi-Oh! video games.

Important Qualities for Collectors

Underneath the card's artwork on the right side, the card's Card Number is written. This number denotes which specific physical product (set) the card is from, which region the card is from, and which position in the set that card occupies. Collectors place a higher value on cards which come from older or rarer sets.

A card's edition is written in the left side of the card either below the artwork or below the text. A card can be Unlimited (in which case the text is absent), 1st Edition, or Limited Edition, in increasing order of rarity. Generally, cards are printed as 1st Edition for only a short period of time and are then printed in Unlimited, making the 1st Edition cards scarcer. Limited Edition cards are usually promotional cards and are much rarer as a result. Collectors are most interested in 1st Edition cards, as well as Limited Edition when a card has a Limited Edition printing. The bottom right of each card has a foil symbol called the Eye of Anubis Hologram whose color corresponds to the card's edition. This can be an easy way to tell which edition a card is. It also serves as an anti-counterfeit measure.

Each card has a "rarity." This is a term used to describe a card's physical appearance. Depending on a card's rarity, the card is given various aesthetic upgrades, such as silver or gold lettering in the name, a holographic background, or gold embossing. Cards with higher rarities are generally more difficult to obtain, most commonly because they are less likely to appear in a booster pack than a lower rarity card. In increasing order of rarity, the most typical rarities are Common, Rare, Super Rare, Ultra Rare, and Secret Rare. Some booster packs can contain cards with even higher rarities, such as Ultimate Rare and Ghost Rare. There are also other rarities, like Gold Rare, whose distribution is confined to one specific set or product. Cards are typically only printed in one rarity originally and can be reprinted in a higher or lower rarity in a future set. The more impressive appearance and the scarcity of high rarity cards make them desirable to collectors.

These purely visual features of cards do not affect their use in gameplay. They are only different from their lower rarity counterparts in their appearance and scarcity.[2]


All Yu-Gi-Oh! cards are originally sold by Konami in sealed sets of cards, referred to as "product." Buying official product firsthand is the primary way of obtaining cards.

Types of Product

Booster Packs

A Yu-Gi-Oh! booster pack. Copyright: Kazuki Takahashi, Konami, TV Tokyo.

The most common type of product is booster packs. Booster packs typically contain all or almost all new cards. The amount of cards inside a booster pack varies depending on the set, but a typical modern booster pack contains nine cards. Each pack is guaranteed to contain at least one non-Common card. In older booster sets, each pack would have exactly one Rare card and the rest would be Common, with a small chance for the Rare card to be replaced with a Super Rare, an Ultra Rare, or even a Secret Rare. Booster packs were then changed so that each pack was guaranteed to contain a Rare and if a higher rarity card was present in the pack, it would replace a Common card instead. The most recent booster packs don't contain any Rare cards, instead containing exactly one card of higher rarity, most commonly Super Rare. Booster packs can either be bought individually or sold in boxes, which contain 24 booster packs.

Starter/Structure Decks

Starter and Structure Decks are full Main Decks (and sometimes Extra Decks) of at least 40 cards that players can play with right out of the box. They contain a mix of new cards and reprinted cards. Starter and Structure decks always contain exactly the same cards in exactly the same rarities. All cards printed in Starter and Structure decks are 1st Edition. Some Starter and Structure decks also include special promotional cards or cards with alternate artworks. Starter Decks are intended for use by novices to the game, while Structure Decks are often more competitive and complex.


Tins refer to packages of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards which aren't booster packs or Starter/Structure Decks. They get their name from many of these packages taking the form of metal tins. The contents vary wildly between each kind of tin, with many containing duplicate booster packs from old sets, new booster packs containing old cards in different rarities, different numbers of cards in booster packs, new booster packs containing cards which fit a special theme, promotional cards, new card rarities, alternate card artworks, and/or new cards entirely. Tins are often used to reprint popular cards in alternate rarities. Decreasing a card's rarity makes it easier for players to obtain it, which can make it more affordable, while increasing a card's rarity makes it more appealing to collectors.

Tournament Packs

Tournament packs are given to players who compete in official Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments. They contain just three cards each. They typically include reprints of older cards, although older tournament packs sometimes contained brand new cards. Many of the reprinted cards in tournament packs are a different rarity than they were in their original printing. Tournament packs were released in eight-pack series, beginning with Tournament Packs, then Champion Packs, then Turbo Packs, then Astral Packs, and finally OTS Tournament Packs (the 8th OTS Tournament pack has not been released yet). Because tournament packs are primarily distributed at tournaments, they are rarer than other types of product, making them more valuable for collectors.


Yu-Gi-Oh! product can be purchased firsthand in physical stores such as Walmart and Target, as well as in stores focused on gaming such as GameStop. Online retailers, like Amazon, also sell sealed Yu-Gi-Oh! product. All product is originally sold in these locations. However, there is also a large secondary market for Yu-Gi-Oh! product. Unopened booster packs, boxes, tins, and other products are often resold on websites such as eBay, Amazon, TrollAndToad, and TCGPlayer. At any time, Konami is pnly printing a handful of different sets, so this can be the only way to obtain most non-recent product. In addition, players who are interested in obtaining a specific card can buy individual cards (singles) that other players have opened from their sealed product. This is generally is less expensive for the buyer.

Digital Media

Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of the highest grossing media franchises of all time, with an estimated total revenue of $17.1 billion. While $9.64 billion of this is from the physical trading card game, the rest is from other forms of media. Anime TV/box office revenue ($194 million)[3][4] and video games ($377 million)[5][6] provide substantial revenue. They also add value via licensed merchandise ($5.92 billion)[7], the second largest revenue source, because much of the merchandise is based on the manga/anime.


A promotional image for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters anime. Copyright: TV Tokyo.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters aired in Japan from 2000-2004. The success of the anime in Japan lead to it being given an English localization and airing on Kids' WB from 2001-2006, where it would find similar success.[8] Multiple other derivative series would be produced: Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V, Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS, and Yu-Gi-Oh! Sevens. The series follow similar plots: in a world where trading card duels are an important part of daily life, a young male protagonist seeks to prove himself and save his friends through the power of dueling. Characters use real cards from the trading card game in their duels, and often have signature cards which are powerful and/or popular in the real life game.

Video Games

Konami have released dozens of Yu-Gi-Oh! themed games over the course of the franchise's existence on multiple platforms. The first game released to global audiences was Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories for the PlayStation, which released in North America in March 2002,[9] selling 2 million units in the US and Europe.[10] Other games of this era were released on other consoles, like the Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation 2, and GameCube. These games each had distinct plots that ranged from loosely to entirely based on the plot of the anime. They also all had rulesets with major differences from one another and from the actual trading card game. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters 4: Battle of Great Duelists, a Japan-exclusive game, sold 2.5 million units and was the top-selling Game Boy Color game.[11] When taking the jump to next-generation consoles, new releases began to follow a similar pattern: the player character would follow the plot of the current anime and interact with its characters, as well as characters from Yu-Gi-Oh! lore. On modern consoles and PCs, Konami released Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist and its sequel, Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution, which allow the player to relive duels from the anime, unlock cards, build their own decks, and battle others online. Konami expanded into the mobile market in 2017[12] by releasing Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links, where players can play as characters from the anime and use unique skills to help them overcome their opponents. The most recent release is Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel, which released in January 2022. It sets itself apart from previous installments by forgoing direct ties to the anime and instead focuses on providing a definitive way to play the official Trading Card Game online.


The Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game has been subject to multiple legal and moral controversies.


People who buy product or cards off of secondary markets are vulnerable to being scammed. The most simple form of scamming is for the seller to receive payment and never send the buyer what they bought, but scammers also employ a variety of advanced tactics.

"Scaling" is the act of weighing Yu-Gi-Oh! booster packs to try to determine their contents. Because Super Rare and Ultra Rare cards weigh slightly more than Common or Rare cards, they can be weighed to determine if they contain a high rarity card. However, because recent booster packs are guaranteed to contain exactly one of these heavier cards, scaling is only effective on older product. Scaling is not against the law.

Scammers can also create counterfeit cards which can be very difficult to tell apart from real versions. The Eye of Anubis Hologram in the corner of cards is a measure taken by Konami to combat counterfeiting. Despite this, experienced collectors are still vulnerable to buying counterfeit cards. Selling counterfeit cards is illegal and can lead to arrest.[13]

To combat scammers, eBay has begun to extend its Authentication Guarantee to expensive trading cards. This follows a surge in trading card transactions on the site, as well as the scamming of the high-profile YouTuber Jake Paul.[14]


Demand for trading cards has risen substantially over the last year. eBay reported a doubling of trading card sales from 2020 to 2021[14] and Target had to stop selling cards temporarily because multiple fights over cards had turned into arrests. Many card grading companies, whose job it is to evaluate a card's condition and note any defects, raised prices for their services and eventually had to stop taking submissions altogether to work through their backlog.[15] Some investors, called "scalpers," aim to make a profit on cards by buying as many as they can find to artificially limit supply, then reselling them at a higher price. These factors have combined to increase the price of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards on the secondary market substantially. This higher cost has upset many players, who feel that they have no good option when it comes to purchasing cards. Some players believe that Konami should lower the price of product and make the best cards easier to get which would make the game cheaper to play.

Unofficial Simulators

Before the release of Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel, there was no officially licensed way for players to duel each other digitally. As a result, members of the community developed multiple different browser based online simulators. Some of the most popular are Duelingbook, Dueling Nexus, and YGOPRO. These websites are not licensed by Konami and use card art and game mechanics without Konami's permission. In 2016, a Japanese licensing company, Nihon Ad Systems, filed a cease and desist order against Dueling Network, the most popular unofficial simulator at the time. This ultimately resulted in the simulator being shut down permanently. Notably, Konami themselves seem to have been uninvolved[16] and there have been no further legal issues on other websites, suggesting that Konami intentionally turns a blind eye to unofficial simulators. With the release of Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel, the fate of unofficial online simulators remains unclear.

Upper Deck Lawsuit

Upper Deck Entertainment is a trading card company headquartered in the United States. From 2002 to 2008, they were responsible for the distribution of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards to non-Asian areas.[17] In 2008, Konami sued Upper Deck for printing over 600,000 counterfeit Yu-Gi-Oh! cards in China and exporting them to the United States without Konami's knowledge or permission, which broke multiple trademark and copyright laws. In addition, it was shown during the trial that Upper Deck executives were aware of the counterfeiting. A countersuit from Upper Deck for breach of contract and slander was thrown out by the courts, who ultimately ruled in Konami's favor and forced Upper Deck to renounce its distribution rights to the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game to Konami.[18] Upper Deck is no longer involved with Yu-Gi-Oh! in any capacity.


A comparison between the Japanese and international artwork for the card "Final Flame". Copyright: Kazuki Takahashi.
A comparison between the Japanese and international artwork for the card "Cure Mermaid". Copyright: Kazuki Takahashi.

Yu-Gi-Oh! cards are first released in Japan, then released internationally a few months later. When cards are released outside of Japan, they sometimes have their art altered to remove references to blood, sexual content, guns, or religious symbols. In addition, to make the shows suitable for all audiences, the English dubs of multiple Yu-Gi-Oh anime series have featured similar censorship. 4Kids Entertainment, the dubbing company, has been widely criticized for their censorship of Yu-Gi-Oh! and other shows being heavy-handed and unnecessary.[19] However, Konami, 4Kids Entertainment, and some players believe that censorship doesn't take anything away from the cards or the game and can make people comfortable with the game who wouldn't have been otherwise.[20]

Business Practices

Some Common cards in packs are "short printed," meaning that they appear at lower rates compared to other Commons in the same product. Some players feel upset about this because a short printed card is as rare as a Rare card, but doesn't have any of the visual upgrades. Some also believe it is misleading to label a card as Common and not acknowledge that it is short printed because it could lead to players having to buy more packs than they expected to obtain the card. In fact, some accuse Konami of deliberately short printing desirable cards to boost sales. Konami's American Head of Development, Kevin Tewart, claimed in a forum post that short prints are simply "a byproduct of the manufacturing process" and aren't intentional.[21] Many believe that cards of higher rarity are short printed as well, although there has been no evidence to suggest this.

Every few months, Konami releases a "Forbidden and Limited List" detailing which cards are forbidden for play at tournaments, or can only be played at one or two copies in a deck instead of the usual three. Cards are often forbidden or limited because they enable unfair or unfun strategies, though they are free to ban any card for any reason. Some players are upset when Konami bans cards because they believe they should be able to use cards that they paid for, while others argue that bans are important for the health of the game. In cases where two cards in combination are overpowered, Konami will often ban older cards instead of newer ones. Critics argue that Konami does this to incentivize players to buy new cards instead of using older ones. Konami does not provide justifications for the cards they ban.


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  14. 14.0 14.1 eBay Inc. (2022, January 25). "eBay Launches Authentication for Trading Cards". eBay. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
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