1999 Pokemon Snap Photo Contests
Japanese Pokemon Snap game box

Pokémon Snap is a 1999 first-person photography game developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. It was first released in Japan on March 21, 1999.

3 months after its release, two contests were run to promote the game. Shogakukan’s CoroCoro Comic and the Nintendo-sponsored variety TV show, 64 Mario Stadium, hosted photo contests for participants to send in their best photos from Pokémon Snap .

5 winners from each contest would have their photos made into official Pokemon cards, and runner ups would win tickets to the upcoming second Pokemon movie, Pocket Monsters the Movie: The Phantom Pokémon: Lugia’s Explosive Birth (known overseas as Pokemon the Movie 2000: The Power of One).

CoroCoro Contest Entry

The contest was initially advertised in the June 1999 issue of CoroCoro Comic, which was released on May 15, 1999.

CoroCoro Comic pg. 33 announcing the contest
Translated contest announcement page

The entry process was a straightforward 3 step process:

First, Participants had to play Pokémon Snap and take pictures of Pokemon in the game. They were instructed to save any photos they wanted to enter into the game’s “Gallery” feature.

Pokemon Snap main menu screen showing how to access the Gallery

Second, Participants would then travel to a local Lawson Store. Lawson is a convenience store franchise chain in Japan. The store originated in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, but exists today as a Japanese company.

Each Lawson store would have a special machine capable of printing physical stickers from a Nintendo 64 Pokemon Snap cartridge. Stickers cost 300 yen to print, and would take a few days to produce the sticker. Entrants would likely return in a few days to pick up their printed stickers sheets.

A Lawson Store in Japan
Excerpt from CoroCoro advertising the Lawson Pokemon Snap sticker printers

While it’s unknown what the Japanese versions of the printing machines looked like, it’s likely that they use similar technology to the ones available in American Blockbuster stores, since they both produced similar sticker sheets of 4 copies of 4 different stickers in a 4×4 layout.

American version of the sticker sheet (with 2 peeled)
An American version of the sticker printing station.

Participants were also told to keep the saved data of their Nintendo 64 cartridge available in case they won, as selected winners would have to mail in their Pokemon Snap cartridges to Nintendo to print the winning cards.

The final step was to affix the sticker that the participant wanted to enter into the contest onto the back of a postcard, along with their name, address, school grade, and phone number. They would then mail the postcard to the address specified in the magazine.

Trainers Magazine Vol. 1

The CoroCoro contest was also advertised in the first issue of the official Trainers Magazine. It offered tips for taking better photos, and also informed readers that the deadline to submit to the contest was June 14, 1999.

Translated excerpt from Trainers Magazine Vol.1, pg. 57

The magazine came with a Pikachu promo card featuring artwork from Pokemon Snap. Unlike future Trainer’s Magazine promos, this card did not come in its own sealed promo packet, and was inserted similarly to CoroCoro Magazine promos as a glossy promo that could be peeled from its insert sheet.

Pokemon Card Trainers Magazine Vol.1 Cover
Unpeeled Pikachu promo back
Unpeeled Pikachu promo front

64 Mario Stadium Contest Entry

A contest with similar entry rules was also announced on 64 Mario Stadium on June 10, 1999 at 6:30 pm local time.

64 Mario Stadium was a variety TV show hosted by Nintendo to promote various Nintendo products and games. It aired on TV Tokyo, and regularly would bring on different comedians and children to participate. Below is an episode from around the same timeframe, but unfortunately recordings of the June 10 episode don’t exist online.

However, it’s very likely that the 64 Mario Stadium contest was run identically to the CoroCoro Comic one, as each produced 5 winners and were advertised through the same sources.

Winners

The grand prize winners of the CoroCoro contest were announced in the August 1999 issue of the magazine. It’s assumed that the winners of the 64 Mario Stadium TV show were announced around a similar time on the show, since the magazine only announces the 5 winners of its contest.

August 1999 issue of CoroCoro Comic announcing winners, pg. 29

Each winner had to mail in their Pokemon Snap game cartridge containing the photo’s saved data, which Nintendo would keep for 3 weeks.

Translated excerpt from the CoroCoro winner’s annoucment

The winning cards featured each winner’s name in the Illustrator credit, and instead of the standard “Illus. by <name>”, it read “Photo by <name>”.

The 5 winners (and the prefectures where they lived) of the CoroCoro Contest were:

Meanwhile, the 64 Mario Stadium’s winners were:

15 runner-up winners from the CoroCoro contest each received 1 adult & 1 child ticket to the upcoming second Pokemon movie, Pocket Monsters the Movie: The Phantom Pokémon: Lugia’s Explosive Birth (known overseas as Pokemon the Movie 2000: The Power of One). It’s unknown if there were runner-ups for the 64 Mario Stadium contest.

Grand Prize winners of the contests were mailed their prizes in November 1999. The cards were bound with a paper Media Factory-stamped band, and accompanied with a congratulatory letter.

Winner’s letter, along with the paper band that held the Snap promo cards

ポケモンスナップ フォトコンテスト大賞おめでとう!!

おまちかねのオリジナルポケモンカードをお届けします

<Winner Name>様は”コロコロコミック8月号”にて発表されましたように,ポケモンスナツプフォトコンテストで大賞を受賞されました.おめでとうごさいます!

その記念といたしまして,オリジナルポケモンカードを20枚谿らせていただきます. 大変お待たせしてしまい,申し訳ございませでした。

これからも,ポケモンカードの応援をよろしくお願いいたします。

1999年11月12日

株式会社メディアフアクトリー

1999 Pokemon Snap Photo Contest letter

Translated, the letter reads:

Congratulations on the Pokemon Snap Photo Contest Grand Prize !!

We will deliver the long-awaited original Pokemon card

<Winner name>, As announced in the August issue of CoroCoro Comic, you won the grand prize at the Pokemon Snap Photo Contest. Congratulations!

To commemorate that, we will give you 20 original Pokemon cards. We apologize for the delay.

We look forward to your continued support of Pokemon Cards.

November 12, 1999

Media Factory Co., Ltd.

1999 Pokemon Snap Photo Contest letter

Number of copies

Winners of the CoroCoro contest each received 20 copies of their winning cards, as is documented in the winner’s latter.

However, winners of the 64 Mario Stadium contest each only received 15 copies, making them slightly more rare than the already extremely rare CoroCoro copies.

It is unknown why the TV show contest winners received only 15 copies instead of 20.

Some of the winners have not sold any of their received copies, yet auctions have been held that sold. These are likely extra copies from the initial print run, as most have been sold by Yuichi Konno, one of the four original developers of the Pokemon TCG ruleset.

Chat with the 64 Mario Stadium Charmander winner confirming he only received 15 copies (courtesy of august). He says he’s given away 10 copies to friends and kept 5 for himself. The winner later auctioned off 1 of these 5 copies.
Translated Q&A from the Charmander winner on a Yahoo! Japan auction also confirming that he received 15 copies.

Aftermarket Sales

The 1999 Best Photo Contest cards were the first Pokemon TCG contest cards whose distribution was only to 1 person (the winners). As such, the winners of each card controlled the entire distribution of their copies. Over the years, some winners have sold their copies over time, while others have not distributed any at all.

Bulbasaur

A spare copy of the Bulbasaur card was auctioned by Yuichi Konno (pkonno2002 on Yahoo! Japan auctions) on September 18, 2017. Konno had also listed a Squirtle and Charmander from the photo contests at the same time, making it very likely that these were extra copies. This Bulbasaur sold for 1,500,000 yen.

Konno would sell another copy on May 4, 2019 for 1,500,000 yen. A third copy was sold by him on June 11, 2020 for 2,100,000 yen.

Magikarp

Until January 2022, the Snap Magikarp had never surfaced for sale, so it was assumed that the winner had either misplaced or chosen not to sell it.

But on Jan 3, 2022, a branch of Japan’s largest chain of used book stores, Book Off, tweeted that one was for sale at their Hirabari location. This meant that someone had gone in and traded in the card.

Hirabari Bookoff tweet on Jan 3, 2022
Flyer image describing the sale

The card was priced at 3.3 million yen, and the price was reduced by 3% each down for 10 days. It was reduced all the way to 2.3 million yen, and a sale did not happen. The original tweet had a minimal amount of interaction, so it was likely that nobody even saw it. On Jan 14, 2022 Book Off listed the card on Yahoo Japan Auctions, and it eventually sold for a whopping 13,645,001 yen (15,009,501 after tax).

Auction ending details, retrieved Jan 21, 2022
Ending bidders

Gyarados

Multiple copies of the Gyarados winner’s card have sold through the secondary market. It is unknown how many of these copies are from the winner or extra copies. Konno has sold multiple copies, which are probably extras.

The first copy Konno sold on August 17, 2017 went for 784,000 yen. The second copy he sold on February 19, 2018 for 1,800,000 yen.

Youtuber Maxmoefoe purchased a copy for 500,000 yen from another source (likely the winner), which he highlights in this video.

Pikachu

The only copy of this card that has surfaced still has not sold. It was first listed in on July 31, 2021, but the seller has continually relisted it at higher and higher prices.

Most recently, the card has been listed at 36,500,000 yen starting bid, with nobody willing to bid. As of writing (September 4, 2021), the card still has not sold.

https://page.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/d1000557057

Poliwag

The Poliwag winner sold 15 copies of his card through both public and private sales (pictured below).

Koffing

Yuichi Konno has sold 2 copies of this card. The first copy sold on January 26, 2018 for 1,800,000 yen.

The second copy sold on July 12, 2019 for 1,200,000 yen.

Charmander

The Charmander winner confirmed that they gave away 10 copies of their card to friends, which left them with 5 copies. On May 5, 2021, the winner has listed one of their remaining copies on Yahoo! Japan with an immediate purchase price of 8,900,000 yen.

Yuichi Konno has sold multiple copies of the Charmander before. The first sold on September 18, 2017 for 1,600,000 yen. The second sold on September 11, 2018 for 1,300,000 yen. The third sold on July 12, 2019 for 1,650,000 yen.

Another Charmander eventually sold for 8,200,000 yen via Yahoo! Japan auctions in 2021.

Squirtle

Yuichi Konno has listed spare copies of the Squirtle card. The first sold on September 18, 2017 along with listing for Bulbasaur and Charmander. This copy ended up selling for 1,500,000 yen.

Konno attempted to sell another copy of the card and listed it at 1,700,000 yen. Even after grading it “Authentic” with grading company PSA, it still went unsold at that price. It eventually sold at 2,500,000 yen.

Chansey

Yuichi Konno has sold 2 copies of the Chansey card. The first sold on January 7, 2018 for 1,800,000 yen. The second copy sold on September 18, 2019 for 1,500,000 yen.

Articuno

Yuichi Konno has sold 2 copies of the Articuno card. The first wold on March 20, 2018 for 1,800,000 yen. The second sold on May 18, 2019 for 1,600,000 yen.

Most recently, Mandarake Auctions (a Japanese retailer & auction site) sold a copy of this card on June 15, 2021 for a whopping 6,400,000 yen.

Sources

Card(s) distributed

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