Over the years, the Pokémon TCG has featured many different patterns used on their holographic cards. Some patterns lasted for years, while others had short stays, making them markers for their short time in the franchise. In this next installment of A Holographic History of the Pokémon TCG, let's take a look at a pattern that has been in use for many years: the McDonald's sparkles.
Earlier this year, Pokémania came to McDonald's in a major wave that the fast-food franchise was decidedly not prepared for. They released a 25-card set for Pokémon's 25th anniversary, with a holo version and non-holo version of each card. Each pack had one holo, which made these hot collectors' items.
The holofoil used for the cards was unlike any other non-McDonald's holographic card. Instead of the galaxy foil of other promos or using the current Sword & Shield bars, McDonald's Pokémon TCG cards have their own pattern which has been in use and exclusive to the fast-food joint for many years. The pattern sees the foil sparkle almost as if it is covered in thick pieces of glitter. It is similar in some ways to the cracked ice pattern, but instead of the foil being broken up like a prism, the 'pieces' of the foil are much smaller, creating a unique pattern. It looks like little flecks of light. Often, this pattern has 'holo bleed,' which means that when held up to the light, you can see the pattern continue under the non-foil part of the card.
Since 2011, McDonald's have had their own numbered sets of Pokémon TCG annually with their own set symbol using this style of holo. (There were earlier promotions with different, more standard styles.) These sets mostly take artwork used in other sets, turning non-holo cards into holos. Before the 2021 set, these cards normally only came in holo in the McDonald's packs without equivalent non-holo versions. This style makes the McDonald's cards their own official set, while other brands that create promos — most recently, General Mills and GameStop — merely reprint a card with its set number still on it. What that means is that if you got a GameStop promo earlier this year, you're getting a stamped card that still has the Rebel Clash set symbol. If you get a McDonald's card, that's the only place that specific card can be pulled with that holo pattern.
The McDonald's Pokémon TCG promo ran through 2011 – 2019, skipped 2020, and continued in 2021. Perhaps, we'll get another set next year… and hopefully, people will be less ruthless about leaving these stores without product.