20 Most Expensive Pokemon Cards of All Time
Initially released in Japan in the 1990s to accompany the Pokémon video games, the Pokémon Trading Card Game has transformed into one of the most popular trading card games of all-time.
Because of the red-hot popularity of the franchise, some of the most expensive Pokemon cards can sell into the six-figure range...
That may sound shocking, at first, but given that Pokémon is a worldwide phenom, there is a vast, passionate collector base around the globe just waiting to get their hands on these prized cards.
From trophy cards, to First Edition Pokemon cards, to lesser-known rarities, the value of these cards is quite impressive.
And in this guide, we take a look at the 20 most valuable of them all.
Let's jump right in!
1) Pokemon Illustrator Card
Sold in October, 2019 for $224,250
During the late 1990s, CoroCoro Comic, a Japanese manga magazine, held a series of illustration contests in which entrants submitted their own unique Pokémon designs and attacks.
Little did they know then that these contests would give rise to the rarest and most valuable of all Pokémon cards: the Pikachu Illustrator.
Not only did contest winners receive multiple copies of a card that featured their very own winning design, which was exciting in its own right, each of them also received a copy of the Pikachu Illustrator card as an additional prize.
On the card front, contestants received a special message:
"We certify that your illustration is an excellent entry in the Pokémon Card Game Illust Contest. Therefore, we state that you are an Officially Authorized Pokémon Card Illustrator and admire your skill."
Just 39 copies were distributed to the contest winners, but anyone is welcome to guess how many still survive today.
To put into perspective how cherished this holy grail card is throughout the hobby, this card is to Pokémon cards what the T206 Honus Wagner is to baseball cards.
Weiss Auctions raised eyebrows in October 2019 when they sold this exact copy of the card, graded PSA 9 Mint, for a hammer price of $195,000, or roughly $224,250, including the buyer's premium.
2) 1997 Trophy Pikachu Trainer Card
Estimated Value: $75,000 - $100,000+
Awarded to the first, second, and third-place finishers in their respective divisions at the first official Pokémon tournament in Japan in 1997, these "Trainer" cards are exceedingly rare.
Documentation from that first tournament states that just four copies of each were given to the top contestants.
While there have been many different trophy cards of different designs and prestige over the years (some appearing on this list), these original Pikachu trophy cards are the most desirable.
The card front features the lovable Pikachu hoisting a gold, silver, or bronze trophy depending on it being a first, second, or third place version along with Japanese text that reads:
"The Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament's champion/runner-up winner/third place winner is recognized here, and the honor is praised. By presenting this card, you may gain preferential entry into the Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament."
Depending on which of the three cards and its condition is under consideration, a price tag north of $75,000 and probably well into the six-figure range should not be out of the question.
3) 1999 First Edition Holographic Charizard Card BGS 10
A BGS 10 Pristine Example Sold in August, 2017 for $55,650
Appearing on the cover art of the Pokémon Red video game released for the Nintendo Game Boy and Game Boy Color during the mid-90s, Charizard has long been the most desirable of all the First Edition Pokémon cards.
What makes this particular example especially valuable is its rarity in a BGS 10 "Pristine" grade.
As of this writing, there have only been two specimens of this card that have been awarded a BGS 10 label out of 305 that have been submitted to Beckett.
That's less than 1%.
By comparison, of the 2,434 First Edition Charizards submitted to PSA, 120 have achieved a PSA 10 grade, or about 5%.
1st Edition cards are easily distinguished by the first edition stamp to the lower left of Charizard.
4) 2010 Japan World Championship Master Key Trophy Card
Sold in November 2019 for $21,201
The Pokémon World Championships are where the best of the best meet each year to battle it out for money, prizes, and the title of Pokémon World Champion.
Players who earn enough points in qualifiers and smaller tournaments receive a special invitation to compete in the three-day event held in rotating locations.
The first tournament kicked off in 2004 in Orlando, Florida, but in 2010 the competition made its way to the Hilton in Waikoloa Village, Hawaii.
Just thirty-six contestants participated in the 2010 event and each received a copy of this beautiful foil card in a special case.
With so few of them ever produced, they are among the rarest Pokemon cards, and command huge prices if and when they do surface for sale or auction.
5) 1996 Japanese Base Set "No Rarity" Charizard Card Gem Mint Condition
Sold in September 2018 for $20,600
The 1996 Japanese "No Rarity" Charizard card is a true piece of hobby history as it marked the first appearance of the iconic character.
Most Japanese base set cards will contain a "rarity symbol" in the lower-right corner of the card that varies based on the card type.
Holographic cards in the set feature a star symbol, so if you find one without the rarity symbol, then you know you're looking at the more rare, first-print "no rarity" Charizards.
The "no rarity" Charizards are much more difficult to find as PSA has graded 1,853 regular base set Charizards compared with only 159 "no rarity" Charizards.
Furthermore, roughly 22% (404) of the regular base Charizards have achieved a PSA 10 grade compared to less than 4% (6) of the "no rarity" Charizards.
With Rarity Symbol
Without Rarity Symbol
6) 2005 EX Deoxys #107 Rayquaza Gold Star Holo Card PSA 10 Gem Mint Condition
Sold in May, 2020 for $19,100
Among the most powerful of any Pokémon, Rayquaza is a large, serpentine creature that gained a considerable boost in notoriety after serving as the box art mascot for the Pokémon Emerald video game.
EX Deoxys was the 24th set in the Pokémon Trading Card Game, and its symbol is that of a shooting star.
The set consisted of 108 cards, three of which come with a gold star variant, including the Rayquaza Holo.
You'll notice that next to the "Rayquaza" name in the upper-left, there is a foil gold star that sets it apart as the gold star variant.
7) 1998 Japanese University Magikarp Trophy Card PSA 9 Mint
Sold in June 2020 for $17,500
The Tamamushi University Hyper Test was a two-day event held in June 1998 in Osaka, Japan.
To be invited, children needed to pass a series of test questions that were to be completed and mailed by a specific deadline.
The contestants competed against each other within different age groups with the winners receiving a copy of this card as their prize.
While 1,000 copies were slated for distribution, nobody knows for sure how many actually were.
What is known, though, is that this card is the most expensive Magikarp card in the entire Pokémon series, and one of the most valuable Pokémon cards in general.
8) 2005 Japanese Promo Summer Battle Road Holo Victory Orb Card PSA 10
Sold in June 2020 for $15,350
The Battle Road Summer 2005 tournament spanned across nine different Japanese cities between July 10 and August 14, 2005.
As a prize, the top three competitors from each age division of the regional tournaments received one of these Victory Orb cards that feature Mew and the artwork of Takumi Akabane.
Previous Victory Orb cards from the Battle Road Summer tournaments in 2003 and 2004 did not feature Mew so many hobbyists believe this one to be an aesthetic upgrade.
The Japanese text below the artwork translates to:
"Victory Orb can only be used by official tournament winners. Look at the top 7 cards of your deck, then return them to the top of your deck in any order."
9) 2003 Skyridge Holo Charizard Card BGS 10
Sold in February 2018 for $15,000
Skyridge was the third and final main expansion of the e-Card Series that included playable e-Reader applications on the cards.
The only copy of this card in a BGS 10 holder, this 2003 Skyridge Charizard sold for an eye-popping $15,000 in February 2018.
By comparison, many PSA 10 copies of this card (of which there are 157 in total) sold that year between roughly $2,000 and $4,000.
That kind of price premium serves as yet another reminder of how much collectors are willing to pay for the coveted BGS 10 grade versus PSA 10.
10) 2017 Black Star Promo Holo Ishihara GX Card #TPCi01
Sold in April, 2019 for $12,900
As a gift to top-level employees, Tsunekazu Ishihara, president of The Pokémon Company, gave out an estimated thirty copies of this card during his 60th birthday party at the 2018 Pokémon World Championship.
As of this writing, only four copies have ever been submitted to PSA for grading, making this one of the rarest Pokémon cards in existence.
The artwork on the card is fantastic and the "60 Congratulations!" and GX attack of 1060 damage are nice touches to help commemorate his 60th birthday.
Ishihara has been instrumental, to say the least, in building the Pokémon brand by contributing to the development of multiple video games and even initiating the creation of the Pokémon Trading Card Game itself.
11) 2002 Legendary Collection Holo Charizard Card PSA 10
Sold in June 2020 for $12,655
While collector sentiment may be mixed on the 2020 Pokémon Legendary Collection set, there is no question that many hobbyists are willing to pay big bucks for a PSA 10 grade specimen of the #3 holographic Charizard.
This set is akin to a "greatest hits" style set with many fan-favorite Pokémon appearing within the checklist alongside some exclusive bonuses.
"Reverse foil" cards in this set feature cards whose entire fronts are showcased in holographic material while the character artwork appears flat.
Charizard, Dark Blastoise, Dark Raichu, and Mewtwo appear in select box topper singles packaged inside booster boxes.
Twelve of the holographic Charizards have achieved PSA 10 status as of the time of this writing, making it a rare catch.
12) 2016 20th Anniversary 24K Gold Ginza Tanaka Japanese Pikachu Card
Sold in June 2020 for $12,655
Made from 11g of 24k gold, this card was the result of a partnership between The Pokémon Company and Japanese jeweler Ginza Tanaka to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the storied franchise.
Technically not a playing card, the imagery features none other than one of the most lovable Pokémon of them all: Pikachu.
Available for order for just twenty days, the cards were housed in impressive acrylic stands and shipped in beautiful boxes.
Given that 11g of 24k gold is worth around $600 or so by today's standards, there's no risk of anyone buying one of these simply to try and turnaround and melt it.
13) 2000 Japanese Promo Tropical Mega Battle Lucky Stadium Card PSA 10
Sold in February, 2019 for $12,100
The Japanese World Challenge Summer tournaments took place between July and August 2000 across eight different locations.
Participants in each of those regional tournaments received a Lucky Stadium card unique in design to each of those tournament locations that featured a specific Pokémon character.
Top competitors from each of those tournaments then traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, to participate in a two-day Tropical Mega Battle tournament at the Hilton Hawaiian Village from August 26-27, 2000.
Each of the contestants earned this beautiful Lucky Stadium card with artwork by Kouichi Ooyama to commemorate their participation in the exclusive battle.
14) 2002 Expedition For Position Only Charizard Card
Sold in June 2020 for $11,200
The Expedition base set paved the way for the e-Card Series with cards that featured Dot-Code technology to be used in conjunction with the Nintendo e-Reader, which allowed players to access data, play mini-games and unlock special attacks.
To make room for the dot code technology, you'll notice the card's left and bottom borders are wider than usual.
Interestingly, before the final product release, The Pokémon Company distributed these "For Position Only" cards to employees as a test run that should have never seen the light of day in the mainstream hobby.
However, it is believed that one of those employees had kept some of the original packs in which these cards were inserted and began selling them to hobbyists several years later.
The "For Position Only" test run included eight different cards, one of them being Charizard.
Nobody knows for sure how many were printed originally nor how many survive in circulation today, making this oddball card a cherished piece for any serious collector.
15) 2000 Japanese Neo 3 600 Point Fan Club Shining Magikarp PSA 10
Sold in April, 2020 for $10,100
Initially released in Japan as a promotional card via the Pokémon Card Fan Club, this impressive Magikarp card remains highly sought after by collectors.
You'll notice that Magikarp appears with a special embossed foil treatment making it a Shiny Magikarp.
Part of the 2000 Pokémon Japanese Neo 3 Promo, the exclusivity of this card stems from the fact that players needed to amass 600 GET points before being able to obtain it.
16) 1999 Pokemon German First Edition Glurak (Charizard) PSA 10
Sold in October, 2019 for $9,400
Given the brand is a worldwide phenomenon, Pokémon game cards can be found in several different languages to appeal to a wide variety of collectors across the globe.
If you come across any of the cards in German, you'll notice that Charizard's name is depicted as "Glurak."
Unlike the first edition Charizard released in the United States, the German first edition Glurak does contain the shadow behind the artwork.
Of the 596 German first edition Gluraks that PSA has graded, 47 have received the lofty PSA 10.
That's about an 8% success rate, which, compared to just under 5% of the U.S. first edition Charizards receiving that same grade, make it relatively easier to find in that condition.
17) 2000 Pokemon Base Set II Charizard PSA 10
Sold in May, 2020 for $9,200
Released on February 24, 2000, Base Set 2 was the fourth main expansion of the series and featured a combination of cards from both the Base Set and Jungle expansions.
While most PSA 10 examples of this card had historically sold for less than $2,000, this particular card sold at auction on eBay in May of 2020 for a whopping $9,200.
18) 2002 Pokemon Neo Destiny 1st Edition Shining Charizard PSA 10
Sold in June 2020 for $8,900
The fourth main expansion of the Neo Series, Neo Destiny, is notable for featuring both "light" and "dark" Pokémon whose characteristics and "destiny" are reflective of how a Trainer trains them.
Light Pokémon are caring and bright-spirited, while dark Pokémon are the exact opposite.
While dark Pokémon have appeared in several different series, the Neo Destiny set is the only one in which you will find the light Pokémon.
Charizard appears as neither light nor dark in Neo Destiny but instead as a special Shining Charizard that gets its name from the unique foil design that glimmers and shines in the light.
The Shining Pokémon in this series also feature a unique rarity symbol in the lower right in the form of three stars.
19) 1999 Pokemon Shadowless Holo Blastoise PSA 10
Sold in June 2020 for $8,100
One of the coolest-looking of all Pokémon with its twin water cannons that retract from the shell on its back, Blastoise received a massive boost in popularity after serving as the cover mascot of the Pokémon Blue video game.
There are three primary versions of this card in the original 1999 set:
- 1st Edition
1st Edition Blastoise cards feature a first edition stamp to the lower left of the holographic image and no shadowing effect behind its right and bottom borders.
Following the 1st Edition print run are the Shadowless cards, and although they, too, lack any shadows behind the artwork, they do not contain the first edition stamp.
Finally, the holographic versions were printed later and did not contain the first edition stamp but do exhibit shadowing behind the right and bottom borders of the artwork.
Blastoise is one of the more difficult Shadowless cards in the set, and that, mixed with the character's enormous popularity, makes this an expensive card in high grade.
20) 1999 Pokemon 1st Edition Venusaur
Sold in June 2020 for $8,100
Venusaur, notorious for the large flower that protrudes from its back, is the final evolved form of one of the original starter Pokémon, Bulbasaur.
That flower serves more than just a decorative purpose; Venusaur uses it to absorb energy from the sun's rays.
Like Charizard and Blastoise, who derive extra notoriety for appearing on video game box art, Venusaur was the mascot of the Pokémon Green video game.
As one of the most recognizable Pokémon, collectors are willing to pay hefty price tags for 1st edition examples of this card in high grade.
Most Expensive Pokémon Cards In Review
Clearly, the non-sports card collecting world is every bit as hot as the sports card hobby.
Passionate collectors are obviously willing to shell out big bucks to land any one of the prized possessions on this list.
The video games, television shows, and the cards themselves transformed Pokémon into a worldwide phenomenon with an enormous fan base.
And many of those kids who grew up with these cards are now adults with more spending power able to pay big bucks for them in top condition.
It doesn't look like that trend will slow anytime soon as these cards have found their place as one of the most popular non-sports sets in the hobby.