Despite being well into my twenties, I still love pretty much everything about Pokémon, and it’s not just me! Last year, Pokémon GO revolutionized the mobile gaming industry, and the cartoon series continues to be one of the most watched shows on Netflix. For many of us, Pokémon has been our friends since we were in elementary school.
And one huge craze that swept schools across the world were Pokémon cards! Everybody was collecting, swapping and playing with Pokémon cards. Now, although mine have been pristinely placed into a collectors binder, many of you will have just dumped them in the attic at our parent’s house and forgotten about them. Well, you may want to dust them off, because as this list proves, they could make you some SERIOUS money! Here are the rarest and most expensive Pokémon cards in the world…
(And yes, expect to see Charizard on this list…)
Japanese Pokémon VS Series
First of all, what makes the Japanese Pokémon VS Series cards so rare is because they were only released in Japan (for double the price of standard cards). They featured the Pokémon of Gym Leaders and Elite Four members, so naturally, they command a higher price. For example, getting your hands on Bruno’s Steelix could easily make you between $40 and $100. If you manage to complete the set of 151 cards, you could be looking at well over a thousand dollars. (Trust me, this is petty cash compared to some of the cards in this list…)
Gold Star Cards
Gold Star cards are popular favorites by fans of Pokémon as they feature art by illustrator Masakazu Fukuda. Basically, collectors love Fukuda’s card designs due to the fact he tends to have the Pokémon reach beyond the established window. These were the first of many “shiny” (alternate color) Pokémon trading cards to follow, and much rarer than their regular counterparts. These cards can sell anywhere between $40 to $100, with officially graded cards commanding as much as $200 or more! (Expect to see special exceptions of these cards further down this list).
Southern Islands Card Set
For this set to make you any REAL money, it must come with the collectible folder the cards were originally released with (pictured on the right). There were only 18 cards released (two sets of nine) in this collection, and complete sets are hard to find. They were respectively named the Rainbow Island and Tropical Island sets, and the cards themselves fit together to make a picture. A full set can reach well into the hundreds, but individual prices can go as high as $300 per card (such as the Mew above).
Despite being basic Pokémon cards, the odds of finding a “shining” card in a booster pack were started at 300:1. They attracted collectors with their special play features and a limit of just ONE per player deck.
Charizard (and don’t worry, he’ll feature more on this list) has always been a sought-after character. Often valued higher than their non-shiny counterparts, shining cards can be sold for between $150-$300 EACH, but a mint condition, first edition Shining Charizard can reach around $600.
Tropical Mega Battle Legendary Bird Phone Card
Dating back to 1999, these cards truly are a mystery, as it’s still unknown how they ever reached circulation. One theory is that participants in Pokémon card tournaments were awarded them within a set, and another theory is that there was another tournament where participants who won a battle within 15 minutes were given a random envelope with a random phone card in it.
These promo cards are slightly longer in size than the normal Pokemon cards, and the print is also closer in size to what is used on traditional Japanese phone cards. Due to the fact they’re extremely rare – and the fact they’re phone cards – these cards have sold for a whopping $1,200!
Shiny Espeon Gold Star Card
This card is one of the most difficult shiny Gold Star cards to get your hands on. First unveiled as one of the legendary Japanese PLAY Promotional cards, this card was offered as a prize for members who accumulated enough points in the Daisuki Pokémon Fan Club (accumulated by attending various meetups and participating in club activities). Members only had from 2005 to 2006 to achieve the set target and proved so difficult that very few cards were ever actually awarded. The result? This card is now worth a staggering $1,800.
Japanese Promo Kangaskhan Holo Family Event Trophy Card
Trophy cards were basically prizes participants could win if they won a Pokémon card game tournament. This card, in particular, was special because two were awarded at the 1998 parent and child event. Yes, both adults and children would work together under an established rule criteria to compete. The highest these cards have ever been sold for was a mouth-watering $3,749.99!
Magikarp, Tamamushi University Prize
Back in 1998, Tamamushi University of Japan held a “test”, designed to discover the greatest Pokémon card trainer in the school – yes, yet another tournament, so unless you competed, the chances are you don’t have this card. Each participant who made it onto the second day of the competition received a trophy card exclusive to the event. There are an estimated 30-50 of these trophy cards in circulation. Oh, and what Pokémon was on this card exactly? Magikarp.
Sales and estimates now put the value of this card between $3,700 to $4,500.
Charizard, Base Set First Edition (English)
From the second Ash’s Charmeleon evolved into Charizard and scorched him with his Flamethrower, he became one of the most popular Pokémon of all time. You could argue that he is second behind representing the entire franchise, behind Pikachu of course.
Due to such popularity, this card is a sought-after collectible – as well as being consistently available. It’s a card many of us had, but there are certain factors that drastically increase its price; condition, official grade and whether or not it is a first edition. If you’re ticking all the right boxes, you could be looking at a $4,800 paycheque.
Pokémon Snap Best Photo Contest Cards
Remember Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo 64? Well, back in its heyday, Pokémon and Nintendo held a competition in order to promote the game, where the players would submit their best snapshots captured on the game, and submit them to a panel of judges. The winners would then have their images printed on special cards that acknowledged them as the card’s artist. Due to the fact that very few of these cards were ever made, on one occasion the Gyarados card, pictured, was sold for $8,500!
No. 1, 2 And 3 Trophy Trainer Cards
Numbered trainer cards are going to form the basis of our next few selections within this list. They were given to the top players of the Pokémon Trading Card Game World Finals and have been sought after ever since by collectors, only increasing in value with age.
These cards quite literally served as your entry ticket to the next year’s tournament, and for the benefit of this list, we’ve grouped all annual tournaments and first, second and third place together – although, each commands a high price and a lot of respect. With individual cards reaching between $3,000 and $5,000, with a complete set rumored to have sold for $40,000!
Tropical Mega Battle Trainer Number 1 Card / Secret Super Battle Trainer Number 1 Card
Just edging out the Trophy Trainer cards are these two cards awards to the winners of the Tropical Mega Battle and Secret Super Battle respectively. These battles were basically tournaments held in conjunction with the annual championships but were for school kids only. The Tropical Battles welcome school children up to the third grade, and the Super Secret Battle was for kids from third grade to the eleventh grade.
These cards have been valued between $5,000 and $10,000! Not bad for school kids…
The Prerelease Raichu Card
We’re now entering legendary territory. A very recognizable first Pokémon generation Raichu, with a dark black “Prerelease” text in the corner of the card’s character image.
The story goes that this card was accidentally produced during the production of some prerelease Clefable Jungle Edition cards. However, during the printing process, some Raichu cards from Base Set got shifted onto the sheet and stamped with “PRERELEASE”. It’s estimated that there are 8 to 10 of these error Raichu cards out there somewhere, and they were originally given out as gifts for Wizards of the Coast (nerd toy manufacturers) employees at the time. For that reason, and the incredible story behind the card, these Prerelease Raichu cards can now fetch $11,500 at auction!
The Pokemon (Pikachu) Illustrator Card
The Holy Grail of all Pokémon cards…
The Pokemon Illustrator card (AKA Pikachu Illustrator or Illustrator Pikachu), is an unnumbered promotional Trainer card which was awarded – not purchased. They were given as a reward for those who had a winning entry in a series of Japanese Pokémon Card Game Illustration Contests. Only 39 cards were ever awarded and some say as few as SIX are even known to still exist. They even feature a double star rarity in the bottom corner!
PSA ungraded cards have sold for $20,000 publicly, but a more recent asking price on eBay of a PSA 9 mint example was $100,000! The stuff the majority of us Pokémon trainers can only dream about…