If you think you’re a big deal because you’re sitting on a first edition Charizard, think again. It’s definitely up there as one of the more rare and sought after Pokemon cards, but when it comes to the rarest ones, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The original base set of Pokémon cards hit store shelves in the mid to late nineties, depending on where you live. Initially, the number of cards to collect was in the hundreds. Not only are there thousands of cards to collect now, but many of them are worth thousands of dollars.
When the Pokémon Trading Card Game originally launched, all you really needed was a paper route or allowance money to Catch ‘em All. These days, anything short of a career in high finance or a law degree will probably mean you’re eating instant noodles if you hope to complete that set.
Note: When we reference the PSA grade, that’s a professional score based on the card’s condition, with 10 being the best.
8. Holographic Shadowless First Edition Charizard
Origins: Booster packs.
Significance: Charizard is a very popular Pokémon, and this is the first edition, and holographic, and shadowless.
Estimated value: $11,999 for a PSA 10.
When people hear about a 1st edition Charizard being worth a fortune, this is usually the one they’re hearing about.
Many will remember owning this card as kids, and might be kicking themselves for not taking better care of it. The good news is that the shadowless version only existed in very early print runs, it is a design choice that was soon changed after the initial release. Statistically speaking, that Charizard you’re remembering from your deck probabally isn’t this one, but was likely worth a decent amount of cash nonetheless.
7. CoroCoro Best Photo Contest Pokémon Snap Cards
Origins: Prize for taking a winning photo in Pokémon Snap.
Significance: Highly rare cards with a unique story behind them that are rarely sold publicly.
Estimated value: $15,989.
photo source: efour.proboards.com
The snap cards are a very interesting piece of Pokémon history. Like many of the cards on this list, they were won through a special competition. In this case, it wasn’t a competition for the card game itself, but rather a contest to see who could snap the best shots of Pokémon in the Nintendo 64’s Pokémon Snap.
There were five winners chosen, and each winner received 20 copies of a card with their winning pictures on it. It is unknown how many of each card are in existence today, however some of the winners have sold a number of their cards over the years.
According to Otakukart, the highest price that a Snap card has fetched is $15,989. They’ve also sold for less, but many collectors consider this card to be among their “Holy Grails”.
6. Master Key Prize Card
Origins: A prize from a 2010 tournament in Japan
Significance: It’s a very rare promotion card
Estimated value: $9,999 on eBay with an 8.5 PSA rating
This card is the newest card to make the list, proving that it’s not just vintage cards that can draw big values. It’s a part of the Pokémon Card Game LEGEND series of cards.
The text on the card reads “Draw a card. Then, flip a coin. If heads, shuffle Master’s Key into your deck.” Although you may not have very many coins left to flip after purchasing this card.
5. Tropical Mega Battle 2001
Origins: It comes from a special event.
Significance: It commemorates what would ultimately be the final year of the annual Tropical Mega Battle.
Estimated value: $5,000 – $10,000.
For a few years in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, around fifty Pokémon Trading Card Game players from Europe, Japan, Latin America, Canada and the United States would gather in Hawaii to compete. The event would run until 2001, when it was replaced by the World Championships, which use a tournament format.
The Tropical Mega Battle was an invite-only event, where players could qualify by winning local tournaments.
This particular card commemorates the final Tropical Mega Battle, and there were only a dozen copies of this card ever made. The asking prices can vary from around $5,000 – $10,000 depending
4. Prerelease Raichu
Origins: Intended for Wizards employees.
Significance: Exceptionally rare preview of an upcoming set (or printing error, as another story goes). Estimated value: $10,000+.
This is a very special card, originally intended only for employees of Wizards of the Coast. The story goes that there were 121 copies originally printed, but that 100 copies from that sheet were destroyed right away. Out of the remaining 21 cards, it’s believed that only around 10 or 11 are still around. Another version of the original story says that the card was printed in error, and some of them were scooped up by employees.
Some say this card was created to serve as a teaser for the Jungle series which had yet to be released.
It is made unique by the “Prerelease” text near the Riachu picture. This is an extremely rare and valuable card, but not something that you’ll just randomly find in your deck, since it was given out to employees and never available to purchase except for on the secondary collector market.
3. University Magikarp
Origins: Competition prize.
Significance: The amount of effort required to win this card makes it a very special prize for those who participated and were successful.
Estimated value: Around $3,000 – $5,000, although a copy with a perfect 10 grading has been listed for upwards of $26,000.
photo source: Bulbapedia
Unlike Magikarp, you couldn’t just buy this card from a shady salesman on Route 4. The only way to get it was to jump through a number of hoops. The challenge ultimately paid off, with this card being valued in the thousands of dollars.
This card was available in Japan as a prize for children who competed in the Tamamushi University Hyper Test. The first step was to mail in your answers to test questions. The students with the correct answers earned an invitation to a special event.
At the event, players were divided into groups based on age. The winners from each group moved on to compete in the second day. The winners of the battles from the second day earned one of these cards.
2. Pikachu Illustrator Card
Origins: Contest prize.
Significance: It’s one of the most desirable cards due to its uniqueness, rarity, and prestige.
Estimated value: One of them sold for $54,970 in 2016.
The Pikachu Illustrator Cards are easily among the most valuable Pokémon cards in the world, but not necessarily the rarest. The rarity of this card is up for debate. According to Barry Sandoval, the director of Heritage Auctions (who sold one of these cards in 2016), there were originally 20-39 copies of this card released, with 10 of them graded in top condition.
As per Bulbapedia, the three main winners of the illustration contest each received a copy of the Pikachu Illustrator card, along with 20 copies of a card featuring their own illustration. Another 20 winners received a copy of the illustrator card. IGN says there were only ever 6 of them put into circulation.
Previously, this card has sold for $20,000 in the year 2000, and $54,970 as recently as 2016. The popularity of Pokémon Go is attributed to helping this one fetch such a high price, and sellers have had asking prices as high as $100,000.
1. 1997 Trophy Pikachu Trainer No. 1 Card
Origins: Tournament prize.
Significance: If you had one of these cards, you could gain entry into a future competition. This card was the first place prize, there are also Trophy Pikachu cards for 2nd and 3rd place.
Estimated value: A 1998 version sold for $7,999 in 2011, and the 1997 edition is more valuable. It’s estimated to be worth around $50,000 per PSA.
photo source: Psacard.com
If you want to feel old, here you go: There are Pokémon cards that are over 20 years old, and this is one of them. The 1997 Trophy Pikachu Trainer No. 1 Card is the rarest Pokémon card (depending on who you believe.)
“This card was first awarded to the champions of the qualifying rounds of the Japanese Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament which was held on the first day of the two day event held at Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba prefecture on June 14 and 15, 1997.” (source)
These cards have been reprinted a number of times, and sets featuring cards 1, 2, and 3 have been listed for sale for upwards of half a million dollars, but there’s a big difference between the asking price and what they actually sell for.
The silver and bronze place cards are easier to come by, since first place winners are less likely to sell their trophy cards.