"Gotta catch 'em all!" That's the motto for avid Pokémon card collectors, at least. The world of Pokémon cards has evolved far beyond the playgrounds where it first began. What was once a playful pastime has transformed into a multi-billion-dollar industry, with some cards reaching astonishing sums up in the six-figure digits. The question that naturally arises is, what are the most expensive Pokémon cards? And what makes them so valuable?
To some, Pokémon cards may appear to be nothing more than colorful rectangles with coveted Pokémon creatures. But to many card collectors, they’re much more than that. Pokémon cards embody the essence of nostalgia, capturing the imaginations of collectors who grew up in the Pokémon craze of the late ‘90s.
With real adult money comes the tradeoff of being able to invest in those childlike activities we love. Pokémon cards can act as time capsules that transport enthusiasts back to their youth while simultaneously captivating newer generations.
Parade had the opportunity to chat with card collectors and content creators, Coral A.K.A. PokeCoral and Robert Hudson, A.K.A. PokeRob. As one can tell from their usernames, Coral and Robert are passionate about Pokémon cards. Both Coral and Robert shared their insights on the most expensive Pokémon cards of all time, as well as just what makes Pokémon cards so valuable.
Parade aims to feature only the best products and services. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission.
View the original article to see embedded media.
What Makes Pokémon Cards Valuable?
Several different criteria make Pokémon cards so valuable—two of the biggest being rarity and nostalgia. Rarity is often associated very closely with high values, while nostalgia can increase the price of certain cards.
"The rarer a card is, the more it will fetch in the open market, especially for determined and invested collectors," Coral tells Parade.
She adds, "Pokémon cards debuted in North America in 1999 and some of the most valuable and sought-after cards are first editions that came out that year. You can imagine that 25+ years later not many of these cards are available anymore!"
Nostalgia is also a major factor that can drive collector’s preferences and thus, increase the price of certain cards. After all, some Pokémon creatures are more popular than others.
For example, Coral informed us that Charizard, a Generation 1 Pokémon, is revered and adored by a majority of Millennials. Millennials are grown-up 90s kids who now have "adult money" to reinvest back into their childhood hobbies, driving the price of these beloved Pokémon up over newer characters in the franchise.
Robert adds, "The fact that [Pokémon's] the greatest media franchise in history and it started when we were kids in the 90s. It was the first thing—now that I think about it—that went 'viral' before that was even a term."
"No social media or internet existed, but if you met some other kid from another town or another state, you could always talk about Pokémon, and it united everyone in a way," Robert explains about his experience with the Pokémon community.
The last factor that makes Pokémon cards so valuable is a process called "grading," which is very common in all card collector circles—whether it be baseball, hockey or Pokémon cards.
"This is a process where third-party companies will assess the condition and quality of your card and assign it a respected value," Coral says. "Ratings are often done from 1-10, with 10 being the best. These cards are then secured in damage-resistant cases that boast the verified rating. This process can sometimes add significantly more value to the card."
Related: ‘Believe in Your Own Power’—75 Anime Quotes About Love, Life and More
Pokémon Card Names: Explained
Before diving headfirst into the list of the most expensive Pokémon cards, it's important to understand what the names of the cards even mean and how this can impact their value. Each card is assigned a collector card number and there is a rarity symbol located in the bottom right or left corner of the card.
Rarity symbols play a crucial role in classifying cards. Some cards, printed for specific products, feature a colored silhouette of the main Pokémon associated with the product. Promo cards are identified by a black star with the word "Promo" over it. Common cards have a black circle, uncommon cards have a black diamond and rare cards have a black star. Rare Holo cards (one step above rare cards) have a black star and a foil illustration.
Beyond these categories, there are Ultra Rare cards, which are foil and exhibit distinctive game mechanics and appearances. Ultra Rare cards include various types, such as Pokémon ex, Pokémon LV.X, Pokémon LEGEND, Pokémon Prime, Pokémon-EX, Pokémon-GX, Pokémon V, Pokémon VMAX and Pokémon VSTAR.
The names of these Ultra Rare cards uphold different meanings and are included in different sets. For example, cards with 'GX' after the name were introduced in the Sun & Moon sets, while cards with 'EX' after the name were introduced in Next Destinies, the Black & White series and the XY series.
Related: How Much Are Your Beanie Babies Really Worth? 41 Most Valuable Tys Of All Time
The Most Valuable Pokémon Cards of All Time
The Pikachu Illustrator takes the cake as the most expensive Pokémon card of all time, combining a handful of criteria Coral mentioned earlier.
Featuring fan-favorite Pikachu, this Pokémon card was illustrated by the pocket monster’s original designer, Atsuko Nishida. It's also headed with the word 'Illustrator' whereas every other card in that style is headed as a 'Supporter'. It's said that only 39 of these cards exist with only one being graded and verified as a 10/10.
"The card itself is incredibly rare," Coral tells Parade. "It was a prize card offered in 1997 and 1998 to individuals who submitted promotional art to the Japanese Magazine CoroCoro Comic."
She adds, "Logan Paul made waves when he went public with the $5.2 million purchase of that single one card. He converted the protective case to an $80,000 wearable necklace that he debuted at Wrestlemania in 2021. It officially holds the Guinness World Record for the most expensive Pokémon Trading Card sold at a private sale."
When these cards are in great condition and verified by grading companies as being 10/10s, their starting price begins at around $200,000.
Right now on eBay, the card is listed for a whopping $4,000,000.
Part of the Neo Genesis set, this Pokémon card features the legendary Pokémon Lugia in a holofoil pattern, making it visually striking. As a First Edition card, it's rarer and more sought after by collectors.
Its value can vary significantly, with mint or near-mint versions being particularly valuable. Lugia's popularity as a fan-favorite Pokémon and its association with second-generation games and movies further enhance the card's desirability.
According to PriceCharting in November 2023, the value can range from $411 to $50,000 depending on its grade.
"Remember that at its core, the Pokémon Trading Card Game is a game of strategy and battling! As such, the second-ever tournament held in Japan in 1998 offered prize cards for first, second and third place," Coral explains.
"The 2nd place winners were given a Silver Pikachu card to commemorate their wins," she continues. "Now, all these years later, it is said that only 14 of them exist. Less than a handful have been graded for authenticity and condition. As such, in September 2023, a graded 10/10 card sold for $440,000!"
The Family Event Kangaskhan Trophy Card Promo 115 Parent/Child Mega Battle is a special promotional Pokémon card that was distributed at a Pokémon parent-child Mega Battle event.
These events are typically organized for parents and their children to enjoy the Pokémon Trading Card Game together. The card is known as a trophy card, and it is often given as a memento or prize at such events—valued around $150,000.
Charizard is another beloved fan-favorite—so, of course, a 1999 First Edition is high on the list.
Coral explains some of the factors that make this card so expensive. "We’ve got rarity—there aren’t many left considering how long ago the card came out. Nostalgia—a fan-favorite Pokémon from the very beginning. First Edition—representing the very first printings of this card which includes a '1 edition' badge to set it apart from other printings."
"Last but not least, the 'shadowless' refers to a printing error," she adds. "There was meant to be a shadow behind the character’s holographic panel. The shadow was introduced in subsequent printings—thus setting these 'shadowless' versions apart from those that came after."
According to PriceCharting in November 2023, the value can range from $1,655 to $36,700 depending on its grade.
Created in 1998 to persuade Nintendo of Japan to allow Wizards of the Coast to handle the English-language release of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, this card became one of the most valuable Pokémon cards in history.
Only two of these cards were produced, with this being the only publicly known one and boasting an impressive NM/Mint+ 8.5 grade by CGC, indicating its near-perfect condition.
Back in 2021, Heritage Auctions sold this expensive Pokémon card for $468,000.
This extremely rare card was awarded to runner-ups for the first-ever tournament held for the Pokémon Trading Card Game in 1997. The Bronze Pikachu No. 3 Trainer Trophy card is exceedingly rare because there are only four of them in existence. Pikachu is an obvious fan favorite and on this card, Pikachu holds a trophy in the air.
In an auction from Heritage Auctions earlier this year, this card sold for a whopping $300,000.
In 2010, Pokémon card players from around the world gathered in Hawaii for the World Championships. As part of their participation, each contestant received a Master's Key Pokémon card. These cards were exclusively printed for tournament participants—resulting in the creation of only 36 such cards in total.
The eBay listing for this card in November 2023 is $149,999.99.
The 2006 Pokémon World Championships Promo No. 2 Trainer is a special promotional Pokémon card that was distributed at the 2006 Pokémon World Championships in Anaheim, California. The card was only distributed to tournament winners—making them extremely rare and sought-after. Allegedly, only three of these cards are said to have been issued.
Due to its rarity, you can guess it would be expensive. In February of 2021, this card sold for $110,100 on eBay.
This particular Pokémon card was awarded to finalists of the Secret Super Battle tournament held in Tokyo, Japan in 1999. To qualify for the finals, players had to win regional tournaments where their reward was this unique card, which granted them special access to the Secret Super Battle.
Only seven regional tournaments took place, and it's believed that only seven copies of this card were produced, making it incredibly rare. It sold in July 2020 for $90,000.
Given as a prize during the Secret Super Battle-Best in Japan tournament held in August 2000, this card was exclusively awarded to the second-place winner, Toshiyuki Yamaguchi. The card features an actual photograph of Yamaguchi alongside illustrations of popular first-generation Pokémon. It remained hidden from public view for over two decades until it surfaced in July 2023, earning significant attention.
According to Heritage Auctions, one of these cards sold for $137,500 earlier this year.
This Topps Chrome card fetched an impressive $60,000 from a collector. While they can occasionally appear on platforms like eBay and other auction sites at lower prices, collectors are advised to set up listing alerts for potential opportunities.
PSACards has it valued at $23,803 in November 2023.
With just 16 of these cards earning the prestigious Gem Mint 10 score from Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), they are exceptionally rare. In a PWCC auction in December 2020, one of these exceptionally well-preserved cards garnered significant attention and fetched a final price of $60,000 after 51 bids.
In November 2023, this card has an estimated value of $15,350.
The Tropical No. 2 Trainer card stands out as the first Pokémon card with such poor quality that it didn't receive a traditional grade from PSA, but rather an official authentication due to its rarity. Despite the lack of a grade, the card itself is in excellent condition except for sun-induced color loss and fading on the back. Originally distributed at the 1999 Mega Battle tournament in Japan, it was exclusively given to top players.
According to PSACard, its value is an estimated $50,300 in November 2023.
The Pokémon Daisuki Club in Japan allowed fans to sign up for exclusive promotions and limited-edition merchandise, including a campaign for the Pokémon Trading Card Game in 2010. Club members could earn points by participating in activities and could exchange these points for rewards. The most coveted reward was the rare Masters Scroll Pokémon card, which required 8,600 points to obtain.
This card's estimated value in November 2023 is listed at $250,712.
As a Gold Star card featuring the legendary Rayquaza, this card was considered rare even when it was originally released in packs. Today, finding this card in mint condition is a challenging task.
Depending on the grade, this card is valued between $1,084 and just north of $45,000.
Currently valued at $55,000, this first-edition Venusaur card belongs to the rare and valuable category of Pokémon cards. Those with the highest value, often reaching tens of thousands of dollars, are recognized by their absence of a rarity stamp, a feature introduced in later reprints and editions.
In 1998, Shogakukan's Magazines in Japan organized a contest for school students, where fans could take tests featured in the magazine and submit them for grading. Those who excelled with high scores were invited to a special conference in Osaka, where they participated in a unique Pokémon card battle tournament. The winners were awarded the Magikarp Trophy Pokémon card Promo as a rare and exclusive prize.
In an early 2021 auction, this card sold for $66,100 and earlier in 2023, it sold for just $9,000—showing that the value all comes down to the grade.
This unique and highly collectible Pokémon card was distributed as a promotional item in 2017 as part of the Black Star Promos—a series of promotional cards often given away at Pokémon events, tournaments or as special promotions. What makes this particular card so expensive and sought-after is that it's signed by Tsunekazu Ishihara, the President and CEO of The Pokémon Company!
An auction for this card, held by Goldin in 2021, received 31 bids before receiving a winning bid of $247,230.
This unique card showcases a Dark-type Charizard, featuring the shiny version of the popular creature. It's a part of the 2006 Dragon Frontiers set, and currently, only 59 of them have received a Grade 10 rating. This card commands significant value at auctions with a fan favorite, Charizard, making it a highly-wanted collector's item.
PriceCharting has this card valued between $628 and $19,000, depending on the grade.
Following the release of Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo 64, a photography contest took place to capture the best in-game Pokémon shot. The prize for the victors was having their photo featured on an official Pokémon Trading Card Game card. This competition was organized by the Japanese TV show 64 Mario Stadium, and the winners were presented with 15 copies of their personalized cards. Only a single Chansey card from this competition is known to still exist.
It's currently valued at $63,000 in November 2023.
Only 12 copies of these Pokémon cards were produced as promotional cards for the 1999 Tropical Mega Battle, a precursor to the Pokémon World Championships, rendering it one of the most valuable Pokémon card sets. The Tropical Mega Battle was an exclusive tournament held in Hawaii, featuring 50 top players from around the world who earned invitations by winning local battles.
PSACards has its value listed at $161,822 in November 2023.
Only around 300 of these Torchic cards have received grading, contributing to their desirability. What makes them even scarcer is that only 17 of those 300 have been certified as mint condition. Gold Star cards, in general, are known for their striking appearance, featuring a gold star in the card's artwork, and are highly sought after by collectors due to their limited availability and design.
This card's value falls between $539 and just under $10,000 in November 2023.
Spiky Eared Pichu 2009 Japan Design Contest
This is a special Pokémon card that was created as part of a design promotion in Japan and was awarded to a second-grade winner. Cards like these are often produced in limited quantities and are highly sought after by card collectors, as they represent a piece of Pokémon history and feature artwork not found in standard sets.
Just a few months ago, in June 2023, it was sold for $25,800.
Personal Stories from Pokémon Collectors
With their strong passion for Pokémon cards, Parade asked both Coral and Robert to share any personal stories about acquiring particularly rare or expensive Pokémon cards.
Coral tells Parade, "While I do still have a completed Base Set of the first generation of Pokémon cards, I am sad to say that I don’t have any 1st edition Shadowless Charizards! Mine is a standard Charizard and while it won’t sell for much these days, I do still have the satisfaction of knowing I kept the card safe and sound for 25+ years!"
Coral adds that many collectors like herself often seek individual cards for purchase—for several reasons. Maybe they love the character featured, enjoy the art or are aiming to complete the whole set the card comes from.
Regarding Robert's Pokémon collection, he tells Parade, "I do have a first edition Charizard, and a Pokémon Battle Festa Pikachu BGS 10 which is pretty rare. I traded up to first Ed Charizard from a SINGLE Energy card, which is worth a penny—so that was pretty cool!"
"In 2022, the release of the Umbreon Vmax Alternative Art from Evolving Skies was a very sought-after card from release. As I did not find the card in any packs that I opened, I was quick to purchase it for $165 shortly after its debut. Today, this card sells for $450! A good investment as far as I’m concerned," Coral explains.
"My rarest and most expensive card truly is a testament to how incredible the community of Pokémon card collectors is. In the years that I have been sharing my collecting journey on social media, I have made lasting friendships with people from all over the world who revel in the same highs and lows, challenges and triumphs that come with being a dedicated collector," Coral shares about the Pokémon card collecting community.
"A dear friend I made who is also an avid collector of rare and expensive cards gifted me a Team Rocket Dark Charizard holographic card from the year 2000 that has been graded at a 9/10. This card could sell for $600 if I opted to place it online today. It is easily one of my most prized possessions for more than the market value, though. It has a ton of sentimental value as well!" Coral says.
Connect with Coral and Rob