The ongoing demand for rare and valuable Pokémon cards has led to a frenzy out there, as people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on unopened boxes and rare cards. Celebrities and popular influencers have got involved over the last two years too, blowing up the situation further. It’s gotten a point where stores are being flooded with collectors, scalpers, and fans, all of which have come together to create chaotic scenes. As a result of all this, some retail stores started suspending the sale of Pokémon cards altogether. It’s wild times, for sure.
Perhaps after seeing all that, you might be wondering what, exactly, people are hoping to unearth in packs. Or maybe you’d like to know if that binder full of cards up in your attic is worth anything?
After speaking to a large-scale auction house called PWCC Marketplace and doing some independent research, I’ve compiled a list of the rarest, most valuable Pokémon cards around. For this list, I decided against duplicates, as otherwise this article would be composed of mostly different types of Charizard cards and one lone trainer card.
Be warned: The numbers you’re about to see are large. Here are, as of now, the top 10 most expensive Pokémon cards in history.
10. Ex Deoxys GOLD STAR HOLO Rayquaza #107
Rayquaza, a legendary monster introduced in the Game Boy Advance version of Pokémon Emerald, is a powerful creature that’s long been a fan-favourite. This Rayquaza card comes from Ex Deoxys, a Pokémon TCG expansion that was released in 2005 to accompany the video game release. What makes this already rare card even more valuable is its condition and quality rating. According to the PSA, a highly respected card grading company, the card was rated to be in perfect condition, known in the industry as GEM MINT 10. Flawless condition, in this case, means little to no damage found on the card. Part of the reason the card is priced this way is because unopened Ex Deoxys booster packs are extremely scarce in 2021, so they don’t appear on the open market all that much these days.
9. EX Dragon Frontiers GOLD STAR HOLO Charizard #100
This is the first of two Charizard variations that appear on this ranking, and it hails from the 2005 Ex Deoxys TCG expansion as well. This specific variant differs from the more sought-after “base” (the very first cards released) Charizards in a few key ways, the most obvious being the artwork. The card sports a more active fire-breathing dragon that’s shaded a little darker than other variants. These Gold Star cards are so powerful that you can only have one in your deck during battles.
8. Tropical Mega Battle – Tropical Wind – PROMO card
Many of the most valuable Pokémon cards are promo releases hailing from tournaments or special events. This particular trophy card was given to players during the invite-only Tropical Mega Battle held in Hawaii back in 1999. The competition saw players from around the world entering the fray. (As rules changed, the annual event was renamed in 2001, becoming the Japanese World Championship) While the card is rare, mechanically, it’s a fairly basic trainer card, forcing players to flip a coin to determine the outcome of an event. According to PWCC, very few of these Tropical trophy cards exist on the open market and almost none are as pristine as this PSA-rated GEM MINT 10 version that sold at auction for just over $US65k.
7. 1998 Japanese Promo Card – Tamamushi University Magikarp Trophy
This surprisingly epic Magikarp promo card was only given out during a two-day tournament event in Osaka, Japan, but only to competitors who managed to win at least one battle. To participate in this event, you needed to complete the “Tamamushi University Hyper Test,” which was briefly published in a select number of magazines. What did the questions entail? We don’t know, as there’s not much info online, but presumably, the test was Pokémon-related. After all the tests, 1000 fans who scored highly on the tests were invited to the Osaka event. With art drafted by legendary Pokémon artist Ken Sugimori, the card displays a Magikarp leaping through the air while shooting a bolt of lightning.
6. Pokémon Super Secret Battle “No. 1 Trainer” – Promo Holographic Card
Another promo card, this Super Secret Battle trainer card was only given to an estimated seven players in 1999 during a country-wide tournament in Japan. The finals of the tournament were a secret. Players could only find out about the location after winning one of these cards in one of seven regional tournaments. This particular version of the card is rated a GEM MINT 10 by the PSA, adding to its value. Part of what makes the card desirable is the strange art, where you can spot not only a galactic Mewtwo, but also the Pokémon Trading Card logo on the front. Not a very common design!
5. 2000 – Neo Genesis 1st Edition Holographic Lugia
This is a near-perfect example of a super popular card, a first-edition Lugia. This is a legendary Pokémon from Gen II that is famously seen on the cover of Pokémon: Silver. Folks love Lugia, so technically, a ton of people own this type of card. But most Lugia cards of this variety haven’t received a Pristine 10 rating by Beckett Grading Services, another highly-respected trading card and collectible grading company. It seems likely, PWCC says, that this card could sell for more in the future.
4. Japanese Promo Card – Family Event Trophy – Holo Kangaskhan
One of the rarest Pokémon cards in the world, this Kangaskhan was only given out to select winners during the Parent/Child Mega Battle tournament held in Japan in 1998. As the name suggests, this was a contest featuring families competing against one another. Only the families that achieved a certain number of wins could get this rare card. According to PWCC, only 46 of these cards have ever been assessed by the PSA. This particular promo card is rated a perfect 10 by the PSA, the first time one of these rare Kangaskhan family event cards has received such a rank. This helps explain the high price tag it earned at auction.
3. “Backless Blastoise” – Commissioned Presentation Galaxy Star Hologram
This isn’t a normal Blastoise Pokémon card. What makes this one so valuable is the lack of any printing on the side opposite to the art, hence the name “Backless Blastoise.” Really, the card was never meant for public consumption, as it was part of a test run made by Wizards of the Coast. The tentative printing happened in ‘98, before the launch of the series in the US — and before anyone knew the franchise would explode in the way that it did.
2. 1st Edition Charizard, Holographic – SGC GOLD LABEL PRISTINE 10
This particular Charizard is a shadowless holographic first edition card. Super early cards didn’t have drop shadows behind art or text, and this tiny difference catapulted them in rarity and price. Plus it’s Charizard, a cool dragon everyone loves. Charizard cards have become extremely popular in recent years, with folks like retired rapper Logic and famous-for-some-reason-influencer Logan Paul both getting in on the beloved dragon action. Paul even wore a super-rare Charizard around his neck into his fight with Floyd Mayweather.
1. 1998 Japanese Promo Card – HOLO – Illustrator Pikachu – PSA 7 NRMT
As you’ve noticed, many of the cards that fetch the biggest prices online aren’t traditional Pokémon cards. Instead odd promo cards, like this Illustrator Pokémon card, tend to demand big money. According to PWCC, only about 40 of these cards were ever made and released. They were given out during three art competitions held in Japan where contestants were asked to create their own Pokémon cards. Winners received custom printed cards featuring their original artwork as well as this rare Illustrator Pikachu card as a trophy. This card highlights an exclusive piece of artwork created by Atsuko Nishida, the original character designer of Pikachu. As a result, whenever this rare card goes up for sale it brings in huge amounts of money.
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