The Most Expensive Pokemon Cards
Maybe it's because of nostalgia. Or perhaps it's because of a wave of investors recognizing a hot commodity when they see one. But demand for Pokemon cards has reached a fevered pitch in the last few years.
Whatever the cause, collectors, speculators, and regular fans alike are spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on rare singles or unopened boxes of cards. Seeing all of that, you might well wonder what these buyers are hoping to find in those unopened packs and boxes. Or better yet, maybe you're curious if there's anything valuable in that old binder of cards you have tucked away in your closet.
To help explain the phenomenon, and determine if you're sitting on a small fortune in collectable cards, we'll list off some of the most expensive Pokemon cards ever sold at auction. But first, let's take a look at what makes any given card valuable.
Determining the Value of Pokemon Cards
Several factors that can affect the value of Pokemon cards. For more mundane finds, the kind that can fetch a few hundred dollars, things like the rarity symbol on a card, whether it's a first edition printing, and the set it came from all play a role.
Misprints also tend to fetch higher prices. Since they're technically not supposed to exist, there are fewer of them in circulation. Hence, the higher asking price.
And of course, the condition is key. Even the rarest card will take a massive hit to its value if it's damaged. That's why storing and organizing your collection is essential.
Before any card is sold at auction, it will need to be inspected by professional grading services. Like with comic books and other collectables, card grading experts look for folds, scuffs, and other signs of wear and tear.
Cards that have seen heavy use tend to suffer lower grades. It's why so many collectors opt to buy unopened cards by the box. A card that's never been in circulation will almost always receive the highest grade.
But for many of the cards on this list, that's unlikely to be an issue. Most of them are exceedingly rare, only handed out at exclusive events. Though we did exclude one-of-a-kind examples, like the autographed Tsunekazu Ishihara Pokemon card that sold for a whopping $240,000.
That said, here are the most expensive Pokemon cards ever sold.
1. 1999 Shadowless First Edition Holographic Charizard
Paradoxically, one of the most valuable cards on this list is also the one you're most likely to have in your collection. Unlike later entries on this list, you didn't have to go to a certain promo event or win a specific tournament to get one. You only had to be exceedingly lucky when you opened up a booster pack.
Charizard, of course, is one of the most popular Pokemon in the franchise. He adorned the box for the original Pokemon Red video game on the Game Boy. And fans of the anime will remember his stubborn personality being a constant foil for Ash Ketchum.
As such, his was one of the most sought-after cards from the very beginning. Neighborhood card shops would draw in patrons by holding lotteries, with a Base set Charizard being the prize.
It would have been easy to stuff this list almost exclusively with different versions of this lone card. But to keep things interesting, we opted to forgo any duplicates. So in terms of the Base set Charizard, the obvious king of the hill is the Shadowless First Edition Holographic card.
What makes this card special is, as the name suggests, the lack of a shadow underneath the fire dragon pokemon. This was a printing error, which as we noted above tends to make any card more valuable than its error-free counterparts.
In March of 2022, a Gem Mint 10 Shadowless Charizard sold for $420,000 at auction.
2. Blastoise Commissioned Presentation Galaxy Holographic
Though there are tips and tricks that you can use to increase your odds of finding rare Pokemon cards, this is one card you're unlikely to ever encounter in the wild.
Blastoise is almost as beloved as Charizard. He adorned the box for Pokemon Blue on the Game Boy and was the starter pokemon of choice for many players. And in the anime series, he was one of Ash's most stalwart companions.
Still, his Base Set card was never anywhere near as in-demand as Charizard's. This card, however, is the exception that proves the rule.
At a glance, it doesn't look right. Certain colors are off and some fonts and formatting are wrong. And most obviously, the backs of these cards are either blank or bear the design of a Magic: The Gathering card
You might well dismiss it as a fake, like the bootlegs you would find at discount shops and flea markets.
And you'd be half right. This indeed is not an official Pokemon card. It's a presentation card, a sort of prototype design, created by Magic: The Gathering's producer Wizard in 1998.
They created these cards as proof of concept to convince Nintendo to let them handle the English release of the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Five cards are known to exist.
The only one to ever make it to auction sold for $360,000 in January of 2021.
3. Kangaskhan Family Event Trophy Holographic
Though she's sure to have her fans, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who lists Kangaskhan as their favorite pokemon. All the same, this family-oriented card is a handsome prize for the dedicated collector.
When investing in Pokemon cards, or any collectable for that matter, you'll find that many of the most valuable commodities were only ever distributed in small batches or at one-time-only events. And this Kangaskhan is a good illustration of that principle.
This unnumbered promotional card was given to teams of parents and children at the one-off Parent/Child Mega Battle Tournament in Japan. To receive the card, teams had to win a given number of victories in the tournament.
Only 46 graded copies of the card exist, but because it's so rare it was difficult to appraise exactly how valuable it was for a long time. Collectors got an answer in October of 2020 when one sold on eBay for a little over $150,000.
4. 2000 Neo Genesis 1st Edition Lugia Holographic
Like the Charizard that appeared earlier on the list, this is one card that you may have somewhere in your collection. Rather than being a prototype that was never meant to be seen by the public, or a tournament giveaway, these cards could turn up in a regular booster pack like any other.
So why is it so valuable? Well for one, Lugia is a popular pokemon. In the lore of the series, it's a legendary being and was the focal point of the second Pokemon movie.
But of greater relevance is the fact that the first run of Neo Genesis cards was a bit of a disaster.
While errors and misprints tend to make for some of the most collectable cards, the opposite holds for the Neo Genesis set. That set was fraught with so many mistakes that unblemished cards tend to be rarer than the error cards.
Only 41 Gem Mint 10 copies of this card have ever turned up. One such card reportedly sold for $144,00 at auction in May 2021.
But note that we said only 41 copies have ever turned up. That's only a count of the cards that have been submitted for official grading. If you bought any of the first-run Neo Genesis cards, there's always the possibility that you have a copy of this legendary pokemon somewhere in your binder.
5. 2006 Pokémon World Championships Promo No. 2 Trainer
There are rare cards, and then there are cards like the No. 2 Trainer.
Given out as a trophy to the finalists of the Pokémon World Championships held in Anaheim, California in August 2006, only three of these cards were ever made. To claim one, participants had to rack up enough points to qualify for the tournament, and then advance to the finals in their respective divisions.
The card itself was never intended to be used in play. Instead, it features an image of Pikachu holding a trophy. And in place of an effect like a normal trainer card would have, it has the message "If you won this card at the 2006 Pokémon Trading Card Game World Championships, you may return to battle the best in 2007".
One of these cards sold for $110,100 in February 2021.
6. 1996 Japanese Base Set No Rarity Symbol Venusaur Holographic
Though always the least popular of the first-generation starter pokemon, it's nice to see that all three starters are represented on this list.
Though an uncommon card in its own right, Venusaur was never as in demand as Blastoise, and certainly not Charizard. But as with the fire dragon, sometimes a printing error can make all the difference.
It's somewhat of an amusing error at that. In Pokemon Trading Card Game sets, all cards are supposed to have a symbol on the bottom-right corner denoting how rare they are. Common cards are marked with a circle, uncommon cards with a diamond, and rare cards with a star.
Yet despite being a rare card, this unlucky Venasuar has no marking at all. And since the first run of Base set Pokemon cards had minimal printing errors, this makes the No Rarity Venasaur quite rare, indeed.
There are only five Gem Mint 10 copies of this card on record. Since copies are so scarce, an exact value is difficult to assign. The best indication we have to go by is one copy that sold for $55,000 at PWCC in November of 2021. But even that example is unreliable as the card bore the signature of Mitsuhiro Aria, the illustrator behind many classic Pokemon designs.
7. Ex Deoxys Rayquaza Gold Star Holographic
It's not only the first or second generations that are sought after by collectors. Subsequent pocket monsters may likewise command respectable prices
One such example is Rayquaza. This legendary snake-like Pokemon made its debut in the Game Boy Advance version of Pokemon Emerald. Hence why it was introduced into the Pokemon Trading Card Game in the Ex Deoxys expansion set, released in 2005 to help promote the new video game.
The card is rare enough on its own. But Gem Mint 10 copies are exceedingly scarce.
This is because of the nature of the Ex Deoxys set. Designed to promote the video game, it didn't have the longevity of many of the other sets. This means that unopened Ex Deoxys boosters are uncommon in 2022, so Gem Mint 10 copies don't show up often.
One of these rare mints sold for $45,100 on eBay.
8. Espeon and Umbreon Gold Star POP Series 5
If you're a fan of Pokemon video games, then the concept of a "shiny" should be familiar. Introduced in Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver, shinies are alternatively-colored versions of their default selves.
When they were introduced, the natural odds of finding a shiny pokemon were 1/8192. Pokemon X and Pokemon Y lowered that threshold to a somewhat more reasonable 1/4096 chance.
It's likewise quite uncommon to find shiny variants in the card game.
The Gold Star series of cards illustrated shiny Pokemon, though they were very hard to pull. Only one in 88 packs had the potential for a Gold Star card to appear.
All five of the Eeveelutions had a Gold Star variant. However, the Japanese Espeon and Umbreon were special cases.
The only way to obtain these cards was through The Pokémon Players Club—a Japan-only Pokémon rewards program. Getting an Espeon required a player to amass 40,000 points, no small feat. Umbreon's requirements were even more severe, with a player needing to amass 70,000 points.
Because so few players had the dedication to amass that many points—and those who did are unlikely to part with the fruits of that labor—an exact value is hard to figure. However, an English language version of the Gold Star Umbreon sold on eBay for $20,000 in December 2020. So we can estimate that the Japanese version is in that ballpark.
Invest in Collectable Cards
For many millennials and Gen-Z, Pokemon cards are a key childhood memory. So it's natural that there would be so much fervor around them, even though the franchise is now decades old. But they're far from the only collectable cards worth investing in.
Sports cards were the first collectable cards, naturally. And other trading card games likewise have dedicated fanbases. To start adding a variety of collectable cards to your portfolio, contact us today to start diversifying your holdings.