In 2021, the Pokémon franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary by releasing special Pokémon trading card game (TCG) sets—some of which paralleled the most memorable and interesting cards in the series, including the tournament-illegal Birthday Pikachu. However, many of these cards are not actually the rarest, most valuable, or sought-after in the world of the Pokémon TCG.
Here are 10 of the most noteworthy and highly valuable Pokémon cards in existence.
Although more common than many of the entries on this list, First Edition Holographic Charizard cards are still considered exceedingly rare, especially due to their popularity. The honor on this list, however, goes to the shadowless version of the holographic Charizard from the TCG’s early history. A Gem Mint 10 of this card (the highest possible grade of collectible for a card) was sold at an auction earlier this year for $420,000 dollars—and many of these copies have also fetched high sums. With almost 130 PSA Gem Mint 10 copies of this card existing, it’s no surprise that many consider it one of the hottest cards for serious collectors.
At first glance, this card might appear to look like a counterfeit or an illegitimate reproduction of a Pokémon card. However, this card is special, as it’s not even an official card at all. Rather, it’s a presentation card created by Magic: The Gathering producer Wizards in 1998. Their aim? To convince Nintendo to let them handle the English release of the Pokémon TCG, which was released internationally one year later. Five cards were said to have been made, but only one has been sold at auction—for $360,000 in January of 2021. This truly special test card is indeed one of a kind—at least, to the world’s knowledge. Though evidence still emerges, it’s clear this legendary prototype is a staple of the TCG collecting world.
The general rule of thumb for collectibles is that many of the rarest and most sought-after usually are distributed at one-time events, and this special Kangaskhan card is no exception. This card was given to teams of parents and children at the Parent/Child Mega Battle Tournament in Japan. Teams that achieved a set number of victories were awarded this card for their efforts—and although 46 graded copies of this card exist, a Gem Mint 10 was not sold at auction until the summer of 2020, when one sold on eBay for over $150,000. This card is simple in nature without printing errors, but it stands as one of the rarest and most valuable. Plus, it’s truly a gorgeous card. And worth its weight for any serious collector.
Neo Genesis is an infamous name for many PSA card graders—and this is mostly because of the set’s absurd amount of inconsistencies and misprints that are common throughout the expansion, namely card cuts, typos, and incorrect symbols. For the 1st Edition Lugia, this is also true. However, this card also stands high as one of the rarest in mint condition above the set’s continuous printing flaws. Only 41 Gem Mint 10 copies of this card are known to exist, and one reportedly sold for $50,000 in late 2020. This legendary card feels only appropriate for a legendary Pokémon—especially one like Lugia.
Speaking of misprints, this Venusaur is not from a set that is riddled with misprints but is still one itself and so very valuable. This Venusaur is special because it has no rarity symbol. In Pokémon TCG sets, cards that are rare usually have a marking to differentiate that they are harder to find, namely a star, whereas more common cards have a circle or diamond on them. This rare card, however, was misprinted and does not have a marking on it, making it have No Rarity. Only five copies of this misprint are graded at a Gem Mint 10—making this Bulbasaur evolution card extremely rare and sought-after. One copy, sold in November of 2021, fetched $55,000 at auction. This particular copy sold for more than usual because it bore the autograph of the card’s illustrator Mitsuhiro Aria—the name behind many of the illustrations on Pokémon TCG cards.
If you’re not a seasoned Pokémon player, you likely don’t know what a Shiny Pokémon is. Shiny Pokémon are alternately-colored versions of their regular counterparts that are already rare and hard to find in the game series. Finding one of these alternate-palette Pokémon is a 1/8192 chance in older games prior to X and Y and 1/4096 in newer games without any extra effort. Similarly, it’s extremely hard to find Shiny Pokémon cards in the TCG—and this is especially true of this Eeveelution duo of cards. Generally speaking, the Gold Star series of Pokémon cards illustrated Shiny Pokémon and were absurdly hard to pull, with only 1 in 88 packs housing the potential for a Gold Star card on average.
All five Eeveelutions were available in Gold Star form in both languages, but the honor for the rarest Gold Star cards goes to the Japanese Espeon and Umbreon, which were only available to members of a Pokémon rewards program—The Pokémon Players Club—who amassed enough points to obtain the cards. Espeon required 40,000 points while Umbreon required a whopping 70,000, making the feat of earning these cards a serious fount of dedication. While an English version of Gold Star Umbreon at a Gem Mint 10 sold for just over $20,000 on eBay in December of 2020, fans of Gold Star cards can still get their hands on an Umbreon card quite easily. In fact, Gold Star Umbreon was reprinted during the Celebrations pack release last year—and many of these cards are much cheaper at an affordable $40 on average.
Though many of the cards on this list are from the early prolific days of Pokemon’s long history, the Master’s Key is a more recent card that holds its own as one of the rarest, even in the presence of older cards. Bestowed to competitors in the 2010 Pokémon World Championships, this framed trophy card exists in the form of 36 copies—one for every competitor in both the video game and trading card game. One copy of this card was sold recently in November of 2019—on the heels of Pokémon Sword and Shield’s release—for more than $21,000. Showcasing both a monumental achievement and illustrating itself as an amazing collectible, the Master’s Key is likely the key to greatness for many serious collectors.
This entry is undoubtedly one of the more bizarre. Though many of the cards on this list have been known to exist for many years, Prelease Raichu was—and still is—considered a dubious myth in the world of collectors. Apparently, prior to the release of the TCG’s second expansion Jungle, a number of Raichu cards were mistakenly stamped with “PRERELEASE” on the bottom right of the card’s artwork. 100 copies were known to exist, but many were destroyed per the orders of the cards’ maker, Wizards of the Coast. The few remaining copies were given to employees. A good number of fakes of this card have surfaced, but no legitimate sales or confirmation of existence have been reported. Even if the card is never proven to exist, this incongruity is legendary, and will continue to be for a long time.
These three cards are truly special on this list as they are one-of-a-kind. For Pokémon’s 25th anniversary, artists J Balvin, Post Malone, and Katy Perry were given their own Pokemon V cards in the modern art style. Initially, fans were not happy about these cards being created, but it was later revealed that the cards were never going to be distributed. Instead, these promos were given to the artists alone. Being that only one copy of the card was given to each celebrity, there is a very low chance these highly valuable cards will ever hit auction—this is especially true for Post Malone, given his involvement in the TCG and Magic: The Gathering community. If these cards ever go up for auction one day, though, there is no doubt they will top the charts of value and scarcity.
Speaking of one of a kind cards, this card is less of one-of-a-kind, but the circumstances behind its worth have etched a new legend into TCG collection history. 41 copies of this card were given to winners of an illustration contest at Japan’s CoroCoro convention in 1998. Only 39 were ever distributed, and only one of these cards has legitimately attained a grade of Gem Mint 10. In February of 2021, this legendary single card was purchased by influencer Logan Paul, who wore the card to a WWE match and revealed he’d won the record for most expensive single Pokémon card sale in history—by buying the card for an absurd $5,275,000. This utterly absurd asking price will no doubt go down in the history of not just TCG collectors, but collectors in all fields.
(featured image: The Pokémon Company)
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