Pokémon cards debuted in 1996 and were an astonishing success. Overnight, they took the world by storm as children became invested in collecting, trading, and playing with Pokémon cards.
Almost 20 years later, the cards haven’t lost their edge, and people continue to trade them. However, they’re now a lot more expensive and rare than when released. Of course, not all Pokémon cards are equally valuable, and some sell for higher prices than others.
Here are the ten highest-priced Pokémon cards in circulation.
10 Tamamushi University Magikarp Trophy Promo
Card released: 1998
Sold for: $66,1000
No one person who followed the Pokémon TV show in the 1990s, which ran concurrently with the popular Pokémon cards, could have anticipated that Magikarp would become one of the top ten highest priced Pokémon cards.
On air, Magikarp was notoriously unhelpful in battle, especially out of its water habitat where it flopped, well, like a fish out of water.
However, in 1998, a Japanese magazine ran a competition in the heyday of the Pokémon card craze. The competition featured various tests for school-aged students and ran through the magazine. Anyone who completed them could submit their results for grading.
This competition was the Tamamushi University Hyper Test, and it lasted two days. A select 1,000 students received invitations to join a Pokémon card tournament in Osaka when it ended. The winners received this Magikarp trophy card as a sign of their success.
Curiously, Tamamushi’s promotional Magikarp can perform Dragon Rage, which isn’t your standard Magikarp attack. If you received the original card during the competition, you also received a downloadable version of the same enhanced Magikarp in videogames.
9 1999 Pokémon Japanese Promo Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind
Card Released: 1999
Sold for: $65,1000
Another of the ten highest-priced Pokémon cards isn’t of a Pokémon. Instead, it works a bit like a chance card in Monopoly. Players toss a coin, and if it comes up heads, your Pokémon party’s health improves as you dock two damage counters from each Pokémon.
If you lost the coin toss and tossed tails, all your Pokémon fell asleep. This card ranks as one of the top 10 highest-priced Pokémon cards because only 12 cards were issued as part of the Tropical Mega Battle.
The Tropical Mega Battle was the Pokémon card prelude to a world champion competition between 50 players from different countries. Players joined only after winning a local competition and receiving an invite to participate in the tournament, based in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Because of the invite-only policy of the tournament, many of the cards released remain among the most exclusive Pokémon cards on the market.
8 Umbreon Gold Star Holo
Card released: 2005
Sold for: $70,000
Evee and her many evolutions have always been fan favorites with Pokémon devotees.
This hologram Umbreon card is no exception. The scarcity of cards in circulation also contributes to it being one of the ten highest-priced Pokémon cards.
Like other Pokémon cards on this list, the Umbreon Gold Star Holo became available to players who participated in a tournament. Players earned this card by participating in the Pokemon Players’ Club’s fourth season. However, you had to do more than participate to earn it.
If you wanted an Umbreon Gold Star Holo card, you also had to score 70,000 points or higher throughout the competition.
Possibly because of the effort needed to acquire the card or possibly because of the low number of cards distributed, this card isn’t often for sale. When it is, it sells for the kind of money that quickly makes it one of the highest-priced Pokémon cards doing the rounds.
The condition of the card is also essential. Mint or near-mint condition means that this Umbreon Gold Star Holo card will sell for more.
7 1999 Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer
Card Released: 1999
Sold for: $90,000
This card is another of the highest-priced Pokémon cards that don’t feature a Pokémon, though it does have a picture of Mewtwo, a factor that adds to its value. Despite the image of a Pokémon, the Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer has nothing to do with Mewtwo.
The Super Secret Battle No. 1. Trainer card gave players access to the final round of a Japanese tournament held in 1999. You received this card if you won your regional competition round and were deemed eligible to advance to the final.
Finalists participated in the card’s titular Super Secret Battle. There was a lot of cloak and dagger surrounding the competition. Since you needed to win regionally to enter and only seven regions participated, the belief is that only seven copies of the card were issued.
Six of the seven have shown up for sale in mint condition as per the grading system that judges the cards on:
6 2006 Pokémon World Championships Promo No. 2 Trainer
Card Released: 2006
Sold for: $110,000
This card is believed to be one of three Pokémon cards of its kind. It is one of the three sold for an eye-watering $110,000 in February 2021.
Like many of the ten highest-priced Pokémon cards, the 2006 Pokémon World Championships Promo No. 2 Trainer went to competition winners.
Competitors interested in obtaining the card needed to do several things, including:
- Score a set number of points
- Reach final divisional round
Despite not being a card of a Pokémon, it prominently features Pikachu on a holographic background. The Pokémon holds a silver trophy and the text on the card says that anyone who received the card can compete in the 2007 competition.
A combination of high card quality and limited availability make this one of the highest-priced Pokémon cards, as well as one of the hardest to find and purchase.
5 First Edition Neo Genesis Lugia
Card Released: 2000
Sold for: $144,300
Lugia, the mythical bird Pokémon, first appeared on the Gameboy Pokémon Silver. He returned when technology shifted to Nintendo DS on Pokémon Soul Silver and has remained a fan favorite ever since. In both games, the bird is extraordinarily rare and challenging to catch.
The Pokémon card is similarly difficult to find because many of its early printing runs were faulty. Later editions were revised. However, various expansions for the card game set it ran in continued to include unedited misprints of the Lugia card.
Consequently, grading Neo Genesis First Edition Lugia is exceptionally challenging. To date, there are an estimated 41 cards in circulation without fault or error, but of those 41, only three qualify as being in mint condition.
Still one of the highest-priced Pokemon cards, the New Genesis First Edition Lugia first took the internet by storm when a copy sold for $129,000. Since then, the price has only increased.
In addition to the card’s scarcity, various other factors contributed to its steep price. One of these is that the psychic bird featured prominently in the second Pokémon movie, alongside Ho-Oh.
Another thing that affects the value of the Neo Genesis First Edition Lugia is that by the time of its release, the Pokémon card craze had subsided. There were still collectors, competitors, and players. Still, the fever pitch enthusiasm of the mid-to-late nineties had diminished, and the cards didn’t sell with the intensity of previous decks.
Finally, Neo Genesis cards still had a TCG license. Subsequent cards and merchandise reverted to Nintendo, and the TCG label adds extra value for Pokémon card collectors.
4 Kangaskhan Holo Family Event Trophy
Card Released: 1998
Sold For: $150,000
We confess, back in our Pokémon card days, Kangaskhan was never one of our favorites, but this might be why we never mastered the game.
The Kangaskhan Holo Family Event Trophy is aptly named. Pokemon distributed this high-priced Pokémon card to contestant winners in a Japanese tournament.
However, in keeping with the mum-and-joey design of the Pokémon, entrants consisted of family teams. A child and parent had to play alongside each other to be eligible for the competition.
This Pokémon card is as expensive as it is because of the handful of copies circulating. Only 11 have been graded. Consequently, it is one of the rarest trophy cards in circulation.
One of the distinguishing features that helps drive the price of this particular Pokémon card up is that it features the original – and long since retired – Pocket Monsters Card Game logo on the back and front.
This card was the original Japanese name for the game, but it didn’t catch on, so it was changed with time and replaced with the more familiar TCG logo. The atypical logo adds to the card’s rarity.
Combined with the holographic background, the price of this Pokémon card quickly skyrocketed. If people continue collecting it, it will likely keep climbing in cost.
3 Blastoise Wizards of the Coast Presentation Galaxy Star Holo
Card Released: 1998
Sold for: $360,000
Despite its 1998 issue date, many fans were unaware this Pokémon card existed until an auction in 2021. Supposedly that’s because this Blastoise Presentation Galaxy card wasn’t intended to be sold. Instead, the makers intended to show retailers what the completed cards would eventually be like.
The owner sold the Card at Heritage Auctions early in 2021. Because of the card’s sudden discovery, no one knows much about it. The current belief is that only two prints of the Blastoise Presentation Galaxy Star Holo Card exist. One has been accounted for at the auction, but the whereabouts of the other are undetermined.
It’s one of the earliest North American Pokémon cards we know of, which explains why it’s one of the highest-priced Pokémon cards out there. It features Magic: The Gathering on the back, which is a testament to its vintage label, as this brand of Pokémon card didn’t last long.
However, the manufacturer successfully sold the concept of an English-language version of the Pokémon card game.
Because of the extreme rarity of this card and the fact that the other copy can’t be located, it wouldn’t be surprising if the price continued to climb and it rose the charts to take the place of the most expensive Pokémon card on offer.
2 Charizard 1st Edition Shadowless Base Set
Card Released: 1999
Sold for: $369,000
Charizard, like Blastoise, is one of the original 150 Pokémon, and he crops up several times on this list. It was a popular card back when it was released, and twenty-odd years later, that’s still true.
It’s also true that there are many permutations of Charizard in circulation, and even of first edition Charizards. What makes this unique and one of the highest-priced Pokémon cards is Charzard’s lack of shadow.
Curiously, the lack of shadow isn’t intentional. It’s a printing error. However, that only makes it more popular and more valuable with collectors.
Previously the card sold for as much as $350,000, but that record broke in October 2020, when the price increased to $369,000.
1 Illustrator CoroCoro Comics Promo Pikachu
Card Released: 1998
Sold for: $375,000
Narrowly beating out the Shadowless Base Set Charizard is the Illustrator Card depicting lovable, electric Pikachu.
In 1997, CoroCoro comics ran a promotional competition where artists submitted artistic Pokémon-inspired drawings. The winning submissions appeared in the magazine, and winners received 20 copies of a Pokémon card featuring their illustration and a single copy of the Pikachu Illustrator card.
Twenty other competitors also received the card alongside a card acknowledging their artistic excellence. The card recognizes recipients as officially authorized Pokémon illustrators. Since its release in 1998, the card has consistently attracted a high price.
Since 2017 the price of this Pokémon card has inched up from $195,000 to $200,000 to the more recent $375,000.
Since fewer than 20 cards exist, the price will likely keep climbing. Suppose we continue to unearth other rare, unseen cards like the Blastoise Presentation Galaxy card. In that case, the Pikachu Illustrato’s card may be in for a steep competition if it wants to hold the spot as the highest-priced Pokémon card there is.
Pokémon might have aged, but that hasn’t lessened demand for the cards. What has changed is the prices. Many of the cards you could get in packs from the corner store have soared to astronomical prices.
So have many even rarer cards, especially those from competitions. A card’s scarcity, as well as its holograph background, also affects its value. It’s time to dust off those binders and go through your old Pokémon cards. You might be sitting on a fortune.