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The 23 Most Rare and Expensive Pokémon Cards

From Pikachu Illustrator to Shadowless Charizard, here are the most expensive Pokémon cards ever made.

Have you got any rare Pokémon cards hidden in your collection? Wondering if that shiny Charizard or promo card stashed up in the attic or down in the basement is valuable? You’re in the right place, as we’ve rounded up a definitive list of the most expensive Pokémon cards of all time - along with how much they’re worth, what makes them so valuable and when they last sold for a record-breaking sum.

While we still keep seeing a whole range of Japanese cards popping-up, from one-of-a-kind prize cards awarded at tournaments to cards with unique illustrations won in drawing contests, there were still plenty of rare cards that were released outside of Japan too. Even though there's only a small chance you'll have one of the Pokémon card holy grails, it's still worth checking your collection just in case.

Rare and valuable Pokémon cards

Whether you’re curious how much your own card collection is worth, wondering if that rare card is really that rare or just wanting to gaze in amazement at the thousands and millions of dollars dropped on a piece of cardboard, this list of the top 23 rare and most expensive Pokémon cards will have you covered.

23. Espeon and Umbreon Gold Star POP Series 5

A pair of Gold Star Pokémon cards from one of the most valuable Pokémon sets of all time

Sold for $22,000 in February 20213

Gold Star Pokémon cards Espeon and Umbreon POP Series 5
The Gold Star Pokémon cards are one of the most valuable Pokémon sets ever produced, with Espeon and Umbreon two of the rarest cards in the set.

Gold Star Pokémon cards are among the most valuable sets of Pokémon cards in existence and command an incredibly high value as a result. The cards are named after the gold star that appears next to the Pokémon’s name at the top of the card, which signifies that the card features alternative-colour artwork different from the common version. Only 27 Gold Star cards were released from 2004 to 2007, making them some of the rarest Pokémon cards available.

While all of the Gold Star Pokémon cards are rare, only appearing once in approximately every 88 booster packs (or two booster boxes) for certain Pokémon TCG expansions, the very rarest are the ‘Eeveelutions’ - the many evolutions into which basic Gen 1 Pokémon Eevee can evolve. And the rarest of the rarest are the original Japanese-language versions of the cards offered to members of the Pokémon Players Club, who could spend points earned by participating in official organised play and tournaments to obtain exclusive cards.

While Eeveelutions Flareon, Jolteon and Vaporeon could be acquired in the EX Power Keepers set released in 2007 via the Pokémon online store, their psychic and dark elemental siblings Espeon and Umbreon could only be picked up by players who collected enough Pokémon Players Club points. The Espeon 025/PLAY card required 40,000 EXP points earned, while Umbreon 026/PLAY was even most pricey at 70,000 points.

While the Japanese versions of the cards are the most valuable due to their limited availability, even the English-language versions of the Espeon and Umbreon Gold Star cards fetch a high price. A Gold Star Espeon rated at PSA 10 Gem Mint condition was sold in February 2021 for over $22,000, while an Umbreon graded at an equally perfect condition fetched just over $20,000 at auction in December 2020. PSA values the two cards at $194,209 and $187,277 respectively, easily making them two of the most valuable Pokémon cards around.

22. Japanese Design Promo 2nd Grade Winner Spikey-Eared Pichu

A Pokémon card illustrated by a second-grader

Sold for $25,800 in June 2023

Japanese Design Promo 2nd Grade Winner Spikey-Eared Pichu card
The record-breaking Spikey-Eared Pichu card was designed as part of a kids' competition held in 2009 | Image credit: PWCC

While many of the most valuable Pokémon cards feature artwork from some of the card game's most iconic artists, Spikey-Eared Pichu is unique in being illustrated not just by an unknown name - but also by a child.

The Spikey-Eared Pichu card was created as an entry for a drawing content held across a dozen children's magazines in Japan during 2009, as part of the promotion around Pokémon movie Arceus and the Jewel of Life. Kids from kindergarten age (usually between three and five) up to 12th grade (in their late teens) were invited to submit their illustrations of either Spikey-Eared Pichu or Arceus to enter.

The winner of each age bracket was then able to see their winning design turned into a real Pokémon card. In the case of this Spikey-Eared Pichu, the winner was a second-grader - making them around seven to eight in age.

Cover image for YouTube video10 Most Expensive Pokemon Cards That Could Make You RICH
Some of the rarest Pokémon cards of all time

The exact number of cards awarded to each competition winner is unknown, but auction house PWCC estimates that between 13 and 100 copies of each winning exist were made - making each card one of the rarest Pokémon cards of all time.

Grading specialist PSA has certified 60 of the cards from the competition to date, with just three copies of the Spikey-Eared Pichu confirmed.

The only copy of the Spikey-Eared Pichu card graded at a perfect Gem Mint 10 condition sold in June 2023 for close to $26,000 - making it the most expensive Pokémon card featuring Pichu ever sold.

21. 2002 Pokémon World Championships No. 1 Trainer

Every copy of this rare and valuable promo card is one-of-a-kind

Sold for $31,200 in April 2021

2002 Pokémon World Championships No. 1 Trainer card
The 2002 No. 1 Trainer card was personalised with the name of the tournament's winner, making each card entirely unique. | Image credit: Heritage Auctions

The first of two rare and valuable Pokémon cards called No. 1 Trainer on this list, this particular card was awarded to winners of the regional Battle Road Spring tournaments held in Japan during early 2002. (Battle Road Summer versions were given out during competitions held later that year.)

The regional tournaments were held as qualifiers for the Pokémon World Championships, with the small number of No. 1 Trainer cards produced for the few winners making them some of the rarest Pokémon cards in existence.

Adding to the card's rarity is the fact that each No. 1 Trainer card was customised with the name of the tournament winner printed onto the card, making each card one-of-a-kind. According to auction house Heritage Auctions, the personalised aspect of the cards also mean that they rarely appear at auction, making them an even rarer sight in the world of Pokémon cards.

The 2002 No. 1 Trainer card was illustrated by Ken Sugimori, best known as being one of the original artists and designers for Pokémon's first generation of 151 Pokémon. The text on it reads: "The Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament Battle Road Spring 2002 champion is recognised here, and his honour is praised." Sugimori's No. 1 Trainer artwork - featuring fan-favourite Pokémon such as Pikachu, Chansey and Marrill - is exclusive to the card, making it especially unique.

A copy of the 2002 Pokémon World Championships No. 1 Trainer card, complete with its original display folder and even the envelope it was delivered in, sold at auction in April 2021 for just over $31,000. While it's not the absolute rarest of the No. 1 Trainer cards, the card still ranks as one of the most valuable Pokémon cards.

20. Japanese Pokémon XY-P Black Star Promo Pikachu

This card was given out during Pokémon’s 20th Anniversary Festa.

Sold for $32,520 in March 2023.

Japanese Pokémon XY-P Black Star Promo Pikachu card
This rare card features every starter from the original generation of Pokémon video games. | Image credit: Goldin Auction House

The Japanese Pokémon XY-P Black Star Promo Pikachu card gains its rare status from being included in a one-off event celebrating the franchise's 20th anniversary. Given to attendees as a memento during the Pokémon 20th Anniversary Festa held during October 2016, this card features a unique image of the iconic starter Pokémon for the very first generation of Japanese Pokémon video games - Pokémon Red, Blue and Green.

Depicting Squirtle, Bulbasaur, Charmander and Pikachu, the Japanese Pokémon XY-P Black Star Promo Pikachu card displays a full holographic art and the logo for the 20th Anniversary event for which it was gifted. The translation of the Japanese text reveals two attacks: Mega Thunderbolt, which deals out 120 damage, at the cost of discarded all energy cards attached to it, and a fun novelty attack that sees players clapping their hands to draw a card.

One of these cards was sold through via auction house Goldin on March 9th 2023 for a total of $32,520 (£25,874), after an opening bid of just $500 (£397). The quality rating of this particular card was that of a 'Pristine' 10, the highest-quality rating awarded by grading specialist BGS. Just 67 copies of the Japanese Pokémon XY-P Black Star Promo Pikachu have been graded by BGS to date, with this copy setting a new all-time record for the card.

19. 2002 First-Edition Mysterious Mountains Crystal Charizard

The most expensive e-Card out there, and it’s a PSA 10

Sold for $40,800 in October 2022

2002 First-Edition Mysterious Mountains Crystal Charizard
The e-Card series had barcodes down their sides that could be scanned with a Game Boy Advance e-Reader peripheral | Image credit: PWCC

This Charizard comes from the final expansion of the Japanese e-Card Series and is one of the more unique Colourless Crystal Pokémon (that means it doesn’t have a specific energy type). e-Cards are unusual in that to make the most of them you needed an e-Reader peripheral for the Game Boy Advance which let you access information about the card and sometimes access to a couple of minigames.

A PSA 10 version went up for auction at PWCC in October 2022 and sold for $40,800. This isn’t the most a Charizard has sold for, but it is the most expensive e-Card out there. According to the PSA site, there are 134 PSA 10s of this card out there, so it’s not as rare as it might initially sound, but either way, it’s still one of the most valuable out there.

18. 1996 Pokémon Japanese Base Set No Rarity Symbol Holo Venusaur

A very rare Pokémon card made ever more valuable by its artist’s autograph

Sold for $55,000 in November 2021

1996 Pokémon Japanese Base Set No Rarity Symbol Holo Venusaur PSA 10 Gem Mint
This particular Venusaur card was made even more valuable by the signature of legendary Pokémon illustrator Mitsuhiro Arita. | Image credit: PWCC

Many of the rarest Pokémon cards date from the trading card game’s early days, with first edition cards released in the 1990s ranking as among the most valuable Pokémon cards today.

While the first edition stamp on cards is highly sought-after in the English edition of the Pokémon card game, the rarest Japanese Pokémon cards are instead identified by their lack of a stamp. Specifically, a missing black star in the bottom-right of a Japanese-language card is what’s known as ‘No Rarity’ - meaning that the card is missing the common symbol used to signify a Pokémon card’s rarity.

No Rarity Pokémon cards are among the rarest Pokémon cards in existence, and few come rarer than the Venusaur Pokémon card from the game’s first print run in 1996. Just five copies of the Bulbasaur evolution - famous for appearing on the original video game Pokémon Green - have been graded at a perfect Gem-Mint 10 by PSA, making a flawless copy of the card extremely rare.

While a No Rarity Venusaur card commands a high price by itself, a copy sold in November 2021 set a new record for the rare Pokémon card by fetching $55,000 at auction. Helping the record sum was the signature of the card’s illustrator Mitsuhiro Arita - the legendary artist behind many Pokémon cards from the last 20-plus years - on the card’s case, making the already rare Pokémon card truly one-of-a-kind.

17. 1999 Pokémon Japanese 64 Mario Stadium Best Photo Contest Chansey

One of only 15 to have existed, and the only one known to still exist

Sold for $63,000 in December 2022

Front and back of a Chansey Pokemon card.
Only 15 copies of the Pokemon Snap Chansey were ever produced | Image credit: PWCC

To promote the release of Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo 64, two contests were run which saw players submitting their favourite snaps from the game, with hopes of their photos made into official Pokémon cards.

One of these was run by the Nintendo sponsored Japanese TV show 64 Mario Stadium, which ran from 1993 to 2000 and which saw five winners each receiving 15 copies of their winning entry. These were the only copies of these cards made, so they are extremely rare and almost impossible to get hold of.

One of these winners was Kaori Someya with their photo of Chansey, and a copy of it sold in December 2022 at auction for $63,000 (£51,590). It isn’t surprising that it sold for so much given that it’s the only one known to still exist, and that it’s in almost perfect condition with a Beckett grade of 8.5.

16. 1999 Pokémon Japanese Promo Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind

An ultra-rare promo card - one of only a dozen ever made

Sold for $65,100 in October 2020

1999 Pokémon Japanese Promo Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind
With only a dozen given to top players at the 1999 Tropical Mega Battle tournament, the Japanese Tropical Wind promo card is extremely rare. | Image credit: PWCC

Only 12 Tropical Wind cards were produced as promo cards for the 1999 Tropical Mega Battle, a precursor to the Pokémon World Championships, making it one of the most valuable Pokémon sets around.

The Tropical Mega Battle saw 50 players from around the globe take part in a tournament for the trading card game in Honolulu, Hawaii. The only way to participate was to win a battle in your local region and earn an invite, making it an exclusive event for the best Pokémon trainers in the world - and the cards offered as prizes some of the rarest Pokémon cards in existence.

This particular Tropical Mega Battle promo card, the 1999 Japanese-language copy of Tropical Wind, has sold at auction for as much as $65,100 in PSA Gem Mint 10 condition, with the most recent record-breaking sale taking place in October 2020. PSA estimates its value to be as high as $148,482, making the ultra-rare card a contender for one of the most expensive Pokémon cards ever made.

15. Master’s Key

A more recent card - but no less rare or valuable

Sold for $66,000 in May 2023

Master’s Key
Only 36 copies of the Master's Key were handed out to tournament participants in 2010, making it one of the rarest Pokémon cards of recent years | Image credit: PWCC

Like many other rare Pokémon cards, Master’s Key is a promo card awarded to participants in a Pokémon TCG tournament - meaning that only a select few players have ever got their hands on one. However, unlike fellow promo cards such as No. 1 Trainer - which appears a little later in this list - this particular card is a little more recent, being given to finalists in the 2010 Pokémon World Championships. That makes its rarity and value even more remarkable.

The Master Key card was awarded to the top-ranking players in Japan’s representative tournament - equivalent to the region’s National Championship - held in Tokyo during the summer of 2020. The event marked the finale of various qualifying stages held across all 47 of the country’s prefectures, with thousands of players competing across the TCG’s Junior, Senior and Master divisions before the top player from each league was granted entry to the Japan World Championship.

Only 36 copies of the holographic card are estimated to exist - equal to the number of finalists in all age divisions of the world championships, split between both the trading card game’s finals and their video game counterparts held during the same event. For the TCG, eight cards were awarded to Junior players, six to Senior trainers and six to Masters. This was a change from the 2009 World Championships, where only players who made it to the TCG finals were given a prize card.

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Both those participating in the trading card game tournament and its video game counterpart received a copy of Master’s Key. Although the cards themselves were identical, they came presented in a different protective trophy case depending on the category: red for the TCG and blue for the video game categories. Each case features the respective logo for either the Pokémon TCG or the then-latest HeartGold and SoulSilver video games.

In-game, the Master’s Key card - based on its ability text translated from Japanese - lets player to draw a card, before flipping a coin. If the result is a head, they shuffle the Master’s Key card back into their deck.

One copy of the Master’s Key sold sold at auction in November 2019 for more than $21,000 - a record amount at the time. However, another copy graded at a near-perfect Gem Mint 9.5 by specialist Beckett Grading Services went on to smash that record almost three times over by fetching $66,000 in May 2023.

14. 1999 Gyarados Unnumbered Promo 64 Mario Stadium Best Photo Contest

A near-perfect copy of a card that was only printed 15 times

Sold for $87,500 in July 2023

An image of a copy of Pokémon Gyarados Unnumbered Promo 64 Mario Stadium Best Photo Contest card
The rare Gyarados card was one of the winners of a Pokémon Snap! photo contest. | Image credit: Heritage Auctions

While valuable Pokémon cards featuring artwork drawn by fans have become a more common sight in recent years, this Gyarados card is something quite unique. The rare card features a picture taken in classic Nintendo 64 video game Pokémon Snap!

The picture of the water Pokémon was one of five winners of the 64 Mario Stadium Best Photo Contest held by Japanese TV show 64 Mario Stadium in 1999. Each winner was given 15 copies of the card featuring their winning photograph, making each card one of the rarest Pokémon cards ever made. The cards themselves were reprints from the Japanese Pokémon TCG Expansion Pack, so their custom artwork is what makes them especially unique.

With so few cards ever made, finding copies in good condition over 20 years later is even more difficult. A copy of the winning Gyarados promo card graded at a Gem Mint 9.5 condition by card grading specialist CGC sold for almost $90,000 in July 2023, outselling the card featuring a winning picture of Chansey - which sold for $63,000 the previous year and also appears on this list.

13. 1999 Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer

One answer to "What's the rarest Pokémon card of all time?"

Sold for $90,000 in July 2020

No. 1 Trainer Pokémon card
With only seven copies believed to be in existence, the Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer is easily one of the rarest Pokémon cards ever made. | Image credit: Heritage Auctions

It’s unlikely you’ve heard of Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer, and extremely unlikely you’ve ever seen a copy in person. When it comes to rare Pokémon cards, there are very few cards rarer than this.

No. 1 Trainer is a holographic promotional card awarded to finalists in the Secret Super Battle tournament held in Tokyo, Japan in 1999. (Making it a different card to the 2002 World Championships No. 1 Trainer listed above, despite the similar name.) To earn a place in the competition’s finals, which were held in a secret location, players had to first win a regional tournament. Their prize was the No. 1 Trainer card, which granted them access to the finals.

The card’s text translates to: “The Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament's champion is recognised here, and this honour is praised. By presenting this card, you may gain preferential entry into the Secret Super Battle.” The card features the Japanese logo for the “Pocket Monsters Trading Card Game”, along with artwork of original generation Pokémon Mewtwo by illustrator Hideki Kazama.

As only seven regional tournaments were held, it’s believed that just seven copies of this card were made - making it one of rarest Pokémon cards in existence. Six of the ultra-rare cards have since been certified as being in perfect Gem Mint 10 condition by PSA - the prestigious organisation that grades the quality, condition and value of trading cards, up to the highest level of Gem Mint 10 - with a flawless copy selling at auction in July 2020 for $90,000.

This is a card so rare and valuable that Indiana Jones probably had to escape a crumbling temple with it at some point. Its 1999 counterpart cards No. 2 Trainer and No. 3 Trainer, similarly awarded to winners in Japanese Pokémon tournaments during the late 1990s, are almost as rare and valuable.

12. 2019 Japanese SM Promo Extra Battle Day Full Art Lillie

A highly valuable card won with rock-paper-scissors

Sold for $108,000 in June 2023

The Extra Battle Day Lillie could only be won with a lot of luck. | Image credit: PWCC

While many of the rarest Pokémon cards are won through battles of skill in the card game’s biggest tournaments, some come down to pure luck. That’s the case with this full-art promo card featuring Pokémon Sun and Moon character Lillie, which was offered as a prize during the Extra Battle Day event held in Japan throughout October and November 2019.

In order to win the card, players were matched up based on their performance across several Pokémon card battles. Winning wasn’t enough by itself - you also needed to win with as great a difference between the number of your prize cards remaining and your opponent’s to earn the highest score. (Prize cards are lost whenever a Pokémon is defeated, with six spelling defeat.)

That ranking then led to the tournament’s surprising final: matches of rock-paper-scissors. The winner would claim a booster pack of rare Pokémon cards, including one of three possible full-art cards. The rarest of those three random cards to appear, according to auction house PWCC, was the full-art Lillie illustrated by Naoki Saito - making it the most difficult Extra Battle Day card to obtain. While the event was due to be repeated in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to its cancellation, increasing the rarity of the card.

A copy of the Extra Battle Day Lillie promo card rated at a perfect Gem Mint 10 by PSA sold for $108,000 in June 2023, setting a new record for a sale of the card by over four times after another PSA 10 copy of the card sold for $26,000 in November 2022.

Behind the significant leap in value is a phenomenon dubbed the “Waifu Tax”, which saw Pokémon cards featuring female characters jump in value - with the slang term emerging from a subset of anime fans and online forum users who use it to refer to characters they find attractive or otherwise desirable. The trend is a troubling one, as many of Pokémon’s most popular characters are children - in the case of Lillie, 11 years old.

11. 2006 Pokémon World Championships Promo No. 2 Trainer

One of the rarest Pokémon cards of all time, with only 3 known to exist

Sold for $110,100 in February 2021

2006 Pokémon World Championships Promo No. 2 Trainer PSA 9 Mint
Just three copies of the 2006 No. 2 Trainer were given to winners of the event, making it one of the rarest Pokémon cards ever made - with a price tag to match. | Image credit: PWCC

Like its equally rare and expensive Trainer trophy cards, the 2006 No. 2 Trainer is one of the rarest Pokémon cards of all time, with only a small handful of cards ever made.

Given as a trophy card to finalists of the Pokémon World Championships held in Anaheim, California during August 2006, in order to claim the card, players had to gain entry to the tournament by collecting enough points to qualify and then make it into the finals of their divisions.

Just three copies of the 2006 No. 2 Trainer are believed to exist, easily making it one of the rarest Pokémon cards in existence. Its rarity also means it commands a high price, with a copy graded at Mint 9 condition by PSA selling for just over $110,000 in February 2021.

The card itself features fan-favourite Pokémon Pikachu holding aloft a silver trophy, finished with a holographic pattern. The card reads: “If you won this card at the 2006 Pokémon Trading Card Game World Championships, you may return to battle the best in 2007.”

No. 2 Trainer’s rarity and value put it close to the legendarily expensive No. 1 Trainer in terms of rare Pokémon cards - making it one of Pokémon’s most sought-after cards.

10. 2001 Japanese Neo Summer Battle Road National No. 2 Trainer

A one-of-a-kind card featuring a real-life Pokémon player

Sold for $132,000 in September 2023

The promo card featuring Takahiro Ikeda is one of very few Pokémon cards to feature a real-life person as its picture. | Image credit: PWCC

While plenty of Pokémon cards feature popular Pokémon and characters from the world of the games and TV show, very few include people from the real world - making them some of the rarest Pokémon cards around.

In the case of the Neo Summer Battle Road National No. 2 Trainer card, the card features a picture of Japanese Pokémon fan Takahiro Ikeda.

Ikeda was one of the runners-up in the Senior division of the Neo Summer Battle held in 2001, earning the player a one-of-a-kind promo card with their likeness. The card shows the player stood in front of legendary Pokémon Ho-Oh, which inspired the theme of the Summer Battle Road event, and is finished with a cosmic holofoil background.

The Neo Battle events used a unique Hall of Fame system that ranked the Pokémon cards in players’ decks with a number of stars and limited them to a certain amount of cards of each value - up to a total of four stars for any one card, with Base Set Chansey costing two, for example, and Base Set Blastoise being limited to a single copy with a three-star rating.

Few events ever repeated the prize of giving players a Pokémon card with their face on - only 20 such cards are estimated to exist, and each card is the only one of its kind. That makes cards such as the Takahiro Ikeda Neo Summer Battle Road National No. 2 Trainer card some of the very rarest Pokémon cards of all time.

Ikeda’s card is among the most valuable to appear at auction, selling for $132,000 in September 2023 - the most ever paid for a promo card from the tournament. Even so, the unique cards don’t fetch quite as much as trophy cards featuring popular Pokémon such as Pikachu.

9. Toshiyuki Yamaguchi No. 2 Trainer 1/1 World Summer Challenge Secret Super Battle-Best In Japan

A truly unique Pokémon card that wasn’t seen for over 20 years

Sold for $137,500 in July 2023

The one-of-a-kind card featuring player Toshiyuki Yamaguchi wasn't seen in public for over two decades before surfacing at auction. | Image credit: Heritage Auctions, HA.com

While many of Pokémon’s rarest cards have changed hands several times over the years, this card is unique in a number of ways. To begin with, it’s the only card of its kind in the world. On top of that, it wasn’t seen for over two decades after it was made.

The Toshiyuki Yamaguchi No. 2 Trainer card was one of three cards given as prizes to the players who placed first, second and third during the Secret Super Battle-Best In Japan tournament. The event was held in Tokyo’s Pokémon Center in August 2000 as the finale of the World Summer Challenge series of regional competitions.

As the name suggests, the No. 2 Trainer card was awarded to the competition’s second-place runner-up Toshiyuki Yamaguchi. In a rare novelty for a Pokémon card, Yamaguchi himself appears on the card’s artwork as a real-life photograph, surrounded by illustrations of popular first-gen Pokémon including Pikachu, Chansey, Growlithe and Dudou.

Like the cards given to the tournament’s winner and third-place runner-up, the No.2 Trainer card was the only copy of the card ever made - making it a literal one-of-a-kind and one of the rarest Pokémon cards of all time. Given that rarity, the card didn’t surface in public for more than 20 years after it was awarded to Yamaguchi - with even pictures being unavailable online - until it surfaced in July 2023.

The card was graded in a Near-Mint/Mint 8 condition by Certified Guaranty Company, and ultimately went on to sell at auction for $137,500.

8. 2000 Pokémon Neo Genesis 1st Edition Holo Lugia #9

A legendary Pokémon on a legendarily rare Pokémon card

Sold for $144,300 in May 2021

2000 Pokémon Neo Genesis 1st Edition Holo Lugia #9 card
The Neo Genesis set is notoriously difficult to grade, making graded cards such as this Lugia some of the most valuable Pokémon cards available. | Image credit: PWCC

Lugia is one of the most iconic and popular Pokémon in the entire series, having starred on the front of early Game Boy game Pokémon Silver and its Nintendo DS remake SoulSilver. A legendary bird Pokémon from Gen II, Lugia is one of the most powerful and hard-to-find Pokémon that players can catch in the video games - so it’s only fitting that its Pokémon card is also extremely rare.

The Neo Genesis 1st Edition Holo Lugia #9 Pokémon card is described by auction house PWCC as one of the most difficult Pokémon cards to grade, as the result of a number of errors and misprints that were included in the early runs of the Neo Genesis set for the Pokémon TCG. Later print runs were corrected, but many of the cards from the expansion remain more common in their earlier uncorrected forms.

As of May 2021, PWCC claims that only 41 Gem Mint 10 condition Neo Genesis 1st Edition Holo Lugia #9 cards have ever been graded by PSA, with just three earning the maximum BGS 10 Pristine rating from grading company Beckett Grading Services. The Lugia’s rarity means that it ranks almost as highly as the legendary first-edition Charizard when it comes to the most valuable Pokémon cards.

Thanks to its popularity and rarity, the Pokémon card also fetches a very high price at auction. A first-edition Neo Genesis Lugia graded at PSA 10 reportedly sold in October 2020 for $50,000, with a BGS 10 Pristine copy selling in May 2021 for over $144,000. A legendary price for what is definitely a legendary card, in every sense of the word.

7. Family Event Kangaskhan Trophy Card Promo 115 Parent/Child Mega Battle

The third-rarest Pokémon card of all time

Sold for $175,000 in July 2023

Only a dozen copies of the extremely rare Pokémon card are believed to be in perfect condition. | Image credit: Heritage Auctions, HA.com

This valuable Pokémon card dates from the trading card game’s earliest years, having been given to participants in the 1998 Parent/Child Mega Battle tournament held in Japan. As the name implies, teams were made up of parents and children. Those who achieved a set number of victories during the tournament were awarded this special trophy card - the only time it was ever up for grabs, having never been mass produced - making it one of the rarest promo cards available.

What sets the trophy card apart from its commonplace counterparts is the inclusion of the Pocket Monsters Card Game logo - the original Japanese name for the Pokémon TCG - on the card back in addition to the front, marking it out as an extremely rare variant of the original holographic Kangaskhan. The card’s artwork was drawn by legendary Pokémon art director Ken Sugimori, the co-designer of the original 151 Pokémon in the series’ first generation.

The Japanese text on the card translates to two attacks: the single-colourless energy Dizzy Punch, which requires the player to flip two coins and do ten times the number of heads in damage, and Mega Punch, which costs three colourless energy for 30 damage.

Following the sale of a PSA 7 card in June 2020 for $35,000, a copy of Kangaskhan-Holo #115 graded at a maximum Gem Mint 10 by PSA was sold on eBay that October for over $150,000. The card was reportedly only one of three copies to have been sold in the 20 years up to that date, confirming the already scarce card as one of the rarest Pokémon cards sold in recent years.

If that sum wasn’t impressive enough, a Gem Mint 10 copy of the card then sold via auction house Heritage for $175,000 in July 2023, increasing its reputation as one of the most valuable Pokémon cards of all time.

Auction house PWCC estimates that only 46 copies of the card have ever been graded - and only a dozen of those at a perfect Gem Mint 10 condition by PSA. PWCC described the card as the third-rarest Pokémon card in the world, calling it worthy of a museum. Whether it’s in a museum or someone’s collection, it’s undoubtedly one of the rarest Pokémon cards ever made.

6. Black Star Ishihara Signed GX Promo Card

A card featuring the Pokémon Company's President himself.

Sold for $247,230 in April 2021

Black Star Ishihara Signed GX Promo card
A card celebrating the Pokémon founder's 60th birthday, and signed by him too. | Image credit: Goldin Auction House

The most recent card to make headlines for pure value, this card sold for nearly a quarter of a million dollars at auction on April 26th 2021. You can find the full details at our story here, but this card depicts Pokémon Company founder and current president Tsunekazu Ishihara, and was given to the company staff as a celebration of the man's 60th birthday in 2017.

That makes the card rare, but this specific version is even rarer, as Ishihara actually signed this near-mint card to boost its price even further. The "2017 P.M. SM Black Star #TPCi01 Tsunekazu Ishihara Signed Pokémon GX Promo Card", to use its full title, is a testament to the raw power apparently held by the Pokémon president. The ability "Red Chanchanko" is in reference to the red vest traditionally worn on 60th birthdays in Japan, and prevents the effect of any attack, ability or trainer card against Ishihara. Meanwhile, its GX move "60 Congratulations", tells you to flip 60 coins, and take a present for each one. A truly legendary card.

5. Bronze Pikachu No. 3 Trainer Trophy card

A total of four of these cards exist.

Sold for $300,000 in April 2023

Bronze Pikachu No. 3 Trainer Trophy card
The artwork for this rare card was created by Mitsuhiro Arita. | Image credit: Heritage Auctions

Awarded to runners-up for the first ever tournament held for the Pokémon Trading Card Game, the Bronze Pikachu No. 3 Trainer Trophy card is exceedingly rare due to the fact that there are only four of them in existence. The tournament was held in June 1997 in Chiba, Japan, and saw four Pokémon TCG players who became bronze winners recieving a copy of this extremely rare card as a reward for making it as far as they did in the iconic tournament.

Depicted on the card is the beloved Pokémon Pikachu, adorably holding a trophy against a brightly holographic bronze background. The artwork for the card was created by the prolific Pokémon artist Mitsuhiro Arita, who was also responsible for illustrating the artwork for the cards given to both the second and first-place winners of the 1997 tournament.

Just one of these extraordinary cards were sold during a recent auction held on April 21st 2023 by auction house, Heritage, for a total of $300,000 (£238,692). The card - which was graded at a near mint condition by PSA quality raters - was eventually sold after over 50 bids, making it one of the most expensive Pokémon cards ever featured within a public auction. Who knows if we'll see the other three cards up for sell in the near future?

4. Pokémon Blastoise #009/165R Commissioned Presentation Galaxy Star Hologram

A two-of-a-kind card that suddenly became one of the most valuable Pokémon cards of all time

Sold for $360,000 in January 2021

Blastoise #009/165R Commissioned Presentation Galaxy Star Hologram Pokémon card
The Blastoise is an ultra-rare Pokémon card that sold at auction for $360,000. | Image credit: Heritage Auctions

One of only two such Pokémon cards in existence - making it extremely rare - this Blastoise suddenly became one of the most valuable Pokémon cards of all time after it sold at auction in January 2021 for a whopping $360,000 (£266,000).

The ultra-rare Pokémon card was created in 1998 as a presentation piece by Magic: The Gathering maker Wizards of the Coast to convince Nintendo of Japan executives to allow it to handle the TCG’s English-language release. The game would eventually make its international debut one year later in 1999.

While two Blastoise ‘Presentation’ cards were produced, this is the only one that has been seen publicly. Even more impressively, it has been graded at a NM/Mint+ 8.5 level by certification website CGC, meaning that the 20-plus-year-old card is in near-perfect condition. The location and state of the other Presentation card remains unknown - meaning that this may well be the only such card of its type left.

3. 1999 First Edition Shadowless Holographic Charizard #4

A very valuable version of a classic fan-favourite

Sold for $420,000 in March 2022

Charizard holo shadowless 1999 Pokémon card
Shiny Charizard has always been in demand, but its shadowless variant is also extremely rare. | Image credit: PWCC

Shiny Charizard has been one of the Pokémon card game’s most popular cards since it first released in 1999, so there’s no surprise that 20-plus years later, it remains one of the most sought-after cards for collectors and fans alike.

While a number of first-edition cards from the Pokémon TCG’s early days are worth some money - assuming they’re still in good nick - due to their limited availability and age, this specific version of the holographic Charizard absolutely stands out as one of the rarest and most valuable Pokémon cards ever released.

What sets the card apart is the lack of a shadow underneath the fire-breathing dragon Pokémon. This was a printing error that was corrected for most of the cards printed, which makes the shadowless card all the rarer. According to auction house Iconic Auctions, the rare card is “the Holy Grail of Pokémon cards, the most iconic and important card to both the Pokémon franchise and its die hard fans”.

A mint-condition first-edition shadowless holographic PSA 10 Charizard sold at auction in October 2020 for a whopping $220,574 to retired rapper - and Pokémon fan - Logic, setting a new record for the already valuable card, according to card game outlet .

That record was broken in November 2020 after a copy of the Shadowless Charizard sold at auction for $350,100, before reportedly being broken once only a month later with the sale of a copy for $369,000 - auction house Goldin Auctions claimed the figure to be the highest amount of money paid for any Pokémon card to date.

Since that record-breaking sale, Shadowless Charizard in Gem Mint 10 condition has continued to be one of the most valuable Pokémon cards of all time, with another sale in January 2021 fetching $300,000.

A year later, that record was smashed once again by a PSA 10 Charizard sold in March 2022 for $420,000. The price is the most paid to date for a shadowless Charizard, as well as making it the third-highest sum ever paid for any Pokémon card - cementing its place as one of the most valuable Pokémon cards in existence.

Heritage Auctions called the first-edition Charizard "arguably the hottest card in the entire hobby", with only 121 copies reportedly graded as Gem Mint 10 by PSA.

2. 1998 Japanese Promo Silver 2nd-2nd Tournament #2 Trophy Pikachu

A valuable Pikachu dating from the Pokémon card game’s second-ever tournament

Sold for $444,000 in September 2023

Only 14 copies of the Pikachu No.2 Silver Trophy card are believed to exist, having only been given to second-place players in two of the Pokémon TCG's earlier tournaments. | Image credit: Goldin Auctions

With so many of Pokémon’s rarest cards dating back to its earliest tournaments, few come rarer than the Pikachu No.2 Silver Trophy card. The prize card was given to second-place contestants in the Lizardon Mega Battle tournament, the second-ever official tournament held for the trading card game across Japan between late 1997 and early 1998. (With Lizardon being the Japanese name for Charizard.)

Players who placed first, second and third in the competition - as well as the first-ever Pokémon tournament held in 1997 - received Pikachu Trainer cards matching their respective position: gold, silver or bronze.

The cards feature artwork from prolific Pokémon illustrator Mitsuhiro Arita, who also illustrated Squirtle, Venusaur and Gyarados for the Pokémon TCG’s original Base Set, among others.

According to Goldin Auctions, only 14 of the silver Pikachu No.2 cards are believed to exist based on the limited availability during the two tournaments, with just four copies reported by grading specialist PSA, making them among the very rarest Pokémon cards.

That rarity unsurprisingly comes with immense value, too. A copy of the Trophy Pikachu No. 2 Trainer card in perfect PSA Gem Mint 10 condition was sold in September 2023 for a whopping $444,000, ranking it immediately at the top end of the most expensive Pokémon cards of all time.

1. Pikachu Illustrator

Extremely expensive, extremely rare - the Holy Grail of Pokémon cards

Sold for $5.275 million in July 2021

Loan Paul holding his PSA 10 Pikachu Illustrator
Pikachu Illustrator is the only Pokémon card known to be worth millions of dollars | Image credit: Guinness World Records

The most expensive Pokémon card is the Pikachu Illustrator which sold for $5.275 million in July 2021. It’s the true Holy Grail of Pokémon card collecting and only one PSA 10 is known to exist.

YouTuber Logan Paul bought the Illustrator in exchange for a PSA 9 version of the same card, said to be worth $1,275,000, plus an additional $4 million. While he bought it in 2021, the private sale wasn’t announced until he wore it around his neck at the WWE wrestling event WrestleMania in 2022, where he was then given a Guiness World Record for the most expensive Pokémon trading card sold at a private sale.

Before Paul’s jaw-dropping trade though, the card was still already very valuable, seeing a PSA 9 sell in 2019 for $195,000 and a PSA 7 in 2021 for $375,000, and before his private sale was announced, a PSA 7 in 2022 for $900,000.

It’s no surprise it’s so expensive though, it’s one of the rarest cards out there. Pikachu Illustrator was originally given to winners of promo contests held in 1997 and 1998 by Japanese magazine CoroCoro Comic. 39 copies were officially awarded to the winners, while two copies were later rediscovered in 2020 by one of the card game’s co-creators, Yuichi Konno, bringing the total number of Pikachu Illustrator copies in existence to 41.

As well as being ridiculously rare, the card is unique in a number of ways. It is the only Pokémon card to say “Illustrator” instead of “Trainer” at the top of the card, and has a one-off pen icon in its bottom-right corner to acknowledge its creation for the design contest. The card’s artwork of Pikachu is by illustrator Atsuko Nishida, the original designer of the fan-favourite Pokémon.

The Japanese text on the card reads: “We certify that your illustration is an excellent entry in the Pokémon Card Game Illust Contest. Therefore, we state that you are an Officially Authorized Pokémon Card Illustrator and admire your skill."

The Pikachu Illustrator card is extremely rare, with just 23 copies certified by the Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) and only 39 thought to be in existence. So more of these cards could still be hiding out there waiting to be sold for staggering sums.

Following Paul's record purchase of the Pikachu Illustrator, another copy of the card sold for $672,000 in October 2022, after being listed by Pokémon fan and NFL star, Blake Martinez. Yet another copy sold in early 2023 for $570,000, continuing Pikachu Illustrator's reign as the most expensive Pokémon card of all time.

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Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis


After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.