An extremely rare Pikachu just became the most expensive Pokémon card of all time, after selling for close to a million dollars at auction.
The Pikachu Illustrator card dates from a reader competition run in Japanese magazine CoroCoro Comic from 1997 to 1998. 39 copies of the promo card were awarded to the winners of the illustration contest. An additional two copies were rediscovered and sold at auction in August 2020 by one of the card game’s rules designers, Yuichi Konno, bringing the total number of Pikachu Illustrator cards made to 41.
The card features a picture of Pikachu drawn by artist Atsuko Nishida - best known as the original designer of Pikachu - with its text translating from Japanese as: “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." Pikachu Illustrator is the only Pokémon card to say “Illustrator” in place of “Trainer” at the top of the card, and has a one-of-a-kind pen icon in its bottom-right corner to signify its origins as part of the illustration contest.
Only 23 copies of the Pikachu Illustrator card have been professionally graded by card grading specialist PSA in the almost quarter-century since it first appeared, leaving the number of existing copies uncertain - and making Pikachu Illustrator one of the rarest Pokémon cards ever made, with a price tag to match.
A copy of Pikachu Illustrator in almost flawless condition sold at auction in 2019 for $195,000, earning the PSA Mint 9 card a Guinness World Record for the most expensive Pokémon card sold at auction at the time.
Last February, a Pikachu Illustrator in slightly less pristine condition - graded at Near Mint 7 by PSA - set another new record, selling for $375,000. The figure was enough to reclaim the card’s position as the most valuable Pokémon card on record, overtaking a first-edition shadowless holographic Charizard sold for $369,000 in December 2020.
Another Near Mint 7 copy of Pikachu Illustrator has just blown those sums out of the water, after selling for $900,000 - including a buyer’s premium on top of the winning $750,000 bid - at auction on February 24th. The NM7 card dating from 1998 is reportedly one of just two copies graded at that condition.
Auction house Goldin claimed that the staggering price sets a new record for the most paid for a Pokémon card at a public sale.
Goldin's recent auction also included a rare uncut sheet of first-edition Pokémon cards, including all 16 holographic cards from the game's earliest Base Set as well as two shadowless Charizards, that sold for $171,600.