Among the most rare and valuable Pokémon TCG cards in existence, Pikachu Illustrator draws eyes every time it appears at auction. The latest copy on the proverbial collectibles block recently sold for over half a million dollars.
Originally distributed as a prize for several contests hosted by Japanese monthly manga magazine, CoroCoro Comic, exactly 39 copies of Pikachu Illustrator were created between 1997 and 1998. Two more copies eventually appeared in the private collection of Pokémon TCG co-creator Yuichi Konno in 2020, bringing the grand total to 41 known to exist.
At time of writing, 35 of the contest prize cards had been professionally graded, with many of those passing under the digital gavel of collectible auction sites like Goldin - who hosted the December 21st sale of a Pikachu Illustrator for $579,500 (£459,048). The holofoil card was graded Mint 9, just shy of perfect quality according to grading titan Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA).
Such a toe-curling amount of money is par for the course when discussing Pikachu Illustrator, as the white whale trading card has always managed to push the bidding envelope when it comes to collectible cardboard. A Mint 9 copy sold for $195,000 in 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown strapped a rocket to the Pokémon TCG collecting craze. A near-Mint 7 card sold for $375,000 in 2021, and only one year later managed to rake in a winning bid of nearly $900,000.
YouTube Logan Paul, who arguably spearheaded the fad of paying enormous sums for unopened first edition booster pack boxes, reportedly traded his Mint 9 version of Pikachu Illustrator for a flawless Gem Mint 10 copy, along with $4 million to balance the scales. Paul’s original version was already worth an estimated $1.25 million at the time. Pikachu Illustrator already held the Guinness World Record for most expensive card sold at auction, and Paul’s transaction earned it another for most expensive in a private sale. The YouTuber would eventually wear the card during his notorious appearance at Wrestlemania.
Pokémon card collector Tomoya Ohno attempted to part with his copy - graded Near-Mint 8 - back in February 2023, selling it on eBay with an opening bid of $480,000 (£400,790). Perhaps unsurprisingly, nobody submitted a bid and the auction was eventually canceled. The online auction platform said at the time that it would work with Ohno to find buyers willing to part with at least half a million dollars.