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Another set of Pokémon TCG Trophy Pikachu cards sells at auction for nearly $800,000

Gold, silver and bronze-toting rats collectively set a record for the 1997 promotional cards.

Set of Trophy Pikachu promotional trainer cards sold at auction in December 2023
Image credit: The Pokémon Company

Three more Trophy Pikachu cards from the Pokémon Trading Card Game’s earliest competitive days recently sold at auction for a staggering $794,220 (£627,477). The complete set, graded by Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) and auctioned by Goldin, has set a new record for the trophy-hefting Pikachus.

The promotional cards sold just before the holidays, on December 21st, meaning some lucky collector brought home quite the Christmas gift. These cards were originally awarded to the top three finishers at one of the very first national tournaments for the then-fledgling Pokémon TCG.

The Lizardon Mega Battle took place in Japan in late 1997 and early 1998, where according to Goldin over 20,000 people attended. Qualifying competitors earned the gold, silver and bronze-variant of the Trainer cards - according to their placement in the division qualifiers before moving up to the main events - a junior and senior league showdown. Ultimately, the best card-slinging trainers would instead earn trophies, making these Pikachu trainer cards a surprisingly rare collectible in the ensuing decades.

Set of promotional trainer cards from 2000 Pokémon Japanese Promo World Challenge Secret Super Battle Best in Japan Decisive Battle sold at auction in December 2023
Image credit: The Pokémon Company

All three cards in the recent auction were graded near-mint or mint 8, which the PSA defines as “a super high-end card that appears PSA 9 at first glance, but upon closer inspection, the card can exhibit the following: a very slight wax stain on reverse, slightest fraying at one or two corners, a minor printing imperfection, and/or slightly off-white borders.”

Goldin also notes that the bronze Trophy Pikachu can be the most sought-after member of the trio due to illustrator Mitsuhiro Arita’s depiction of the Pokémon mascot as a chubby and slightly squished friend. Arita also created the artwork shown on the Pokémon TCG Base Set Charizard, a rare and valuable card staple in its own right. PSA has apparently only recorded seven versions of the bronze Pikachu, alongside six each of the gold and silver trophy cards, in its entire portfolio.

A similar trio of Trophy Pikachus sold at auction for $325,000 (£259,000) back in May, 2022, but that set only included one PSA 8 card - the other two were NM 7 and NM+ 7.5 and hailed from the 1998 Lizardon Mega Battle. It’s not clear if the later year hurts the promotional Trainer card’s value, but it’s worth noting that the very first versions were handed out in the previous autumn’s national tournament.

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A separate but just as eye-watering amount of money clinched the auction for the 2000 Pokémon Japanese Promo World Challenge Secret Super Battle Best in Japan Decisive Battle. That mouthful of a name comprises three of the most rare and valuable promotional trainer cards in existence, going for $457,500 (£361,397) in a late-December auction.

Similar to the Trophy Pikachu cards, the first, second and third place winners of the Tokyo-based showdown earned a card memorialising their victory - but these use a photograph of the actual players surrounded by other Pokémon in the card art. Pikachu joins a successively larger crowd of Voltorb, Chansey, Growlithe, Doduo, and Marill on all three. Apparently, this is the first instance of each card in PSA’s grading census.

Pokémon TCG has always maintained steady popularity amongst its trading card game peers, but the COVID-19 pandemic created an explosion of fervour around cracking rare booster pack boxes, hoping to pull valuable collectibles. Even now, nearly four years later, elusive pieces of cardboard featuring Pikachu and friends are fetching six-digit figures and maintaining the dream of finding a golden ticket amongst the metallic plastic wrapper.

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