If you were a Pokemon fan back in the 1990s, you probably have a fair few old Pokemon Trading Card Game cards stashed somewhere in the back of your closet. We all had a few Caterpies and Rattattas lying around from this trend, and if you managed to collect a coveted card like a holographic Charizard, you were the talk of the school playground and truly got lucky.
New Pokemon cards are still being produced to this day, making many of the oldest Pokemon cards even harder to find. As long as Pokemon remains a popular video game franchise, the Pokemon Trading Card Game will keep on producing new types of cards, but none of them can reach the heights of the rarest Pokemon rarest cards in history.
Updated March 30th, 2021 by Gene Cole: Rare Pokemon cards have become an even hotter trend over this past year. This is thanks to popular streamers and internet personalities, many of which have been opening packs live and showing off their expensive collector purchases. As a result, many of the game’s oldest cards have been massively fluctuating in price since this list was originally published, and there have been several new rare Pokemon cards introduced through the game’s most recent popular sets.
25 Holo Gold Star Rayquaza: $4500
Rather than many cards on this list, this Shiny Rayquaza from the EX Deoxys set is a rare Pokemon card that’s mostly just mythical pull from a standard set. During this expansion, Pokemon with a Gold Star in your deck, making them just as powerful as they are gorgeous with unique colors and art exiting the frame.
Costs can vary massively, but spaces like Troll and Toad price the card at just under $4500. It simply combines all the great aspects of a standard card in the perfect combination, and the rarity of it in packs of this small expansion set make it one of the most valuable original Gen 3 cards, and one of the first major shiny cards to hit record prices before other shinies would catch up.
24 Tropical Mega Battle: $10,000
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, an annual Pokemon Trading Card Game tournament was held in Honolulu, Hawaii. At this 1999 event, just 12 of these Tropical Mega Battle cards were produced to be distributed to some of the lucky 50 players who attended the event, meaning the remaining number of mint copies is especially low all these years later.
Showing a Psyduck having a nap in a hammock on a tropical island, this legendary Trainer Card sells for a whole lot of cash thanks to its rarity. In fact, according to the Telegraph, a mint-condition version of the card once sold for $10,000, making it a prime example of how valuable Pokemon TCG prize cards can eventually be.
23 Ancient Mew: $25
While Ancient Mew is absolutely not the most expensive rare card you’re going to see in this list, it’s perhaps one of the most well-known rare cards that helps explain why certain Pokemon cards are considered rare and given high price tags. This was released to viewers of the first Pokemon movie, and while it isn’t playable in any legal tournament, its art and hieroglyphic style make it an absolutely gorgeous addition to a Pokemon card collection.
Since few of these were properly preserved, many sites like TCGPlayer will sell heavily-played versions of the card for the simple price of around $25. That being said, eBay listing compilation sites like Mavin.io show that sealed and better-preserved versions can sell for potentially over $60 and $100, so it’s hardly worthless by the standards of most Pokemon cards.
22 Holographic Shadowless Charizard: $500,000
There are a lot of factors that make the Holographic Shadowless First Edition Charizard card worth so much compared to any other Charizard card. Firstly, it’s a first edition version of the undoubtedly most popular Kanto starter, which already makes it extra valuable to most pokemon fans. Alongside this, the card is also shadowless, which essentially means the card lacks a shadow between the box containing the image of the Pokemon, and the rest of the card.
This “Shadowless” effect is not a misprint or a mistake. It’s actually the original Pokemon card design, as the foiling process has changed and provided a different look to modern holographic and foil cards. These Charizard cards have become one of the prime reasons for the Pokemon Card trend of the past two years, with YouTuber Logan Paul opening one as recently as February 2021 that was estimated by auction site owner Ken Goldin to sell for upwards of $500,000.
21 Holographic Shadowless Venusaur: $3260
Just like its Kanto starter counterpart Charizard, Venusaur’s Shadowless, holographic, first edition version is a coveted card among Pokemon fans. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of Charizard’s $500,000, but Venusaur always was slightly less popular compared to the other Kanto starters anyway.
Nonetheless, these cards were rare even in their original late-1990s heyday, so you can imagine how sought-after they are now. Buying one through Troll and Toad right now can cost you as little $390, but the compilation site Pokemon Prices has records of them selling up to $3260.
20 Holographic Shadowless Blastoise: $2475
Out of the three final-evolution Kanto starters, it’s Blastoise who has the least valuable Shadowless holographic card, reaching heights of $2475 on Pokemon Prices. We say “least valuable”, but that’s still a lot of money for just the one card, and it’s hardly far behind its sibling Venusaur.
That’s if Blastoise is still in mint condition, of course, which is a big ask considering these cards are over 20 years old. Carrying the powerful Water-type move Hydro Pump, this version of Blastoise was a pretty impressive card to carry in your deck back in the day, but at this point it’s still a solid collectible card.
19 Pokemon Players’ Club Shiny Umbreon: $1900
If you’ve got a soft spot for the blue and black shiny version of the Dark-type Pokemon Umbreon, then be aware that you’re not the only one. The Japanese version of the Shining Umbreon Pokemon card is pretty highly desired, with its unique coloring and gorgeous frame-piercing artwork making it fittingly beautiful as one of the first shiny Pokemon to appear on a card.
However, its price is so high because of much more than just its looks and popularity. The Shining Umbreon card only saw a very limited release through the Japanese Pokemon Players’ Club for hitting the maximum number of experience points through the club between 2005 and 2006, making it one of the rarest cards out there. For this reason, Troll and Toad has had it listed at just near and impressive $1900.
18 Pokemon Player’s Club Shiny Espeon: $2000
If you ever wanted proof about how much a Pokemon card’s price can change just because of the Pokemon on it, you need to look further than the Pokemon Player’s Club Shiny Espeon. This card is almost identical in story to the Umbreon card you saw just a moment ago, but required only 40,000 experience points instead of 70,000.
Despite being more available, Troll and Toad has this card for a slightly higher price of just under $2000. This is likely because Espeon’s shiny form is more noticeable than Umbreon’s, since the bright neon-green fur is a lot more distinctive and Espeon has its own unique degree of popularity.
17 Shining Charizard: $2000
Again, Shining Charizard owes its hefty price tag not just due to the Pokemon in question’s general fame and popularity in its glamorous shiny form, but due to the card being a pretty exclusive and hard-to-open one. The very first version of Shining Charizard was part of the Neo Destiny set, which wasn’t as mass-produced as other sets and one of the first elusive sets past the first expansions.
As a result, only the luckiest and most dedicated of card collectors that managed to grab this shining beast. It’s a pretty hefty price tag in the current Pokemon card, selling right now through Troll and Toad at $2000, despite being arguably easier to find than shiny event cards like the Pokemon Player’s Club Umbreon and Espeon cards.
16 Holographic Shadowless Mewtwo: $20,000
While the other Kanto starters don’t come close to Charizard in the realm of First Edition cards, it’s hard to ignore the second-place winner off of its fame in the series. Most Pokemon fans are plenty aware of Mewtwo from the original Pokemon movie, and as a result cards featuring the character will often go for record-high prices in any set.
Much like the First Edition Charizard mentioned earlier, Mewtwo has its own Holographic and Shadowless version that PSA Collector has seen sold for at least $20,000, putting it far above Venusaur and Blastoise but still far below everyone’s favorite Fire-type tyrant of the skies.
15 Misprinted Fossil Krabby: $2200
Yes, you read that right. Krabby is the star of one of the rarest Pokemon cards of all. By all accounts, this crab-based Water-type isn’t exactly a battling superstar. The fact that one version of its Pokemon card is so rare is a bit of a fluke, as its price comes down to a relatively simple misprint of the card.
The difference between these multiple miscuts and a normal card is that part of a fossil symbol to the bottom-left of its art is missing. This seemingly minor difference has driven up the price of these cards immensely, and despite going for under two dollars in its normal state, Pokemon Prices has the card record of a misprint selling for over $2200 dollars.
14 Master’s Key: $21,000
The Master Key is another prize card that’s seriously sought after in Pokemon card collector circles. This card was only produced in Japan, and had a very limited release: only 34 actually exist. The Master Key card was handed to those competitive Pokemon players who managed to reach high ranks in the 2010 Japanese World Championship, meaning no new copies can ever come into the market.
Collector site CardMavin estimates that this card would be worth around $21,000, but few tend to be sold since there are so few in existence. Nonetheless, if one were to be sold recently, it’s sure to hit a fairly incredible price, particularly if it’s still in one of the spectacular cases they were given out in.
13 Parent-And-Child Event Kangaskhan: $100,000
A common trend you’ll find with most of the rarest Pokemon cards is that they often come as part of unique events that happened only once, only being circulated in a single country or event. While these weren’t seen as major deals at the time, mostly being prizes and free giveaways, they’ve held an alarming value since they’ve never had a later reprint.
This has never been true of the Parent-And-Child Kangaskhan, a holo foil card with unique art that only appeared as prizes for a fittingly adorable team tournament in 1998 where young children would play with a parent against other child-parent teams. Its fabulous first-edition frame and amazing original art has resulted in sales listed on PSA Card ranging from $50,000 to an incredible $150,000 with high enough quality.
12 Prototype Blastoise: $360,000
The regular first edition Blastoise might not have been a huge moneymaker, but an alternate edition that was made before the Pokemon TCG’s release has just recently been discovered and has hit some great records. This would be the Prototype Blasotise, which was made as a test by the game’s developer Wizards Of The Coast to show what Pokemon Cards would look like.
The result is a card that was sold for $360,00o, making it one of the highest-selling cards in the history of the game. The signature trait of this card is its fonts, which are far stranger and more variant than the consistent style of modern and even most classic cards.
11 Pokemon Snap Trainer Magazine Pikachu: $900
If you were a Pokemon fan back in the days of the Nintendo 64 console, you might just remember the classic spin-off game Pokemon Snap. The object of this Pokemon spin-off was to snap creative in-game photos of various creatures, and there were several tie-in cards in Japan’s Pokemon Trainer Magazine to help increase the hype among fans to try this new game.
This card was a Pikachu card with the model from Pokemon Snap as the art, making for a relatively hilarious-looking card that only could be found within this magazine in 1999. Miyabihobby has a record of an unopened magazine being sold for 100,000, or about $900 USD, but PSA Card has records of auctions ranging between $300 and $1000 for perfect condition grades.
10 Southern Islands Reverse Holo Mew: $200
When the second Pokemon movie was released in Japan, the makers of the Trading Card Game decided to release a special edition set of cards to mark this occasion. The Southern Islands card series was born, featuring just two sets of nine cards apiece that were unique to any other set in the game.
Full sets of these cards can sell for a lot, but the absolute highest value is undoubtedly the Southern Islands Mew, which has a rare reverse foil treatment where the frame around the art is the only part that’s shiny. Troll and Toad is currently selling copies for just over $200 right now, making it even more valuable than the elusive and stylish Ancient Mew mentioned earlier.
9 Tamamushi University Magikarp: $50,000
The Tamamushi University Magikarp card is so rare that despite the fact that it depicts a frankly awful Pokemon, it’s worth ridiculous sums of money. Why the high price? Well, the University Magikarp was a promotional card that saw very limited distribution at a Japanese tournament in the late 1990s.
In total, 1000 of the cards were produced but far fewer were actually awarded and many were just stowed away forever. Barely any of these rare Magikarp cards are still in circulation today, and it’s incredibly rare to see new ones show up. At the moment, PSA Card’s Price Guide chart lists perfectly-preserved cards to have sold for around $50,000, while copies with NM-MT 8 ratings still sell for amazing heights of $12,000.
8 Holographic First Edition Machamp: $6000
The Kanto starters and legendaries aren’t the only original Pokemon to boast high-value shadowless holographic cards. Nearly any holographic first edition rare card from the original set can grow immensely in price compared to other rare Pokemon cards, but since they aren’t as actively hunted, their prices can vary far more wildly based on their quality.
Machamp is one of these. According to PSA Card’s range of auction prices based on the card’s quality classification, perfect mint condition Machamps of this kind can land between $800 and $6000, while dropping just one rating down will result in prices around $200 and $900. This card in particular truly proves how important it is to keep your trading cards safe through the years, as you never know just what will become valuable twenty years later.
7 The Masked Royal Prize Promo: $18,000
This is undoubtedly one of the most recent rare cards, featuring the Masked Royal character from Pokemon Sun & Moon and released as recently as 2017. This is essentially a promotional card that was given out to players in an invitation-only prerelease in Tokyo for the new Shining Legends set, where only 100 copies were made.
Even though this is a relatively normal card by most standards, this short print run means it’s incredibly hard to get, especially since it was handed out in such a restrictive event. As a result, there are actually preserved tweets of players first opening it in places like Pokeboon, while Japanese trading sites like Miyabi Hobby have past listings of the card at ¥2,000,000, which currently is equal to around $18,000 USD.
6 Shiny Secret Rare Charizard V: $500
If you want to get into Pokemon pack opening, but don’t want to shell out for the older packs, there are tons of new cards with similarly record-setting prices that have come out in just the past two years. One of the recent premium TCG sets in the game was Champion’s Path, and certain cards in it were especially rare since you could only get packs through special products like Elite Trainer Boxes and Pin Collector packs.
The absolute highest value cards in this set are both Charizards, one being a rainbow foil V-Max card and the other being a shiny Charizard V with black scales. Both quickly reached prices around $500, and sites like TCGPlayer still remain at the same $500 price tag.
5 Holographic Shadowless First Edition Chansey: $1100
This is the final Shadowless holographic rare card we’ve got for you. As has already been mentioned, these first edition holographic cards are especially hard to find thanks to their rarity, and their legacy as some of the first cards ever printed in the game. Starters will always be the highest valued, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some unexpectedly valuable cards of other rare Gen 1 Pokemon too.
The version of this card type that depicts Chansey, a pretty rare Normal-type Pokemon, can be found on selling outlets like Troll and Toad for nearly $1100. In the Pokemon games, Chansey is known for its ability to heal itself and other Pokemon. However, even this supportive companion can’t heal your bank balance after you’ve splurged on one of these cards.
4 Trade Please!: $858
If you think this card might be some kind of a prank, you wouldn’t be wrong given its extremely bizarre artwork. This was part of a campaign in Japan during 1998, where kids were encouraged to mail a flyer with copies of a music album on CD called Trade Please! to get a Kanto starter card, alongside this absolutely bizarre Trainer card with a picture that looks straight out of MS Paint.
The starter Pokemon that came with are also quite rare and valuable cards, but sites like PSA Card show that the original Trade Please card can reach prices as high as $858 if it’s been preserved at a high enough quality. This card actually did get a reprint just a few years ago for a similar event in Japan during Pokemon’s 20th Anniversary, but these ones were printed in much higher amounts and aren’t nearly as high-value.
3 Pokemon Illustrator: $250,000
While many of the cards listed are related to game events and easier to track, perhaps the rarest Pokemon card to ever be sold is the Pokemon Illustrator trainer card. This is hardly a legal card in the game, instead resembling a Trainer support card and being given out as a trophy to winners of an illustration contest at Japan’s CoroCoro convention in 1998.
This makes it perhaps the most elusive trophy card in the history of the game, and its value is heightened further by original Pikachu artist Atsuko Nishada’s spectacular artwork. As was recently sold for a record height last year on Zenplus at $250,000, but as time goes on this is only going to grow higher.
2 Pokemon Art Academy Pikachu: $1000
Before getting to the rarest card known to Pokemon card collectors, it’s worth mentioning one sequel to the Pokemon Illustrator card that came out in 2015. This would be the Pokemon Art Academy Competition Pikachus, cards with multiple adorable Pikachus doing various artistic activities that were given out as a prize for a tie-in contest for Pokemon Art Academy on the Nintendo 3DS.
It’s not anywhere as expensive as the original Pokemon Illustrator card since the Art Academy Pikachu is much newer and printed in higher quantities, but PSA Card has records of eBay listings that range as low as $400 and as high as $1000, making it a similarly valuable art contest card that could likely grow in value just as much as its predecessor.
1 Pre-Release Raichu: $10,000
As mentioned before, the Pokemon Illustrator card is likely the most valuable Pokemon card to ever be sold, but selling for a large amount of money doesn’t make it the rarest card in the game. Instead, that likely goes to the pre-release Raichu, a first generation card that’s more myth than reality as it was given out to close friends of those working for Wizards of the Coast when the Pokemon TCG was first released.
As far as anyone is aware, this card has never seen the light of day, and at time of writing a legitimate version of the card has never been auctioned. That being said, its marking of an early card by the “Prerelease” text over the art leads many collectors to speculate it could reach record-high prices, with a Yahoo Finance slideshow from 2013 speculating it could reach around $10,000.
Next: The 10 Weirdest Looking Pokemon Trading Cards, Ranked
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