Whether it’s a movie, anime, or video game, Pokémon is always one of the most popular franchises in the world. So popular that it has become the most valuable intellectual property ever. A decent part of Pokémon’s success is thanks to the trading card game that started shortly after Pokémon Red and Blue’s launch.
As with most collectible items, Pokémon cards have their dedicated fan base, which can often lead to some eye-popping prices. If you have any of the following cards in your collection, look into banking in on them. For the rest of us, we can look at this list of the most expensive Pokémon cards.
Related: The 10 most valuable starter Pokémon cards
The most highly valued Pokémon cards of all time
Honorable mention: Pre-release Raichu
Sold for: ???
This card could easily be considered the number one entry on this because of the fact there is no price for it. There are at most 10 prerelease Raichu cards in existence, with no real idea of what condition they are in. The cards are kind of a myth with no concrete evidence they even exist. The story behind them is they were accidentally printed by the then-distributor of the Pokémon TCG, Wizards of the Coast, and given to a select few employees.
Supposedly, the way to tell this card apart from any other Raichu card is the “PRERELEASE” printed in the bottom right of the monster’s image, but none of the cards have ever been put up for sale and Wizards of the Coast denies their existence. Reportedly, a staff member revealed an image of the card in 2006, but some question its authenticity. If you look online, some websites value it at $10,000. Still, given the small amount available and how some call it the “holy grail” of collectible cards, we wouldn’t say there is a real value you can put on this card until it is put up for sale and legitimately purchased.
Honorable mention: Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind
Sold for: $65,100
As you will see in a couple of other instances on this list, cards that were given to finalists at certain tournaments as trophies garner quite a bit of value years down the road. This one was given to 12 finalists of a 50-person tournament held in Hawaii.
Honorable Mention: Tamamushi University Magikarp
Sold for: $66,100
Anyone who knows about Pokémon knows about the most useless monster, Magikarp. Usually, the only move it knows is “Splash,” which sees it flail around and do nothing. Having it in your party is essentially a handicap until you evolve it into Gyarados, so seeing a card with the art of one shooting out a powerful beam of energy is unique and interesting. This special Magikarp card was a promotional card that saw minimal distribution at a Japanese tournament in the late 1990s. Participants could only get in by completing a particular test in a magazine. There are at most 100 of these cards left in the wild.
10. Umbreon Gold Star Holo
Sold for: $70,000
Umbreon is a fan-favorite Eeveelution, stealing the hearts of many fans when it was introduced in Gen 2. And this has remained true seeing as many Pokemon cards featuring Umbreon tend to sell for high values. Most recently, Umbreon stole the show in the Evolving Skies expansion with incredible alt art.
However, in 2021, the dark dog stole the show with a different card. Just barely making it into the top 10, a 2005 Gold Star Umbreon holo sold for $70,000 at auction.
9. 1999 Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer
Sold for: $90,000
As you might guess from its name, this card had a whole secretive flair to it. Contestants first had to win regional tournaments and then those people were directed to a secret location where the finals were held. This card was what granted them access to that battle. There are presumed to be seven of these in existence, with six being given perfect 10 appraisals.
8. 2006 World Championships No. 2 Trainer
Sold for: $110,100
This card was given to contestants of the Pokémon World Championship in Anaheim, California in 2006 and is one of the rarest cards ever, with only three known to be in existence. Only one of those three has been seen in public and graded, selling for over $110,000. The three people who earned this card were finalists in that tournament and were given instant access to the following year’s World Championship.
7. Neo Genesis First Edition holographic Lugia
Sold for: $144,310
Lugia is one of the most popular legendary Pokémon of all time, but the circumstances around this run of cards are what makes it so valuable. When the first edition was being made, several errors and misprints led to this card only has an estimated 44 that are in a good enough condition to get a perfect 10 appraisal. If you have one of those greatly scored cards, you are looking at a card that will become more valuable.
6. Kangaskhan parent/child promo card
Sold for: $150,100
This card was given to winners at a parent/child team-up battle tournament in Japan 1998. If the duo won enough games, they were awarded this card with the original “Pocket Monsters Trading Card Game” logo on the back, a symbol reserved for the rare cards. Supposedly, there are 46 total of these in existence, but only three have been seen in the wild since 1998.
5. Black Star Ishihara signed GX promo card
Sold for: $247,230
Tsunekazu Ishihara is the Founder and current president of the Pokémon Company. To help celebrate his 60th birthday in 2017, this card was made and given to staff, but Ishihara signed this particular card.
It features a Master Ball and Rotom while showing the president wearing a red jacket, a Japanese tradition for someone’s 60th birthday. The color red is supposed to bring luck and prosperity, ward away demons, and signify a rebirth.
4. Trophy Pikachu No. 3 Bronze Trainer
Sold for: $300,000
Stealing the number 4 spot in early 2023, the Trainer Pikachu No. 3 Bronze sold at Heritage Auction for $300,000. And like many cards on this list, its value is derived from the very limited number of copies worldwide.
This Pikachu was awarded to participants who competed in the very first Pokemon TCG tournament in 1997, making it one of the oldest cards in the franchise.
3. Backless Blastoise
Sold for: $360,000
This is a unique Blastoise card that was never meant for the public. It is “backless” because it was part of a test run of Pokémon cards made in 1998. Wizards of the Coast made these when trying to convince Nintendo to allow them to handle the English release of the trading card game.
Being a test card, there is no art printed on the backside of it, and there are only two in existence. The one that sold for $360,000 in 2021 is the only card that has been seen. The other’s whereabouts and condition are currently unknown.
2. Holographic Shadow-less First Edition Charizard
Sold for: $420,000
Since Pokémon’s inception, Charizard has been one of the most popular monsters in the series. When you were a kid, if you had a holographic Charizard card, you were a legend in the playground. Nowadays, if you have one, you could get up to $100 for it. Not too shabby. If you have one of the first edition cards with the early holographic-only error of having no drop shadow around the image border, you can get hundreds of thousands of dollars for that bad boy, but it is usually valued in the $12,000 range depending on its condition and appraisal.
1. Pokemon Illustrator
Sold for: $5,275,000
The Pokémon Illustrator card was given out to 39 contest winners in Japan in 1998, and there are expected only to be 10 left in the wild. The card features a Pikachu holding art utensils and was first sold at an auction for $55,000 in 2016. Since then, the value of the card has increased dramatically, and it is the most expensive Pokémon card that has been sold yet. Logan Paul purchased one for $5,275,000 in July 2021. There are many knockoffs in the wild (if you see it printed in English is an easy way to tell its validity), but a true illustrator card is sure to grab a small fortune.