Is there anything more nostalgic than collecting Pokémon cards? For many of us that grew up in the Nineties, it was one of the most important things in our lives to impress our friends with our collections.
Related: Top 8 Charizard Pokemon Cards
The hobby had started to lose popularity amongst kids for a short period but the 2016 release of Pokémon Go catapulted the hobby back to the forefront of the public eye and since then it has continued to gather pace and maybe even surpass the heights it hit in the 2000s.
Most Expensive Pokemon Cards
According to some estimates there nearly 7,000 different cards in Japanese and over 9,000 in English giving a staggering combined total of 16,000. This means two things, the first is that there are plenty to collect for everyone, no matter what their budgets are and two that the old line ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ would be a very big achievement indeed.
Watch “Stacks of Pristine Charizard Pokemon Cards” on Pawn Stars (GREAT WATCH!)
We set out some of the rarest and most valuable cards below, some of which you would have to be a very lucky person to get your hands.
No. 1 Trainer (buy on eBay)
This is literally the Super Bowl of Pokémon cards. There have been multiple iterations of this card with the earliest from 1997 being awarded to the winners of the qualifying rounds of the Japanese Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament. It was then awarded to the champions of various official regional Japanese championships before in 2004 it exclusively became the card that was awarded only to those who were crowned World Champion.
There are 6 versions of this card, the first of which featured Pikachu holding a trophy aloft on a golden background. The card featured Japanese writing on the bottom and at the top was the word ‘Trainer’ highlighted in gold.
The design remained similar albeit with different images for the next 3 iterations until the World Championship cards were released. These feature the English words ‘If you won this card at the 2005 Pokémon Trading Card Game World Championships, you may return to battle the best in 2006. CONGRATULATIONS!’ and both the 2004 and 2014 reprints again feature Pikachu holding a gold trophy.
As you can imagine these cards very scarcely surface on the market, and in August a certificate from a 2002 regional tournament sold on eBay for a staggering, $2,500 without even including a card. At the time of writing, there is a current listing of on eBay for a PSA 8 graded 1997 edition remake card that has already received 70 bids and is at $2,600 with 6 whole days remaining.
1999 First Edition Shadowless Holographic Charizard #4 (buy on eBay)
If the No. 1 Trainer is the Super Bowl, the 1999 Holographic Charizard is your MVP. The 1999 set is known as the ‘set that started it all’ and the holographic parallels were rare inserts in packets.
Most expensive Charizard Card: 1999 First Edition Shadowless Holographic Charizard #4
The card features the dual Fire/Flying-type Flame Pokémon Charizard in all of his splendid golden glory on the front with a golden orange background. There is all the usual detailed characteristics you would expect to find on a Pokémon card with its power listed as ‘Energy Burn’ and its HP an impressive 120.
Outside of the most inaccessible No. 1 Trainer card, this is probably the most desirable Pokémon card out there. At the time of its release, it was by far the most powerful Pokémon, with the highest HP of any card and one of the best attacks. Couple this with the fact it is just damn right cool, and you have a serious card on your hands.
Most Popular Pokemon Cards on eBay
Shining Charizard (buy on eBay)
Evolutions Holo Charizard (buy on eBay)
Pokemon Base Set Unlimited (buy on eBay)
The value of this card has soared almost uncontrollably in recent years. Gem mint 10 cards do not crop up often, and PSA has only ever graded 120 in this condition, but the last one to show up at auction sold for an astounding $36,000 in 2019. It does not get much cheaper from there either with 9 graded cards worth about $20,000 or even cards rated at 1.5 by PSA setting you back nearly $3,000. You have to be a serious collector to invest in one of these pieces of Pokémon history (Must Read: History of Pokemon).
20th Anniversary 24-Karat Gold Pikachu (buy on eBay)
Yeah, that’s right, Pokémon cards are so popular worldwide that for the 20th anniversary in 2016 Nintendo teamed up with Japanese jewelry maker Ginza Tanakaha to produce a Pikachu card made out of actual 24-Karat gold.
The card is a replica of the original Pikachu card which is a nice touch and as you would expect comes framed with a protective box, both of which look very classy and high end. Rather unsurprisingly the card can not be used in tournament play, so it would be a purely ornamental purchase.
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Nintendo originally sold the cards at 216,000 Japanese Yen which works out at about $2000, which when you consider that it genuinely contains 11 grams of solid gold and will undoubtedly go on to become a piece of history isn’t too bad of a deal.
Nintendo has not disclosed the number of these that were made but the consensus is that it’s less than 100. They were only on sale for a short a while and have hardly cropped up since so you can guarantee that it was not many. In 2019 a card sold at auction for $9000 an incredible 4.5 times increase in value over a period of just 3 years.
2020 Shiny Charizard V Champions Path Secret Rare #79 (buy on eBay)
Charizard is always one of the first cards people look for when there is a new set of Pokémon cards released and this year was no different. This particular card features a silver Charizard looking as mean as ever with its wings spread wide and the red underside clearly visible. The tip of his tail is a small flame, and it is all set on a sparkly silver background with golden stars shining brightly overlayed. The black writing rounds of the card very well.
There have already been plenty of mint condition copies sold on eBay already with a few usually listed at any one time. A PSA 10 copy has already previously sold for $2300 and 9 graded copies are selling for just under $1000 with ungraded copies being picked up for around $500.
All you need to do is look at previous Charizard card values both older and more modern to see that this could be a very shrewd investment if you act quickly.
1998 Pikachu Illustrator Hologram (buy on eBay)
This card is a trophy card that was handed out to winners of the CoroCoro Comic Illustration contest that took place in 1998. It is, without doubt, the most sought-after trophy card of any that was ever awarded the possible exception of the World Championship No.1 Trainer card.
It is of a very similar design to the No.1 Trainer card with the picture on the front featuring Pikachu but this time holding a feather pen instead of a trophy. The word on the top highlighted in gold is ‘Illustrator’ instead of ‘Trainer’
It is estimated that somewhere between 20 and 39 was printed and awarded in 1998 making them an extremely rare find. Not one single card has ever been graded as 10 by PSA, but 9 graded cards do crop up now and again. When they are found they are understandably not cheap, selling for $50,000 on almost all occasions and one selling for over $60,000. It is highly unlikely that one will now ever show up in gem mint 10 condition but if against the odds it does expect it to break all kinds of records at auction.
1999 Wizards Rare Squirtle 1st Edition #63 (buy on eBay)
Squirtle is amongst everyone’s top 5 when you ask them who their favorite Pokémon is due to its cute nature (and for me close resemblance to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) so it is no surprise that this first edition card is very popular.
“The card itself features a classic first edition design, with all the standard information on it. Squirtle is stood on a pile of purple bubbles, blowing more bubbles out of its mouth.”
The HP for this version of Squirtle is listed as 40 whilst the special power is unsurprisingly bubbles. The card is not particularly rare considering it so old which brings the value down slightly with PSA grading over 600 cards in both gem mint 10 and mint 9 conditions.
However, this is another card that has seen an unprecedented rise in value in recent years, so much so that it seems PSA cannot keep up. PSA list the price guide as $150 but almost every gem mint 10 cards sold at auction last year brought in over $2000 with some going as high as $3600.
2010 Masters Key Hologram #068 (buy on eBay)
Another prize card to make the list is a more modern winner having been awarded to the finalists of all age groups at the 2010 World Championships in Japan.
The card itself has a great feel to it, with the picture featuring a precious stone studded key surrounded by an aurora of color on what looks like a deep-space inspired background. The border is a sparkly gold that fades into silver. The bottom half of the card features Japanese writing whilst across the top is the word ‘Goods’ in English.
There were just 34 of these handed out 10 years ago so they are extremely rare.
As with most modern prize cards they are kept very carefully by their winners so when they crop up, they are usually in top condition, so the value is sky-high. This particular card is valued at around $15000 and has previously sold for just over $21000.
1998 Kangaskhan-Holo Family Event Trophy Card (buy on eBay)
This is another trophy card and is one of the cards that make headlines throughout the world whenever a copy is put up for sale. It was awarded at a family event in Japan in 1998 to parent and child teams that managed to win 6 or more rounds. In keeping with this, it features Kangaskhan who is a kangaroo-like Pokémon who is holding a child in its pouch.
It is a very nice looking card with the illustration being boxed off at the top by a gold border, and the main background being silver. The outer border is the same gold color as the illustration border which gives it a nice consistency.
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It is estimated that somewhere just above 100 were awarded at the tournament, but they are extremely rare to find and for one reason or another not that many at all have surfaced. There have only been 3 recorded auctions of the card with 2 near mint 7 graded copies selling for an average of about $30,000 and a 6.5 graded card selling for a comparatively reasonable $7000 in 2019.
If a gem mint 10 card ever finds its way to the market you can expect to easily sell for upwards of $100,000.
Most Expensive Pokemon Card: Buyers Guide and Investment Outlook
Investment Rating: Buy (4.1 out of 5)
Best Pokemon Card: No. 1 Trainer
Ownership Disclosure: None
If there is one thing for certain is that Pokémon is here to stay. It is now almost a quarter of a century since the first trading cards were introduced and they are increasingly popular in every single part of the world. The recently shown ability to adapt to and thrive in the modern digital age is only going to add to the value of the classic cards in years to come.
The cards on this list are all extremely rare and sought after and that will not change any time soon. Although most of them are out of price range for most people there are also hundreds of cards at least that have value that will increase over the coming years making Pokémon trading cards a very good investment prospect!