Like every other kid growing up in the late 90s, I was an avid collector of Pokemon cards. Trading, battling, and trash-talking, it was all in a school day’s work! Of course, along the way I picked up a few gems here and there, which I put in protective sleeves and a three-ring binder. It fit right in with my math folders and history binder.
Today, that binder is empty and the sleeved pages only pop up in the bottom of a draw or in the back of a cluttered closet. Does this sound familiar? If it does, I suggest you start digging around yourself, because in case you didn’t know, some of those cards may be worth more than a pretty penny now!
In this post, I’ll be briefly highlighting and reviewing some of the top 10 rarest Pokemon cards in existence. Each of the cards listed may vary in price/value depending on where they’re being sold and the condition they are in. You’ll hear me say this a countless number of times throughout this post, but just be aware that if you do possess one of these cards you may have to dig a little deeper to get the most accurate estimate of their true worth!
10. Pikachu Misprint Card
Image from trollandtoad.com
I know I have this card somewhere, but I just can't find it. So funny, it's one of those cards I saw a hundred times but never had any use for back when I was battling and trading in school. If I knew then what I know now, I would've kept it sleeved up in a safe. I'll let you know if I find it! Pokemon cards with errors have become especially rare these days and this Pikachu Error card is among the rarest and most sought-after among collectors for just that reason.
I mean, this particular card doesn’t really have any special features at first glance. In fact, I always thought it was one of the most dull-looking in my collection. So, you can imagine my surprise when I came to learn that this card is worth simply because they misprinted (or ghost printed) the ‘1st edition’ stamp in the corner.
Certain prints of this card even feature an E3 emblem in the other bottom corner (yes, E3 was around back then), that was used as a promo for the event. This only added to the rarity and value of the card, which can be anywhere from $500 to $1,000, according to what I’ve seen on various sites.
9. First Edition Shadowless Holographic Blastoise
The general rule is: If it’s a first edition shadowless card, you may have something. But if it’s the first edition shadowless holo Blastoise, you’ve definitely got something! What makes this card so special is the fact that it was actually a part of the original standard set that was first released to players in the late 90s. (You’ll see me refer to the late 90s a lot in this post, so I’ll just let it be known now, that when I say the late 90s I’m referring to 1998 -1999.)
So, if you were actively buying card packs or begging your parents to buy them (like I was) every time they went out and you happened to obtain this card, you could be sitting on at least $10,000. Imagine, what you bought for a few bucks 20 years ago is now worth $10K at auction, depending on the condition it’s in. Trust me, minor rips and nicks make all the difference in this game.
8. Espeon Goldstar
Image from aminoapps.com
Goldstar cards are generally rare in their own regard, but if asked which specific Goldstar card was the rarest of the bunch, it would have to be Espeon. First released in 2005 as part of the Series 5 pack, Espeon has gained popularity and value simply due to the fact that it was exclusively distributed by the Pokemon Players Club. And the only way you could obtain this specific Goldstar card was if you fulfilled a specific set of criteria at various events sponsored by Pokemon alone.
If you were lucky enough to meet the criteria set at these Pokemon events and scored an Espeon Goldstar card in return, you certainly have a nice chunk of change in your collection now. Depending on its condition, your Espeon Goldstar can be worth anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000. Not too shabby.
7. Magikarp Tamamushi University Promo Card
Image from bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net
University is actually the perfect name for this card because, in order to have obtained back in the day, you actually had to jump through quite a few hoops that would test your Poke-knowledge. After passing a series of assessments, players were invited to play in a tournament that was held in Osaka Japan in the summer of 1998. The tournament lasted 48 hours and really tested the battle skills of the players who were there. However, it would certainly be worth it, given the prize.
Those who were able to survive and make it to the winner’s circle were awarded the Magikarp Tamamushi promo card, which was new and actually pretty rare, even for the time. Since the first original printing of this card was only given to the winners of that specific tournament (and there’s only about 75 or so floating around), it’s easy to see why the Magikarp Tamamushi promo card is worth anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 today.
6. Prerelease Raichu
Image from bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net
This card has been dubbed a happy accident by most players and collectors in the Pokemon community, especially those who worked for Wizards of the Coast back in the day. In fact, WOTC denied that this card even existed until a staff member spilled the beans by releasing it back in 2006. That means this card was kept under wraps for nearly a decade. Why? Well, it seems that this would be another case of misprinting because certain prints of the card were accidentally given the pre-release mark. So, WOTC gave these extra misprinted cards to their employees as a memento of the screw-up.
All I can say is that this card is super-rare. It’s so rare in fact that it’s actually difficult to put a value or dollar estimate on it. The exact count seems to fluctuate from site to site, but I can say that there are only about a dozen or so of these cards out there and if it seems that the most realistic value of this card is around $15,000 to $25,000 +.
5. Tropical Wind
Image from Pokemonprices.com
There are only about 10 or so of these trainer cards floating around and there aren’t many copies either, which is why it makes my list. First released as a prize back in 1999 at the Tropical Mega Battle world championship tournament, the Tropical Wind card is an ultra-rare find that features some cute, colorful art. It shows Psyduck and a few other familiar Pokemon relaxing in a hammock against a tropical backdrop. I guess Pokemon need vacations, too!
Because this card was awarded as a prize and there are so few in existence, the $20k - $30k value seems well-justified. So, if this card rings a bell (it’s not exactly easy to forget) I would strongly recommend that you start looking for it and hope that it’s still in clean condition. There could be a sweet payday coming your way if you find it!
4. Master Key Prize Card
Image from bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net
The Master Key Prize card is not just known for its rarity, value or capability, but for its stunning design/presentation as well. This particular card was actually given to all the players who participated in the 2010 Japanese TCG World-Championship held in Hawaii. Printed in Japanese with a nice, colorful finish, the Master Key Prize card is known to only have 36 (authentic) in circulation. Why 36? Because a total of 36 players participated in the 2010 Championship and there was one card printed for every player. So if you were there, you automatically awarded this card just for showing up. Not bad, considering what they’re estimated to be worth 10 years later.
Numerous listings for this particular card have popped up on multiple sales sites over the years. There are even a few listings that are asking $40k+ for the card. However, it seems that $25k is the more common price/value of this card in the Pokemon community today. As I've said (and will probably say again) these cards and their value can only appreciate as time goes by, just like everything else.
3. Holographic Shadowless First Edition Charizard
Image from Etsy.com
This may sound familiar to some of you. I actually had a Charizard just like this in my collection and when I found out how much they were going for on the market today, I shot up and immediately went digging under my bed (then the attic and the shed). And once I found it...I realized that it was not a shadowless first edition. Oh well, maybe one day it won’t matter.
The first edition Holographic Shadowless Charizard card is probably one of the most common, yet sought after cards in the Pokemon community. That’s why this card has been estimated to be worth anywhere from $35k - $50K today. Of course, this all depends on the condition, but it’s fair to say that if you have this card, you’re going to see some serious money from it.
2. Trophy Pikachu
Image from Pinterest.com
Estimated to value anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000, this Pikachu Trainer card is one of the cutest and rarest Pokemon cards out there. This card was actually awarded to those players who were victorious in the Japanese Pokemon TCG World Championship that took place back in the late 90s. And that’s why this card is only printed in Japanese, which ultimately adds to its value. In fact, the Pikachu Trainer was actually one of the first trophy cards to be released.
Now, there are quite a few copies of this card flowing around the market today, some of which have been priced as high as nearly $400,000. Yes, you read that correctly. So, why isn’t this card in the #1 spot? Well, while it’s not impossible for this card to reach that value/price in the future, I wanted to focus on the more realistic value that’s been established in today’s market. But, just like a good wine, this card will mature and appreciate as time goes by. And who knows, perhaps one day it will be at the top of every list...even mine.
1. Pikachu Illustrator
Image from bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net
Okay, let me just say straight away that if you have this card in your possession, you are sitting on a 2.5” x 3.5” inch gold mine! This has even been dubbed the holy grail of Pokemon cards. No joke. Why is it so rare? Back in the late 90s, Pokemon began their Pokémon Card Game Illust Artist Contest (aka the CoroCoro Comic Illustration Contest), which invited players and artists alike to compete for a published spot in a CoroCoro Comic. But that wasn’t all that the winner would receive.
Additionally, the winning artist(s) received a Pikachu Illustrator card, which was brand new at the time. What makes this card so rare is the fact there are only 20 copies (that we know about) in circulation. And that’s why this card can be worth anywhere from $150K - $200K+. I agree that $50,000 is a wide gap, but once again, this estimate strongly depends on the condition of the card itself and whether or not it was sold at auction.
That just about covers the top 10 rarest Pokemon cards. Of course, there are more out there, but these particular cards really caught my interest because of the story behind them and the fact that I even owned a couple, which I still have to find. So, you know what I’ll be doing this weekend!
What did you think of the cards listed? Do you own any of these? If so, I want 10% as a finders fee. JUST KIDDING! Let me know if you find any of these gems in your collection. Also, keep me in the loop if you happen to find different estimates/values for the cards I listed and which ones you think should have made the list.
Until we meet again,
Vince the Prince