Over the past decade or so, the value of Pokémon cards has gone through the roof. Cards that originally cost mere dollars to pick up are now worth tens, or in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars. The record for the most expensive card ever sold has been broken numerous times over the last four years alone and has more than tripled during that time. It’s gotten to the point where many of these cards are worth more than most peoples’ homes.
What makes this all so staggering is that a lot of the rarest cards today were once fairly common and were owned by children all over the world. Perhaps had they known then what we know now, they might just have taken better care of them rather than shoving them in their pockets and, heaven forbid, actually using them to play the Pokémon Trading Card game. Readers would be wise to go and check their attics after finishing this list, as they might just be sitting on a goldmine.
Updated January 14th, 2021 by Thomas Bowen: With the price of Pokémon cards continuing to rise, more and more people are digging through their old collections in the hopes of striking gold. Getting one’s hands on a high value card is only half the battle though. Due to the age of some of these rare cards, many have picked up damage over the years meaning that those wishing to maximize their profit will need to get their cards professionally graded to determine their condition.
There are numerous companies that provide this service including SGC and Becket, but the largest and most commonly used is PSA. Following a thorough inspection, the company’s team of graders will assign cards a rating out of 10 with the coveted GEM-MT 10 rating given only to cards that are in mint condition. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it’s these cards that typically sell for the highest prices.
10 World Championship Master’s Key ($21,201)
A copy of the Master’s Key sold for more than $20,000 in November 2019. Unlike most cards sold at auction, this one wasn’t graded by PSA and was instead sold in the trophy case in which it was presented. Whether or not a graded copy of the card would have fetched more remains to be seen, but, given the value, it’s perhaps understandable why the seller wasn’t too keen to crack open the trophy case and send the card off to PSA.
Master’s Key was originally handed out to contestants at the 2010 Pokémon World Championships. The event took place in Hawaii and was contested by just 36 players. As a result, the card is incredibly rare, with only nine GEM-MT 10 copies in existence.
9 Master’s Scroll ($30,100)
In late 2020, a GEM-MT 10 copy of the Japanese Master’s Scroll card sold on eBay for more than $30,000. It’s a card that was never available in packs nor was it ever made available outside of Japan. The only way to obtain it was through the Pokemon Daisuki Club in 2010.
The Pokémon Daisuki Club is the official Japanese Pokémon fan club and regularly offers limited edition cards. Members are able to accrue Action Points by completing certain tasks and can then trade them in for such cards. It’s unknown exactly how many members were able to accrue the 8,600 points needed to obtain the Master’s Scroll card, but there are only 26 GEM-MT 10 copies in existence, making it incredibly rare.
8 University Magikarp ($50,100)
University Magikarp doesn’t come up for sale too often, but when it does, it usually fetches a fairly high price. The average price for the card over recent years has been around $17,000, but the most recent sale was for considerably more. A GEM-MT 10 copy of the card was sold on eBay at the end of October 2020 for a staggering $50,100.
The card was handed out as a prize following a competition held by Tamamushi University. Participants took a series of tests and those who passed were invited to a special tournament in Osaka. Following the completion of the tournament, winners were given a copy of University Magikarp. According to a magazine advertisement promoting the competition, 1,000 copies of the card were printed, but only 68 have been graded by PSA.
7 Tropical Mega Battle – No. 2 Trainer ($60,000)
Showing one of these special trainer cards is supposed to allow players special treatment at official Pokémon events, but it’s unlikely that this is the reason that they’re so highly sought after. A PSA Authentic copy of the card sold for $60,000 in 2019 on eBay. This might seem like a lot, but it’s likely only a fraction of what a GEM-MT 10 copy of the card would sell for.
Trainer No.2 was one of eight limited edition cards given to attendees of the Tropical Mega Battle, an annual event that took place at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu between 1999 and 2001. There are only 5 copies of the card registered with PSA and only two of those are in mint condition making this one of the rarest cards ever printed.
6 Tropical Mega Battle – Tropical Wind ($65,100)
A mint condition copy of Tropical Wind sold on eBay in October 2020 for an eye-watering $65,100. What’s more astonishing is that Tropical Wind is by far the most common of the Tropical Mega Battle set. Due to how rare mint condition copies of some of the other cards are though, they hardly ever go up for sale.
Tropical Wind is another one of the eight cards handed out at the Tropical Mega Battle event. There are only two GEM-MT 10 copies of the card in existence, with most of the cards appraised by PSA being rated 8 or 9. That said, even these are worth a pretty penny.
5 No.1 Trainer ($90,000)
Considered by some to be the rarest Pokémon card in existence, a copy of the No.1 Trainer card sold at auction for $90,000 in July of 2020. Given its supposed rarity, it’s perhaps a little surprising that it didn’t sell for more, but $90,000 is still a decent return for a card that was given out for free.
The card was awarded to each of the seven regional champions at the 1999 Pokémon World Championships in Tokyo with an additional card somehow making its way into circulation. It features artwork from Hideki Kazama and is part of the secret super battle promo set. Of the eight copies of the card to have been graded by PSA, only six have achieved the perfect GEM-MT 10 rating.
4 1st Edition Neo Genesis Lugia ($129,000)
It’s rare for a card released in the West to sell for crazy money unless they happen to be part of the base set. For that reason, the original owner of this 1st edition Lugia card was probably a little surprised when it was sold by PWCC Auctions for nearly $130,000 in November of 2020.
As with most high value cards, it had received a GEM-MT 10 rating from PSA making it one of only 41 copies of the card to have done so. Whether or not this sale will lead to other Neo Genesis cards skyrocketing in value remains to be seen, but – prior to this – the average sale price of a 1st Edition Neo Genesis Lugia had been just $70,000.
3 Family Event Kangaskhan ($150,100)
Just four years ago, the Family Event Kangaskhan card was selling for around $10,000. In October 2020 however, a PSA GEM-MT 10 copy sold for more than 15 times that amount. The card was sold by PWCC Auctions through eBay with the final bid standing at a mammoth $150,100.
The card itself was given out in Japan following a parent and child Pokémon tournament held in 1998. Families battled other families with the parent and child teams who racked-up the most wins being awarded the Kangaskhan promo card. There are only 11 GEM-MT 10 copies of the card in circulation, with a combined value of over one and a half million dollars.
2 Pikachu Illustrator ($233,000)
The Pikachu Illustrator card has held the record for the most expensive Pokémon card ever sold on several occasions in the past but currently sits in second spot. A copy of the card was sold at auction for $74,000 in late 2016 and another was sold for $190,000 just a few years later. The most recent copy and former record holder sold for a staggering ¥25m through Japanese marketplace ZenPlus in July 2020.
The card itself was handed out to the winners of an illustration contest held by the Japanese monthly manga CoroCoro Comics in 1998. Just 39 copies of the card were ever printed and only 12 of those are known to be in good condition. Interestingly, all three of the aforementioned copies were rated 9 by PSA, so if the only existing GEM-MT 10 copy ever goes to auction, it would likely fetch an astronomical amount and help the Pikachu Illustrator card to reclaim the top spot.
1 1st Edition Shadowless Charizard ($360,000)
Controversial YouTuber Logan Paul made headlines in October 2020 when he spent $150,000 on a 1st Edition Shadowless Charizard card. Perhaps surprisingly though, this is not the most expensive copy of the card ever sold. It’s not even close, in fact. The current record holder comes courtesy of Goldin Auctions, who sold a copy of the card for a staggering $360,000 just a few months later. Unlike most high value Pokemon cards though, this one was graded by SGC rather than PSA and received their elusive GOLD LABEL PRISTINE 10 rating.
SGC don’t provide public information regarding card populations, but according to the PSA website, there are just 54 GEM-MT 10 copies of the card in existence, which goes some way to explaining their value. Given that base set Charizard was produced in such high volumes, however, it’s entirely possible that there are hundreds more copies out there just waiting to be discovered; if not thousands!