21 most expensive & rarest Pokemon cards ever sold - Dexerto
Pokemon

21 most expensive & rarest Pokemon cards ever sold

Published: 27/Jul/2021 21:03

by Brent Koepp

Share


Despite launching over 20 years ago, the Pokemon Trading Card Game has exploded in popularity and value in 2021. Items once thought worthless can now sell for thousands of dollars. Here is a list of the 21 most expensive Pokemon cards in 2021. 

Not many could imagine in 1999 that Pokemon cards would one day be worth a lot of money. However, over two decades later, rare items from the increasingly popular TCG have absolutely skyrocketed in value.

From special tournament prizes to shadowless 1st Edition monsters from the Base Set, here are the twenty one rarest and most expensive Pokemon cards on the market today.

Advertisement


Contents


What makes a Pokemon card valuable?

leonhart holding pokemon cards
YouTube: Leonhart
Popular Pokemon YouTuber Leonhart has some of the most valuable cards in the world.

Over the past year, online personalities such as Logan Paul have propelled Pokemon card collecting back into popularity. With some cards being valued at over $100,000, it’s understandable why there’s so much excitement around the hobby.

But what makes Pokemon cards valuable? It all comes down to the rarity of the card and what condition the item is in. These two factors determine how much collectors are willing to pay and why some cards go for mind-boggling amounts of money.

21 most expensive Pokemon cards in 2021

It should be noted that top lists are almost always up for debate. A card’s value can be determined by the highest it’s ever sold at auction, or what it sells for on average.

Advertisement

A Pokemon cards value can also wildly fluctuate with the market and are largely dependent on the item’s grading and condition. Our list is based on what the collectible has sold for in the latest auctions, and its position will be updated if it sells for less or more.

21. Poliwrath No Rarity Base Set

Poliwrath No Rarity Base Set


  • Release Date: 1996
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $25,015

Rounding out the top 21 of the most expensive Pokemon cards list is Poliwrath from the Japanese version of the Base Set. While the Water-type ‘mon has traditionally been one of the weaker valued cards from the 1996 and 1999 releases, this item is actually special.

Similar to the English version having a 1st Edition run, the very first print of the Japanese set featured no markings at all. Due to there being extremely limited amounts even printed, barely any of them survived three decades later.

Advertisement

Consider this “THE” earliest version of the iconic card, and you can see why its value has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2020, one appeared in a PWCC auction selling for $25,015. If you think that is a lot, we are only getting started!

20. Crystal Charizard Holo Skyridge

Crystal Charizard Holo Skyridge 


  • Release Date: 2003
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $25,100

In 2003, interest in Pokemon cards had started to wane among core fans who had been collecting since it launched in 1999. As a result, production of the Skyridge set was considerably lower compared to past expansions.

This would also be the last release printed by Wizards of the Coasts and features the iconic e-reader designs meant to be a tie-in for the Game Boy Advance. Its low production has made the retro set one of the most expensive Pokemon cards products to hunt down from the era.

Advertisement

The crown jewel of the expansion is none other than Charizard. Its rare Crystal Holo design variant was extremely limited even at release. In November 2020, a perfectly graded version of the collectible sold for $25,100 at auction.

19. Torchic Gold Star Holo Team Rocket Returns

Torchic Gold Star Holo Team Rocket Returns


  • Release Date: 2004
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $25,400

In 2004, TPC introduced “Gold Star” Pokemon cards to drum up interest in the hobby again. The new line of collectibles had a low print-run, and made their debut alongside the criminally underrated Team Rocket Returns expansion.

Due to its insane popularity, Hoenn Fire-type starter Torchic instantly became one of the most rare Pokemon cards released that year. And what’s not to love about it, it’s easily one of the most adorable artworks to ever grace a TCG release.

Advertisement

The specially marked collectible went up for auction in 2020 and sold for $25,400. That is a mind-blowing amount considering the same item was selling for around $300 in 2016, making the Pokemon cards value an 8,000% increase in just four years!

18. Charizard Gold Star Holo Dragon Frontiers

Charizard Gold Star Holo Dragon Frontiers


  • Release Date: 2006
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $25,405

Prepare to see more Gold Stars in the list, as the specially marked Pokemon cards will continue to make their appearance throughout the top 20. Next up is Charizard from 2004’s Dragon Frontiers.

It should come as no surprise that the marked item would be a massive hit with fans, considering it features artwork depicting a Shiny Charizard. The rare variant of the Kanto ‘mon looks stunning with its artwork depicting it scorching fire all around it.

According to PWCC, one of these scarce collectibles went up for bidding in a February 2021 auction. When all was said and done, the unique item fetched an eye-popping $25,405 which is makes it one of the rarest Pokemon cards of that generation.

17. 2010 Pokemon World Championship Master’s Key

2010 Pokemon World Championship Master Key


  • Release Date: 2010
  • Grading: BGS – 9
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $26,900

In 2010, the best pokemon cards players around the world were flown into Waikoloa Village, Hawaii for the World Championships. Upon arrival, contestants were given a Master Key’s Pokemon card.

Because the item was only printed for participants at the tournament, only 36 of these in total were ever created, making it technically one of the most rare Pokemon cards to ever exist in the hobby’s nearly 25-year history.

Despite only being intended for those at the event, one of these made there way out to the public and was sold for an astonishing $26,900 in August 2020. A pretty sweet reward to receive 11 years later.

16. Chansey #3 1st Edition Shadowless Base Set

Chansey 1st Edition Shadowless Base Set


  • Release Date: 1999
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $36,877

For many Pokemon card collectors, it doesn’t get any better than the Base Set which made its North American debut in 1999. Not only does it feature some of the TCG series’ most iconic artwork, but there is also a ton of nostalgia players have connected to the release.

As a result, Pokemon cards from the release have seen the most explosion in value over the last decade. While not a heavy-hitter in the franchise itself, fans have been going wild for the adorable Chansey #3 Pokemon card. So much so that it’s surprised industry veterans when it started fetching jaw-dropping prices.

While hovering around $20k since 2019, the collectible’s value has only continued to grow. According to PWCC, a 1st Edition Shadowless version sold for $36,877 in a November 2020 auction.

15. Blastoise 1st Edition Shadowless Base Set

Blastoise 1st Edition Shadowless Base Set


  • Release Date: 1999
  • Grading: PSA– Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $45,100

Not only is Blastoise one of the most beloved characters in the Game Freak RPG, but the Water-type starter has also become one of the most valuable Pokemon cards currently on the market.

Those who grew up with the 1999 Base Set easily equated the turtle on the same level as the highly sought-after Charizard, so it makes sense that decades later, many are willing to bust out their wallets for the iconic ‘mon.

While its 1st Edition Shadowless Pokemon card from 1999 has always brought in good money, the popular item has seen a massive jump in value recently. In a PWCC auction held in November 2020, the rare Base Set Blastoise sold for $45,100.

14. Rayquaza Gold Star Holo Ex Deoxys

Rayquaza Gold Star Holo Ex Deoxys


  • Release Date: 2005
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $45,100

An early favorite of Ruby & Sapphire, Rayquaza has seen an uptick in popularity over the last decade. So it makes sense then that its cards would also start to climb up in value over time. In 2005, The Pokemon Company released the Ex Deoxys TCG expansion featuring the Flying / Dragon-type.

As a gimmick to get Pokemon card collectors interested in the set, the Japanese company introduced “Gold Star” Pokemon cards into the hobby. As mentioned earlier, the incredibly rare Pokemon cards featured a special symbol next to the name of the ‘mon. Of course, the king of these marked collectibles is the Hoenn Legendary itself.

In December 2020, a perfectly graded Gold Star Rayquaza sold at auction for $45,100. Given the Legendary’s continued popularity in the franchise, and just how little of the gold Pokemon cards were actually produced, we expect this item to increase in value as time goes on.

13. Tropical Mega Battle No. 2 Trainer

Tropical Mega Battle No. 2 Trainer


  • Release Date: 1999
  • Grading: PSA – Authentic
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $50,300

Interestingly, this is the first Pokemon card in the top 20 that is so poor quality-wise, it didn’t even receive a grade. In situations like this, PSA will still give it an official Authentication. Don’t let the grading fool you, though, as the Tropical No. 2 Trainer card is pristine except the back which has color loss and fading due to the sun.

Given out originally at the 1999 Mega Battle tournament in Japan, only the top players received this Pokemon card. In total, PSA has only seen five of these, making it one of the rarest Pokemon cards in existence. It’s so scarce that it’s still worth a jaw-dropping amount despite its quality setbacks – think about that.

According to PWCC, one of these green Exeggutor prizes was sold at an auction in October 2020 for $50,300. It’s fascinating to think that even a damaged card can sell for as much as a sports car. And this Pokemon card’s value will only continue to climb given that they just don’t exist.

12. Summer Battle Road Mew Victory Orb Trophy

Summer Battle Road Mew Victory Orb Trophy


  • Release Date: 1999
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $60,000

The second tournament Trophy Pokemon card on the list, the Mew Victory Orb Trophy was given out during the 1998 Summer Battle Road competition. Spanning nine regions across Japan, only the top three Trainers in each bracket scored the rare Pokemon card.

According to PSA, only 16 of them have been given the coveted Gem Mint 10 score. One of these pristine collectibles popped up at a PWCC auction in December 2020 and ended with 51 bids for a final price of $60,000. It even came with the original plaque handed out at the finals.

As we dive deeper into this list, prepare to see more of these trophy Pokemon cards dominating the top spot. Since they were awarded at tournaments, they are intricately more scarce population-wise, and thus more valuable.

11. Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind Promo

Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind Promo Pokemon Card


  • Release Date: 1999
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $65,100

While not the most flashy Pokemon card on the list, the Tropical Mega Battle promo is an absolute holy grail for Psyduck fans. It doesn’t get more adorable than seeing the Water-type ‘mon playing the ukulele while chilling in a hammock with Jigglypuff.

Long before The Pokemon Company solidified the TCG competitive scene into the World Championships in 2004, one of Japan’s earlier iterations of the contest was known as the Tropical Mega Battle. In 1999, the tournament was held in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Only 50 players from various countries around the world were invited to compete against one another. Because various Trophy Pokemon cards were given out at the event, the Tropical Wind iteration is incredibly unique. The collectible resurfaced in a PWCC auction in October 2020 and sold for a mouth-watering $65,100.

10. Tamamushi University Magikarp Trophy Promo

Tamamushi University Magikarp Trophy Promo


  • Release Date: 1998
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $66,100

In 1998, Shogakukan’s Magazines in Japan offered a contest for school students. Fans that took the various tests offered in the publication could send them back to the company to have them graded.

Those studious enough to pass with high scores were then invited to a special conference held in Osaka of that year. Once there, the children got to participate in a unique Pokemon card battle tournament. Winners of the rare contest ultimately received the Magikarp Trophy Pokemon card Promo.

Due to the insane obscurity of how the TCG item was given out, it’s easily one of the rarest Pokemon cards on our list. It was not very surprising then when the Trophy collectible went up for auction in February 2021 and sold for $66k at PWCC.

09. Umbreon Gold Star Holo

Screenshot of Umbreon Gold Star Pokemon Card


  • Release Date: 2005
  • Grading: BGS – 9.5
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $70,000

Eevee and its evolutions are some of the most popular characters in the Pokemon franchise. It makes sense then that a Gold Star Umbreon would quickly become one of the most coveted Pokemon cards in the TCG.

The story behind this Pokemon card also makes it unique as players had to accumulate over 70,000 XP points by the end of the Pokemon Players Club’s fourth season to obtain it. Trainers not only had to physically go to events, but they had to win a lot of matches.

Due to its low population, not a lot of these Pokemon cards have actually gone up for sale. All of that changed in June 2021 when the Gold Star Umbreon sold for $70,000 at auction. Its BGS grade of 9.5 makes it all the rarer, as only two in the whole world have received a grade this high.

08. No. 1 Trainer Super Secret Battle

Screenshot of No.1 Trainer Pokemon card featuring Mewtwo.


  • Release Date: 1999
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $90,000

In 1999, The Pokemon Company hosted regional contests in Japan. Winners received a No. 1 Trainer Pokemon card which granted them access to the final that took place in a secret location.

Named “Super Secret Battle”, the special TCG tournament had a lot of mystique surrounding it. The rare Pokemon card features a silhouette of Mewtwo which has made it all the more desirable to fans.

In July 2020, the Japanese promo sold for an astonishing $90,000 – making it one of the most valuable Pokemon cards to ever exist.

Related News


07. Pokemon World Championships Promo No. 2 Trainer

Pokemon World Championships Promo No. 2 Trainer


  • Release Date: 2006
  • Grading: PSA – 9
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $110, 100

The incredibly rare Trophy card was handed out at the 2006 World Championship held in Anaheim, California. Since these Pokemon cards were only given to winners, it makes their population extremely low.

According to PSA, only three of these collectibles are even said to have been issued at the competition. It almost feels like a crime putting this Pokemon card at this spot because due to its scarcity, it rarely goes up for sale

However in February 2021, one finally appeared online. With over 150 bids, this item brought in a mind-blowing $110,100 at a PWCC auction.

06. Lugia 1st Edition Neo Genesis

Screenshot of Pokemon Lugia card


  • Release Date: 2000
  • Grading: BGS – Pristine 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $144,300

Similar to Mewtwo, Lugia was an iconic Legendary for many children who grew up with the series in the ’00s. So it should come as no surprise that its debut as a Pokemon card was a major hit.

Decades later, the Psychic bird has become a hot item for collectors. As a result, its expansion Neo Genesis has seen a jaw-dropping explosion in value, as players desperately try to hunt for the iconic Johto Pokemon card.

While a 1st Edition Lugia broke records by selling for a mind-blowing $129,000 in 2020, a Beckett graded 10 version of the item sold for $144,300 at a PWCC auction in May 2021. BGS grades a lot harder than PSA, making this pristine Pokemon card one of only three in the entire world.

05. Kangaskhan Family Event Trophy

kangaskhan family event trophy pokemon card psa


  • Release Date: 1998
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $150,000

We’re now at the top five, and the prices of these most expensive Pokemon cards continue to skyrocket. This 1998 Trophy Pokemon card could only be obtained by participating in a special tournament in Japan. The adorable item features artwork depicting Kangaskhan with its baby in its pouch, surrounded by holo sparkles.

Fittingly, the contest required both a child and their parent to participate alongside each other in TCG battles . According to reports, there are only 11 of these currently in existence that have been graded, making it one of the most rare Trophy Pokemon cards to exist.

In October 2020, two PSA 10s of the collectible went for $150k. With its scarcity, we expect this Pokemon card’s value will only continue to go up over the next couple of years.

04. Ishihara GX Promo (Autographed)

Ishihara GX Promo autographed


  • Release Date: 2017
  • Grading: PSA – 7 / Autograph: 9
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $247, 230

A bit of an oddity, this rare promo card contains the artwork of none other than the CEO and President of The Pokemon Company, Tsunekazu Ishihara. According to interviews, the special Pokemon card was actually given out to each employee that attended the executive’s birthday in 2017.

The extremely rare Pokemon card sold at auction in April 2020 for $50,000. Reports also estimate that only 30 to 60 of these TCG collectibles may exist, although it’s hard to know for sure unless more of them make their way out into the public.

In 2021, a PSA 7 version of the Pokemon card sold for $247,230 at Goldin Auctions. The massive jump in this Pokemon card’s value came as a result of the collectible actually being signed by Ishihara himself, truly making it a one-of-a-kind oddity in the TCG.

03. Blastoise Wizards of the Coast Presentation Galaxy Star holo

Blastoise Wizards of the Coast Presentation card


  • Release Date: 1998
  • Grading: CGG – 8.5
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $360,000

The Pokemon Trading Card Game community was stunned when this insanely rare Pokemon card was discovered by the public for the first time in 2021. Originally commissioned by Wizards of the Coast in 1998, the Blastoise Presentation card was supposed to give stores an idea of what the TCG line would look like in its final print run.

While there are varying reports about its history, it’s currently believed that only two are known to have ever existed, with only one currently accounted for. It’s essentially is one of the earliest known Pokemon cards to exist, at least for the North American release. It was so early that one of the copies had a Magic: The Gathering backside to it, while the other is simply blank.

The historical Nintendo artifact went up for sale at Heritage Auctions in January 2021, and sold for a whopping $360,000, making it the third most expensive collectible –  just an inch behind the Base Set Charizard. Given that only two of these exist, it could one day take the top spot as the most valuable Pokemon card of all time. If nothing else it may be the rarest Pokemon card in the world.

02. Charizard 1st Edition Shadowless Base Set

Charizard Pokemon Trading Card Game PSA 10


  • Release Date: 1999
  • Grading: PSA – Gem. Mint 10
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $369,000

As almost any kid that grew up in the 90s can attest to, Charizard has always been the crown jewel. If you didn’t have one, you desperately opened booster pack after booster pack trying to obtain the glorious Pokemon card.

1st Edition versions of this 1999 base card can go for an absurd amount. Even more so if it’s “Shadowless” – an early print version that doesn’t have a shadow around the art’s border.

On October 9, 2020, popular rapper Logic paid over $226k for a Grade 10 1st Edition Charizard, setting a new bar for the fire Pokemon card. However, just two months later a new record was set.

A bidder at a December 12 PWCC auction dropped $350,000 for the 1999 Base Set collectible. Incredibly, only four hours later, another 1st Edition reportedly went for $369k according to Goldin Auctions, making it the second most expensive Pokemon card ever sold.

01. Illustrator CoroCoro Comics Promo (Pikachu illustrator card)

illustrator pikachu pokemon card psa


  • Release Date: 1998
  • Grading: PSA – 7
  • Pokemon card value at auction: $375, 000

Without a doubt, one of the rarest and most expensive of the rare Pokemon cards is the elusive Pikachu Illustrator card. In 1997, CoroCoro held an art competition where winners were given the stunning item which depicts the Electric-type adorably drawing other monsters.

Over the last five years, the Pokemon card has consistently sold around $195k to $200k. In 2020, one fetched a whopping $250,000, eclipsing the previous record of $243,000 that another one fetched back in 2019. Astonishingly in February 2021, a PSA 7 version of the card sold for $375,000 during a PWCC auction.

According to reports, less than 20 of them are known to exist – almost guaranteeing that this Pokemon cards value will continue to grow in the coming years. For many collectors, the Pikachu Illustrator card is seen as the rarest Pokemon card in the entire hobby.

The most expensive “Pokemon card” of all time?

Topsun Charizard Blue Back

The most expensive Pokemon card - Topsun Charizard Blue Back


  • Release Date: 1995
  • Grading: PSA – Gem Mint 10
  • Value sold at auction: $493, 230

Technically speaking, the most expensive Pokemon card of all time at auction is the Topsun Charizard Blue Back. The only problem is, is it even a “Pokemon card?” The answer is complicated. As Creature Inc. was getting ready to launch the Pokemon Trading Card Game as we know it in 1996, Topsun also made a set of cards featuring ‘mon.

So while the items are not a part of the TCG in an official capacity, there has been a debate sparked among collectors whether these should actually be lumped in together. The Charizard pictured above is not only rare but insanely scarce due to it being unnumbered and having a blue back. The collectibles were originally packaged in packets of gum and sold in Japan.

To make matters more complicated, reports claim the product was technically manufactured in 1995 but was sold in stores in 1997. In January 2021, a PSA 10 version of the item was sold at Goldin Auctions for a reported $493,230! Yes, you read that right – more than a house. As to whether this truly counts as a “Pokemon card”, only time will tell how fans settle the debate. For now, we’ve kept it on its own.


So, there you have it. The full list of the most expensive and rare Pokemon cards.

Check out our other lists and guides pertaining to all things Pokemon:

Fairy-type | Water-type | Grass-type | Fighting-type | Psychic-type | Electric-type | Legendary Pokemon | Creepiest ‘mon | Cutest Pokemon | All dog ‘mon in the Pokedex | All cat ‘mon in the Pokedex | 10 best ROM hacks and fan-made games