Pokémon Cards That Are Worth A Ton Of Money

The "Gotta catch 'em all" slogan so associated with the Pokémon franchise in the United States, was only created for the U.S. market. In its native Japan, the franchise's slogan is "Get Pokémon." And in 2024, with 1,025 and counting, the Japanese original seems a more broad, realistic goal for any but the most diehard fans.

But Pokémon fans have long sought to catch as many of the critters as they can, whether in video games, a mobile app (today), or through the classic trading-card game. Many a '90s kid had a binder full of Pokémon cards, with the featured Pokémon character on one side and the swirling Poké Ball with the double logo on the other. Indeed, even as newer fans embrace the augmented reality of "Pokémon GO," the "Pokémon Trading Card Game" is still going strong today.

Pokémon cards have one advantage over catching characters in a video game: You have a physical representation of them you can hold in your hand. You can also sell it. And there are those who may not want to catch them all, but do want particularly rare or interesting Pokémon cards and will pay top dollar for them.

This said, depending on age, condition, and rarity, even valuable Pokémon cards won't go much higher than a few thousand dollars. But there are a few rare cards out there that, in mint condition, can be worth much, much more, similar to old vinyl records or newer-but-still-rare Funko Pop! figures that are worth more than others. Here are some of the most valuable Pokémon cards.

1998 Blastoise Presentation Card

Lest anyone rush to unload their old trading-card binders, keep in mind that most Pokémon cards aren't going to make you rich or prove a genius way to pay off all your debt. Still, scarcity does tend to drive up value, something the Pokémon Company must understand, as its cards are marked to indicate their rarity. A black circle in the lower left corner of a standard release card means that it's common, a black diamond means that it's uncommon, and a black star means it's a rare card.

But even the cards marked rare aren't as hard to find as special orders or commissions. In 1998, to convince Nintendo that Pokémon could work in the English-language market and to try and win the rights in that territory, Wizards of the Coast commissioned a "presentation" card featuring the Water-type Pokémon Blastoise. It was only printed twice, once on a card with a back from Wizards of the Coast's on "Magic: The Gathering" and one with a blank white back.

No one knows what happened to the "Magic: The Gathering" Blastoise, but the white-back version turned up in 2021 and in near-mint condition. It sold for $360,000. Whoever has the second card — if it's still out there — could stand to make a comparable amount, provided the card remains in similar or better condition.

1999 Shadowless Holographic Charizard

It's technically not a Dragon-type Pokémon, but Charizard is a dead ringer for a traditional Western dragon, and that plus fire abilities and a prominent role in the anime have helped make Charizard one of the, if not the most popular Pokémon in the franchise. Small wonder, then, that it's the featured character on more than one valuable Pokémon card.

In the case of 1999's Shadowless Holographic Charizard card, there's an additional value due to the age and rarity of the card type. They come from the Shadowless variant of the first edition of the first generation of Pokémon. Finding those cards in mint condition is a tall order. Shadowless Charizards (shadowless due to a printing error) are particularly rare, even when compared to the stamped first-edition variant; out of 3,000 confirmed cards, only 121 are considered mint. The average price of those top-rated cards is around $65,000.

One determined buyer paid much more than that at a March 2022 auction, however. The card in question was both shadowless and holographic and considered to be in impeccable condition. The auction winner paid $420,000 for the card. But given the rarity of these early Charizard cards, it's expected their value will continue to rise, so that figure may well be topped one day.

1998 Pikachu Silver Trophy

Given how ubiquitous Pikachu is, it might be hard to think of him as "rare" in any sense. After all, he's the mascot for the franchise as a whole and was the most prominent Pokémon character in the anime until 2023. But while Pikachu is everywhere in Pokémon, not every representation of him is a dime a dozen. Pikachu cards dating back to early in the trading-card game's history can be hard to come by in mint condition, particularly certain special releases.

At the end of 1997 and to begin 1998, the Lizardon Mega Battle tournament was held in Japan. It was the second official tournament for the Pokémon trading-card game. The tourney's prizes were special Pikachu cards featuring the Pokémon holding gold, silver, and bronze trophies. Between the first and second Lizardon Mega Battles, 14 of the Silver Trophy Pikachus were printed; today, four are on record with grading specialist Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA). The Pikachu trophy cards weren't made again after 1998.

In September 2023, a Pikachu Silver Trophy in mint condition from the second tournament went to auction; it was given PSA's highest possible rating. From an initial bid of $50,000, the Pikachu Silver Trophy ultimately sold for $444,000. The bronze variant from the first Lizardon Mega Battle sold earlier that year for $300,000, putting two Pikachus into the upper echelon of valuable Pokémon cards.

1995 Japanese Topsun Charizard

Pokémon cards predate the Pokémon trading-card game. In 1997, a set of cards featuring the 150 original Pokémon, the Topsun set, was sold in packs featuring two cards and two sticks of gum each. The initial printing used blue-backed cards, with later editions switching over to green. Though the copyright reads 1995, these cards were first released to Japan in 1997.

Among the most prized of these early Topsun cards is the blue-backed Charizard with no number, originally sold with apple-flavored gum. The PSA has recorded just 31 of these cards, and only one of those is considered to be in mint condition. That mint card went on auction through Goldin in January 2021. The initial bid was set at $5,000, but the final bid came in at $493,230, almost 100 times the starting amount. It's the most valuable Charizard card on record.

1998 Pikachu Illustrator

As fate would have it, the face of the Pokémon franchise is also the featured character on the most valuable Pokémon card on the market. The Pikachu Illustrator card was created as a contest prize for CoroCoro Comic in 1997 and 1998. Featuring the artwork from Pikachu's designer Atsuko Nishida, a total of 41 cards was produced, with 39 awarded to the contest winners. Two more cards, however, were found two decades later in 2020 by Pokémon trading-card game co-creator Yuichi Konno. Of these, the PSA gave only one its highest grade of 10.

Three lower-graded Pikachu Illustrator cards — one with a PSA of 9 and two graded 7 — fetched respectable sums at auction: The 9 went for $150,000 in 2019, while the two 7s sold for $375,000 in 2021 and $900,000 in 2022. The latter sum would have taken the prize for most expensive Pokémon card if it wasn't for Logan Paul. The wrestler and influencer bought the PSA 10 Pikachu Illustrator for $5,275,000 in 2021, earning himself and Pikachu a place in the Guinness World Records. Paul paid $4,000,000 and covered the rest with a trade of another Pikachu Illustrator, PSA grade 9.

For such a high-priced piece of merchandise, Paul hasn't been discrete and careful with his rare acquisition. He put the card on a chain and wore it to WrestleMania 2022, though it didn't follow him into the ring. Paul later announced that he would be listing the card on his own platform, Liquid Marketplace.