The rarest Pokémon cards of all time

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Remember all of those old Pokémon cards you had lying around as a kid? Sure you do; back when the only thing you had to worry about was whether or not your next door neighbor could beat you in a Pokémon battle for the ages. 

Some fans of the franchise may have grown up, but there’s no shortage of new pocket monster devotees. With cards, comics, shows, and games catered to audiences young and old, Pokémon is one of the highest grossing media properties on Earth. 

Yet, a game once marked by unassuming, inexpensive Pokémon card types has transformed into a feverish money-fueled phenomenon. As surprising as it may be, Pokémon cards are now bought and sold for millions of dollars. Yes, millions; you read that right. Which is a lightyear jump away from the four dollar packs of cards sold at your local convenience store. 

The reason for this astronomical price hike in the Pokémon card market comes down to supply and demand. As everyday fans, scalpers, and collectors all compete for the same cards, the overall amount dwindles while the price for cards skyrockets. 

So it stands to reason; the rarer the card, the harder it is to find, and the higher the price is. That in mind, and in ascending order of price tag, here’s our list of the top 10 rarest Pokémon cards on the planet. It’s time to dig through your garage and scour the attic, because those old cards could be worth millions.

Espeon and Umbreon Gold Star 

Image via The Pokémon Company

First up, the Espeon and Umbreon Gold Star POP cards. Although these are technically two different cards, because they are both Eevee evolutions and incredibly hard to find, the pair fetch a surprisingly high price. As their name would suggest, Gold Star Pokémon cards are denoted by the small gold that sits near the Pokémon’s name at the top of the card.

In 2020 a Gold Star Umbreon card was sold for a little over $20,000. Most recently, a Gold Star Espeon was sold in 2021 for around $22,000. 

Japanese Promo Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind

Image via The Pokémon Company

Only 12 Tropical Wind cards exist today, with this promotional gift being given to a dozen of the best Pokémon players at a tournament in 1999. Known as The Tropical Mega Battle, 50 of the world’s best Pokémon players competed in Honolulu, Hawaii to see who really was “..the very best, like no one ever was.

With a sale amounting to around $65,000 in October of 2020, the Tropical Wind promo card is one of the rarest Pokémon cards in this lineup.

Tamamushi University Magikarp Trophy 

For once Magikarp made it to the cool kids club. Generally a Pokémon only feared for its glow up later on in life, the Tamamushi University Magikarp Trophy card was a complicated card to acquire. During a scholastic promotion in a 1998 magazine, Japanese school students that were fans of Pokémon took a test to see if they had what it took to compete at a secret tournament in Osaka, Japan. If they were lucky enough to be one of the winners, they received this elusive card. 

One of these went up for sale in February of 2021, resulting in a massive payday of a little over $66,000. Not bad Magikarp. 

Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer

Image via The Pokémon Company

The name here is pretty self explanatory. Given to finalists in the 1999 Super Secret Battle tournament held in Tokyo, Japan, the Super Secret Battle No.1 Trainer wasn’t just a card — it was a key. After winning a regional tournament, the champions were given this card as an entry pass to the main Super Secret Battle final.

As far as we know, there are only seven of these cards in existence. A copy of the card sold in July of 2020 for the not so super secret price of $90,000. 

World Championship Promo No. 2 Trainer

Image via The Pokémon Company

Given to players in 2006 at the World Championships in Anaheim, California, this card is about as rare as it gets. Only given to the winners of the tournament, the Promo No. 2 Trainer is one of those cards that people don’t see on the market very often. Mainly, we’d imagine, because of the fact that it’s a true badge of honor for any Pokémon trainer who values a good battle.

In February of 2021, out of the blue, a card went on sale. After a massive bidding war, the final price settled for $110,000. 

Neo Genesis Holo Lugia

Image via The Pokémon Company

Lugia is about as iconic a Pokémon as any fan could hope for. One of the early legendary monsters on this list, Lugia is one of the hardest creatures to catch in the games. In that way, it stands to reason that the accompanying card would also be hard to find. What plays into the overall rarity of these specific cards is because there are few perfect copies that exist. Due to a myriad of misprints in the early 2000s, not many true cards still exist.

In May of 2021 a perfect copy sold for around 144,000 dollars. A price tag fit for a legend. 

Kangaskhan Holo Family Event Trophy 

Image via The Pokémon Company

The Kangaskhan Holo Family Event Trophy card is what Pokémon is all about. Given out at a Japanese 1998 tournament, during Pokémon’s infancy, winners at the event were made up of parent/child battle teams. If a particular team won enough matches, this card was their prize. Talk about insanely awesome childhood memories. 

A mint condition copy sold in October of 2020 for a little over $150,000.

Blastoise Galaxy Star Hologram (Wizards of the Coast)

Image via The Pokémon Company

Getting into our top three, this is where things get interesting. First up, the Wizards of the Coast presentation card. Essentially when Pokémon was first set to come to America, the higher-ups at the company wanted to give stores an idea of what the cards would look like. Partnering with Wizards of the Coast (the company responsible for Magic: The Gathering, and Dungeons & Dragons), these Blastoise cards were printed as a proof of concept. 

So far, two are known to exist and only one is officially accounted for — with more cards very unlikely to surface, this artifact is a mind-melter. Instead of the classic Pokémon imagery, this card has the Magic: The Gathering logo on the back. 

One of the two copies went up for sale in January of 2021, and sold for an eye watering $360,000.

Charizard Shadowless 

Image via The Pokémon Company

As classic as they come, the Charizard Shadowless First Edition card is the embodiment of the Pokémon brand. Released in 1999, this card has remained popular for over two decades, and still manages to captivate the minds (and wallets) of fans everywhere. Because of the card’s holographic nature, overall popularity, and low circulation rate, this particular card comes in at number two on our list because of how recognizable it is. 

In March of this year a new record was set when a copy sold for $420,000. 

Pikachu Illustrator

Image via The Pokémon Company

Here it is, the Holy Grail. It’s the Pokémon card to end all Pokémon cards, and as it continues to appreciate in value, there’s no telling what a Pikachu Illustrator card will sell for next. Like many of these rare cards, the Illustrator card was given to winners of Japanese contests held in 1997 and 1998. On record, 39 copies were given out to trainers during that time, with two more being discovered by one of the game’s creators, Yuichi Konno.

It’s the only known card to say “Illustrator” instead of “Trainer,” and has concretely remained one of the most sought after cards on the market. In February of 2022 one of these illustrious cards was sold at auction for a cool $900,000. But the fever doesn’t stop there. In July of 2021 Youtuber Logan Paul set the record for most expensive card ever traded, buying the Pikachu Illustrator for $5.27 million. The entertainer even wore the card around his neck during his entrance at WrestleMania in 2022. What a world we live in.

Well there they are, some of the world’s rarest and most expensive Pokémon cards. Trends would suggest these copies are only going to become more scarce and much more expensive as the years go by. 

So who knows, if you happen to find one of these pieces of Pokémon history in your back pocket — wait on it. There’s no telling where the trading card market could go in the coming years. We live in a wild world, so it’s best to play it safe. 

Maybe that little monster can make you a pretty penny somewhere down the line. Or mix up the status quo and hoard it like a dragon type Pokémon. You can brag to all your friends about how awesome your rare card is. Either way, these cards give a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!