Whether they experienced it by playing the games, watching the anime series, reading the manga, or collecting the trading cards, you would be hard pressed to find a kid that grew up in the late 1990s and early 2000s who wasn't somehow affected by Pokémon. But unlike many other aspects of pop culture from that time period, the popularity behind Pokémon has never wavered. If anything, it may have increased.
By introducing new mechanics and new creatures in their games, Nintendo has been able to keep fans not only interested but ecstatic at the thought of a new entry to their beloved series. But we're not here to talk about the video games.
We're here to talk about the time-honored tradition of collecting trading cards. Pokémon isn't the first series or thing to receive trading cards that collectors fantasize about, and they won't be the last. But as it is one of the most popular franchises in the world, there are some cards whose values have increased exponentially over the years.
If you're kicking yourself over the fact that you got rid of your collection years ago, don't. Prices can vary drastically depending on what condition the card is in, if it is holographic, if there's a printing error, or some other feature. I for one sold my entire collection at a flea market as a kid just to pay for the latest trend (which was Yu-Gi-Oh, by the way).
Many Pokémon cards can be found for relatively cheap. But for a handful of them, they could grant you a small fortune. Here are 15 Pokémon cards that are worth more than a car, and 15 that aren't worth much at all.
The value of a Charizard card from the Base Set can vary depending on a few key features. When the cards were first being created, a printing error resulted in some cards being “shadowless.” This refers to the border around the illustration.
Printing errors can make the value of a card go up an insane amount, as it makes these cards unlike most.
A 1st edition, holographic, shadowless, mint condition Charizard from the Base Set once sold for $11,999. But now, it can be valued at up to $20,000. That is a serious chunk of change.
The worth of many Pokémon cards is not at all attributed to how useful the cards can be. Most collectors don’t care about using them in the actual card game. Many trainer cards, which can be used for various strategic moves, can be bought now for almost nothing.
The same is true for the cards that are vital to a player’s deck: Energy cards. These sort of work like land cards from Magic: The Gathering, helping players bring out their pocket monsters. You can purchase boxes of energy cards online for just a couple bucks.
The mighty Mewtwo was one of the most mysterious creatures from Pokémon Red and Blue. That, along with his shadowy appearance in the anime and his starring role in the first movie, made him one of the most popular psychic types out there.
A 1st edition, holo, shadowless Mewtwo could get you around a grand at a grade 9, and a grade 10 is currently on eBay for $3,000. To be fair, that isn’t even close to Charizard. But also, to be fair, that still seems like a lot to spend on a shiny piece of paper.
Most Pokémon cards, even those from the original set, are actually incredibly easy to come by. Not too many of them were considered rare when first released. Take Abra, for example.
This insanely elusive Pokémon from the games has a card that can be bought for incredibly cheap.
We’re talking less than a buck for a normal one. And even if you were to have the holy grail of Abra cards, it wouldn’t get you that much. A 1st edition, shadowless, mint condition Abra is currently on eBay for $120. Compared to others, that’s chump change.
Charizard was definitely the most popular of the final forms of the three starters available in Pokémon Red and Blue, but a Blastoise card from the Base Set can still get you a good amount of money.
Currently on eBay, one could spend a little over $8,500 for a 1st edition, holographic, shadowless Blastoise. But that’s graded at a 10, which is extremely important. If it were to go down a single number, the value would drop to about two grand.
Arcanine was one of the more powerful creatures players could have the privilege of including in their decks, and definitely one of the coolest from the original 151.
But, unlike the other powerful creatures on this list, Arcanine was designated as “uncommon,” not “rare.”
Most Arcanine cards can be bought for far below $10 depending on the condition they’re in. Even if it’s a 1st edition, shadowless PSA grade 10 card, it’s still not worth more than $250-$300. And yes, I realize how ridiculous it sounds saying that’s not a lot of money for a Pokémon card.
Ah, poor Venusaur. There was always going to be a least favorite from the three original starters, and that seemed to be Bulbasaur. The same can be said of its final evolved form.
Although, it is still one of the rarest cards you can find.
Its current prices don’t quite reach Blastoise’s, as a 1st edition, holo, shadowless, grade 10 Venusaur can be purchased for $6,000 (or $1,800 for a grade 9). The price variations are the same in their regular cards as well. A non-graded, non-1st edition Venusaur is valued around $6, while a Blastoise is $8.
As is the case with Energy cards, trainer cards were crucial to playing the Pokémon card game, especially for those who wanted to play strategically. Gust of Wind could be a really useful card, as it let you switch your opponent’s active creature with one of their benched ones.
If they had something extremely intimidating as their active Pokémon, this could come quite in handy. You can buy this useful card for about 10-30 cents depending on the condition. But if you really wanted that 1st edition, shadowless, PSA grade 10 Gust of Wind, it would cost you about $100.
Nintendo now publishes all cards for the Pokémon trading card game, but for a long time it was a company by the name of Wizards of the Coast. Supposedly, before the original set of cards was released, the company stamped “PRERELEASE” on several Raichu cards and gave it to a few employees.
This stamp has made it one of the rarest and it is thought that there are only ten of these specific cards in existence. They obviously don’t show up often, but when they do they go for about $10,000.
Onix is one of the stronger rock types that could be added to a player’s deck. Although Rock Throw doesn’t do a lot of damage, he does have fairly high HP and his other move, Harden, could be quite useful from lighter attacks.
He is also one of the most common Pokémon from the Base Set.
For kids buying booster packs, there was a good to fair chance that Onix would show up. You can find it on most sites for literal pennies, unless you want the PSA grade 10 shadowless card, which is a little over $70.
Yes, Charizard gets all the love. This particular card comes from a set where the Pokémon are holographic instead of their background. And Charizard is now the hardest one to come by.
A 1st edition card with a PSA grade of 10 can get you over $3,000. But even one that isn’t first edition, isn’t graded, and doesn’t even feature the holographic-ness of the Charizard can cost about $140 or more depending on the condition. Not too shabby for a card that didn’t originate from the Base Set.
This card just serves to show that most cards that are rare and worth a lot of money are at least fifteen years old. But it also shows that just because a card is listed as “rare,” doesn’t mean you should spend some money on it.
This particular Magnezone card comes from the Forbidden Light expansion, which came out this year. It, like many, many others from the newer expansions, can be found for pretty cheap. You could spend less than a buck for one in good condition.
As you’ll start to see, many of the rarest and most expensive Pokémon cards originated from a special promotion or contest. In 1999, a monthly Japanese manga magazine named CoroCoro and the variety show 64 Mario Stadium each ran the same contest for Pokémon Snap.
Players could submit their best pictures in order to have them printed as cards and win a set of 20. As not many of these exist, they usually go for about $8,000 whenever someone decides to sell one of them. Some of the Pokémon include Squirtle, Pikachu, Gyrados, Poliwhirl, and Articuno.
Another trainer card and another useful one at that. Though not as good as a Super Potion, stocking your deck with some Potion cards is always a smart move.
And you can currently buy this useful card from the Base Set for a nickel.
While a 1st edition, shadowless, PSA grade 10 card will still get you some money, the Potion is still one of the cheapest in that regard. It is currently on eBay for $92.99.
While many trainer cards haven’t gone up in value, the same can’t be said for the Tropical Mega Battle trainer cards.
This set of trainer cards were only available during a specific trainer event in 1999 that only occurred in Hawaii.
There are 12 individual cards, each of which do different things. This makes it hard to figure out exact prices for each one, though one graded by the PSA as a 10 did sell for $5,000 once. If you were to have a complete set, it could fetch you quite the pretty penny.
If you’re familiar with Raticate, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that its card from the Base Set isn’t worth much these days either. But Dark Raticate came from one of the earliest expansions, showing Pokémon as they were owned by Team Rocket.
If you really wanted to add this to your collection, you could get it for 10 cents. Or you could get the 1st edition, PSA grade 10 card…for $18. Raticate was never exactly a favorite among fans, so these prices make total sense.
In terms of design, Kangaskhan was one of the more interesting Pokémon from the original series. Though its card from the Base Set could probably get you a decent amount of money depending on the condition, this particular version is the rarest of them all.
It was given out during a 1998 Japan tournament for parent/child teams that won enough matches and is therefore very hard to track down. One in mint condition can usually go for somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000.
It obviously didn’t take long for Pokémon: The Trading Card Game to start receiving expansions. Some brought in new Pokémon and trainer cards.
One of these trainer cards is called Gambler. And as its name might imply, a player should only use it if they’re incredibly desperate. It has you shuffle your card into your deck and flip a coin. If heads, you get to draw eight new cards; if tails, you only get one. You can buy this card for a nickel or $25 if you want the 1st edition PSA grade 10.
You might be surprised to learn that a Magikarp card is worth a lot of money, and this just may be the only one that is.
It was given out during a Japanese tournament specifically for school children, hence the name.
In 1998, the magazine Shogakukan issued a test for kids to take. And if they passed, they were invited to take part in a two-day tournament. Winners received this special Magikarp, of which only 1,000 were made. Whenever it pops up for sale, it usually goes for $15,000.
This particular Pokémon comes from the Jungle expansion, which also happens to be the very first expansion. It was pretty strong for a basic Pokémon, but also pretty commonly found.
Also, outside of a few key instances, most cards not found in the original Base Set didn’t go up too much in value. Rhyhorn, for example, can range from 7-15 cents. And if you happened to have the 1st edition in mint condition, it still may only get you about 30 bucks.
Just like a shiny Espeon in the games, this card is pretty hard to come by. The Pokémon Players Club was a Japanese group that players could join. And by going to certain events hosted by the Pokemon Players Club, players could earn EXP points which could then be used towards rewards.
The only thing is, you had to go to a ton of events just so you could have enough points to earn the good stuff.
One of the hardest to obtain was this Shiny Espeon card, which now sells for about $1,800-$2,000.
While the Team Rocket expansion had the appeal of seeing darker versions of Pokémon you knew, the cooler expansion was the Gym Leader one. This tied in with the show and games, showcasing new illustrations and moves for Pokémon kids were very familiar with.
One of the cheapest ones you can find now is Erika’s Tangela. At its cheapest, its worth around 7 cents. And as a 1st edition PSA grade 10, its only worth about $20. As a matter of fact, all of Erika’s Pokémon from the set are the cheapest to find.
And here we have the only fairly recent Pokémon card that is worth buckets of money. Only 34 of these cards were made and they were given out during two events in Japan in 2010.
One was a tournament for Pokémon: The Trading Card Game and one was a video game event. The text reads, “Draw a card. Then flip a coin. If heads, shuffle Master’s Key into your deck.” Not exactly the most wowing card, but its currently valued at $10,000.
Arcade Game is another case of a card being classified as “rare” in terms of how often it would appear for its specific expansion, but with a value that hasn’t really increased.
It came from Neo Genesis, which was the first expansion to include Pokémon from the second generation. It didn’t do much; it gave the player the chance to get a couple of needed cards into their hand, so it could be used well for strategic purposes. But now, it can be bought for cheap at 30 cents or $40 in mint condition.
Okay, this is technically cheating as it isn’t a singular card. But booster packs with this printing error on them can go for a surprising amount of money. And sealed boxes of packs can go for much more.
The factory that had been printing the 1st edition Base Set cards was supposed to stop at a certain point but kept going. They covered up the “1st edition” on the packs with black triangles. The packs can go for a couple hundred dollars each, but sealed boxes can go from $8,000-$11,000. Never underestimate the value of a printing error.
Neo Genesis brought the Pokémon from the Gold and Silver generation into the playing card game for the first time. And the first Pokémon from that generation was the Leaf Pokémon, Chikorita.
Chikorita became fairly popular through the anime, and even now shows up in Super Smash Bros.
But that popularity doesn’t translate to its card value, which was pretty commonly found within the Neo Genesis expansion. It can currently be found with a PSA grade of 9 on eBay for $20, or in relatively good shape for less than a dollar.
Ever since Pokémon turned into a card game, players have been competing in the World Championships to test their mettle. And if you have one of these in your collection, it proves how good you are. Or that you have a lot of money.
When the World Championships first started, the top 3 players were awarded a No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 Trainer Card, but it’s since changed to include a 4th place. The value of these can vary depending on the year and place, but a No. 1 Trainer Card from 1998 is on eBay for $70,000.
Though it may still have a higher value than a lot of the other cards on the “not” list, the value for Houndoom has been decreasing. Sure, if you have a 1st edition, holo, PSA grade 10 Houndoom from the Neo Discovery Expansion, it could still get you around $200.
But compared to many other holo cards of the same nature that are “rare” in their expansions, that isn’t too much. And for a card that isn’t graded, Houndoom is only worth a few bucks.
Hats off to you if you have this extremely rare card in your collection. It was given out over the course of a few contests held by CoroCoro magazine (the same to do the Pokémon Snap contest) in 1997 and 1998.
Artists were given the chance to send in their own illustrations for the contest and those that won had their illustrations printed on cards and received one of these. Only 39 were made, though its impossible to say how many are still intact. In 2016, one sold for $54,970. But some are currently being sold for $100,000.
The situation with Machamp is a bit tricky. Sure, if you managed to get it as shadowless and it’s in perfect condition, it could be worth a decent amount of money.
But Machamp came packaged with one of the first starter decks.
Packaging that starter deck with Machamp ensured all players had a tank Pokémon to play with. And as I’m sure we’re all aware, that starter deck sold insanely well. This means a ton of Machamp cards were printed. So it’s really only worth the $10-$20 you can usually find it at.