Following the success of the console games, the Pokémon TCG was one of the first offerings the franchise released to the public.
The first set of cards were released in Japan in 1996 before an American release in 1999. At the time, the trading card game saw immediate popularity that spawned a series of card sets every year going forward.
After some time, each set would be retired, and the only way to get a hold of these cards would be to buy resale.
Alongside each set, The Pokémon Company would do occasional promotional cards that were limited in supply and, in some cases, only awarded to players who completed specific tasks.
Over the past two years the Pokémon TCG has seen a massive boom in popularity and these limited cards have been able to fetch hefty amounts of cash.
Here are some of the rarest cards on the market right now.
First-edition Shadowless Holographic Charizard
This is the most well-known card on this list and also the most expensive. Introduced in the first American release of the Pokémon base set, this card was the most sought after in the set. At the time, the card had as much of a pull probability as any other Shadowless Holographic in the set. But since the set was retired and more players attempted to get their hands on their own copy, finding one of these in good condition is rare and will cost you a fortune.
As well as Charizard, the other Shadowless Holographic cards from the first-edition base set are also sought after and can fetch a high price when in good condition.
Umbreon and Espeon Gold Star cards
These two cards are rare because the packs they are drawn from were never released in stores. Coming from POP Series 5, these packs were given to those who participated in the Pokémon Organized Play program. This set, Series 5, was one of the last Japanese promotional sets to be released in English and included these two Pokémon with a unique gold star next to their name. Because of the criteria to have an opportunity to draw one of these cards, they are some of the rarest in circulation today.
Magikarp Tamamushi University Promo
To acquire this card, players needed to pass through a series of tests. First players would need to pass a test held by Shogakukan Magazine. Players who passed this test were then invited to compete in a tournament in Osaka where winning would net them this rare card.
There were 1,000 copies of this card available to earn, but it is not clear if they were all awarded to players. The design itself is simple, with Magikarp in its standard form. It does appear to be using a powerful attack not commonly associated with the Pokémon. If you want to get your hands on this card, be prepared to pay a hefty price.
Distributor Meeting cards
Each year a different card was handed out to The Pokémon Company international distributors at the TPCi. The card would be stamped with the location of the event and only a few would be printed. Because of these factors, these cards are some of the rarest. Depending on the year, however, you can still purchase them on resale for a reasonable price.
The Masked Royal Prize Promo
Released during the Shining Legends expansion release event in 2017, this full art variant of the card was never released outside of Japan and Korea. To get this card players had to participate in a special Shining Legends competition, otherwise it would have to be purchased through resale. There were only 100 copies released, so the resale price for the Marked Royal is high given its limited distribution.
Kangaskhan Parent Child Mega Battle
In 1998, The Pokémon Company held a tournament called the Parent/Child Mega Battle where teams of children and parents would compete. This card was awarded to teams who reached a certain number of wins. Another unique feature of this card is the fact it boasts the original Pocket Monsters Trading Card Game logo as a symbol.
2010 Master’s Key Prize Card
Another tournament prize, the 2010 Master’s Key was awarded to players in both the TCG and VGC events at the 2010 Japan World championship. There were only 34 of these unique cards put into circulation so selling them can result in high profits.
When Pokémon cards were first released in the U.S., these were printed by the company Wizards of the Coast. At this time, less than 10 copies of a Raichu holographic card marked with pre-release were given to employees and friends of the company. It was not clear these were in existence until 2006, and as of now, none have been sold.
Like many other cards on this list, Pikachu Illustrator is also rare because of it’s limited distribution, Only six are in existence. This card was released as a prize to the winners of the Japanese Pokémon Card Game Illustration contest held in 1997. Since this time, the only way to get your hands on this card has been through resale, and it has previously sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. This card is one of the all-time rarest Pokémon collectibles.
The rarest Pokémon card to date is the Japanese No. 1 Trainer Pikachu trophy card given to the winners of the first official Pokémon TCG tournament. With only four copies in circulation, netting one of these can cost you millions of dollars, as the only listing online is asking for two million USD.
There were Pikachu trainer trophy cards awarded and each of the subsequent yearly tournaments, however, because it was the initial event, this card is the rarest of them all.