23 Most Valuable Pokemon Cards to Check for in Your Collection

If you played Pokemon as a kid, it may be worth checking through the old deck. Some Pokemon cards are worth thousands.

Published December 1, 2022
A competitor holds a deck containing a Snorlax card - Getty Editorial Use

Virtually every '90s kid knows the unrestrained joy of talking an adult into buying you one of the 10-card Pokemon foil packs that beckoned from the checkout lane. Twenty years later, thanks to the success of the augmented reality smartphone app, Pokemon has made a giant comeback. Pokemon card values have skyrocketed in the past few years, and trading cards from the early days are now selling for outrageous prices. So, if you didn't gift your Pokemon cards to a kid down the street, dig them out of the basement and look through them. You could have some incredibly valuable trading cards.

Most Valuable Pokemon Cards From the 1990s

Most Valuable 1990s Pokemon Cards Recent Sales Price
1995 Topsun Holofoil Charizard $37,600
1996 Japanese Poliwrath Base Set $25,015
1996 Japanese Venusaur Base Set $55,000
1998 Tamamushi University Magikarp Promo Card $66,100
1998 Holo Kangaskhan Family Event Trophy Card $150,100
1998 Backless Blastoise $360,000
1999 Trainer Deck B Blastoise $20,000
1999 First Edition Mewtwo $20,000
1999 Chanesy Shadowless Base Set $36,877
1999 Blastoise Shadowless Base Set $45,100
1999 Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind Promo Card $65,100
1999 No. 1 Trainer Super Secret Battle Card $90,000

The Pokemon Trading Card Game was launched in Japan in 1996 and in the U.S. in 1999. These cards were a megahit among kids and young adults, who ripped each foil pack open like they were the characters from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory looking for the golden ticket. Just like Charlie Bucket, some of them found their golden ticket in special edition cards, "shiny" cards, and novelty packs. It didn't matter if you were picking them up because you liked looking at the cute creatures or because you had serious (although foolhardy) aspirations of becoming a PTCG champion. All that matters now is which early cards you managed to hold onto for all these years.

1995 Topsun Holofoil Charizard

1995 Topsun Holofoil Charizard

Anything that can tie the different pieces of the Pokemon franchise together is a money-maker, and the promotional Topsun Holofoil card packs from 1995 do just that. They predate the official TCG release by a year and were made to be little prizes inside of packs of gum, but serious card collectors know just how special they are. The best of these is the Charizard card whose illustration mirrors the infamous cover of Nintendo's Pokemon Red game that launched in 1996. Featuring a crackled holographic background, this card recently sold for $37,600 on eBay.

1996 Japanese Poliwrath Base Set

Poliwrath - a frog-like water Pokemon - was included in the original Japanese base set that was released in 1996. It doesn't feature any notable markings and is printed in Japanese. A pristine card sold at a PWCC auction for $25,015, making it one of the most valuable cards from this early set.

1996 Japanese Venusaur Base Set

Japanese first base sets featured no stamping, so they're often referred to as No Rarity cards. They are particularly hard to find in good condition. One Venusaur base set card went to sale in 2021, with the PSA noting that only five of these grade 10s are known to exist. What makes this card even more special is that it's signed by the original artist, Mitsuhiro Arita. All these factors came together for a goldmine of an auction entry, selling for $55,000.

1998 Tamamushi University Magikarp Promo Card

1998 Tamamushi University Magikarp Promo Card

Most trainers prefer the orange goldfish-like Pokemon's giant dragon evolution, Gyarados, to its baby goldfish beginnings, Magikarp. But, this 1998 Magikarp card would trump any Gyarados in your collection, since it was only gifted to tournament participants in an Osaka competition. To enter, players had to send in answers to a magazine-circulated Tamamushi University Hyper Test. Only a few of these cards were handed out, making any of them worth a pretty penny. In 2021, one of them with a gem mint status sold for $66,100 on eBay.

1998 Holo Kangaskhan Family Event Trophy Card

An unusual Japanese tournament in 1998 where parents and children partnered up had an extremely rare holographic variant Kangaskhan card that was given to challengers who hit a certain number of wins. The card has never been mass produced, making it super rare. It's so rare, in fact, that only three have been sold in recent decades, with an estimated 46 to exist. One sold for $150,100.

1998 Backless Blastoise

1998 Backless Blastoise

One of the rarest Pokemon trading cards, the test print Blastoise card made by the Wizards of the Coast in 1998, wasn't meant to get into anyone's hands. Its most distinctive feature (and design faux pas) is that there's no design on the back of the card, just a blank white canvas. Very few of these are known to exist, and one with an 8.5 grading sold in 2021 for a shocking amount - $360,000, to be exact.

1999 Trainer Deck B Blastoise

If you were glued to your TV watching Pokemon in the '90s, then either Ash, Misty, or Brock were your favorite Pokemon trainers. In honor of the American TCG release in 1999, a promo pack called "Misty's Deck" was given out to league members. The best Pokemon in the deck (now called 'Deck B') was Blastoise. This base set non-holographic Blastoise is worth about a semester of college tuition, nowadays, such as this gem mint card that sold in 2021 for $20,000.

1999 First Edition Mewtwo

1999 First Edition Mewtwo

The name Mewtwo will bring tears to any Pokemon fan's eyes because of how it helped save Ash Ketchum's life in the first Pokemon movie. A legendary Pokemon, Mewtwo is a super powerful psychic Pokemon and one of the best-known legends in Pokemon pop culture. First edition cards of this iconic 'mon can sell for a few hundred to a few thousand depending on their condition. According to the PSA, a gem mint card is worth about $20,000.

1999 Chansey Shadowless Base Set

1999 Chansey Shadowless Base Set

The American base set (which debuted in 1999) is highly collectible because of how iconic and lasting the Pokemon are from that original generation. So, any well-preserved card from the American base set is going to sell for a lot of money. Take this 1999 Shadowless Chansey that sold in 2020 for $36,877, for example.

1999 Blastoise Shadowless Base Set

1999 Blastoise Shadowless Base Set

Blastoise is the beloved final evolution of the original starter Pokemon, Squirtle, and any base set card from the first American release is worth a lot. Add a gem mint 10 on top of that, and you've got a high-value collectible right there. In 2020, one of these Shadowless base set Blastoises went for sale in a PWCC auction and sold for a whopping $45,100.

1999 Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind Promo Card

1999 Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind Promo Card

Before 2004 when the World Championships were codified, it was the wild, wild west when it came to TCG competitions. Earlier versions were called Tropical Mega Battle, and the 1999 battle was held in Hawaii. Fifty players came together to compete, and only a few of these ended up with the Tropical Wind trophy card, making it particularly valuable (especially for Psyduck fans thanks to the artwork). One of these cards in a gem mint 10 condition came to auction in 2020 and sold for $65,100.

1999 No. 1 Trainer Super Secret Battle Card

1999 No. 1 Trainer Super Secret Battle Card

As if Pokemon championships couldn't be more mystical, one 1999 Japanese finale (at a secret location) could only be entered with a No. 1 Trainer card, which only winners of regional events received. This "Super Secret Battle" is legendary in its own right, and collectors push and shove to get at one of these special cards. One of these in a gem mint 10 sold at an auction in 2020 for $90,000, if that tells you anything.

Top Selling Pokemon Trading Cards From the 2000s

Most Valuable 2000s Pokemon Cards Recent Sales Price
2000 Neo Genesis Holo Lugia 1st Edition $144,300
2002 Neo Summer Battle Road Tornament Number 2 Trainer Trophy Card $34,100
2003 Charizard Crystal Holo Variant $25,100
2004 "Gold Star" Holo Torchic $25,400
2005 "Gold Star" Holo Rayquaza $45,100
2005 "Gold Star" Holo Umbreon $78,000
2005 Japanese Summer Battle Road Mew Victory Orb Trainer Card $15,350
2006 "Gold Star" Holo Shiny Charizard $25,405
2007 "Gold Star" Holo Espeon $22,100
2010 Master Key Card $26,900
2016 24K Gold Pikachu $2,000

The American PTCG release in 1999 was a boon for its Japanese creators, and 2000s kids spent all their allowances on these game cards. You probably remember hoarding the cards and showing them off way more than you do actually playing the card game, and this odd instant novelty is what made them popular with many kids. If you happen to have jumped on the Pokemon card game bandwagon back at the turn of the century, then you might have one or two of these ultra-valuable cards pressed between the pages of a Highlights magazine somewhere.

2000 Neo Genesis Holo Lugia 1st Edition

2000 Neo Genesis Holo Lugia 1st Edition

Legendary Pokemon are legends for a reason. They're super hard to find and catch in the video games and just as difficult to find in a card pack. In particular, Lugia is one of the first and most iconic of these souped-up 'mons, and the 1st edition of their Neo Genesis cards were filled with so many errors, they're difficult to grade. But, a highly prized mint condition copy sold in 2021 for a mind-blowing $144,300.

2002 Neo Summer Battle Road Tournament Number 2 Trainer Trophy Card

The PTCG operates kind of like chess, where there are various levels of tournaments that culminate in world championship competitions, and competitors receive special trophy cards. Recently, a 2002 Number 2 Trainer Card from one of these battles went to auction and sold for $34,100. Of the limited quantities, this second-place card had the winner's name written on it - making it all the more unique and valuable.

2003 Charizard Crystal Holo Variant

Charizard - the third evolution of the starter Pokemon, Charmander - is a beloved character from the original line, and it always brings interest at auction. One 2003 card featured a Crystal Holo design variant that had a rather low production value and a gem mint 10 status. It sold in 2020 for $25,100 at a PWCC auction.

2004 "Gold Star" Holo Torchic

2004 Gold Star Holo Torchic

During the middle of the 2000s, interest in the PTCG had started to wane, prompting a new line of cards (called Gold Star) to enter the market attempting to drum up interest again. These cards were made in a limited number and specialty marked with literal gold stars. Due to this specialty status, they can be valuable. One Torchic card from 2001 sold at auction for $25,400 in 2020.

2005 "Gold Star" Holo Rayquaza

A part of the Ex Deoxys expansion pack, this Rayquaza card is highly valuable because of its gold star status, holographic image, and the fact that it's one of the legendary Pokemon from the Hoenn region. Legendaries are just as popular with enthusiasts as shiny Pokemon are, as this gem mint 10 card's $45,100 payout at a 2020 auction attests.

2005 "Gold Star" Holo Umbreon

Eevee fans are another breed of Pokemon fans, and they obsessively collect any merchandise relating to Eevee and its various evolutions. To grab the gold star holographic version of the dark type evolution, Umbreon, players had to accumulate 70,000 XP points (basically, people had to win a lot at actual matches). In 2021, the first ever of these cards came to auction with a BGS grade of 9.5. It sold for a shocking $78,000.

2005 Japanese Summer Battle Road Mew Victory Orb Trainer Card

The Battle Road Summer Tournament commenced in 2005 across nine Japanese cities, and only the top three competitors of each age group would win a Victory Orb card. This card was particularly spectacular because it featured the elusive legendary Pokemon, Mew. Because so few people got one of these cards, they're valuable to collectors. One gem mint card sold in 2020 for $15,350.

2006 "Gold Star" Holo Shiny Charizard

Finding that limited gold star on a Pokemon card already makes it worthwhile, but discovering a shiny Pokemon is like hitting a jackpot on the slot machine. One such gold star shiny holographic Charizard comes from a 2006 series. With a gem mint 10 condition, it sold at a 2021 auction for $25,405.

2007 "Gold Star" Holo Espeon

The gold star series continues to be one of the rarest and most valuable series the Pokemon TCG ever released. Among the hardest to find of these are the multiple "Eeveelutions", and one such difficult card to find (of the psychic type, Espeon) sold in 2021 for an impressive $22,100.

2010 Master Key Card

The aforementioned World Championships are a serious competition featuring top talent from around the world. In 2010, the championships were held in Hawaii, and 36 competitors were given a Master Key card. This highly limited run, coupled with a PSA 9 grading (meaning it's in almost perfect condition), pushed one of these cards up to a $26,900 sale in a 2020 auction.

2016 24K Gold Pikachu

Japan rang in the 20th TCG anniversary in luxurious style with their 24k solid gold Pikachu card. Made in 2016 by the Japanese jeweler Ginza Tanaka, the limited number of cards could only be bought if your lottery number came up. The sale price at the time was a little over $2,000. This card's weight in gold alone makes it a super valuable card, but adding commemorative release and limited numbers makes it a must-have.

Look for These Valuable Characteristics

If you're flipping through cards on the fly, you don't have the time or tools to give the cards a serious once-over. So, the best tips for finding valuable Pokemon cards help you sort quickly. You'll want to keep a cheat sheet ready with all these money-making tells.

  • Check for the Gold Star. Gold Star cards come with an off-kilter star perched beside the Pokemon's name. Since they all come from a limited run, they're worth a lot of money.
  • Look for a signature. If you find a card with a signature at a good price, drop the money and run. Most often, cards were signed by the artist or a champion competitor, and since signatures always add to the price tag, it's worth doing a little research after you've secured it for yourself.
  • Check for rare and super rare symbols. Pokemon card rarity is illustrated with a symbol on the bottom right corner. The symbol you should look for is a black star, as it means it's considered a rare card. Really valuable rare cards come with out-of-range numbers (such as 201/200) or extra letters in front of the symbol. While these letters change depending on the deck, it's a safe bet to collect any black starred cards you find.

Tips for Selling Pokemon Cards Every Trainer Should Know

Whether you've been a Pokemon trainer in everything but name since you were a kid in the '90s or you just recently got caught up by the Pokemon fever, you can become a bona fide Pokemon card trader. Simply, if you've got interesting and rare TCG cards and the patience to find the right collector, then you can make money from your childhood collection. Before you start listing every card in your binder online, there are a few things you need to know about how to get a quick and easy sale.

  • Get your cards graded. If you think you have one of these rare holographic, gold star, or base set cards, then the first step to take before even thinking about selling them is getting the cards professionally graded. PSA is the biggest professional grading company in the market, and they'll asses your cards for a fee. But, no serious collector is going to buy any cards that haven't been graded, so it's an investment you must make.
  • Get comfortable with using eBay. eBay is a super simple online independent seller platform that's become synonymous with niche and kitschy collectibles like Pokemon cards. Outside of the very few TCG auction lots sold through traditional auction houses, most big-ticket card sales are brokered through eBay.
  • Hit while the market's hot. Right now, Pokemon cards and other vintage memorabilia have seen a massive uptick in demand over the past few years, but eventually that demand will start to plateau, and the cards won't be worth the same amounts that they are right now. So, you've got to make a deal while your product is hot.

Gotta Collect 'Em All

Holding a stack of Pokemon trading cards in your hands will transport you back to being 10 years old again and fighting over the newest region's Pokemon packs. For some, that nostalgia has never faded, and they're willing to fork over some cold, hard cash for the missing cards in their collectors' decks. So, it's time to capitalize on all those kids trying to catch 'em all by finding the right buyers for the special cards in your childhood deck.

23 Most Valuable Pokemon Cards to Check for in Your Collection