It’s no secret Pokémon has taken the hobby and pop culture by storm. Maybe it was the global, albeit brief, rise of Pokémon Go, the ubiquitous smartphone game that saw countless players walking around, eyes fixed on their screens while searching for digital iterations of the adorable creatures. Maybe it’s been a slow and steady ascent since the popular TCG series hit the States back in 1999. But the trading card game has become a hobby fixture and it’s sure to stay that way.
Yes, in a hobby where Honus Wagner cards hailing from 1909 or 1952 Mantles drive headlines, Pokémon cards have a comparatively short 20-year history, but the torrid popularity and spikes in value of what was once just a card game has caught the eyes of collectors that run the gamut of hobby interests. Those truly looking to catch ’em all are willing to pay the big bucks.
Here are just five eye-popping Pokémon cards plucked from the wild, and their prospective values pack quite a punch.
1. Pikachu Illustrator
Speaking of Wagner, the first card on the list is considered the “Honus Wagner” of Pokémon cards. The Pikachu Illustrator is incredibly rare and atop countless collectors’ wish lists. The fabled cards were given out to winners of the CoroCoro Comic Illustration contest in Japan. Reportedly, around 39 cards were issued. Only six examples are graded PSA 9 and there is just one PSA 10. In recent years, copies seem to float around the $50k mark, including a PSA 9 that sold on Heritage Auctions for just under $54k in November of 2016. But the price trend seems to continue upward. Imagine what the PSA 10 could fetch now!
2. Pikachu Trophy Card
More adorable Pikachu for you. These cards from the inaugural Pokémon tournament in 1997 are among the most desirable of a subset of cards that are already extremely desirable: trophy cards. Like cardboard trophies, these cards were handed out to tournament winners in the form of gold, silver and bronze. They pack a visual flair and were printed in numbers reportedly less than 100 examples of each card. In fact, just four gold examples reside in the PSA Population, and only one of those has earned PSA 10. Your guess is as good as mine as to what a PSA 10 could fetch, but odds are it will take more than a well-placed Poké Ball to nab.
3. Tropical Mega Battle
This aptly named trophy card was handed out to the 24 contestants of the 2001 Pokémon competition held in the tropical setting of Hawaii. Due to their scarce nature, Pokémon trainers seem apt to hold onto these cards as they are seldom listed for sale. But if you can find available examples lounging around, $10,000 asking prices aren’t out of the question.
4. 1st Edition Charizard
Ken Griffey Jr., Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky … Charizard. If Pokémon walked the earth, the dragon-like superstar would be mentioned in the same fiery breath as the aforementioned legends. Why? Because the orange fire breather has become a pop icon and his 1st Edition holographic card has transcended the hobby, spilling into the mainstream and becoming a household name. Charizard’s likeness is, arguably, as identifiable as Jordan’s on his 1986 Fleer. And speaking of Jordan’s rookie card, Charizard’s rookie card has equaled and, at times, eclipsed the value of the NBA legend’s ’86 Fleer. First Edition examples in PSA 10 regularly command around $20k, and one recently sold on eBay for $40k. And to top it off, both icons stick their tongues out in their signature poses. Need more convincing?
Speaking of Charizard, cards with the popular character affixed seem to generate automatic favor with collectors, and the fire breather’s shadowless counterpart is more of the same. Shadowless cards sound more mysterious than they really are. Between the 1st Edition and Unlimited card runs, aesthetic tweaks were made, including the removal of the drop shadow that surrounded the character box at the center of the card. And you guessed it, Charizard’s shadowless card commands a premium. High grade examples can catch prices in the $15k-plus range.
Obviously, there’s lots of Pokémon out in the wild, some may even eclipse the previous prices laid out. Which cards would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.