Pokémon is one of the most iconic franchises of all time, boasting many successful films, video games, soundtracks, anime series, and manga series. It's a property that continues to expand relentlessly, introducing new creatures and regions as often as Marvel announces new projects. As per usual, every generation of "Pocket Monsters" comes with a fresh batch of collectible trading cards.
While the Pokémon Trading Card Game is very much alive and thriving, nothing can compare to the thrill of gathering the original cards during its heyday in the late '90s/early 2000s. After all, that was when most of the valuable, limited edition collectibles were produced. Here are the 10 most unbelievably rare Pokémon cards that are worth a fortune, ranked.
10 First Edition Shadowless Holographic Blastoise
Blastoise has always been a fan favorite from the first generation, so it's no surprise that any early, rare prints of this Pokémon are worth big money. Shadowless cards are similar to their regular First Edition counterparts minus the inclusion of the "1st Edition" logo. Their name stems from the lack of drop shadows for the illustration window and they are more valuable than the prints that followed. Blastoise was incredibly rare in 1999, which means it's considered a novelty today. It would be difficult for the untrained eye to differentiate the many versions of these initial Blastoise prints. Quite a few can be found on eBay, but coming across the real First Edition Shadowless Holographic would be quite an impressive feat.
9 Tropical Wind (1999)
Multiple forms of the Tropical Wind card can be found online since English versions were awarded at the 2004 World Mega Battle Tournament. These aren't expensive at all and can be purchased for just a few dollars. As per usual, it's the older and more exclusive Japanese prints that are worth a fortune. The original Tropical Winds were granted to winners of the 1999 Tropical Mega Battle Tournament. Owners with copies still in mint condition tend to sell them anywhere between $8,000 to $10,000. However, Tropical Winds that have been visibly worn or used can be found for slightly less.
8 Gold Star Espeon
As part of the special POP Series 5 card set, this shiny Espeon was obtainable via the Daisuki Pokémon Fan Club from 2005 to 2006. You couldn't get your hands on this card without accumulating 50,000 points by plowing through various club activities. The amount of points needed within the short time frame provided meant that not many people secured the Japanese print of the card. English translations of this particular Gold Star Espeon can be purchased online in the triple digits (usually within the $600 to $900 range), but good luck finding a seller willing to part with their Japanese version.
7 Master Key Prize Card
As the name implies, the Master Key prize cards were just that: prizes awarded to players during a 2010 tournament in Japan, making it one of the more recent limited distributions. A maximum of 36 copies are thought to exist and the gold foil stamp at the very bottom of the card translates to, "Pokémon World Championship 2010 Japan National Tournament Prize Card". Of course, it's borderline impossible to get your hands on a Master Key. Like most of the cards on this list, their owners seldom choose to get rid of them, although a seller on eBay recently put a price tag of $50,000 on their copy.
6 Computer Error - Kamex Mega Battle Card
Computer Error was initially distributed as an insert with the January 1998 issue of the CoroCoro comic. Afterward, it was reprinted and awarded to participants at the Kamex Mega Battle tournaments that ran from July to August of the same year. English versions of the card were made accessible later on, so this obviously isn't the most exclusive Pokémon card ever made. However, the real value lies within the Kamex Mega Battle copies. While you can find endless Computer Error cards online for as little as $1, the authentic tournament prints are almost impossible to find, though they are typically auctioned for several thousands.
5 Articuno - Tropical Mega Battle Card
While all sorts of Articuno cards can be found across the board, this particular one was awarded as a prize during the 1999 Mega Battle Tournament. Like several other tournament cards, standard versions are readily accessible for purchase, but nothing quite compares to the rarity of the original copies. A few owners have put their Tropical Mega Battle Articunos up for sale, but none for less than $10,000. Collectors have to shell out the big bucks for this one, but at least it can be acquired; some of the rare cards on this list will only be sold once in a blue moon (if at all).
4 Kangaskhan - Parent/Child Promo Card
Released as an exclusive promotional card in Japan, this Kangaskhan was awarded to parent and children teams that reached a certain number of wins at 1998's Parent/Child Mega Battle Tournament. Everything about this card is alluring for collectors, including the symbol on the back. This is one of the few promotional releases to boast the original "Pocket Monsters Trading Card Game" logo. This symbol is synonymous with only the rarest of Pokémon cards. The few copies that exist are the ones that were distributed at the tournament, so any legitimate auctions or sales would bear a hefty price tag.
3 Holographic Shadowless First Edition Charizard
Charizard is one of the most favored Pokémon of all time, with the overwhelming majority of fans generally leaning more towards Charmander as their starter over Squirtle or Bulbasaur. Therefore, it's no surprise that this Holographic Shadowless First Edition card would impose a greater price tag than the Blastoise featured at the beginning of this list. These cards have been known to sell for as much as $18,000 on eBay, although the price can fluctuate based on its condition. Then again, most collectors cling to their Charizards for dear life, so even one of these prints in poor condition could still sell in the five-digit range.
2 Pre-Release Raichu
With an estimated 8 to 10 copies in existence, Pre-Release Raichu was supposedly never meant to be discovered. Needless to say, the name stems from the "Prerelease" stamp found at the bottom right corner near Raichu's foot. Wizards of the Coast, the original distributor of Pokémon cards, denied the existence of this card until a staff member unveiled an image of it in 2006. The validity of this claim is shrouded in ambiguity and some fans question the legitimacy of these error prints. On the other hand, some consider it the "Holy Grail" of collectible cards. It's impossible to estimate the value of a card with such obscure origins, so we'll just have to wait for an owner to put a price tag on it.
1 Pikachu Illustrator
Pikachu Illustrator, one of the most mystical trading cards in Pokémon history, was distributed to winners of an illustration contest in 1998. No one knows exactly how many of these cards were made, but it's estimated to be somewhere between 20 to 40 copies. Heritage Auctions sold one in 2016 for almost $55,000. In 2017, an eBay seller asked for $100,000 for a copy that was verified by a professional authenticator. Many knock-offs and fan-made versions of the card can be found for sale for as little as $15, but the real deal will go down in history as a rare (and unbelievably expensive) gem.