Real Talk: Most Expensive Pokemon Cards (& Their Real Worth)

Created 9/30/2021 12:04:10 AM in nintendo | pokemon |

Discover the real value you can obtain for yourself (and provide others!) by selling the world's rarest Pokemon cards.

[Editor's Note]
In June 2022, a fourth Pikachu Illustrator card was sold on ZenPlus for ¥98,000,000 (more than $725,000) -- smashing the previous record of $366,000 by almost $400,000.

The value scenario outlined in this blog post is for the $366,000 Pikachu Illustrator sold previously.

Stay tuned for a separate article about the June 2022 purchase!



Pocket Monsters and pocket money may sound similar, but make no mistake: in 2021, they’re polar opposites.

Especially when it comes to the Pokémon TCG (Trading Card Game).

The recent surge in the price of Pokémon cards has ignited a frenzy of interest from collectors and casual fans alike in recent years. Rare cards in amazing condition are being sold for hundreds of thousands of US dollars; it’s like each transaction is doing its best to outdo the last!

Do you find it hard to believe that a trading card can be worth anything more than a couple of rounds at your local game arcade? Does a figure like “$369,000” just feel like empty numbers to you?

If so, worry not! In this post we’ll introduce you to the three most expensive (read: valuable) Pokemon cards of all time, and let you know what their selling prices can actually buy you in the real world. Everything becomes easier to grasp when it’s close to home and has context, right?

How much are Pokemon cards worth?

What value do the most expensive Pokemon cards possess?

What value can they provide to you when you sell them?

What value can you provide to others with that sale?

Get your Pokédex ready, because you’re about to find out!



#1: Blastoise ($360,000)

Blastoise Commissioned Presentation prototype card


Official name

Blastoise Commissioned Presentation Galaxy Star Hologram

Story of the card

Part of a 1998 test batch by Wizards of the Coast, publishers of trading card game pioneer Magic: The Gathering (and, of course, the Pokemon TCG itself). Wizards of the Coast produced the test prints to show comic book shops and other market players what the English version of the Pokemon TCG would look like.

Grading authority CGC examined four such Blastoise test pieces: Three had been printed on Magic: The Gathering card stock (paper), and so their reverse sides featured that game’s logo. They were also deemed lower quality.

Blastoise card backs

The other test Blastoises graded by CGC were printed on Magic: The Gathering card stock.

The back of the $360,000 one, though was completely blank! CGC notes that one other similar card was produced for international promotions, but its whereabouts are unknown. That makes this card a true one of a kind!

The card secured a solid 8.5 (out of 10) on the CGC Trading Cards grading scale, meaning it is “an attractive collectible with a moderate defect or a number of small defects.”

But, as the enthusiastic auctioneer pointed out during the live auction feed, “it’s not about the grade” for this particular Blastoise.

It’s all in the rarity.

About the sale

What can you buy with that much money?

First: 110,000 various copies of Game Freak, a video game magazine published throughout the 1980s by eventual Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri and art director Ken Sugimori. (Game Freak would go on to become the name of their game development company, which continues to make Pokémon games to this day.) Tajiri has stated in past interviews that the magazines sold for 300 yen apiece (about $3 US).

A few examples of Game Freak magazine (Source: Cyber-Chris)


Putting aside the question of whether or not 110,000 copies of the magazine are still in circulation today (or were even published to begin with), there’s no denying their place in video game history. Just think — you could start your very own real-life Pokemon Museum, so that both memorabilia and memories can be preserved for future generations! Another investment to be proud of!

Second: More than 70 years’ worth of water bills in Ken Sugimori’s hometown of Fukuoka (specifically, the Hakata ward). That’s almost a lifetime supply !

Would 70 whole years of water be enough to give Blastoise a run for its money? Would the mighty Pokemon even last that long, in terms of both capacity and vitality? We’re not sure on this one — it’s said that Wartortle, the evolutionary form prior to Blastoise, has a life expectancy of 10,000 years — so if any Pokemon scholars out there can shed some light on the subject, we’d love to hear about it!

Budget Breakdown

  • 110,000 magazines @ $3 each = $330,000
  • Water bills for 840 months (70 years) @ $31 per month = $26,040





#2: Pikachu Illustrator ($726,000)

Pikachu Illustrator sold on ZenPlus

Official name

Pokemon Illustrator

Story of the card

[Editor's Note: The value scenario info here is for the previous Pikachu Illustrator, sold in December 2020. Stay tuned for a separate article about the ¥98,000,000 card sold in June 2022!]

This Pikachu card was awarded to about 30 participants who came in first and second place in a 1998 drawing contest (conducted by manga magazine CoroCoro Comic). It's not known exactly how many still exist today -- though Heritage Auctions notes that only 10 are graded in top condition. For many, that makes it the holy grail of the Pokemon TCG.

The Pokemon Illustrator card— or Pikachu Illustrator card, as it’s affectionately called — that we’re showcasing here was listed on ZenPlus for ¥38,000,000 in late 2020. A devoted Pokécollector in Canada snapped up the card in December, and payment was confirmed on January 14, 2021.

Not only was it ZenPlus’s fourth Pikachu Illustrator sale, it was also the most valuable, worth almost Going by exchange rates at the time, the ¥38,000,000 price tag would have translated to about $366,000 ($365,968 to be exact); the previous two offerings sold for $233,000 and $208,000 respectively back in 2020.

Here’s what the text on the card translates to, per the PSA blog and Bulbapedia:

"We certify that your illustration is an excellent entry in the Pokemon Card Game Illustration Contest. Therefore, we state that you are an Officially Authorized Pokemon Card Illustrator and admire your skill."

All three Pikachu Illustrator cards were listed by the pokemonm store on ZenPlus. Click the button below to visit their store and see what rare gems will pop up next!

Visit the pokemonm store

About the sale

  • Price: Roughly $366,000 (¥38,000,000)
  • Date: Jan 14, 2021
  • Vendor: ZenPlus, via the pokemonm store

Pikachu Illustrator sale on Japanese news

What can you buy with that much money?

First: Four years of arts education at the prestigious Osaka University of Arts, so that you can become a skilled illustrator yourself — just like the Pikachu Pokémon card in question says.

The university is a creator’s paradise, offering courses on everything from oil painting to manga, graphic design, pottery, and even voice acting. It also boasts some pretty impressive alumni:

  • Hideaki Anno, animator and filmmaker (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
  • Kiyohiko Azuma, manga artist (Azumanga Daioh and Yotsuba&!)
  • Ai Otsuka, singer (Sakuranbo and Planetarium)

With that kind of expertise under your belt eventually, who knows? Maybe you’ll end up creating the next Pokemon-like phenomenon, bringing joy and happiness to millions of people around the world!

Neon Genesis Evangelion | Azumanga Daioh | Planetarium


Second: 12 years’ worth of rent in Osaka’s Fukushima district, known for its thriving restaurant and bar scene. The Osaka Pokemon Center is just a train stop (or 15-minute walk) away too, so you’d also be indirectly doing your part in helping to spread the Pokemon love!

We based our calculation on the market rent of apartments matching the following criteria:

  • 2–3 bedrooms
  • 10 minutes or less on foot to the nearest train station
  • Built in the last 15 years

You could find some fellow expats to share the apartment with, or even become an Airbnb host and offer it up as a hip, convenient place for travelers to spend a couple of nights!

Apartment in Fukushima district of Osaka


Budget Breakdown

  • One-time university admission fee = $2,645
  • Tuition and facility fees for 4 years @ $13,509 per year = $54,036
  • Rent for 144 months (12 years) @ $2,064 per month = $297,216





#3: Charizard ($360,000-$369,000)

Charizard card

Official name

1999 Pokemon Base Set 1st Edition #4 Charizard

Story of the card

Charizard is widely regarded as the king of the mountain when it comes to the Pokemon TCG. Unmatched on the playing field, its base HP, Fire Spin attack stats, and unique 50% resistance to Fighting types helped it earn the mantle of strongest Pokemon in the original game.

Of course, as we’ve seen over the past year, Charizard doesn’t just hold a coveted spot in the eyes of Pokemon trainers. Its sheer monetary value makes it highly sought after by collectors and investors alike — and on a consistent basis, too.

The Charizard in question here was sold by Goldin Auctions for between $360,000 and $369,000, more than seven times its minimum bid. Goldin lists the former as the “final price including buyers premium” on its homepage, and the latter as the price on Twitter. Whatever the figure, this Charizard reigns supreme as the most expensive English-language Pokemon card sold at auction to date — surpassing the previous record of $350,000 that was set on eBay a mere four hours prior!

The card was deemed “extremely desirable” and in “one-of-a-kind pristine condition,” receiving the following accolades prior to its sale:

About the sale

  • Price: Between $360,000 and $369,000
  • Date: Dec 13, 2020
  • Vendor: Goldin Auctions

What can you buy with that much money?

First: You could buy 15,000 cinema tickets to see 2019’s Detective Pikachu movie in London, where much of the filming took place. The Empire (Cineworld) in London's bustling Leicester Square charges £14.50 for a single adult admission and has a seating capacity of more than 10,000 people —  which means a whole lot of Pikachu! 

From the small snippets in the trailer alone, it was clear to a lot of us that Charizard’s scenes were going to be one of the film’s many highlights — and we weren’t mistaken.

Without delving into spoiler territory, let’s just say the Charizard set piece was everything a Pokemon fan had dreamed of (and more) since the very first time they heard those iconic opening lyrics to the anime: “I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was.”

What would it really be like to live in a world with Pokemon? For their presence in the wild to be the norm, for a Pokemon trainer’s quest to be the everyday? If only there was a way to find out…

For moviegoers across the globe, Detective Pikachu transformed those dreams and those imaginings into reality. By making two more films with the proceeds from the Charizard sale, you’d be delivering even more value and good vibes to fans everywhere.

Detective Pikachu

Second: Friday night Fire Ramen for each of the 2,493 full-time staff members at Nintendo Co., Ltd in Japan, helping them see out the working week in a literal blaze of glory. Just a small token of gratitude for continuing to bring Pokemon into our lives, you know?

Fire Ramen can be found at Kyoto’s Menbaka Ichidai, a cosy little ramen shop nestled in front of Nijo Castle. Chances are you’ve seen its scorched servings of ramen highlighted on Instagram, Youtube, and other social media platforms.

Here’s what’s on the menu, courtesy of your Charizard sale:

  • Fire Ramen
  • Fire Rice
  • Gyoza
  • Fried chicken
  • Coca-Cola, orange juice, or tea (alcohol would exceed your budget)

With a seating capacity of just 20 people, you’re looking at more than 100 weeks (two years) of packed Friday bookings just to ensure everyone at Nintendo gets their turn at the fiery goodness. A great way to foster relationships and rejuvenate the restaurant industry in these trying times!

Budget Breakdown

  • Movie tickets for 15,000 adults in London, where Detective Pikachu was filmed = $291,900
  • Fire Ramen sets for all 2,493 Nintendo staff @ $21 each = $52,353
  • Drinks for all 2,493 Nintendo staff @ $2 each = $4,986





Recap: Most Expensive Pokemon Cards (& Their Real Worth)

In this blog post explored, we explored single Pokemon card worth in both numerical and and practical terms. Here's a list of the three cards we looked at specifically:

  1. Blastoise (Commissioned Presentation Galaxy Star Hologram) - $360,000
  2. Pikachu Illustrator (Pokemon Illustrator) - $366,000
  3. Charizard (1999 Pokemon Base Set 1st Edition #4) - $360,000-$369,000

Check out the infographic below for a summary of just what each card can buy you in the real world:


Pokémon card worth infographic

Updated: November 17, 2021


Share this graphic on your site!



Pokemon Cards Are an Investment

Pokémon cards

What treasures do you have in your own Pokemon card collection?

Pokemon card value has been on the rise since 2018, but it’s safe to say the market has truly exploded. (YouTuber Logan Paul shelling out a cool $2 million on Pokemon cards alone certainly helped.)

Don’t get us wrong — Pokemon is, at its core, an entertainment phenomenon that brings a smile to millions of people worldwide. That’s why we still love it to this day, a whole 25 years after the original Pokemon Red and Green’s release on the Nintendo Game Boy.

But when it comes to Pokemon TCG cards, they’re definitely also an investment. Be lucky enough to have quality and rarity on your side, and you may very well be able to reap the rewards in the future — both financial and emotional. And there’s no time like the present to get started!

With single Pokemon card prices reaching as high as $369,000, you might find it hard to really process just how valuable the cards can be. We hope this blog helps give some context to these prices so they’re easier to digest.

Over to You!

What Pokemon cards do you have in your collection?

Would you be willing to sell them one day if the price was right?

Let us know in the comments or drop us a line on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)! We’d love to hear from you!

ZenPlus is your one-stop shop for all things Japanese. Click the button below to find more Pokemon cards and other awesome Pokémon merch, direct from Japan to you!

Find more Pokemon merch!


This blog post is in no way intended to cast doubt on rare Pokémon card prices or otherwise frame them in a negative light. On the contrary, it’s a reminder that there’s true value to be found in — and provided by — the Pokemon TCG.

All dollar amounts are USD. Yen-dollar conversions are based on the current exchange rate on Pokemon Day (February 27), 2021. Converted prices ignore inflation and are rounded to the nearest dollar.



Other articles you'll enjoy

If you can't get enough Nintendo, you won't want to miss these other articles on ZenPlus:

  1. Buy or Bye? What's New in Zelda: Skyward Sword HD
  2. Pokémon Trainers Beware: Pikachu is Unstoppable.
  3. 8 Nintendo Switch Accessories That Will Simplify Your Life


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