What Is the Rarest Pokémon Card? And Is It Worth $5.2 Million?

By: Sascha Bos  | 
Pokemon cards in a binder arranged in a 3 x 3 grid
Ever since the Pokemon trading card game was first released, collectors have sought the elusive and valuable Pokemon cards such as the hologram Charizard. But that's just one of the rarest Pokemon cards released to the public — some cards had much more limited print runs. WML Image / Shutterstock

In 1996, the Pokémon trading card game launched in Japan, just months after the release of the Pokémon Red and Green games for Nintendo's Game Boy. Now, 28 years and 52.9 billion cards later, the Pokémon trading card game continues to captivate players and collectors alike.

According to Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), the number of Pokémon cards submitted for grading has doubled every year since 2015, surpassing the number of basketball, football and hockey PSA cards in 2018.


If you've ever wondered, "What is the rarest Pokémon card?" then this article is for you. We'll take a look at some of the rarest Pokémon cards released in the past, what makes them so special and some current Pokémon card values.

Skyridge Crystal Charizard

The holographic Skyridge Crystal Charizard #146 is a great example of a rare Pokémon card that was available to the general public. (Most of the cards on this list are trophy cards, meaning they were awarded to winners of competitions, or other ultra-rare cards only given to a select few.)

The English-language version of this card was released in 2003 and illustrated by Kouki Saitou. According to Bulbapedia, "Skyridge was the final expansion to be produced by Wizards of the Coast before the company lost [its] license. As a consequence of that, there was only one print run of Skyridge, causing its price to skyrocket."


The cards in this set were also compatible with the Nintendo e-Reader for Game Boy Advance, which allowed players to scan Pokémon cards to unlock in-game features.

About 1,000 of these valuable Pokémon cards have been submitted to PSA for grading and only 230 have received the highest grade. These "Gem Mint 10" graded cards can sell for over $10,000.


Pikachu Illustrator

In 2022, YouTuber Logan Paul broke the Guinness World Record for "most expensive Pokémon trading card sold at a private sale" when Paul bought a PSA Grade 10 Pikachu Illustrator card for $5,275,000.

"The Pikachu Illustrator is one of the rarest and most highly coveted Pokémon cards in the world," Paul told Guinness World Records. "Only 39 were given out to Illustration contest winners in 1998," Paul explained.


This makes the Pikachu Illustrator card one of the most valuable Pokémon cards in existence, but it's not necessarily the rarest.

According to TCGPlayer Infinite, the Pikachu Illustrator card's popularity is due in part to its age. Released in 1998, the same year the Pokémon trading card game hit Japan, owning an Illustrator card is like owning a piece of Pokémon card-collecting history.


Master's Key

The holographic Master's Key card was awarded to 36 finalists of the 2010 Japan World Championship representative tournament; the Pokémon Company's equivalent of a Japanese national championship for competitive Pokémon players. Finalists of both the video game and trading card competitions received the Master's Key card.

“The Master’s Key prize card is one of the most highly coveted issues across all of Pokémon,” auction house PWCC’s trading card game manager Peter Petipas told Dicebreaker in 2023 after selling a copy of the ultra-rare card for $66,000.


Tropical Breeze

One of the most valuable Pokémon cards on the market is the 1999 Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind card. According to PWCC, the Pokémon Company distributed just 586 copies of this card.

The vast majority (576) went to competitors in the 1999 Pokémon Japanese Tropical Mega Battle Tournament and the remaining 10 cards were part of a magazine promotion. A copy of this card sold for over $65,000 in 2020.


But the 1999 version isn't the rarest version of Tropical Wind. That honor belongs to Tropical Breeze, a rare promo card awarded at the 2001 Tropical Mega Battle to just 24 Pokémon trainers. This competition was the only time "Tropical Wind" was renamed "Tropical Breeze."

Pokémon Snap

Some of the rarest Pokémon cards were released to promote the Pokémon video games. A prime example is the Pokémon Snap cards from 1999.

The Pokémon Company held two contests to promote the new Pokémon Snap game for Nintendo 64. In the game, players take candid photos of Pokémon, which they could submit to the magazine CoroCoro or TV Show 64 Mario Stadium. Winners of the contest would get their picture featured on an actual Pokémon card.


Each contest had 5 winners, and the winners were given either 20 or 15 copies of their winning card (20 for CoroCoro, 15 for Mario Stadium), meaning there are around 15 to 20 copies of each of the 10 cards in existence.

According to Pokumon, "Some of the winners have not sold any of their received copies, yet auctions have been held that sold. These are likely extra copies from the initial print run, as most have been sold by Yuichi Konno, one of the four original developers of the Pokemon TCG ruleset."

In November 2023, three Pokémon Snap cards sold for over $70,000 each.


1999 Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer

Would you pay $90,000 for a piece of cardboard? That's how much one buyer paid for a copy of the 1999 Super Secret Battle Trainer card.

This is one of the rarest Pokémon cards in the world, given to just seven players who were the winners of regional tournaments held in Japan in 1999. The card itself features a holographic silhouette of Mewtwo illustrated by Hideki Kazama, according to Heritage Auctions.


World Champion Cards

Every year, a new super-rare Pokémon card makes its debut at the Pokémon World Championships. The Pokémon Company awards six copies of a special card — one champion for each of three age divisions (junior, senior and master) in each of the two formats (trading card game and video game).

Although the same card is given to each of the finalists, the three champions' cards are printed with the word "champion." That means there are only three copies of the World Champion card distributed each year.


In 2002, the Pokémon Company did something a little different. Each copy of the World Championships Sprint Battle Road 2002 No 1. Trainer Promo is unique, as it has the name of the trainer and the region they were champion of printed on the card.

While there were at least seven printed (one for each region), each card is one of a kind.


Wizards of the Coast Blastoise

The Wizards of the Coast Blastoise presentation card is unique among ultra-rare Pokémon cards. Unlike other valuable Pokémon cards, the Wizards of the Coast Blastoise presentation card was not a trophy card or promo card; it was a prototype for a set that was never produced.

Just two copies of this test print card were produced in 1998 by Wizards of the Coast, the makers of Magic the Gathering. The back of this card even has the Magic the Gathering logo, as it was printed on Wizards of the Coast's Magic the Gathering stock.


The presentation must have been successful, because Wizards of the Coast printed the English versions of Pokémon cards up until 2003.

In 2021, this card sold for $360,000.


Rare Pokémon Cards FAQ

What is the rarest Pokemon card?
The rarest Pokemon card is probably the 2002 World Championships trophy card. Each card was printed with the winner's name, so there is only one copy of each card in existence.
What are the most valuable Pokemon cards?
The Pikachu Illustrator card sold for over $5 million, making it the most valuable Pokemon card.
What are gold star cards?
Most Pokémon cards have a rarity symbol on the bottom of the card. Cards with three gold stars are holographic and often highly sought-after.