More than 20 years after it was originally released, Pokémon is arguably more popular than it has ever been. Pokémon GO is estimated to have been downloaded more than 500 million times and the new Pokémon Sun and Moon games have sold nearly 15 million since they launched on 3DS in November, while shops are stocking Pokémon Trading Cards for the first time in years.
Now, the Pokémon Trading Card game is set to get a boost when the Sun & Moon cards are released in the UK on February 3. Pokémon Trading Cards are still being swapped by kids, but those who have been playing for years might have some cards that they wouldn't want to give away.
Over the last 20 years, hundreds of sets and promotional cards have been released, and some of them are so rare that they are now worth a fortune. Here are 11 of the rarest Pokemon cards – have you got any of these?
1. Chairzard Base Set (PSA Graded, 1st Edition): Est. value, £800+
At the height of the Pokémon craze in the late-90s, Charizard was the fan-favourite Pokémon. Even though there were shiny Venusaur and Blastiose cards, it was the Charizard card that stirred up the real fuss.
Even to this day, people are still excited when they pull this card in the 'reprinted' XY Evolutions set. While hoarders of it may be disappointed that the value of the card hasn't gone up that much over the years, a mint condition (graded by PSA) first-edition Charizard could be worth in the region of $1000 - $2000.
2. Shining Charizard – Neo Destiny (PSA Graded, 1st Edition): Est. Value, £200-£1000
A few years after the Charizard Base Set craze, there was another Charizard card to drool over. The Neo Destiny set introduced Shining Charizard – the card shows a shiny Charizard, a special and rare alternative that was introduced in the second generation of Pokémon games. It also has an attack that you need five energy for, which was very unusual at the time.
Due to the Pokémon card craze tailing off at this point, Neo Destiny cards were not made in such quantities, and were harder to find in shops. There have been many 'shining' editions of Pokémon in card form over the years, but it's the Charizard yet again that collectors can't get enough of.
3. Lets Trade Please! – Promo: Est. value, £50
In 1998 there was a promotion in Japan which enabled fans to send off for this card. The promo appeared on a leaflet with a music CD called 'Let's Trade Please' – fans needed to send a letter with two Pokémon cards that they would like to trade, and in return they got the Let's Trade Please promotional card, along with a promo Venusaur, Charizard, or Blastiose.
It's one of only two cards in Pokémon TCG to have a holographic back, and its interesting artwork was drawn by Pokémon TCG mascot 'Imakuni?'. Due to the limited time available to get this promo, there doesn't appear to be many of these cards in circulation. While not one of the most expensive cards on this list, it's certainly rare.
4. Base set Booster Box – Black Triangle Error: Est. Value, $8,700 for a sealed box, £200 for a booster pack
It can be far more cost-effective for a collector to buy cards in bulk, usually by purchasing a whole booster box. Some may even buy a box, keep it sealed, and hope that it will go up in value over the years as that set becomes harder to obtain. Needless to say, the older Pokémon booster boxes can sell for thousands on eBay.
Recently, popular Pokémon TCG YouTuber Unlisted Leaf got the surprise of his life. Unknowing to him (and probably the person that sold it to him) he bought a sealed Base set box that's one of the rarest boxes available. The booster packets within had black triangles over the 'first edition' writing – this is because the factory that printed these cards were no longer printing first editions. These are said to only have been printed in the factory for a couple of hours.
A sealed box is worth around $11,000, but there's pretty much no way of knowing if you have black triangle packets until the seal is broken and you've opened the box.
5. Gold Star cards: Est. value, £100-£600
Following on from the Shining cards found in the Neo Revelation and Neo Destiny expansions, Shiny Pokémon returned in later sets that were known by fans as Pokémon Gold Star cards.
These cards feature the shiny (alternate colour) variants of Pokémon, and are very hard to find. It is said that the odds of pulling a gold star card is only one, or maybe two, per booster box. The most valuable gold star cards are the Japanese Eevee evolution cards as they were only awarded to members of the Pokémon Players Club. These cards feature a gold star next to the Pokémon's name.
6. Espeon Gold Star: Est. value, £1,400
Probably the hardest to find and most sought-after Gold Star Pokémon card is a Japanese Espeon Star. Members of the Japanese Daisuki club had to earn enough points through various activities to earn a shiny Espeon card. Getting enough points was difficult so not many managed to get hold of one. Even though this card was printed in English (and still sells for a lot of money), the difficulty of obtaining it in Japan means that the Japanese variant of this card is worth a lot more.
7. Pre-Release Raichu: Est. value, £8,000
Leading up to the second Pokémon card expansion Jungl', a 'PRERELEASE' Raichu card was printed by error. These cards were believed to have been printed alongside the pre-release Clefable card (which is actually in the Jungle set).
Wizards of the Coast, the company in charge of manufacturing Pokémon cards at the time, denied the existence of this card for many years, until, in 2006, a member of staff released an image of the card. Of the 100 or so created in error, it's believed that only ten cards remain after most of them were destroyed.
8. Number 1-3 Trainer/World Championship cards: Est. value, Unknown
For almost as long as the Pokémon TCG has been going, there have been official competitions. The prize for winning many of these competitions has been super-exclusive Pokémon cards as prizes, including the rare No. 1 – 3 Trainer cards, World Championship Trainer cards, and Trophy Pikachu.
Fans needed to attend and place highly at competitions (or even staff them) to get their hands on some of these limited printed cards. In recent years, players competing in the Pokémon Video Game Championships have also received promo Pokémon cards. While some trainers are keen to keep their card as token of achievement, few go on to sell these cards to collectors.
9. Shaymin EX: Roaring Skies: Est. value, £50-£100
Not an old card by any means, but for today's competitive Pokémon TCG players, Shaymin EX is really worth getting hold of.
The card's ability allows you to draw cards until you have six in your hand when you play the card to your bench. After using the move Sky Return, you return Shaymin EX and all cards attached back to your hand. This also removes all damage counters done to Shaymin EX, meaning you can play the card over and over, making it tricky to remove from play.
With roughly another year left in the competitive TCG legal set (although it is rumoured that a re-print is on the way), some players would be keen to have this card in their deck. Roaring Skies Booster Boxes, which hold no guarantee of even having Shaymin EX, sell for around £100-£250, much higher than usual booster box prices of recent sets.
10. Pokémon Snap cards/Pokémon Art Academy cards: Est. value, Unknown
Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Art Academy have both had Pokémon TCG artwork competitions. The Pokémon Snap N64 game had players taking pictures of Pokémon in the wild, and, at the time of release, some of the best pictures were chosen to appear on Pokémon cards. The images were credited to the artist, but very few cards were made, and so it's hard to find an exact value for any of the Pokémon Snap cards.
Jump forward to 2014-2015 and Pokémon Art Academy players had the opportunity to submit their best artwork, with the winners receiving 100 Pokémon promo cards featuring their design. Due to the small amount of winners and cards given to them, very few are parting ways with their winning cards. Good luck finding these on eBay.
11. Illustrator: Est. value, £43,000
The ultimate Pokémon card and the holy grail for collectors – it's the Pokémon Illustrator card. This promotional card was awarded to those who had won a Pokémon Card Game contest in the Japanese magazine CoroCoro. Only 39 cards were awarded, and very few are said to still be in circulation.
This card is unique in that it has 'Illustrator' where the 'Trainer' title should be, and it has a pen symbol for the set series. Last year, at a private auction, the Illustrator card was sold for over $54,000 in California. This makes it the most expensive Pokémon card ever sold.