Gotta collect them all!
Pokémon cards have been the death of every parent going through the grocery store checkout for many years now. Almost every young kid or once-young kid (that means you, my friend!) can identify with having a few of these elemental cards in a binder or sitting in a tin. Lord knows that I do! Pokémon cards were actually one of the things that helped put Pokémon on the map and kept the franchise in people's hearts to this day.
Ever since the original base set came out, there have been countless expansions, revivals, and re-imaginings of countless cards. Because of this, there is no end to what you'll be able to collect. For those of you that are fond of the base set, all of those cards are being reprinted and reworked to fit in today's current metagame. The set is called XY Evolutions and comes out in early November. You're welcome.
Before I get too sidetracked, anybody that collects Pokémon cards knows that some of them have an amazing value, well over a few hundred dollars. Some of those valuable ones are special cards that were given out at events, but there are plenty of others that were much easier to get your hands on(back in the day that is), especially from the older sets.
So dust off your binders and start flipping through the pages, my friends, because you're about to see fifteen old Pokemon cards that are worth a fortune these days.
15 Pokémon-EX Cards
So EX cards aren't exactly that old, but considering that they've been used for two generations of Pokemon now, I felt it appropriate to include them. Make no mistake though, not all EX cards are very valuable. I once built a deck and needed some Gardevoir EX, and managed to get three of them for less than ten dollars. As a matter of fact, many EX cards aren't worth as much as you'd think. That being said, there are others that have surprisingly skyrocketed in price the moment they were released and still remain in the more premium section of cards. Mega Charizard X and Y are both well over $50, and the same can be said for legendaries like Mewtwo and Deoxys EX. Many times, the value depends on if the EX is a full art or not, but often times that's not as big a deal as some people make it out to be. Nonetheless, there's plenty of reason to be excited when you pull one of these bad boys from a booster pack. Keep in mind that many promo EXs (i.e., the ones you find in tins and special boxes) aren't worth a whole lot, because they're easy to find. So don't expect to get much out of those.
14 Pokémon VS Cards
The Gym Leader series was one of Game Freak's more successful expansions, so naturally, they decided to take it even further with the VS series. These cards are essentially Pokemon owned by gym leaders (and Team Rocket), and were some interestingly designed cards. Part of what makes this set so valuable is that it was only ever released in Japan and thus impossible to get for those of us that lived in the States. The other reason for this is that the packs themselves came in at 30 cards, three times the amount a normal booster would contain. As such the packs were a bit pricier to come by. The VS cards also had a classic "VS" logo on the bottom left corner of each card, making them very easy to identify. However, this was eventually replaced with the "e" logo that we all know and love today. Because of their rarity, VS cards can go well over the $100 mark and remain one of the most difficult sets to complete to this day. The only people with an easy time getting them would be the ones that bought them when they were released.
13 1st Edition Venusaur
While many of you are probably expecting to see another certain 1st edition card on this list (we'll get to that later), it isn't the only one worth mentioning. As a matter of fact, there are two others that deserve just as much recognition for this list. The first is the first edition holo foil Venusaur card. This obviously comes from the base set of the Pokemon trading card game, and has since been one of the most valuable cards of the set you can obtain (despite Bulbasaur being everyone's last choice). I have a few of the base set Venusaur cards, but sadly, none of them are first edition. As of this writing, the lowest price I've seen for this card (including worn condition) goes down to a measly $200. However, if mint condition is more your fancy, you can nab one of these suckers for around $600! Seems like a lot of fuss over a piece of cardstock doesn't it? Keep in mind, this is also the least beloved of the generation one starters. It only goes up from here.
12 1st Edition Blastoise
The obvious next pick for those of you hardcore card collectors out there is the first edition Blastoise card. I mean, if you have Venusaur, you might as well try to go the extra mile and get yourself a Blastoise while you're at it. Granted, this card is a bit harder to come by, so be prepared to stretch your mind and your wallet pretty thin. When the base set first came out, Blastoise was a pretty heavily desired card to begin with, mostly because of his ability that was a water type deck's bread and butter. It allowed you to attach a water energy to a Pokemon as many times as you liked. While nowadays that's not much to write home about, these were the days before EX Pokemon were doing 200 damage just by tickling you. If you want one of these valuable Blastoise cards, you'll have to fork over no less than $700 (and that's if you get lucky; some are going for well over two thousand!). However, I did manage to find a really damaged one for a little over $100, so if you're on a budget, you can have one too! I'm not sure what kind of soul would destroy a first edition Blastoise though.
11 Gold Star Cards
During the Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald series, there were a lot of new additions to the Pokémon metagame and the same is true for the card game (when they brought the EX line into play). Their biggest addition was the EX cards, which were significantly beefed-up versions of your favorite Pokemon that were so powerful that if knocked out, the opponent took two prize cards instead of one. The other addition to the formula was a bit more valuable. You see, in the games, there was a very minimal chance of encountering a Pokemon that was colored differently than normal. These Pokemon were dubbed "Shiny Pokemon" and have been some of the most desired Pocket Monsters in the games ever. Game Freak capitalized on this idea with the card game. They introduced the Gold Star cards which showcased the shiny variants of the Pokemon. Naturally, these cards were very hard to come by as well. To put this in perspective, the EX series was when I was the most into the card game, and I never came across a gold star card. Twenty-seven Pokemon got the gold star treatment, and each comes with a hefty price tag now. They can be anywhere from $60 to several hundred dollars.
10 Shining Charizard
Shiny Pokemon haven't always been a part of the Pokémon games, and weren't introduced until Pokémon Gold and Silver. Back then, they weren't officially called "Shiny Pokemon"- that was only a name used by the community. In the Neo sets of Pokemon cards, that was the first time shiny Pokemon were implemented. The cards themselves were unique as instead of the background being holographic, the Pokemon itself was holographic (thus giving it the term "Shining"). On top of that, the Pokemon made history as some of the only cards at the time to use multiple different energies for their attacks. Because of their power, only one Shining card was allowed per deck. The most rare of these Shining cards is easily Shining Charizard. Charizard is already a fan favorite Pokemon, but recoloring him to a sick black makes him all the more desirable by the community. This card can go from $400 (at near mint) to somewhere closer to $600 (mint). If you want this card, I'd be ready to fight for it. However, you can get the card much cheaper if you lower its condition.
9 Secret Rare Cards
If you thought really rare Pokemon cards would stop being put into booster packs, you're dead wrong. The trend of extremely hard to find cards continued with the Secret Rare cards, specifically from the current X and Y series. These cards are usually variants of existing cards such as EXs and trainers that are full art, and very very tough to come by. Other secret rare cards include more shiny variants of existing Pokemon, but those aren't quite as valuable as Gold Star cards or even Shining Charizard. You can take a sigh of relief even because while they're not exactly cheap, some won't break the bank. One of the more expensive ones is the Secret Rare Mega Charizard EX, and that only sits at around $100. Your wallet will feel much happier if one of these cards fits your desires a bit more. It's not hard to fall in love with the secret rares either, as the art on them is some of the most beautiful art to ever be put onto a Pokemon card. These are the cards you'd want to display proudly in your collection.
8 Gold Star Espeon
While the gold star cards are generally pretty expensive, Espeon is in such a league of its own that it deserved its own entry. While some gold star cards generally run for a few hundred dollars, finding a gold star Espeon for that price is a steal. This card has sold for nearly $2,000 in the past, so don't expect to get this card at a reasonable price. The reason this card is valuable is because it was distributed by the Pokemon Players Club. They only gave this card (among other gold star cards) out to people who completed enough criteria at particular events. Because the criteria were so hard to meet, there weren't a lot of these cards given out. Naturally, this caused Espeon to shoot up in price. Even for those that had a chance to attain this card, it was so hard to fully reach the expectations of the Pokemon Players Club that some even gave up on getting the card altogether. It's a quite a shame considering how much its worth now. There are probably some people wishing they could do it all over once they figured out its eventual value.
7 Southern Island Collection
When the Pokémon movie first came out, it was so well-received and acclaimed that it garnered immediate support for a second film. This film took place in an island setting and was called Pokemon 2000. In promotion with this film, Game Freak released a special Pokemon card set that was based off of this setting. The set showcased first and second generation Pokemon with different art and holo foil designs. The cards were each based on one of three islands, and all of the cards in their respective islands formed a picture when put together (albeit loosely). All of these cards came packaged in a special folder that is quite pretty to look at. Because it was only a promotional set, it was hard to find when it first came out, and as such, even harder to find today. A complete Southern Island set with the binder intact can go well into $700, and that's a pretty standard price range when looking for it. Some of the individual cards themselves can go over $100 apiece, but it's definitely recommended that you complete the entire set if you want to display or sell it.
6 1st Edition Charizard
You all knew this card was coming. Because of the nature of this card, I felt it deserved to be mentioned a bit later on this list and not with the other respective starters. This is THE card almost everyone thinks of when talking about valuable Pokemon cards. Charizard has been one of the most popular Pokemon since the Red and Blue days, and there seems to be no end to his reign, with his inclusion in Super Smash Bros., Pokken Tournament, and having two Mega Evolutions. Charizard's card in the original base set was one of the most desired cards you could come by, and regularly is pricey enough. However, if you manage to come across a first edition one, that's a different story entirely. A first edition Charizard in mint condition can pass well over $1,000 and many times reaches the $2,000 range. The lesson for all of this is that if you want the card that badly, save your pennies for quite some time, or just take that and put a down payment on a nice car. It all comes down to priorities, I suppose, but if you manage to have one of these, you're either incredibly fortunate or incredibly broke.
5 Holo Kanghaskan Parent/Child Promo
As you'll see with some of the more prestigious cards on this list, the Kanghaskan Parent/Child promo card was released in Japan only. As if that didn't make it difficult enough for those of us that live in the states, this card was only released in 1998. To make matters even worse, it was only given at the Parent/Child Mega Battle Tournament to parent and child teams who a won a specified number of matches. As such, you will probably never see a card like this in real life, and if you have, odds are that it isn't yours. In the bottom right corner where the set symbol usually goes, this card bears the original Pocket Monsters logo, signifying just how rare this card actually is. Because of its rather beautiful design, this card has been considered by many collectors to be the "Holy Grail" of Pokemon cards. This card is so rare that you'll have to do quite a bit of digging before you actually find one for sale. If you do, you're most likely looking at the $4,000 price range. If you've got the extra cash lying around, I guess it's not a bad purchase?
4 Magikarp Tamamushi University Promo
Magikarp is a pretty useless Pokemon, only capable of knowing the moves Splash, Flail, and Tackle. It's signature move is Splash, the only attack in the Pokemon games that literally does nothing. Why such an attack was created, I'll never know, but those who invested the time into Magikarp were very thankful once it evolved into a Gyarados. But we're not talking about that sea serpent here. This special Magikarp card showcases the orange fish hurling what looks to be a devastating Ice Beam attack. This card is so unique and goes right along with the Kanghaskan promo. It too was released only in Japan in 1998, but this time for the Tamamushi University Hyper Test. This test was a two day battle arena between card players of many ages, and only the winners of the final day were able to take home this rare treasure. If you'd like to find one for yourself, you could be spending anywhere from $3,500 to $4,500. I know that seems like overkill for a simple card, but when compared to the upcoming entries, this will look like mere pocket change. I'm not even halfway joking.
3 Pokemon Snap Cards
Pokémon Snap was one of the more obscure titles in the Pokemon franchise (This would be one of the first of many spin-offs that were either hit or miss). The idea of going around as a photographer taking pictures of Pokemon in their natural habitat isn't exactly what people generally wanted from a Pokemon game. Nonetheless, there was a lot of love and support for Pokemon Snap, and that remains true even now. However, that didn't stop the makers of the game from trying to still bring attention to this title back in the day. They ran a contest where people would take pictures of their favorite Pokemon, and send them in. Some judges would look at all of the photos and pick the best of the best. Those select few were chosen to be made into their own Pokemon cards, with the art being credited to whomever sent the photo in. Naturally, there weren't a lot of these cards ever made, and just one will set you back around $8,000, and that's if you don't try looking for the fabled Gyarados card. I would not recommend trying to collect all of these cards even if you're the biggest Pokemon fan in the world.
2 Prerelease Raichu Card
It seems odd to me that such a random card would stir up so much excitement that it would be worth thousands of dollars today. Why Raichu instead of some other, more loved Pokemon? Many times, Wizards of the Coast (the distributors of Pokemon cards) will add hype to an upcoming set by releasing some cards early with some sort of logo stating that they were pre-release cards. They've done this not just with Pokemon, but Magic: The Gathering as well. As such, some of the pre-release cards can fetch a hefty price tag. One of the most expensive pre-release cards ever made is the Raichu card. There is speculation as to how many of these actually exist nowadays, but some estimate the number to be around 11. The card was supposedly only given to employees at Wizards of the Coast, and were never intended to be spoken of to the masses. Like most things of this nature, the card was eventually leaked, and some have even been sold. That's a bit shocking to me considering that the card is worth about $10,000. Not bad for an obligatory evolution to Pikachu, am I right?
1 Pokemon Illustrator Card
Depending on what source you go to, you're bound to get different information on the ranking of valuable Pokemon cards. However, the one thing that everyone unanimously agrees on is that the most expensive Pokemon card in the world is the Pokemon Illustrator card. This Pokemon is the card that everybody desires above every other card they own. It makes sense too, because this card alone is probably worth more than your entire collection! This card was only a reward given to those who won a special illustrator contest to design pictures for Pokemon cards. Those whose designs were chosen received this card. Only 39 of these cards were distributed in their heyday, and now it seems that the number of existing Illustrator cards comes in at around six! Because there are so few and the criteria to get one was so cutthroat, the Pokemon Illustrator card makes headlines everywhere the moment one surfaces up. In the past, there was one that sold for $20,000, but a recent listing on eBay has raised its value to $100,000. Getting that Southern Island Collection doesn't seem so implausible anymore now, does it?