17 Most Valuable & Rare Pokemon TCG Starter Cards
Examining some of the rarest Pokémon cards from the early TCG sets or featuring starter Pokémon from the games in existence.
Pokémon cards have skyrocketed in value over recent years. While it might have been sparked by YouTubers opening rare packs, the slew of fans now buying them has caused scarcity of unprecedented proportions. This only serves to make the rarest Pokémon cards even rarer. In this guide, we’ve outlined 17 of the most valuable rare Pokémon cards from the first generation or that feature starter Pokémon so fans know what to look for in the next pack they open.
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17 of the Most Valuable Rare Pokémon Cards With Starter or First Generation Pokémon
Many valuable and rare Pokémon cards have been sold at auction over the years. This list contains 17 of the rarest and most valuable Pokémon cards that depict starter Pokémon or Pokémon from the earliest generations of the trading card game that have been sold at auction. They’re listed from the highest in value to the lowest, but there are many more outside of this list that are still worth a lot of money. Several rare Pokémon cards haven’t sold for as much as some of those in this list that are worth any collector’s time.
1. Pikachu Illustrator: $5,275,000
Pikachu Illustrator is one of the rarest Pokémon cards of all time. According to the latest reports, a PSA 10 version of the card was last purchased for $4 million plus a PSA 9 version by current owner Logan Paul. There are only 39 copies of this card in existence, created for a competition in CoroCoro Comics in the late 90s. Winners were sent a copy of Pikachu Illustrator and 20 copies of the card they had designed for the competition. This card was produced in the infancy of Pokémon TCG, and Pikachu is also the player’s starter Pokémon in Pokémon Yellow.
2. 1st Edition Shadowless Charizard: $420,000
This infamous card may have sparked the surge in interest in expensive rare Pokémon cards. Not only is it part of the first printing of the game’s base set, as indicated by the 1st Edition mark, but it’s also shadowless. This is a printing error that means the image of the Pokémon has no shadow around the yellow edge on the card. It’s enough to make it stand out as one of the most expensive of all time.
3. Trophy Pikachu Gold, Silver & Bronze 1998 Set: $400,000
In 1998, TCG players in Japan took part in the Japanese Lizardon Mega Battle Pokémon Tournament. The winners of each category came away with one of three cards according to their place in the finals. These rare Pokémon cards show Pikachu with either a gold, silver, or bronze trophy according to whether the player placed first, second, or third in their category. A set of three of these cards, a complete winner’s set, was sold at auction for $400,000, making these very valuable cards featuring one of the most iconic starter Pokémon of all time.
4. Prototype Blastoise: $360,000
Before Pokémon cards were really a thing in the West, The Pokémon Company needed to produce prototypes. This card was made by the publisher of the game at the time, Wizards Of The Coast, and was produced to give an idea of what Pokémon cards should look like. Apparently, only four were ever made, with a mere three of those ever making it to market. If you ever get the chance to see one, you’ll note that the font and overall style is completely different from the final design that was settled on.
5. Kangaskhan Holo Family Event Trophy: $225,000
This card is a great example of something that was given away and no one thought would ever be worth a decent amount of cash. It was given to the parent and child teams that participated in the 1998 Japanese Mega Battle Tournament. However, it’s not what the card is that makes it rare and valuable — it’s the icon for the expansion, which was only used for early sets in Japan when Pokémon cards were first launched.
6. Pokémon World Championships Promo No. 2 Trainer: $110,100
Everyone knows there’s a special rare Pokémon card for winners of tournaments around the world, but no one outside of the winners really gets to see them. Enter the Pokémon World Championships Promo No. 2 Trainer card. This card was given to the winners of the 2006 World Championships in Anaheim, California. There are allegedly only three of these cards in circulation, which is probably why one sold for so much when it did finally appear at auction. The card is a celebration of the efforts a TCG player needed to put in to become the very best and features the iconic Pikachu holding a trophy above a massive “Congratulations” for the owner of such a rare Pokémon card.
7. Tamamushi University Magikarp: $66,100
Magikarp might be as basic as you get in Pokémon, but this card is far from it. Only school students in Japan could enter a contest with Shogakukan’s Magazines to even attempt to pick this card up. If they scored a high enough mark on an initial test, they were invited to take part in a special tournament. Only the winners of that tournament got this card, resulting in a tiny number ever making their way to auctions. Most are likely still hidden in collections or bundled in attics somewhere.
8. Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind Promo: $65,100
This card fits in with the other starter Pokémon cards because it’s part of the origins of the Pokémon trading card game tournament. Before the tournaments took off, The Pokémon Company used to hold an event called Tropical Mega Battle in Honolulu, Hawaii. Various trophy cards were handed out to the 50 players that took part, meaning there’s only a handful of these cards in existence. The tournaments no longer happen, so you have to seek out a hardcore Psyduck fan if you want to pick one of these up.
9. Venusaur with no rarity symbol: $55,000
Bulbasaur, one of the original starter Pokémon from the first Pokémon Game Boy games, eventually evolves into Venusaur, meaning many fans of the video games were also partial to this Pokémon in the trading card game thanks to the journey they’d been on together. However, one version of Venusaur stands out among the rest. This one is from the 1st edition base set, but a printing error meant that it has no rarity icon at all. It should have a star to indicate that it’s rare and shiny, but there’s nothing there.
10. Blastoise 1st Edition shadowless: $45,100
As the final evolution of Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow’s water-type starter Pokémon, Blastoise has always been popular, though not as much as Charizard. This particular card was part of the first-ever set printed, hence the 1st edition label, but it also features a printing error. The holographic image of Blastoise has no shadow, making it a rarity among rare cards. Combined with the card’s age, which only makes it harder to get hold of, this is one of the rarest cards in existence and among those that sparked the revival of the trading card game.
11. Torchic Gold Star Holo Team Rocket Returns: $25,400
This version of Torchic is probably the most valuable you can find. It’s part of the run of Gold Star Pokémon cards that were used in 2004 to attempt to reinvigorate the trading card game and grab the interest of fans once more. Unlike many rare cards, there’s nothing particularly special about this one other than it’s the fire-type starter Pokémon from Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. Much like Charmander, it became a fan favorite, hence why its price is so high.
12. The Southern Islands Reverse Holo Mew: $5,950
The Pokémon Company released a series of Pokémon cards called The Southern Islands series when the second Pokémon movie was released in Japan. It features two sets of nine cards, but the Reverse Holo Mew is the rarest. This is down to it being the most visually striking but also the fact that it’s the rarest Pokémon from the first Game Boy games.
13. Ivy 1st Edition Promo Pikachu Misprint: $4,000
The Ivy Pikachu Misprint is a rare Pokémon card that was only in circulation in the base Jungle Booster Sets. The story goes that this version of Pikachu was mistakenly printed with the 1st Edition icon instead of the Jungle Set icon. However, the leaves in the background give it away as a card from the Pokémon Jungle Set. The promo icon was always meant to be there, but this card was not supposed to be included in Jungle Sets. This card regularly goes on sale for around the $4,000 mark, but because of the obscurity around what makes it rare, it doesn’t often sell. One user on Reddit claims that Jungle Booster Packs with Jolteon on were meant to allude to the card’s existence, but this could be complete fiction. Regardless, this is a rare starter Pokémon card for a multitude of reasons and should take pride of place in any collection.
14. EX Team Rocket Returns Mudkip: $2,025
Gold Star Pokémon cards are some of the rarest ever made. Combine that with Team Rocket and a gorgeous starter Pokémon, Mudkip, and you get the EX Team Rocket Returns Mudkip. This card doesn’t look like anything special, but it’s so incredibly rare that sheer demand has caused it to rise in value over time. As recently as April 2023, a copy of this card sold for $2,025, showing its value is still well and truly intact.
15. Misprinted Fossil Krabby: $2,200
This card is definitely on the cheaper side of things, but it’s no less rare. In some instances, the printing of cards goes awry, which leaves minor misprints on those cards and drives up their value. In this Fossil Krabby, you can see the fossil icon below the bottom right-hand corner of its image. This fossil icon has been misprinted, meaning part of the claw that you see there is missing. This extremely minor difference is enough to add thousands of dollars to the card’s value.
16. 1st Edition Pikachu With Red Cheeks: $100
Pikachu had red cheeks in the 1st edition base set of Pokémon TCG. Wizards of the Coast later changed this with future sets, so Pikachu had yellow cheeks. As a result, this small collection of red-cheeked Pikachu 1st editions is extremely rare. Their value fluctuates, but they seem to sell for at least $100 each time they come up on an auction site. This is a rare Pokémon card it’s likely many early adopters of TCG owned at one point, so it’s worth checking old collections.
17. Pikachu On the Ball: $20 – $300
$10 may not seem like much for a rare Pokémon card, but under the right conditions, this card can set a collector back a lot more than that. The Pikachu On the Ball Pokémon card was created for the English FA’s Pokemon Youth Futsal Program. It was never made available in booster packs and had to be ordered through a convoluted system by someone in the Youth Futsal Program. There were five On the Ball Pokémon cards in total, featuring Eevee, Grookey, Scorbunny, and Sobble alongside Pikachu. Individually, they cost about $10 per copy. Sealed, they’ll go for around $80. For a set of five sealed cards, a collector will need to cough up around $300.