A Pokémon card just sold for nearly $200,000
On October 23, 2019, history was made when the most expensive Pokémon card in history successfully sold. The ‘Pokémon Pikachu Illustrator Promo Card PSA 9 Mint’ sold for a whopping US $195,000.
So how exactly is this little sheet of cardboard worth so much?
Nostalgia is big business, if there’s anything to learn from the recent US $900,000 sale of Darth Vader’s helmet, it is that super-rich super-fans are willing to cough up an enormous amount to own a piece of their childhood.
Pokémon cards are no exception, what began as a simple card trading game swiftly over the years became a serious collector’s game. Cards such as the ‘1st Edition Charizard’ can fetch anywhere from US $4,000 to US $40,000, as can a ‘1st Edition Blastoise’ go for US $1,000+. Of course, it isn’t nostalgia alone bumping these values, it is scarcity. Only 1,071 ‘1st Edition Charizards’ have been submitted to the Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) Registry, with only 95 of those being in ‘mint-gem’ condition. Undeniably the most scarcely seen Pokémon card is the ‘Illustrator Pikachu’, also making it the most valuable.
The 1st Edition Charizard and 1st Edition Blastoise
Whereas there are over 1,000 known Charizard cards, there are very few ‘Illustrator Pikachu’ cards, with only a handful ever being made. The special card was awarded to selected winning participants of illustration contests across Japan in 1997 and 1998.
The first contest was The Pokémon Card Game Illust Artist Contest in November 1997, the competition asked readers of ‘CoroCoro Comic’, a Japanese publication, to draw and submit their favourite Pokémon. The top winners received 20 copies of their own drawings put in a Pokémon card, as well as ‘ONE’ copy of the ‘Illustrator Pikachu’ card.
Example of the self-designed Pokémon awarded
Following this was The Mewtwo’s Counterattack Commemoration Illust Artist Content held in May 1998 and the Pikachu’s Summer Vacation Commemoration Illust Aritst Contest in June 1998. Both these competitions followed the same rules as the first, with the top entries winning the same 20 copies of their own drawing in card-form, as well as the ‘Illustrator Pikachu’ card.
All in all, across this two-year span only 39 ‘Illustrator Pikachu’ cards were ever made. Furthermore, they were Japan-exclusive and owned by a select few very proud Pokémon fans. It’s estimated that only 10 such cards are known to still exist.
The Pokémon Pikachu Illustrator Promo Card PSA 9 Mint
It is also the only known Pokémon card to ever have been printed with the word ‘Illustrator’ on the top and the only card to have a pen icon in the bottom right. It also sports unique art of Pikachu holding a pen which has never been seen again. Finally, it’s one of the few Pokémon cards that was never reprinted with an English translation, only ever having the Japanese print made.
The ‘Pokémon Pikachu Illustrator Promo Card PSA 9 Mint’ sold this month (October) had added value as it was in near-perfect condition, with a PSA 9 rating, meaning it is near-mint.
All these things combined make it the single most valuable Pokémon in existence, each time one is unearthed the value increases again. The most recent case of this card being sold before now was back in 2013 when it went for ‘only’ US $54,970.
You can check out the listing here and read its full description below:
"Pokémon "Pikachu Illustrator" Trainer Promo Hologram Trading Card, 1998. Graded PSA 9 Mint. Fan-favorite Pikachu, stars on the most valuable and rarest Pokémon card in the world! Although the technical name for the card is "PokémonIllustrator", it is colloquially known as "Pikachu Illustrator" due to the image. What makes it so rare is that it was not sold, but awarded as a prize in an illustration contest through CoroCoro Comic. This unique card was created specificallyfor the contest. In the January 1998 issue, three 1st Place winners won a copy of the card, as did another 20 2nd Place winners. With cards awarded in two more contests that year, there were a maximum of 39 copies released. It is not knownexactly how many surviving copies are still around; however, only 10 PSA certified copies are known, a very important note because there are many counterfeit copies. This card is considered the most rare of an individual Pokémon card. Thisis the only card in the long-running collectible card game series to say "Illustrator" at the top of a Trainer Card, and the only one to bear the pen symbol in the bottom right corner. The artwork is by Atsuko Nishida."