The Pokémon Trading Card Game sprung up around the same time as the video games it was based on, having first debuted in Japan in 1996. It celebrates its 20th anniversary in America this year, with Wizards of the Coast first debuting the game in English in late 1998. While the game at large is still remarkably popular to play, did you know which specific card is most valued as a collectible?
The highest sale price for any Pokémon card at auction went to the “Pokémon Illustrator” card when it was sold through Heritage Auctions on November 18, 2016. Graded at a PSA 9 Mint, the card brought in $54,970 – a world record for the card individually as well as for any Pokémon card overall.
Due to the illustration on the card, it’s also colloquially known as “Pikachu Illustrator.” The image on the card features the franchise mascot, Pikachu, holding illustration tools.
“The Pikachu Illustrator Card was given in January of 1998 to winners of the CoroCoro Comic Illustration Contest,” said Barry Sandoval, Director of Operations for Comics at Heritage Auctions, in a press release. “Only 20-39 copies of this card were released, 10 of which are graded in top condition and it is unknown how many still remain with the public.”
CoroCoro Comic is a Japanese magazine that regularly highlights Pokémon products, including the card game; in Japan, the Blue edition of the Pokémon Game Boy games was offered exclusively through the magazine. CoroCoro Comic held a handful of contests between 1997 and 1998 for the readers to submit illustrations of their favorite Pokémon. Winners each received 20 cards that featured their illustration as well as a copy of Pokémon Illustrator.
The card is in the same layout as a typical Trainer card in the game, though it reads “Illustrator” where “Trainer” usually is at the top. The card’s flavor text reads: “We certify that your illustration is an excellent entry in the Pokémon Card Game Illustration Contest. Therefore, we state that you are an Officially Authorized Pokémon Card Illustrator and admire your skill.” Accordingly, it has no use in the context of the TCG itself, and is purely a collectible rather than a playable card.
To learn more about this card and about the Pokémon Trading Card Game at large, pick up The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Tabletop Games, available now.