It pays to come in second place, as the 1998 Pikachu Silver Trophy card fetches a staggering $444,000 at auction, breaking its previous record and becoming the second-highest-value card. With only 14 known to be printed, it originated at the 1997-1998 Japanese Lizardon (Charizard) Mega Battle Pokemon tournament events and remains a collector's holy grail. Jared Mast, Head of TCG, Music & Pop Culture at Goldin, fills us in.
What's the most expensive Pokemon Card?
With Gotta Catch Em' All frenzy, early adopters and collectors sometimes have a small goldmine within their collection, with stories of collections found abandoned from childhood in the loft aplenty amongst adults today. Whilst back in the day, the shiny Charizard felt like the epitome of a collection, those which received only a limited run, such as special editions, prizes, or promotional cards are the ones coveted by collectors in today's market.
Of those, the 1998 Japanese Illustrator Promotional Card maintains the record for the most expensive Pokemon Card several times over, with the most expensive of all coming in with a deal valued at over $5 million, whereby YouTuber Logan Paul exchanged a PSA 9 version of the card (valued at $1,275,000) and an additional $4 million, for the only PSA 10 version. He then went on to cause a stir by wearing it to Wrestlemania in 2022.
The 1998 Pikachu Silver Trophy card may not have taken the record above, but did beat the perhaps best-known card, the Shadowless Charizard, when a Base Set 1st Edition sold for $420,000 in 2022, a huge increase from only two years prior where it sold for just over $220,000.
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What is the 1998 Pikachu Silver Trophy Card?
"The card itself was given to the second place recipient of the 1998 Mega Battle tournaments in Japan. Those tournaments served as some of the first Pokemon TCG tournaments ever organized." Explains Jared Mast, Head of TCG, Music & Pop Culture at Goldin, the Auction House which hosted the sale. "Considerably rare in any condition, the card itself displays a silver foil background which is prone to imperfections as even the slightest scratches and/or marks can be seen. The ultra rarity combined with the condition sensitive nature of the trophy card is what helped make this a record beater."
Specifically, it was the 1997-1998 Japanese Lizardon Mega Battle Pokemon Tournament event (the second one held) that offered the card, but has never been reprinted for future use. It's believed that only 14 were originally printed, of which only two remain a PSA Gem Mint 10, which is the highest grading offered for a card, and by the most renowned graders. It has never been reprinted for future use, meaning collectors who wanted their own copy would outnumber those printed.
Was a Pokemon card record break expected?
"The card exceeded pre auction estimates which were pegged at 300,000 USD. The item saw late bidding action and shot from 220k to the 440 total in under 3 days." Mast explains, with the former somewhat more in line with previous sales. "Given the current stability of the TCG/Pokemon market, a record breaking result was expected with the evaluation, but not to this extent.
"Most Pokemon cards are worth between 5 and 25 cents ungraded! That's part of what makes the chase for the rare TCG cards so intriguing as most Pokemon card owners believe they have cards of value, but most likely don't have enough to cover a tank of gas. There are the lucky few who will stumble across high dollar cards, but trophy cards like this have been coveted since their creation in 1998 and most likely would not turn up in a "normal" collection."
What do we know about the sale?
The auction itself was hosted by Goldin, a big name in the Pokemon reselling market.
"Goldin has dominated the high end Pokemon market since 2017 when they set the Nintendo product record with a complete 1st edition 1999 base pokemon set in PSA 10 condition for 100k." Mast explains. "In more recent years Goldin has publicly sold 4 of the last 6 Pokemon Illustrator cards with the highest reaching over a half million dollars! That card is the sports card equivalent to the Honus Wagner T206 card and serves as the pinnacle for Pokemon card collecting".
Though the buyer hasn't been announced, shows on their entry that the winning bid was $370,000, which with fees, came to a total of $444,000, after 28 bids. It easily may have gone into a collector's hands, or we may see it resurface alongside a celebrity, given recent interest from YouTubers, music stars, and sports players.
Indeed, it was rapper Post Malone who bought the most highly sought after Magic: The Gathering card, for a cool $2 million. This could be the age of the celebrity collector...