Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Don't have an account?
Error Message

From Pikachu to Charizard: What Makes Pokémon Cards Worth Six Figures at Auction?

From Pikachu to Charizard: What Makes Pokémon Cards Worth Six Figures at Auction?
September 7, 2023
Keenan Flack

We pulled the top 50 lots from three large players in the Pokémon TCG space. PWCC, Heritage, and Goldin all have significant Pokémon card businesses; hosting monthly sales with lots that regularly find low to mid five figure sums. But sometimes, these houses will sell lots well in excess of six figures. 

In these top 50 lots from each house 42 of them reached a price of greater than six-figures. 28 of which were single, graded cards. While the remaining were anything from sealed boxes to sheets, card sets, and even original art.

Lets slice and dice these 150 lots to better understand what determines the value of some of the highest priced Pokémon cards:


average/median lot by house

The largest house of the three, Heritage Auctions, had only three lots in the top ten, but ten of the top twenty; pulling up their average up to $149k, way above their $91.5k median price. Both PWCC and Goldin experienced similar phenomena. 

While their averages only differ by around $3,000, PWCC’s median is $17k greater than that of Goldin’s. Almost entirely explained by Goldin’s wealth of low-ticket lots; among Goldin’s top 50, 16 prices fall  under 20 thousand dollars–both PWCC and Heritage’s lowest prices in the top 50 are $31,200 and $40,800 respectively. 

Goldin more than makes up for this in the average through selling four of the top five lots across houses. These four lots heavily skew Goldin’s average price, making up $2.2M–more than half the sum from Goldin’s 50 lots. 


average/median lot by Grader

Of these 150 lots, 96 of them were single, graded cards. Among these 96 the three graders represented were CGC, PSA, and BGS. CGC’s foothold within Pokémon is evident here, with the grader having by far the highest average and median of the bunch, at a whopping $138,050 and $87,500 respectively. Interestingly enough, these CGC cards have the lowest average grade received among the three. An average of 8.75 vs. around 9.5 for both PSA and BGS. Note that each grader’s scale is slightly different, so grader to grader is not perfect apples to apples comparison. For reference though, only 7% of CGC cards were graded a 10 (1 out of 14) whereas the remaining graders top cards saw 61% graded at a ten (49 out of 80).

The price differential in CGC vs. the rest can be explained by some highly sought-after cards having CGC slabs. A CGC 9.5 Pikachu Illustrator for $672k, as well as two CGC 6.5 Blastoise test prints selling for $216k. The prices behind these cards comes more from the rarity, and less so the grade. 

As mentioned above, many of these cards are valuable due to their scarcity as opposed to the grade itself. There are approximately 20 graded Pikachu Illustrators out there and only around five to ten graded Blastoise Test cards. So it does not need to be a ten for it to garner high-end prices.

average/median lot by grade received

Which is the exact reason for 6.5 topping this chart; the only 6.5 grades came from those two Blastoise Test cards. The 8 average was significantly affected by a $480k PSA 8 Pikachu Holofoil as well as a few more ultra-rare trainer cards that are only given out to people who place top 3 in a tournament; whose value again is more tied to the scarcity than it is to the card’s grade.

Production Year

average/median lot by production year

The older the card, the pricier it tends to be–pre-1999 cards boast an average lot price of $246k. Mainly due to the rarity of cards printed prior to . These cards were released before the 1999 English version, meaning that they were printed a bit before ‘Pokemania’ began in the west. Interestingly enough, the median grade for these ancient cards is 9, suggesting that collectors have kept them in pristine condition.

Now, let's talk about 1999—the year that saw the English base set make its grand entrance as well as the year Pokémon began taking over North American schoolyards. This set is a gold mine, with an average lot price of $100.2k. Remarkably, 31 of these cards depict Charizard, the fire-breathing icon of the Pokémon universe. Problem #1: Their count is 76, but only 34 cards fall under the 2000-2009 bracket. The numbers reveal that the most recent two-year ranges (2010-Present) have a lot of catching up to do, with an average lot price of $52.8k. Given that they've had less time to grow in value and collectability, can they ever match the glory of their predecessors?

Asset Type

average/median lot by type of asset

Let's break down this dataset by categories, shall we? First off, Single Cards. These beauties have an average lot price of $108k, yet a closer look reveals their median year is 1999, the year of the ever-present English base set. 

Boxes aren't far behind, with an average lot price of $115,080.65. But here's the kicker: 14 of the 23 boxes are first edition base sets, not all English though some French and German as well. And oh boy, those top five prices for sealed boxes? They're all First Edition Base Set Sealed Booster Boxes. The price of these boxes has seemed to have tracked quite precisely with the prices of well-graded 1999 first edition cards. 

Moving on to Sets, which have an average price of $82.4k. Don't be fooled by the lower number; 10 out of the 19 sets here are 1999 first edition base sets–11 of which are PSA. Now, Sealed Games and Original Art take us into different territory. The former, the lowest grade of which was a 9.4, have an average lot price of $58.9k. The latter, well, let's just say it's a Pikachu party. Two out of the three original artworks are crystal Pikachu sculptures, one of which sold for a whopping $73,000. And lest we forget, Sheets, those beautiful nostalgia-inducing canvases, where 3 out of 4 are made up of 1999 first edition cards, have an average lot price of $120,490.


average/median lot by subject

First, let's talk about the big players. Pikachu, the electric mouse we all adore, tops the chart with an average lot price of $296,585; despite only appearing in the list 11 times, those assets received stellar valuations. 

Charizard. With an average lot price of $115,135, it might seem like it's trailing behind Pikachu, but don't be fooled. As far as TCG subjects go, Charizard is the GOAT. The dragon’s cards have been graded a million times, the only subject to have more graded copies? Michael Jordan.

Next, ‘Multiple’, meaning the lot featured more than one character, whether it be a set, box, or a card with multiple Pokémon. With 46 appearances and an average lot price of $88,454, boxes and sets surprisingly fall below the likes of singular assets representing only one subject.

And then there's the "Trainer" category. These cards are exceedingly rare, due to how they were initially acquired. Given only to top 3 players in a Pokémon TCG tournament, they have an average lot price of $115,484, and often have a population of just one. "Other" subjects? Well, those are the unsung heroes, appearing only once or twice in the top 150 list, but still commanding an average lot price of $52,085; names like Gyarados, Lugia, Arceus, and Torchic (among many others) have all experienced mid five-figure sales, but the chart would be nigh unreadable if we listed each one. 

Top 150 Subjects by total Sum ($)

In the high-stakes arena of Pokémon card auctions, we see a complex ecosystem shaped by multiple variables—rarity, grading, year of production, and subject. Older cards, particularly those pre-dating the 1999 Pokémania, enjoy premium valuations, often eclipsing newer counterparts. Grading, while crucial, isn't the end-all-be-all; cards like the CGC 6.5 Blastoise Test prints and tournament-awarded Trainer cards fetch astronomical prices due to their extreme rarity. Major houses like Heritage, PWCC, and Goldin navigate this landscape differently, with Heritage leaning into its volume of mid-tier lots, PWCC enjoying a higher median price point, and Goldin making headlines with a few top-dollar sales that significantly skew its average. Subjects like Pikachu and Charizard command awe-inspiring prices, yet it's often the less-expected categories like "Multiple" or the underrepresented "Other" that provide nuanced insights into the market's depth and diversity. Whether you're a collector, investor, or just a nostalgic fan, the Pokémon card market offers a compelling narrative, as intricate and varied as the Pokémon universe itself.

NOTE: The data used was collected on September 1st.

Enjoyed this article? Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive more like it in your inbox weekly!

Disclaimer: You understand that by reading Altan Insights, you are not receiving financial advice. No content published here constitutes a recommendation that any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. You further understand that the author(s) are not advising you personally concerning the nature, potential, value or suitability of any particular security, transaction, or investment strategy. You alone are solely responsible for determining whether an investment, security or strategy, or any other product or service, is appropriate or suitable for you based on your investment objectives and personal financial situation. Please speak with a financial advisor to understand if the risks inherent in trading are appropriate for you. Trade at your own risk.

Altanin post bacgraund

Latest News