A Guide to Collecting Valuable Pokémon Promo Cards

Updated on December 30, 2019
flash167 profile image

I love to share my experiences and passion for the things I love. Collecting valuable Pokémon cards is one of my many interests.

Coro Coro Shiny Mew Promo Card issued in the May 2001 issue of CoroCoro Comic.  Shown with the packaging it was sealed in.
Coro Coro Shiny Mew Promo Card issued in the May 2001 issue of CoroCoro Comic. Shown with the packaging it was sealed in. | Source

Which Pokémon Cards Are the Most Valuable?

Regardless of what you believe or what a price guide may say, your Pokémon card is only worth what others are willing to pay for it. As with most collectibles, there are two parts to the value of them: rarity and desirability.

In October 2019 a rare Pokémon card sold for $195,000 (more about that card later in this article).

How to Tell How Valuble Your Pokémon Card Really Is

What Makes a Collectable Valuable?

The value of collectible items depending on how many of the items there are and the number of people that desire to acquire it.

A collectible item that is too easy to obtain rarely has the value that an item that is difficult to obtain may have.

Items that are too rare may not have enough people that desire it to create a competitive market and the item may not be as valuable as it may have been in the past.

How to Determine the Value of a Pokémon Card

The value of any specific Pokémon card may fluctuate depending on the number of people there are that desire to obtain it. Fortunately, it's much easier to determine the value of a collectible item than it once was thanks to the internet.

There are several places to do research to find out the value of a Pokémon card:

Graded Pokémon Cards Usually Sell for Much More

The condition of a Pokémon card has a huge impact on the cards' value.

Having your Pokémon card professionally graded helps others know the true condition of a Pokémon Card.

The two companies, most recognized that grade Pokémon cards are PSA & Beckett.


eBay is a great place to get a good idea of what a collectible item is worth. Doing a search on eBay will first bring up a lot of inflated prices in the results.

These are sellers that are hoping to sell a Pokémon card for as much as possible, often for much more than the card is actually worth.

In order to tell what a specific Pokémon card has sold for, look for the heading "Show Only" on the left side of the screen. From there you can click on "Sold Items".

This will show only Pokémon cards that actually sold. Most of the time you can see exactly what the cards have sold for in the past. Occasionally you may see a line through the sold price. This happens when the seller accepts an offer from a buyer that is lower than the asking price.

While you are doing pricing research, it's a good idea to look closely at the cards that sold for the highest amount if you want to sell your Pokémon card in the future.

Look closely at the search terms used in the title of the auction listing. Take note of the information given in the body of the listing as well.

Look at the quality of and the number of photographs that were used in the listing. Buyers may be reluctant to purchase an item if the photographs are fuzzy or unclear.

Screenshot of where to click to see only sold items
Screenshot of where to click to see only sold items


Amazon is another great place to look to see what a Pokémon is selling for. Because it's not an auction format you can only see what sellers are asking for and not they may have actually sold for in the past.

Local Game & Card Stores

Local card stores are another resource you can use to help determine the value of your Pokémon cards.

Remember however that the cards being sold at local stores are most often sold at full retail prices and you may not be able to get as much if you sell them yourself.

Professional Appraisal

If you've done some research and you believe your card may be of exceptionally high value you may wish to get a professional appraisal on your card.

What's the Most Valuable Promo Card Ever Sold at Auction?

One of the most valuable Pokémon promo cards ever produced was the Pikachu Illustrator promo card. This promo is the rarest with only 39 copies ever printed.

This highly sought after promo card was awarded to the winners of the Pokémon Card Game Illustration Contest held in Japan in 1997.

According to an article written by Sean Keane a staff reporter for c/net, this rare pokemon card sold for a whopping $195,000 in October of 2019. The buyer actually paid $224,500 after paying a 15% buyer's premium to the auction house Weiss Auctions.

Single Cards Not Just Listed But Actually Sold on eBay for Over $2000

Pokemon Promo Card
Sold For
Sold Date
Torchic Holo Card And Toy
Apr 02, 2014
Pokemon Dark Dragonite 1st Edition Error Card 5/82 Near Mint/Mint Condition
Jun 05, 2013
Faded Marowak Error
Oct 03, 2013
Nov 12, 2012
Nov 10, 2019
PSA 10 MISPRINT Shadowless First 1st Edition Dragonair Rare Pokemon Card Mint!
Apr 27, 2014
1st Edition Shadowless Charizard 4/102 Pokemon Card PSA 10 MINT HOLY GRAIL!!!
Apr 13, 2014
1999 Pokemon Game 1st Edition #4 Charizard Holo PSA 10 GEM MINT
Sep 28, 2014
PSA 10 Ken Sugimori Charizard Signed Autographed Pokemon Card Auto Holo Promo
Nov 18, 2019
1999 Pokemon Game 1st Edition #4 Charizard Holo PSA 10 GEM MINT
Jul 10, 2014
Pokemon Card Gold Star PSA 10 GEM MINT ESPEON (POP 5) Rare
Jun 22, 2014
PSA 10 1st Edition CHARIZARD Base Set Holo Shadowless Pokemon #4/102 Gem Mint
Nov 07, 2012
Oct 09, 2012
Japanese Neo Hinoarashi Double White Star Promo PSA Gem Mint 10
Japanese Neo Hinoarashi Double White Star Promo PSA Gem Mint 10 | Source

Types of Collectible Pokémon Cards

A fun and inexpensive way to start your collection is to choose a character and see how many cards you can collect that feature that character. If you desire to collect cards that have the best chance to increase in value over time there are five basic types that are normally considered the most valuable:

  1. Holofoil
  2. Secret
  3. 1st Edition
  4. Error
  5. Promo

The Holofoil 1st Edition Machamp is NOT considered to be rare.  This card is shown in the original packaging as it was presented in the 2 Player Starter Set.
The Holofoil 1st Edition Machamp is NOT considered to be rare. This card is shown in the original packaging as it was presented in the 2 Player Starter Set. | Source

1. Holofoil

Holofoils are found in the mass-produced sets and booster packs. The booster packs are sold with 11 each. Each card in the pack varies in its rarity and there should be one that is rarer than all the others. Approximately 1/3 of these rares are Holofoil.

Because these come from mass-produced sets, they are not as rare as some others and are usually considered the least valuable of the collectibles.

2. Secret

Secret are numbered higher than the number of cards that are available in the set. For example, a secret is numbered 103/102. These are very limited in number and are usually Holofoil. Secrets first appeared in the Team Rocket set with the addition of the Dark Raichu card number 83/82. Secrets are only found in booster packs. Each booster box contains 36 booster packs. There is an average of one or two secrets per box depending on the set or series.

3. First Edition

These are the very first cards sold for each set. These have a special symbol on them showing it is a first edition. Because there is only a limited number of these made, they are usually much more valuable than their unlimited counterpart.

Example of the 1st Edition symbol.
Example of the 1st Edition symbol. | Source

4. Error

Sometimes cards that have mistakes on them are produced and sold to the public before the factory realizes and corrects the mistake. These are known as errors.

Errors often have spelling errors, errors in the graphics, or incorrect or missing portions. Due to the limited number that are released to the public, these are often highly sought after and are highly collectible.

The one on the bottom is the famous Japanese Ancient Mew Error card.  The error was the misspelling of Nintendo spelled as Nintedo.
The one on the bottom is the famous Japanese Ancient Mew Error card. The error was the misspelling of Nintendo spelled as Nintedo. | Source
The very rare Trade Please (Trading Please) Promo
The very rare Trade Please (Trading Please) Promo | Source

5. Promo

Promos are created for a specific event. These vary in their rarity depending on the event or purpose of the card. Promos were never sold but were given away at special events or as part of a packaged product. Some of those events include movies, product releases at toy stores, tournaments, inserts in magazines, airline giveaways, inserts in CDs, and other products.

In rare cases, there are different versions of the same promo released. For example, the Japanese Ancient Mew Card had three different versions. The first one, known as the Japanese Ancient Mew I Error, contained a spelling error. The second one released was the Japanese Ancient Mew I Promo. This one was the corrected version. The third version is known as the Japanese Ancient Mew II Promo. This one is much more rare than the other two.

Japanese Mew 1 Promo (bottom) and the much more rare Japanese Mew II Promo (top).
Japanese Mew 1 Promo (bottom) and the much more rare Japanese Mew II Promo (top). | Source

Gold Foil Stamp Promo

Sometimes you will find cards with gold foil stamps on them. These are promos that were included in magazines or special events.

Some of the more valuable gold foil promos you may wish to collect are:

  • 1999 "E3" Pikachu (red cheek)
  • 1999 "E3" Pikachu (yellow cheek)
  • 1999 "W" Pikachu (1st Edition)
  • 1999 "Gold Bordered" Meowth
  • 1999 "PRERELEASE" Clefable

Extremely rare Japanese Mew II Promo card.  PSA 9 and 10 cards of this variety are extremely difficult to obtain.
Extremely rare Japanese Mew II Promo card. PSA 9 and 10 cards of this variety are extremely difficult to obtain.

Types of Promos

Promos are relatively easy to get when they are first released and usually increase in value over time because they have such a limited production time and supply. The following is a list of a few of the Promo types:

  • Black Star Promo
  • White Star Promo
  • Double White Star Promo
  • Gray Star Promo
  • Coro Coro Comic Promo
  • Pokémon Public Fan Club Promo
  • Play Mat giveaway Promo
  • Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament Promo
  • JR Train Rally Promo
  • Toyota Campaign Promo
  • Nintendo 64 Campaign Promo
  • Pokémon Movie Promo
  • Trade Please Campaign Promo
  • Nippon Airlines Promo
  • Pokémon Song Best Collection CD Promo
  • Tropical Mega Battle Promo

Venusaur CD Promo PSA Mint 10
Venusaur CD Promo PSA Mint 10 | Source

Special Promo Sets

Sometimes promos are released in sets. Such as:

  • the 9 card NEO Promo Set
  • the Pokémon Best of CD Collection Promo Set
  • the Japanese Southern Islands 3 Card Promo Pack

Pokémon Best of CD Collection
Pokémon Best of CD Collection | Source

Rarest Promos

Here are some of the rarest and most valuable Promos:

  • Pokémon Illustrator: Given to children during a drawing contest in Japan. Said to be worth $10,000 to $20,000! Recently selling on eBay for $100,000.
  • Tropical Mega Battle: Given as prizes in a Pocket Monsters tournament.
  • Secret Super Battle: Given as a tournament prize.

Cards with the highest value usually have been authenticated and graded by PSA or Beckett.

The Rarest Promo Error

The rarest known promo that was ever produced was a Prerelease Raichu. A handful of these were accidentally produced while producing the prerelease Jungle Clefable. There are said to be less than thirty of these in existence and some estimate less than six.

Notable Promos

Here are some of the cards that might be of special interest to collectors.

Pikachu #1 (Ivy Pikachu) 1st Edition Error (1999)

Accidentally released in a small number of Jungle booster packs, this black star promo is the only promo ever released with a first edition symbol.

#2 Electabuzz, #3 Mewtwo, #4 Pikachu, and #5 Dragonite Misprint (1999)

There were four cards that were specially stamped for release of Pokémon The First Movie. Each of the special release promos had a stamp that read “Kids WB presents Pokémon the First Movie". These were #2 Electabuzz, #3 Mewtwo, #4 Pikachu, and #5 Dragonite. A few of these were accidentally printed with the gold foil stamp upside down and in the opposite corner. It is estimated that only 30 of these were ever released to the public.

Imakuni? CoroCoro Promo (1997)

This was the first promo to have an image of a real-life person.

Trade Please (Trading Please) Promo (1998)

One of only two (Ancient Mew was the other) ever produced with a holographic back.

Dark Persian #17 Error (2000)

A few of these black star promos were printed without the HP.

Beware of Pokémon Fakes!

High valued cards often get counterfeits made. Watch out for ones that don't have the plastic center, faded or smudged graphics, or show other signs of being a counterfeit.

If you are unsure, it may help to compare the card to another. Don't forget to check the back, often there are slight differences in color or position of the graphics. There are also some that are produced by others as pranks or April Fools jokes. These could be a great collection themselves.

Fake Pokémon Illustrator Card

Do you have a Pokémon card collection?

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • I have 500 pokemon cards all in perfect condition and of various designs. How can I find out if they are worth any money?

    In the article I recommended that you go to eBay and look at the sold listings for the item you would like to determine the value of.

    If you have a local card or game store that sells pokemon cards you may get some help there as well.

  • I have approximately 25 English and 25 Japanese 1999 Pokémon Holo cards. I do I get them professionally valued?

    I would recommend using PSA for that purpose:


  • How much is a Mewtwo promo card from the first Pokemon movie worth?

    In the article, I recommended that you go to eBay and look at the sold listings for the item you would like to determine the value of.

    Because the value of cards go up and down all the time eBay is a great search tool. Searching the sold listings gives you a better idea as far as the value of your cards than does simply looking up items listed on eBay.

  • What is the value of my two of the ancient mew II promo cards in mint condition?

    The card is currently selling for approximately $50 for graded gem mint cards. If they are not graded they are selling for $5 - $10 for cards in mint condition.

  • I have an unopened Pokemon neo promo set what is it worth?

    I have a few of those sets as well. Unfortunately they don’t seem to be a valuable as one would expect.

    A quick look at the sold items on eBay show that most of them are currently selling for under $10.

© 2013 Marty Andersen


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    10 months ago

    Great article, but you were wrong about the Ancient Mew part. There were actually 4 versions that were released. The error one was the first version and the second version (this is the rarest and most expensive btw) was the corrected one. Both were only sold in Japan. Then versions 3 & 4 were the slightly different looking promos meant for international release. These are actually the cheapest of the 4 versions. Clearly you and a lot of people on Ebay mix this up and end up trying to sell their $5 version 3 or 4 Ancient Mew for the value of the ACTUAL rare version 1 or 2 card.

  • profile image


    4 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

    Thanks for this article (Even though I just found it 2 years after its posted!) its was very helpfull. I know there where also a Shadowless run printed of the base set when these cards first came out. I wonder has anyone found any actual figures on how many cards where printed? I can verify that these (shadowless) cards came out in Australia at the same time as the first edition Base set was released. I was working in a collectable store and we got our first look at them before the actual release date.

  • profile image


    4 years ago

    I have the Machamp Edition 1 Holofoil Card

    How to post pic of it

  • SimilarSam profile image

    Samuel Franklin 

    4 years ago

    Still have all my Pokemon cards (well over 200) but unfortunately I never had anything close to rare, had good fun playing Pokemon Cards with friends though!

  • flash167 profile imageAUTHOR

    Marty Andersen 

    7 years ago from Salina, Utah

    This was a fun Hub to write. I'm sure there will be additions from time to time. It was fun getting the cards out of storage and seeing what I have. I know there is another box with more cards somewhere. Hopefully I'll find them and add more images.

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 

    7 years ago from New York

    I bet there will be Pokémon collectors from all over the world reading this one flash. You've included excellent pictures of the cards and your chart of Pokémon cards that have sold for over $500 could get collector's mouths watering!

    Voted up, useful, and interesting.

  • Winterfate profile image

    Darrin Perez 

    7 years ago from Puerto Rico

    Awesome hub! I used to collect Pokémon cards and still have one or two promo cards lying around. Thank you very much for the info!

  • whonunuwho profile image


    7 years ago from United States

    My son enjoys this card collection every much. Since he was about ten years of age, he has collected these cards and traded with friends. Thanks for this nice hub. whonu


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