Rarest Pokemon Trading Cards Guide – From Shadowless Base Set to Sword and Shield Alt Arts

I started collecting Pokémon cards as a young child, and like most, most of my childhood collection vanished multiple yard sales ago. However, one binder survived my teen years and moved off to college with me. This reawakened my love for the series and, most importantly, the cards. Today, I have binders of nearly complete sets, a glass coffee table full of “prize possession” cards, and a ridiculous amount of trainer boxes. It’s safe to say it’s an obsession my wallet despises, but my soul loves, haha.

Pokémon cards first made their debut in the late 90s and have seen many rises and falls over the years. Ironically, Pokémon’s past “flop eras” are some of the most expensive sets to date. This is because almost no one still owns the cards, so there’s a limited amount in circulation.

The best example of this is the Legendary Collection reverse holos. Unfortunately, the TCG was already reasonably unpopular (as unpopular as a mega-franchise like Pokémon can be) during the Neo-era, and these reverse holos were basically unreadable. This set is discussed further in the article, but it’s my goal set to complete and my favorite example of Pokémon’s first “fall.”

The Lowdown Upfront

While the value of a card is usually a safe bet to know if your pull is rare or not, it isn’t always the only way. Some cards are rare because only one exists (think the Post Malone exclusive he received for doing a Pokémon Go concert). These single cards are invaluable because they are never put up for sale and likely never will be.

Understanding Pokémon TCG Rarities Symbols

To begin understanding Pokémon TCG varieties, you must first understand the rarity symbols. Note that this list does not include a lot of gimmicks like the full arts, tag teams, and secret rares because they are discussed below with other major gimmicks!



A common, or basic, Pokémon card will have a black dot in the bottom corner of the card beside the card number. As the name says, they are the least rare cards and are often considered bulk. Bulk cards can be found at card and hobby shops and are sold for around 5 cents a card to complete specific decks and for kids!

Pull Rates

Each Pokémon card pack includes six common cards, with the possibility of the reverse holo being common as well.

Rarest Commons



Uncommon cards are marked with black diamonds in the bottom corner. They are slightly less common than basic cards but are still, for the most part, considered bulk.

Pull Rates

Each Pokémon card pack includes three uncommon cards, with the possibility of the reverse holo being uncommon as well.

Rarest Uncommons

Black Star Rares

Black Star Rares

Black star rares are made up of three categories: non-holo, holo, and reverse holo.

Non-holos are basic rares that usually do not maintain value but are often a last-stage evolution for 3-stage Pokémon. This means that these cards are needed in gameplay to evolve Pokémon.

Reverse holos are copies of common, uncommon, and rare cards in a set, but the body of the card has a holographic foil covering it. In each era, Pokémon changes the design of the reverse holo. Currently, the reverse holos are the color of their energy types, with their energy symbols in a slightly darker color covering the background of the card.

Holo rares were the top dog cards, and the vintage ones were. However, in modern-day holo, rares are nothing to be excited about. So honestly, I’m pretty disappointed if I have a white-back pack and pull a holo rare instead of a more valuable card.

Pull Rates

Each pack is guaranteed at least one rare card. However, sometimes the slot is taken more valuable pulls such as hyper and secret rares.

The reverse holo card can also be rare.

Rarest Black Star Rares

White Star Holos

White Star Holos
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White star rares consist of your newer high-value cards. It’s the ultra rare full arts, hyper rares, and secret rares. Most white star rares maintain value, but the amount highly depends on the exact Pokémon and the card art.

Pull Rates

The white star rares can take the place of the rare card in a pack. The pull rate highly depends on the card and its type. For example, in the most recent set, Lost Origin, the chase card (an alternate art Giratina) is seated 1 in every 724 packs. 

Rarest White Star Rares

Amazing Rares

Amazing Rares

Amazing rares were introduced in 2022 and have only appeared in a handful of sets so far. They are represented by a white A inside a rainbow circle. The cards are not full art, which is a pleasant change. Instead, they depict a legendary or mythical Pokémon popping out of a swirly rainbow background. The entire card is textured like full art hyper rares!

Pull Rates

Amazing rares took the place of random reverse holo cards in packs. In all of the sets containing amazing rares, 2-3 packs contain this rarity in a booster box. This means amazing rares are seating 1 every 12 packs.

Rarest Amazing Star Rares

Promo Cards

Promo Cards

Promo cards consist of cards that are special to an event or product. Most promo cards come with themed box sets containing three or more packs of cards. These are by far the most common promo cards.

More rare types include those that come in special edition products, like the 25th-anniversary Celebration Ultra-Premium Collection

Finally, the rarest are promo cards that are tied to an event. For example, the winners receive a special promo card every year at the TCG Championship. 

Rarest Promo Cards

Where to Find Rare Cards

One of the most essential parts of having a super rare Pokémon card collection is knowing where to search for your goal cards. Below are the best ways to ensure you buy authentic cards for the best prices!

Local Card Shops

Local Card Shops

Best For

  • Uber rare cards that you are anxious to order from a stranger online. Card shops are experts in the TCG field and can spot fake cards from a mile away. It’s highly uncommon to have an official shop sell a bogus card. 
  • Graded cards without dealing with the grading process. It can be a pain to have a card graded, not to mention it’s super expensive. An alternative to buying pre-graded cards from your local card shop! 
  • Lastly, sealed products that are no longer available in stores. Many card shops carry sealed products from sets that are no longer popping up in stores like Target and GameStop! 

Price Range

An honest card shop will always charge TCG prices and sometimes less if you’re buying in bulk or are a regular customer!

Thrift Stores and Estate Sells

Thrift Stores and Estate Sells

Best For

  • Those who are adventurous with their Pokémon card hunts! You never know what you’ll get by buying second-hand. I’ve had super lucky days where I found a binder of holo Neo cards for $9, and I’ve had days where I’ve paid $25 for a vintage lunch box of commons. There’s a lot of fun in the mystery of these bundles! 
  • You are looking for vintage cards! Most of what is dropped off at thrift shops are old childhood collections. 

Price Range

Cards are usually in baggies and binders at thrift stores and are sold in bundles. The bundles vary in price but are almost always highly under-market value!



Best For

  • You collect newer chase cards, as many eBay sellers buy new packs to sell off the entirety of their pulls! 
  • You are looking for bundles of cards from recent sets. A common thing on eBay is bundling together like cards. For example, if there is a V, a V-Max, and a Hyper Rare of a specific Pokémon in a set, these three cards will be sold together. 

Price Range

The price range varies wildly depending on the market. eBay sells products using a bidding method, so chase cards can sometimes go way above their market price. Many scalpers also sell on eBay, so prices are nine times out of ten on the pricer side. Beware of unbelievable deals on eBay, as many fake cards are also sold here!

TCG Player

TCG Player

Best For

  • You are looking for English cards from basically any set! TCG is a giant catalog of card shops around the world. 
  • You are prepared to pay market value for your goal cards instead of trying to pull them yourself or hunt them down at a thrift store. 

Price Range

TCG is always at market value. In addition, the sellers on TCG have ratings and stats, so you know that you are buying from a reputable card shop and getting the best deal for your goal card!

Troll and Toad

Troll and Toad

Best For

  • Troll and Toad is very similar to TCG Player, except it has cards from other countries, too! For example, I love Japanese cards, so I use Troll and Toad when my local card shop doesn’t have Japanese cards in stock. 
  • You love mystery bundles! Troll and Toad love to make bundles for their cards. They often run deals like “Five Random V Rare Cards.” 

Price Range

Troll and Toad base their prices on the market value of the TCG industry.

Trade With Friends

Best For

  • Children who care more about the card being a favorite Pokémon or pretty instead of rarity. I love to trade “bulk” cards with my baby brother as he has a ton of fun, and the cards are easy to replace/not ones I’d miss. 
  • You have multiple copies of rare cards you want to exchange for another rare card of equal or lesser value. 
  • Those who play the TCG game instead of collecting and want to trade for deck-specific cards. 

Price Range

None! Aside from the price of purchasing packs. Trading with friends is a fun and free way to get rare and goal cards.

PSA and Bennett Rated Cards

PSA and Bennett Rated Cards

The best way to keep your rare card in the best shape AND double its value is to have the card graded.

The top grading companies are PSA and Bennett. However, others like CGC do exist, but they aren’t as reputable, which means that a CGC 10 will be worth less than a PSA 10. Card Grades consider things you have no control over, like centering and general wear and tear like edges and corners.

Having cards graded is also a great way to verify that the card is authentic. Fake cards are usually easy to spot without verification, but sometimes they are really well made! Typically you can tell if a card is fake because the color and texture will be slightly off. Another way to tell is to make a small tear in the card, fake cards have a holographic sheet in the middle, and real cards have a blue line when ripped.

Which Is Worth More?

Bennett tends to be worth more in the Pokémon world because they are the rarer services. They take longer than PSA and tend to lean more expensive for their services. However, Bennett grades on a much stricter scale than PSA because it uses half points.

Not only does Bennett have the possibility to receive a grade 10, but a black label grade 10! This means that the card is perfect. With Bennett, there are four categories: Corners, Centering, Edges, and Surface. If one of these categories scores 9.5 and the rest score a 10, the card will still be a Bennett 10. However, if all four categories are a 10, the card is a perfect black label 10.

How to Grade Your Cards

Once you have picked a grading company (I highly recommend PSA or Bennett), you then fill out their online form.

This tells the company all about the card you want to be graded, so they know its general value ungraded and know what level of insurance to put on the card.

This means that the more valuable your card is, the more expensive it will be to grade. Because the card has a high value ungraded, they require a higher level of insurance if anything happens in the shipping and handling/grading process.

Depending on the service, the process takes a few weeks but can be quicker. For example, if you’re using a grading service to verify a signature, it will take a bit longer than a general grading.

What Cards are Worth Grading?

  • Any card you love and value (whether it is rare or not, some of my favorite cards are pretty worthless money-wise but mean the world to me!) 
  • Cards that are in excellent condition. If you pull a cool card with perfect centering, no holo bleed, and perfect edges, chances are the card is worth grading to see if it’s a 10! 
  • Signed cards to verify a signature. I found a signed Brocks Vulpix card at a used bookstore and am currently doing this with PSA! Experts will compare the signature on the card to other verified signatures from the same person. They also do a ton of fact-checking to verify rather, or not a signature is genuine. Fingers crossed, mine is! 

Understanding Card Condition Ratings

There are five levels of a card rating. Near Mint, Lightly Played, Moderately Played, Heavy Played, and Damaged.

Cards with an NM or LP rating tend to be worth significantly more than the base value of the card. However, a card with an HP or DMG rating is worth more out of the graded slab.

Near Mint Condition (NM)

Near-mint cards are packed fresh and made perfectly at the factory. There can be no off-centering or holo bleed.

Any card that you may want to have graded and believe is an NM card should be carefully stored until sent off. This means keeping the card in a penny sleeve and a top loader and storing it safely. I keep mine in one of those tin lunch boxes on a bookshelf so no dust nor cat can damage the card while I wait to send it off to grade!

How to Identify a NM Card

  • Grade: 8-10/10
  • Little to no minor imperfections
  • No scratches, clouding, or imperfections on the holo foil
  • No holo bleed
  • Note: official errors can still be NM. Bennett and PSA will grade error cards and authenticity them, making a NM error incredibly rare and valuable.

Lightly Played (LP)

Lightly Played cards are pack-fresh but have minor imperfections such as holo bleed. Holo bleed is when the holo from the card bleeds out to the edges, making them look shiny and sharp.

I tend to keep my LP cards in a binder sorted by set in their sleeves unless it’s a card I know I will want to have graded, then I store it like I would an NM card.

How to Identify a LP card

  • Grade: 7-5/10
  • Nicks on the edges or mild corner wear and tear
  • Light but visible scratches on the holo
  • However it should not contain any grime, bends, or too obvious damage.

Moderately Played (MP)

Moderately Played is precisely as it sounds. The card has been used in gameplay but is still in reasonably good condition. Honestly, you can pull an MP card pack-fresh because some cards come out super off-center with rough edges and holo bleed.

Make sure to keep MP cards in protective sleeves while playing to prevent any further damage.

How to Identify a MP card

  • Grade: 4-3/10
  • At least one of the following:
  • Border/Corner wear and tear
  • Scratches and scuffs on the surface
  • Creasing and whitening on the card

Heavy Played (HP)

Heavy Played cards are usually not good to have graded because they will only lower the value of your card. However, if you are grading an HP card to verify authenticity, different programs through the major graders will authenticate a card, not grade it.

How to Identify a HP card

  • Grade: 2-1.5/10
  • The card has multiple of the following:
  • Major wear and tear
  • Off-centering
  • Major whitening and bends

Damaged (DMG)

Unless the card is super rare or vintage, it’s typically not worth it to keep a damaged card. Also, they are pretty unplayable because you can’t read the card due to scruffs and whitening.

How to Identify a DMG Card

  • Grade: Usually not graded unless it’s to confirm authenticity, but if graded for condition, would score a 1/10.
  • Has major wear and scuffs
  • Can have tears and card separation

What’s Rare? What Will be Rare in the Future? Everything you Need to Know to Have a Highly Valued Collection!

The Pokémon card market fluctuates daily. A card worth $200 today could easily be worth $80 or $400 next week. It all depends on the playability of the card, its collectability of it, and its rarity. This often happens in the early weeks of a new set because everyone is figuring out new decks and the pull rates of chase cards.

However, the market does drastically change every few years. For example, in the early days of the pandemic, a mix of boredom and a wild Paul brother filling the fandom with scalpers, cards were selling for triple their usual value. It was an awful time to be a collector because new sets would never be in stock at stores, and card shops were charging ridiculous amounts because the market was so off.

However, this is a great time to sell any cards you don’t want! I sold a handful during the peak to move across the country and made significantly more than I would sell the same cards today, two years later.

However, now that we are at a slowdown in the market, one thing to keep in mind is that these tend to be the more expensive sets years down the road. Past slow downs happened around the Neo/e-reader era and again around the early Sun and Moon. As a result, these cards are super rare not because they’re playable or collectible but because nearly no one has the cards in their collection, and those who do can sell them for higher prices. So, if you, like me, are playing the Pokémon long game, buy the extra trainer box!

Pokémon That Are Always Highly Valued (regardless of if they’re rare or not – I’m looking at you Darkness Ablaze V-MAX Charizard)


2 girls identification card
Image From Teryn Greenway

Charizard has always been a fan favorite. He’s one of those Pokémon that even non-fans can identify. I find him pretty overrated and am a Dragonite girly myself, but because of the stigma, I get super excited about pulling Charizards.

Rarest Vintage Charizard: Neo Destiny Shining Charizard

Neo Destiny Shining Charizard

Rarest Modern Charizard: Brilliant Stars V Alternate Full Art Charizard

Brilliant Stars V Alternate Full Art Charizard



Long-time readers of mine know I’m not too fond of Pikachu. I think he is the most overrated Pokémon and that a better mascot should replace him. However, because he is the mascot, he is printed to death and usually gets rare and unique cards!

Rarest Vintage Pikachu: Holon Phantoms Pikachu Star

Holon Phantoms Pikachu Star

Rarest Modern Pikachu: Special Delivery Pikachu SWSD Promo

Special Delivery Pikachu SWSD Promo


pokemon trading card on persons hand

Everyone loves Eevee and the eeveelutions, so it’s no surprise that they maintain their value over time. We even got an entire set dedicated to the Pokémon earlier this year!

Rarest Vintage Eeveelution: Skyridge Vaporeon Secret Rare

Skyridge Vaporeon Secret Rare 

Rarest Modern Eeveelution: Evolving Skies Glaceon VMAX Alternate Art Secret Rare

Evolving Skies Glaceon VMAX Alternate Art Secret Rare 

Things to Look for in Rare Vintage Cards

Shadowless Cards

Shadowless Cards

Shadowless Pokémon cards were the very first round of the English Base Set back in 1999. They are considerably rarer than the Ultimate Base Set, released weeks later because of how scarce the shadowless cards are.

How To Identify a Shadowless Card

  • The most obvious way is: Check if there is a shadow next to the yellow border of your base set card. If not, it’s a shadowless card! 
  • The red font is much thinner on shadowless cards than in the unlimited print. 
  • Shadowless cards are first editions with the dates: 1995, 96, 98, 99 written at the bottom, whereas unlimited only have 1995, 96, 98.

Holo Swirls

Holo Swirls

Wizard of the Coast made Pokémon cards until the Ruby Sapphire era when Nintendo took over. WOTC used a galaxy holo print that occasionally would form a small swirl on the card. Cards with a swirl, especially one in the center of the card, is worth more than the same card with no swirl.

Sets With Swirls

  • The Base Set Era 
  • The Gym Hero/Challenge Era
  • The Neo Era
  • The e-Reader Era

First Editions

WOTC also released a series of cards, each set called First Editions. These are the first booster boxes to hit shelves and were only obtainable during the first weeks of launch. They are much rarer than unlimited sets because of their limited availability.

Sets With First Editions

  • The Base Set Era 
  • The Gym Hero/Challenge Era
  • The Neo Era
  • The e-Reader Era

The Neo Era

The Neo Era
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The Neo Era saw a slight drop off in the card game, meaning there were not many of these cards in circulation. As a result, these are some of the more rare WOTC sets.

Rarest Genesis Card (according to TCG Player): Holo Rare Lugia

Holo Rare Lugia 

Rarest Discovery Card: Holo Rare Umbreon

Holo Rare Umbreon

Rarest Revelation Card: Shining Gyarados

Shining Gyarados

Rarest Destiny Card: Shining Charizard

Neo Destiny Shining Charizard

The E-Reader Era

The E-Reader Era
Image From Teryn Greenway

The e-Readers are rare and highly sought after because they marked the end of the WOTC era. After Skyridge Nintendo took over, the cards were pretty dull for a long time. So for the longest time, the e-Readers marked the end of unique/pretty card art.

Rarest Expedition Card: Holo Rare Charizard

Holo Rare Charizard

Rarest Aquapolis Card: Secret Rare Crystal Type Lugia

Secret Rare Crystal Type Lugia

Rarest Skyridge Card: Secret Rare Crystal Type Charizard

Secret Rare Crystal Type Charizard

Prerelease Cards

Prerelease cards are unique promo cards that TCG shops get to promote new expansion sets. Pre-pandemic they were given out the weekend before release to those who attend a special event.


The rarest type of prerelease card is the staff cards. Customers get the exact prerelease cards, but the word “staff” is written in the bottom corner. They are given to the workers at the TCG shop.

Vintage Prerelease

Back in the day, prerelease cards would be a 1st edition copy of a few of the new sets’ holo rares, but “PRERELEASE” will be written in bold, black letters in the bottom corner.

Build and Play Cards

Today, prerelease cards are much easier to get. You can even get them months after the set’s release. They come inside Build and Play boxes and there is always the chance to pull one of four different designs! Also, the set’s stamp will be in the bottom corner instead of the old “PRERELEASE” stamp.

Retired Gimmicks

Each era introduces a new gimmick that changes up the gameplay. However, the gimmick cards tend to maintain rarity because they are retired after a few years.

Note: This is not a list of every gimmick, just the most popular/sought-after ones! 

Dark Pokémon

Dark Pokémon
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Each era introduces a new gimmick that changes up the gameplay. However, the gimmick cards tend to maintain rarity because they are retired after a few years.

While EX Team Magma vs. Team Aqua uses the same mechanics as Dark Pokémon, they are not technically dark Pokémon. Instead, they are considered Trainer’s Pokémon.

Sets With Dark Pokémon

  • Base Era – Team Rocket 
  • Base Era – Legendary Collection 
  • Base Era – Black Star Promos
  • Neo Era – Neo Destiny 
  • e-Reader Era – Best of Game 
  • Ruby/Sapphire Era – EX Team Rocket Returns 
  • Sword and Sheild Era – Black Star Promo (Celebrations)

Rarest Dark Pokémon Card: Team Rocket Holo Rare Dark Charizard

Team Rocket Holo Rare Dark Charizard 

Light Pokémon

Light Pokémon
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Light Pokémon were called “Gentle Pokémon” in Japan. This is because they are the counterparts of the Dark Pokémon. Light Pokémon usually aid Pokémon in gameplay because of the caring nature they learn from their trainer.

Sets With Light Pokémon

  • Neo Era = Neo Destiny 
  • Sword and Shield Era – Black Star Promos (Celebrations) 

Rarest Light Pokémon Card: Neo Destiny Holo Rare Light Dragonite

Neo Destiny Holo Rare Light Dragonite

Crystal Types

Crystal-type Pokémon were called Neutral Pokémon in Japan. They are similar in gameplay to Shining Pokémon but do not have the “one per deck” rule. Instead, they eat a ton of grass, water, and psychic energy for attacks. Every crystal-type Pokémon card is considered a colorless type and has a “crystal type poké-body.”

Sets With Crystal Types

  • Neo Era – Aquapolis 
  • Neo Era – Skyridge 

Rarest Crystal Pokémon Card: Skyridge Secret Rare Charizard

Secret Rare Crystal Type Charizard

Delta Species

Delta Species
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Delta Species was a gimmick during the EX/Ruby Sapphire era. It swapped the energy type of certain pokemon to something completely different.

Sets With Delta Species Pokémon

  • EX Delta Species 
  • EX Legend Maker 
  • EX Holon Phantoms 
  • EX Dragon Frontiers 
  • EX Crystal Guardians 
  • Pop Series 5 
  • Various promo cards 

Rarest Delta Species Pokémon Card: EX/Ruby Sapphire Era: Dragon Frontiers Delta Species Mew Star

EXRuby Sapphire Era Dragon Frontiers Delta Species Mew Star

Prime Cards

Prime Cards
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Prime cards were a gimmick during the HeartGold SoulSilver era. They are powerhouse versions of basic Pokémon and appear to jump out of the card.

Sets With Prime Pokémon

  • HeartGold Soul Silver 
  • Unleashed 
  • Undaunted
  • Triumphant 
  • Black and White Promo Cards 

Rarest Prime Pokémon Card: Heart Gold Soul Silver: Triumphant Holo Mew Prime

Heart Gold Soul Silver Triumphant Holo Mew Prime 

Pokémon Legend Cards

Pokémon Legend Cards
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LEGEND cards are legendary Pokémon that are split into two cards. They have intercut artwork. The bottom and top cards are needed to use the Pokémon in battle.

Sets With Legend Cards

  • HeartGold Soul Silver 
  • Unleashed 
  • Undaunted
  • Triumphant 

Rarest Legends Pokémon Card: HeartGold SoulSilver Lugia Legend (Top)

HeartGold SoulSilver Lugia Legend (Top) 

Tag Teams

Tag Teams
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Tag Team was an iconic gimmick that featured some of the coolest cards in the modern day. The cards combined two or more Pokémon to work together for super-powerful attacks.

Sets With Tag Teams

  • Team Up
  • Sun and Moon Promos
  • Unbroken Bonds
  • Unified Minds
  • Cosmic Eclipse 

Rarest Tag Team Pokémon Card: Sun and Moon: Team Up Latias & Latios GX Alternate Full Art

Sun and Moon Team Up Latias & Latios GX Alternate Full Art

EX Cards

EX Cards
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EX cards are the first and only to return to the meta. They started in the ex/Ruby Sapphire era and returned for the Black and White and XY generations. They give the Pokémon an extra range of attacks and effects.

The older generation ex cards are similar in design to old holo rares, but most had silver sparkle borders. More modern EX cards are full arts that show the Pokémon attacking.

Sets With EX Pokémon

  • The entirety of the EX/Ruby Sapphire era
  • Pop Series 2, 3, and 4
  • Pop Series 3 
  • Black and White era
  • XY era 

Rarest EX Pokémon Card: EX/Ruby Sapphire Era: Unseen Forces Umbreon ex

EXRuby Sapphire Era Unseen Forces Umbreon ex

GX Cards

GX Cards
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GX is similar to EX cards but has way higher HP and stronger attacks. In addition, they are full art cards ranging from the Pokémon attacking to goofy Pokémon designs in their everyday life.

Sets With GX Cards

  • The entirety of the Sun and moon era. 

Rarest GX Pokémon Card: Sun and Moon: Shining Legends MewTwo GX Secret Rare

Sun and Moon Shining Legends MewTwo GX Secret Rare 

Rainbow Rares

Rainbow Rares
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Rainbow secret rares first debuted in the Sun and Moon era for the Lost Thunder set. They are popular GX (now V/VMAX) and full art Trainers in a textured holographic rainbow color.

Sets With Rainbow Rare Cards

  • Every Sun and Moon set since Lost Thunder
  • Every Sword and Shield set

Rarest Rainbow Pokémon Card: Sun and Moon: Burning Shadows Charizard GX Rainbow Secret Rare

Sun and Moon Burning Shadows Charizard GX Rainbow Secret Rare

Golden Rares

Golden Rares
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Golden rares made a temporary debut in the XY era. They were secret rare trainer cards that had a golden border. They were popular trainer cards as full arts on a golden card in the sun and moon era. Now they are a range of trainer cards, V Pokémon, and shiny, full art Pokémon on golden cards.

Sets With Golden Rare Cards

  • Various later XY sets
  • Most Sun and Moon sets
  • All Sword and Shield sets

Rarest Golden Pokémon Card: Diamond and Pearl: Plasma Freeze Ultra Ball Golden Secret Rare

Diamond and Pearl Plasma Freeze Ultra Ball Golden Secret Rare

Alternate Arts

Alternate Arts
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There are a handful of alternative arts in Sun and Moon, but they are nowhere near as unique and gorgeous as the recent designs in Sword and Shield. The alternate arts came back around Vivid Voltage and have honestly saved the TCG, in my opinion. They brought something unique and fun to opening packs that we haven’t had since the launch of Tag Team.

They are full art cards that feature the Pokémon in a unique design. Sometimes they just exist in the world, like a lifelike portrait. Other times the cards are more abstract. Basically, they are cards with an art museum type of feel.

Sets With Alternate Arts Cards

  • Later Sun and Moon sets
  • Later Sword and Shield sets

Rarest Alternate Art Pokémon Card: Sword and Shield: Brilliant Stars Charizard V Alternate Full Art

Sword and Shield Brilliant Stars Charizard V Alternate Full Art

Full Art Trainer Cards

Full Art Trainer Cards
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Full art trainers take the best trainer cards of a set and redesign the card art to feature a full art design of the trainer. The moves are no different than the original trainer card, but collectors and players seek more after them because of their fun designs.

Sets With Full Art Trainer Cards Cards

  • Later Black and White sets
  • All of XY
  • All of Sun and Moon
  • All of Sword and Shield

Rarest Full Art Trainer Pokémon Card: Sun and Moon: Ultra Prism Lillie

Sun and Moon Ultra Prism Lillie 

Trainer Gallery Cards

Trainer Gallery cards made a temporary debut as secret rares in Cosmic Eclipse and has recently returned to the game, with each set having a “Trainer Gallery” subset. These full art cards feature a famous trainer with their partner Pokémon. They sometimes fight, but the trainer and Pokémon are usually just hanging out together!

Sets With Trainer Gallery Cards Cards

  • Cosmic Eclipse 
  • Brilliant Stars
  • Astral Radiance 
  • Lost Origin 

Rarest Trainer Gallery Pokémon Card: Sword and Shield: Lost Origin Red’s Pikachu VMAX

Sword and Shield Lost Origin Red's Pikachu VMAX

Special Series Sets

Special series sets are sets that are introduced to celebrate the end/beginning of an era, are for a holiday or anniversary, or are temporarily bringing back a retired energy type

Legendary Collection

Legendary Collection
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Legendary Collection is a reprint of fan-favorite cards of the Base Set era. They featured a unique reverse holo pattern that looked like fireworks on the card. These cards are super rare today because back in the 2000s when this set came out, the cards were hard to read, and many kids simply threw them out.

Rarest Legendary Collection Card: Pokémon Legendary Collection Reverse Holo Charizard

Pokémon Legendary Collection Reverse Holo Charizard

Southern Islands

Southern Island marked the end of the Neo era, and the cards feature fan-favorite Pokémon on an island vacation. Putting all the cards together in their binder forms a giant puzzle!

Rarest Southern Island Card: Pokémon Southern Island Mew

Pokémon Southern Island Mew 

Pop Series

Pop Series

Pop Series was a series of cards available during the lead-up to Diamond and Pearl. They feature mostly dull cards. However, there are a few highlights, like the shiny Umbreon/Espeon, Pichu Bros, and Pikachu.

These packs were available by playing at TCG shops during this era. Sealed packs are worth more than any card in the set, so if you luck into a sealed Pop Series pack, open it at your own risk!

Rarest Pop Series Card: Pop Series 5 Umbreon Star

Pop Series 5 Umbreon Star

Pokémon Rumble

Pokémon Rumble
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Pokémon Rumble cards were released alongside the Wii game of the same name. They were sold in boxes that contained 16 Rumble Cards. The cards are based on screenshots from the Wii game, similar to the Pokémon Snap price cards!

Rarest Rumble Card: Pikachu – Rumble

Pikachu - Rumble

Other Notable Anniversary and Subsets Sets

Subsets are parts of the era that are only available for a limited time and in limited quantities. For example, there are no booster boxes for these sets. Instead, all packs must be obtained through event boxes and trainer boxes. They usually exist to bring back a retired energy type, celebrate a retired gimmick, or because of a special event like a significant anniversary.

Anniversary and Event Sets

  • Call of Legends – HGSS reprint with shiny legendaries
  • Black and White Legendary Treasures – End of era and introduction to radiant collection
  • Pokemon Generations – 20th anniversary Radiant Collection Cards
  • Evolutions – Base Set reprint set for 20th anniversary
  • Shining Legends – Shining Pokémon return
  • Dragon Majesty – Dragon type returns
  • Detective Pikachu – Realistic looking card based on the movie
  • Celebrations – the 25th anniversary set
  • Pokémon Go – Cards themed after the award winning mobil game.
  • Trick or Trade – 2022’s Halloween special series set meant for trick or treaters

Rarest Anniversary Cards: Celebrations Metal Charizard Promo Card

Celebrations Metal Charizard Promo Card

Shiny Cards

Shiny Pokémon has been the shining star (pun intended) of the Pokémon franchise since their debut in gen 2. Each era introduces a new gimmick for shiny Pokémon!

The Shinings

The Shinings
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In the Neo era, the first shiny cards hit the scene. They were called Shining cards, and instead of showing the pocket monsters in their alternate colors, they are shown in grayscale.

Rarest Shining Pokémon Card: Neo Destiny Shining Charizard

Neo Destiny Shining Charizard

Gold Stars

The EX/Ruby Sapphire era introduced Star Pokémon as secret rares. A golden star indicated these at the top of the card by the Pokémon’s name. The shiny Pokémon appears to be running off of the card.

Rarest Gold Star Pokémon Card: Team Rocket Returns Mudkip Star

Neo Destiny Shining Charizard

SH Shinings – Diamond and Pearl Era

SH Shinings - Diamond and Pearl Era
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During the Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum eras, a special subset was introduced called SH cards. It featured first-stage shiny Pokémon on reverse holo cards.

Rarest Gen 4 Shiny Pokémon Card: Diamond and Pearl: Stormfront SH Duskull

Diamond and Pearl Stormfront SH Duskull 

SL Shinings – Call of Legends Era

SL Shinings - Call of Legends Era
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The SL shiny Pokémon are similar to the SH, but they depict legendary Pokémon’s shinies instead of stage 1 basic Pokémon. These cards were exclusive to the Call of Legends set between the HeartGold SoulSilver era and the Black and White era.

Rarest SL Shiny Pokémon Card: Call of Legends SL Rayquaza

Call of Legends SL Rayquaza

The Black and White Secret Rare Shinies

Rarest Gen 5 Shiny Pokémon Card

The Black and White era’s shinies were secret rares that featured the shiny Pokémon in a prime-like pose. The cards have a textured golden border.

Rarest Gen 5 Shiny Pokémon Card: Black and White: Plasma Storm Charizard Secret Rare 

Sun and Moon Era

Sun and Moon Era
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The Sun and Moon era saw two different styles of shiny Pokémon. The first was for a unique set called Shining Legends. This brought back “Shining Pokémon” but depicts them in their alternative colors instead of grayscale like the original.

The second is a part of the Hidden Fates set’s shiny vault. The regular cards have a diamond-spotted background and a shiny Pokémon in the center. Others have the same diamond-spotted background with a full art of the shiny Pokémon.

Rarest Sun and Moon Shiny Pokémon Card: Hidden Fates: Shiny Vault Charizard

Hidden Fates Shiny Vault Charizard 

Sword and Shield Era

Sword and Shield Era
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Sword and Shield’s first shiny Pokémon debuted with the unique set: Shining Fates. It is the sister set to Hidden Fates, and the shiny vault design is nearly identical.

However, Brilliant Stars debuted a new type of shiny Pokémon card called Radiant Pokemon. It is a regular Pokémon card with the texture of a full art. These cards look like standard common/uncommon cards, but the Pokémon featured is shiny!

Rarest Sword and Shield Shiny Pokémon Card: Shining Fates: Shiny Vault Charizard VMAX

Shining Fates Shiny Vault Charizard VMAX

The Top Five Rare Cards In My Personal Collection!

To conclude, these are my top five favorite rare cards in my own personal collection!

Edvard Munch Scream: The Munch Museum Collaboration Eevee

Edvard Munch Scream: The Munch Museum Collaboration Eevee
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The Scream cards came out in 2018 when Pokemon and the Edvard Munch museum had a collab. These promo cards were given out with matching binders to those who visited the museum.

I have a friend who lives in Japan and got an Eevee promo for me. To own this card today, you would have to luck into it at a TCG shop that carries Japanese cards or find a trusted retailer on eBay.

Sun and Moon Team Up: Latias & Latios GX Alternate Art

Sun and Moon Team Up: Latias & Latios GX Alternate Art
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I was lucky enough to pull this in my very first Team Up pack back in 2019. Today the card can be found on TCG Player for around $400.

Pokémon x Yu Nagaba Collaboration Promo Card

Pokémon x Yu Nagaba Collaboration Promo Card
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The card was a collaboration with Japanese artist Yu Nagaba. The collab also featured a large deck box and card sleeves.

I ordered this card last year from Troll and Toad, but it has been sold out for nearly a year. So the best place to find this card today would be on eBay.

1999 WoTC Pokémon Snap Pikachu Promo Card

1999 WoTC Pokémon Snap Pikachu Promo Card
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I found this card last week at my favorite card shop in Glendale, California. This promo card came out with the N64 game Pokémon Snap. 

If you don’t want to search local card shops, the card is also available on TCG Player. 

CoroCoro Snorlax Vending Machine Card

CoroCoro Snorlax Vending Machine Card
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During the pandemic, I found this card at a used bookstore called McKays in North Carolina. CoroCoro vending machine cards existed in the 90s and early 200s. This particular one is a result of a Pokémon artist contest where fans drew their own cards with the chance to have their design turned into a vending machine card!

I suggest finding a card shop with Japanese products or a trusted reseller on eBay for a similar card!

The Q&A’s

Question: What is the Rarest Pokémon Card of all Time? 

Answer: The Illustrator Pikachu is the rarest Pokémon card of all time. It is worth nearly 4 million dollars, and only a handful still exist worldwide. Sadly one is owned by a Paul brother who wears it to boxing matches, which feels like a disgrace to such a historic card. 

Question: How Do I Sell my Pokémon Cards? 

Answer: First, try local card shops. They usually give you around 50% of the card’s value or store credit. You can also try selling on eBay and Mercari, but since the scalper outbreak of 2020, many buyers now avoid those websites. 

Victory Road

In January, we will see the end of another Pokémon era and the start of brand-new gimmicks. I’m predicting a return of the Crystal Types as a nod to the Terastal forms in the Scarlet/Violet game.

I hope you are as excited as I am to start a new binder and see what comes our way in the TCG!

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