World's most expensive Pokémon card sells for $300k

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In further proof that there is still money in print, the world’s most expensive Pokémon card has sold at auction for almost $300,000.

The “Pokémon Illustrator” card, of which only 39 were ever printed, sold at auction for almost $300,000. (Images: Weiss Auctions)
The “Pokémon Illustrator” card, of which only 39 were ever printed, sold at auction for almost $300,000. (Images: Weiss Auctions)

The “Pokémon Illustrator” card (known commonly as Illustrator Pikachu), of which only 39 were ever printed – and, it is believed, only 10 remain today – was originally given out to winners of three illustration contests in Japanese comic CoroCoro.

The card sold via online auction site Weiss Auctions for US$195,000, translating into AU$285,000; this is almost four times the price of the last Illustrator Pikachu card to hit auction in 2013, which sold for US$55,000 (AU$80,000).

Phil Weiss, owner of Weiss Auctions, told game industry news site Polygon that he was stunned the card went that high.

“I took an economics class in high school, and I remember my teacher telling us that something’s worth what another is willing to pay. And that’s what happened here.

“Bidding started low with a handful of interested parties, but all dropped off at around $75,000,” he said.

Illustrator Pikachu is the only Pokémon card to feature the word “Illustrator” at the top (in place of “Trainer”), has a pen symbol in the lower right hand corner, and – like other rare cards – has a holographic foil treatment on the image.

Rare trading cards from games like Pokémon and Magic: the Gathering can be worth big bucks – an unopened box of 36 packs of the Pokémon First Edition Base Set sold for US$78,000, and a near mint-condition “Black Lotus” from the Beta Edition set of Magic went for US$26,400, at an auction in March this year.

According to Weiss, many people don’t realise the value of these cards, and throw them out or sell them for a pittance.

“I just came from an estate where, very casually, a lady said, ‘Oh, I had these silly Magic cards in the original boxes and someone came over and gave me a lot of money for them’. I asked what a lot of money was, and it was probably a tenth of what they should have been going for,” he told Polygon.

In Pokémon, Magic, and similar trading card games (TCGs), players buy cards either individually or in randomised booster packs to build their own customised decks and compete against others; many games also offer pre-constructed decks.

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