A Pikachu Illustrator card was just traded for $900,000 worth of Charizard cards and Mitsuhiro Arita drawings. We can verify the transaction involved the game’s most respected collectors.
The $900,000 transaction places this Pikachu Illustrator as the most expensive Pokemon card in history by far — and the most expensive Pokemon TCG item by far. The last record holder was a 1st edition Base Set booster box that sold in October for $375,000. For individual cards, an ungraded Pikachu Illustrator sold in Japan last month for $340,000.
We spoke with Pikachu’s buyer, “Marco,” who’s from Italy and an avid PokeBeach reader. He wished for his last name to be excluded from this story. His trade included nine Charizard cards and three private drawings by Mitsuhiro Arita. The Arita drawings were custom-made at an event in 2017 and are not considered official.
The $900,000 evaluation was based on $850,000 in recent sales for the traded Charizard cards and $50,000 for the Arita drawings. Both parties agreed to this evaluation. We can also verify through our own research that the Charizard cards indeed add up to over $850,000 (and are continuing to rise). The trade was completed two weeks ago. By trading the cards instead of buying them, both parties probably avoided capital gains taxes.
Marco kindly provided us with photos and descriptions for each item he traded away:
We asked Marco why he wanted the Pikachu Illustrator:
I consider the Pikachu Illustrator, especially in mint condition, to be the holy grail of Pokemon collecting. It’s illustrated by Atsuko Nishida, the creator of Pokemon like Pikachu and Charmander, who we both see on the card. It’s one of the cutest cards ever made. The card’s artwork represents the real meaning of the Pokemon TCG: yes it’s a card game, but it’s 90% about collecting cards! And collecting is all about the artwork! The Pikachu in the artwork is drawing an image of Mew and we also see its other artwork of Charmander. An artistic Pikachu that is created by the illustrator of the artwork itself: it’s pure magic.
Why did I trade away my Charizard collection? Charizard is fantastic and I had the best Charizards ever made, but it’s nothing compared to the iconic Pikachu. It’s the Honus Wagner of Pokemon. I consider the card not only nostalgic, beautiful, and historical, but also a fantastic investment.
The Pikachu seller is a highly private individual from Japan who owns one of the game’s largest collections. Marco only worked with his middleman for this trade. We know the identity of the seller, but were asked not to post any information.
The “Pikachu Illustrator” cards were awarded through three card illustrator contests in CoroCoro magazine in 1998. Winners received a copy of the promo plus their winning artwork on a promo card. It’s estimated a maximum of 39 copies of the cards were awarded. However, only 19 are still known to exist thanks to PSA grading.
While there are other cards in the Pokemon TCG that are technically rarer than this Pikachu, such as the “No. 1” and “No. 2” Mewtwo cards, Pikachu usually fetches a higher price due to the unique artwork and the fact it’s Pikachu.