The Most Valuable Japanese Pokemon Cards Ever

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Pokemon cards have been popular for years, but many collectors may not know the key differences between the Japanese and English versions. This guide will explore the differences between Japanese and English Pokemon cards, as well as the rarity and value of Japanese cards.

A Brief history of Pokemon cards:

The Pokemon TCG has become a beloved collectible card game for fans of all ages. The cards feature artwork of various Pokemon characters, and players can use them to battle against each other, trade, or collect.

There are two main versions of Pokemon trading cards: the Japanese version and the English version. The Japanese version, released by The Pokemon Company in Japan, is often seen as the original and most authentic version of the cards. The English version, published by The Pokemon Company International, is a translated version of the Japanese cards.

While both versions of the cards feature the same Pokemon characters and similar gameplay mechanics, there are some differences between the two. One major difference is the rarity of certain cards, as some cards that are considered common in the English version may be much rarer and harder to find in the Japanese version. Additionally, there may be differences in card artwork and designs between the two versions.

Differences Between Japanese and English Pokemon Cards

Differences between Japanese and English Pokemon cards are significant and worth exploring for collectors. One of the most notable differences is the card design and layout. Japanese cards may feature more intricate and detailed artwork than their English counterparts. Additionally, the layout of Japanese cards often includes more text and information, such as the illustrator’s name and card description.

Another difference between Japanese and English Pokemon cards is the release of sets and their numbering. The Japanese version typically releases sets ahead of the English version, sometimes months in advance. Also, the numbering of cards within a set can vary between the two versions, with Japanese cards often having more cards in a set and different numbering schemes.

Language and text are also important differences between Japanese and English Pokemon cards. Japanese cards naturally feature Japanese text, which can be challenging for non-Japanese speakers to navigate. Furthermore, some Japanese cards may include English text, but it is essential to note that this text may differ in translation from the English cards.

These differences make collecting Japanese Pokemon cards a unique and rewarding experience, allowing collectors to explore different artwork, sets, and text that are not available in English versions.

Rarity of Japanese Pokemon Cards

Rarity is a key factor that makes Japanese Pokemon cards unique and desirable to collectors. In comparison to English cards, Japanese cards are generally considered to be more rare due to several factors. One of the main reasons is the limited print runs of Japanese cards, which means that fewer copies of each card are produced. Additionally, Japanese cards often feature exclusive illustrations and artwork that are not available in English sets, making them even more valuable.

Factors that influence the rarity of Japanese Pokemon cards include their release dates, print runs, and the popularity of the Pokemon featured on the card. For example, first edition cards from early Japanese sets are typically more rare and valuable than later prints. Some Japanese sets are also only available through specific channels such as tournaments or promotional events, further contributing to their rarity.

Grading and valuing Japanese cards follows a similar process to English cards. The condition of the card, including factors such as centering, corners, edges, and surface, are taken into consideration when grading.

When valuing Japanese cards, the rarity and condition of the card are the most important factors. Some of the most valuable Japanese Pokemon cards include the Pikachu Illustrator card, which was only given out to winners of a specific drawing contest in Japan, and the Gold Star cards, which feature a special gold foil stamp and were only available in certain sets.

Understanding the rarity of Japanese Pokemon cards is essential for collectors who want to build a valuable and unique collection. By considering factors such as release dates, print runs, and artwork, collectors can identify the most rare and valuable Japanese cards and make informed decisions about their collection.

How to Collect Japanese Pokemon Cards

A. Where to buy Japanese cards:

One of the best ways to purchase Japanese Pokemon cards is through online marketplaces, such as eBay, Amazon Japan, and Yahoo! Japan Auctions. You can also purchase them from local hobby shops or collectibles stores. If you are looking for rare and vintage Japanese cards, specialty shops and online forums might be a good option.

B. Building a collection:

When building a Japanese card collection, it is important to consider the condition of the cards, the rarity of the cards, and the completeness of the set. Many collectors focus on collecting entire sets, while others might focus on a specific theme, such as a particular Pokemon or character.

C. Displaying and storing Japanese cards:

To preserve the condition of Japanese Pokemon cards, it is important to store them properly. Many collectors use protective sleeves and binders to store their cards. Displaying your collection can be a fun way to show off your cards. You can use card display cases or create your own display using frames or shadow boxes. It is important to keep your collection out of direct sunlight and in a temperature-controlled environment to prevent damage.

4 Top Japanese Pokemon Cards to Collect

A. 1996 Base Set Charizard 

This is considered one of the rarest and most valuable Japanese Pokemon cards. It features Charizard in all its glory, and has a unique holofoil pattern that makes it stand out. It is part of the first-ever set of Pokemon cards released in Japan in 1996.

B. Illustrator Pikachu

This is another incredibly rare Japanese Pokemon card that was given out as a prize in a CoroCoro Comic illustration contest in 1998. It features Pikachu holding a paintbrush and has “Illustrator” written in the top right corner instead of the card’s rarity symbol.

C. 2004 Shiny Rayquaza

This card features the legendary Pokemon Rayquaza in a unique shiny form. 

Released back in 2004, the design is similar to the English edition in most respects. In terms of values, it’s going to be one of the more expensive Rayquaza Pokémon cards on the market. It’s still cheaper than the English version, albeit with a smaller aftermarket of potential buyers. 

D. Gold Star Cards from the EX Series

These cards feature a gold star symbol instead of a rarity symbol, and were released in the EX series in Japan from 2003 to 2007. They are considered rare due to their limited distribution and unique design.


The world of Japanese Pokemon cards offers collectors a unique and exciting opportunity to expand their collections beyond the English versions. From different card designs and layouts to the rarity of certain cards, the Japanese cards have a distinct appeal. As a collector, it is important to research and understand the differences between the two versions, and to know how to properly handle and store your collectible cards.

We hope this guide has provided valuable insight into the differences and rarity of Japanese Pokemon cards, and has encouraged you to explore this fascinating world of collectibles. Whether you’re looking to add a Charizard from the 1996 Base Set or a Shiny Rayquaza to your collection, there’s no shortage of incredible options to discover. So get out there and start collecting!

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