How Much is Illustrator Pikachu Worth? An Expert Look at the World‘s Most Valuable Pokémon Card

The Pikachu Illustrator card is considered the holy grail for Pokémon card collectors. With only around 39 copies known to exist, it is one of the rarest cards ever printed. Pikachu Illustrator‘s extreme scarcity and desirability have led to record-breaking sales at auction. But exactly how much is this card worth today? Let‘s take an in-depth expert look.

In perfect PSA 10 gem mint condition, a Pikachu Illustrator recently changed hands in a private $5.275 million sale, making it the most valuable Pokémon card ever sold. Lower grade copies can still fetch 6 figures at auction. Even ungraded, an Illustrator Pikachu is likely worth $200,000 minimum based on market trends.

So what makes this card so valuable? Why are collectors willing to pay prices equivalent to luxury real estate for a thin 2×3 inch piece of cardboard? To understand, we need to go back to the origins of this card.

The Story Behind Pikachu Illustrator

In 1997, the Pokémon franchise was just starting to take off in Japan thanks to the video games and newly launched trading card game. CoroCoro Comic magazine decided to run an illustration contest to create their own exclusive promo card highlighting the Pokémon mascot, Pikachu.

Entrants had to illustrate a unique scene featuring Pikachu. The winning illustrations would be printed as a special "Illustrator Pikachu" card and distributed as prizes to contest winners. This appeal for original art is what gives the Illustrator Pikachu unique appeal as the only official Pokémon card with fan-created artwork.

Only 20-39 entrants won the Illustrator Pikachu cards, establishing the incredibly limited supply from day one. After the contest concluded, the card was never printed again. So unlike normal Pokémon card sets with print runs in the millions, there are likely less than 40 Pikachu Illustrators in the world.

Current Population: Only 23 Graded PSA 10s Confirmed

Out of those 40 cards originally created, Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), the leading authority in collectible card grading, has certified just 23 copies reaching its top Gem Mint 10 grade. No Illustrator Pikachu‘s have ever been graded higher than PSA 10.

The PSA Population Report shows:

  • PSA 10: 23 copies
  • PSA 9: 3 copies
  • PSA 8: 2 copies
  • PSA 7: 4 copies

That means less than 25% of the Illustrator Pikachu population has scored a Mint 9 rating or higher from PSA. Of course, not all existing copies have been graded, but the tiny PSA census still shows how remarkably difficult it is to find these cards in pristine shape.

PSA Grade Population
Gem Mint 10 23
Mint 9 3
Near Mint-Mint 8 2
Near Mint 7 4

Auction Sales: The Most Valuable Pokémon Card in the World

Due to minuscule supply and massive demand from collectors, Pikachu Illustrator commands incredible prices whenever one heads to auction:

  • 2022 (Feb) – PSA 10 – $5.275 million (private sale via Logan Paul)
  • 2021 – PSA 10 – $375,000 (eBay auction)
  • 2019 – PSA 10 – $224,500 (Weiss Auctions)
  • 2022 – Ungraded – $615,000 (PWCC Auctions)
  • 2019 – PSA 9 – $195,000 (Weiss Auctions)
  • 2013 – PSA 7 – $150,000 (private seller)

No Pokémon card has ever sold for more than Illustrator Pikachu. Even low-grade copies nearing $200,000 routinely set records. It outclasses the next most valuable card (a Pikachu trophy promo) by over $5 million!

Why So Valuable? It‘s All About Scarcity

So what makes Illustrator Pikachu so special? As the auction prices indicate, it comes down to two key factors:

1. Extreme Rarity – With likely less than 40 copies in the world and only 23 PSA 10s confirmed, Illustrator Pikachu is arguably the rarest Pokémon card ever printed. No other card approaches this level of scarcity.

2. Cultural Significance – As the Pokémon mascot, Pikachu drives huge demand among collectors. Early cards are also most sought after. Originally released in 1997/98, the Illustrator Pikachu has "holy grail" appeal as a prized card from the dawn of Pokémon.

Illustrator Pikachu checks every box for the perfect collectible:

  • Iconic subject – Pikachu
  • Extreme age – over 20 years old
  • Minuscule supply – less than 40 copies
  • Strong grade potential – high-grade examples are near impossible to find
  • Available supply drying up – unlikely any new copies will surface 20+ years later

Who Owns Pikachu Illustrator? Major Collectors & Investors

The Pikachu Illustrator is a trophy asset that only the most serious investors or die-hard Pokemon collectors can afford. Some prominent owners include:

Logan Paul – In Feb 2022, YouTuber/boxer Logan Paul bought a PSA 10 Illustrator for $5.275 million in a history-making private sale. He traded a PSA 9 Illustrator plus $4 million cash.

Gary – Nicknamed "Pawn Stars Gary", he is a famous high-end Pokemon collector. He previously owned the PSA 10 that Logan Paul acquired.

Cardhops – An anonymous buyer named "Cardhops" purchased a PSA 10 Illustrator for $375,000 on eBay in 2021.

King Pokemon – Reportedly a billionaire living in the Middle East, he is rumored to own several Pikachu Illustrators. As one of the biggest Pokémon collectors, he could possibly own over 10% of all the Pikachu Illustrators in existence.

Will Prices Keep Rising? Expert Predictions

In my opinion as a collectibles expert, upward price momentum for Pikachu Illustrator is likely to continue. However, increases will begin to plateau at a certain point:

Factors Supporting Continued Price Rises

  • New wealthy collectors entering the market
  • Publicity from record sales stokes further demand
  • Overall collectibles boom since 2020 brings fresh investment
  • Nostalgia – Older millennials revisiting childhood hobbies

Factors Limiting Future Growth

  • Extremely limited supply – only a handful of cards are available to buy
  • seven figure prices restrict the buyer pool
  • Potential broader economic downturn could dampen sales

I expect six and even seven figure sales will become standard for PSA 10 Illustrators, but the market may be reaching its peak. While unlikely, a massive multi-million dollar sale exceeding Logan Paul‘s record isn‘t impossible. But 10 years from now, I‘d project a PSA 10 to be worth around $7 – $10 million on the high end based on continued appreciation.

In Conclusion

As the auction prices prove, the Pikachu Illustrator stands in a league of its own as the undisputed Holy Grail of Pokémon cards. Given its singular rarity and cultural cache as the series‘ mascot, Illustrator Pikachu will likely reign as the most valuable Pokémon card in the world for years to come. Wealthy collectors are locked in a fierce contest driving prices ever higher, with no end in sight to Pikachu‘s reign at the top.

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