The best-looking Pokémon cards span the full 27-year history of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, ranging wildly in how much they’re worth. With over 9,000 cards in the English set alone, it’s easy for both collectors and newcomers to the game to miss out on some of the most aesthetically appealing cards. Despite their recreational purpose, some cards are true works of art in and of themselves.
Like artwork, a single Pokémon card can fetch a high price on online markets. This value depends not just on the card’s aesthetic appeal but on many other factors such as the condition, rarity and utility. For the purpose of this collection of cards, the prices given are drawn from completed sales listings for Ungraded cards, meaning their condition was not officially certified by the seller.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Mega Charizard X – XY Flashfire ($40)
This Secret Rare Mega Charizard X has great depth, with Charizard exploding out of the frame. Its claw covers part of the text box, with the flames wrapping around to make even the description feel like part of the art work. Add to that an electrifying color combo of vivid blues and yellows and this card becomes a total eye-catcher. It sells for around $40 according to PriceCharting (links to individual sales information for this card and those below can be found at the bottom of this page).
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Golurk V – Evolving Skies ($18.85)
Most Ghost-type Pokémon have a scary reputation, but the beauty of this card is seeing Golurk in a peaceful setting helping to construct a village. The gorgeously soft pastels are a great contrast to most Pokémon cards that emphasize the destructive force of Pokémon in battle. Card games should be a relaxing pastime, after all.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Gengar VMAX – Fusion Strike ($170)
Another Ghost-type, but this time Gengar is beefed up in VMAX form: the Pokémon TCG’s equivalent of Dynamax and Gigantamax from the core games.
The vivid colors and kid-like art style bring out Gengar’s prankster nature, while still demonstrating his all-encompassing destruction as he inhales entire Berry trees. Due to its sheer power, the card fetches an impressive 170 dollars as well.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Mega Sableye & Tyranitar – Unified Minds ($60.93)
The Mega Sableye and Tyranitar Tag Team card is resplendent in its gem-filled brilliance. Moreso than even the solo cards, Tag Team Pokémon cards introduce the player to the personalities of these Pokémon. This card seems to depict Tyranitar throwing a fit after walking in on Mega Sableye eating its precious gem stash.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Pikachu – Generations: Radiant Collection ($20.22)
This Pikachu card is sure to warm the heart of any player or spectator. Although there have been many Pikachu cards, this one gives bang for its buck with 4 adorably drawn Pikachu. Even casual players can enjoy the pure squidgy-ness of these Pikachu all packed in together, echoed by the card’s signature move Nuzzle.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Ninetales EX – EX Hidden Legends ($62.26)
Not every card has to have Full Art to stand out from the pack, as shown by Ninetales. The Pokémon Ninetales is different, inspired by the Kitsune spirits of Japanese mythology. This design chooses to emphasize this spiritual power instead of the elegance Ninetales is commonly associated with. The framing of the bright-red eyes on either side of the image pierces into the viewer.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Milotic – Supreme Victors ($47.79)
Continuing the trend of elegant yet powerful Pokémon is Milotic. Here, Milotic is set against an abnormally curved sky to match the winding lines of its serpentine body. It’s unclear whether the left side of the image is composed of clouds or the foamy peaks of waves, and this ambiguity plus the odd perspective gives the whole image a dream-like quality.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Hypno – XY Breakpoint ($1.94)
From dream-like to nightmarish, Hypno is presented in one of the more psychedelic art styles to appear on a Pokémon card. The image is split by Hypno’s contorted figure, with the left-hand side depicting a hellish landscape and the right-hand side showing a glimmering wonderland. Given Hypno’s undershadow, distant eyes and suggestive posing, it seems to be leading viewers towards the darker side.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Beartic – Next Destinies ($1.15)
Like Hypno, this Beartic Pokémon card has an unreasonably fantastic illustration given its low price point. The fur looks to be gracefully floating in the freezing water, and yet Beartic’s sheer size is given importance as it looms above the viewer. If Beartic were to swim above another Pokémon, it would blot out the light above and swiftly take it down.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Houndoom – Aquapolis ($11.93)
Houndoom is a Pokémon that normally looks strong, yet here the viewer is invited to sympathize with the loneliness it experiences as it destroys the world around it. Houndoom’s pose is dejected and humbled, set against the vivid crimson of a twilight sky. It appears to have won, residing at the top of a hill, but the dead trees around suggest it was a pyrrhic victory.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Jolteon – Jungle ($15.50)
Keeping with the older card designs, Jolteon’s design provides an early example of making a static image appear dynamic. Shock waves radiate out from the center of the image, with Jolteon’s puffed-up body adding to the concentric design. Additionally, the complementary yellow and purple color combo creates a visually appealing captured moment of Jolteon’s attack.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Flareon – Brilliant Stars ($3)
Following on with another Eevee evolution is Blue’s Flareon, in a far more docile position than Jolteon. Flareon’s beautiful rounded mane in this Pokémon card is juxtaposed by Blue’s spiky hair, with the soft lighting and blended pastels emulating the warmth of their friendship. Again, the personality is the stand-out aspect of the image: Blue, beaming, pats Flareon while trying to encourage a smile out of it.
Finishing off the original trio of Eevee evolutions is Vaporeon. The gleam of sunlight reflecting off the water’s surface parallels Vaporeon’s photogenic jewel-like eyes. The way the water bobs at the edge of Vaporeon’s skin looks surprisingly realistic as well, with Vaporeon’s playful pawing at the water inviting the viewer to come closer.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Umbreon VMAX – Evolving Skies ($475)
Saving the best Eevee evolution in Pokémon for last is Umbreon’s VMAX form: not only another example of beautiful artwork, but also one of the most expensive Pokémon cards at a whopping $475 on average. Again focusing on the playful personality of Eevee evolutions, Umbreon is pawing at the moon, calling out to it. It seems unaware of its own Gigantamax size however, absent-mindedly scaling a tower to get closer to its goal.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Reshiram – Legendary Treasures: Radiant Collection ($13.73)
Many of the most valuable and beautiful cards in the game belong to the Legendary Pokémon, like Reshiram. While Reshiram’s all-white coloring could make it susceptible to appearing plain, this card rectifies that by setting it against a flowery pink and red background. As a result, the vibrant white of Reshiram stands out even more vividly.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX – Chilling Reign ($58.33)
Viewed from below, the Pokémon Calyrex’s enormous crown in VMAX form becomes even more domineering, making the viewer want to kneel before it. The blue tint of Calyrex’s Dynamax glow makes it blend in with the winter wonderland around it, recalling the miraculously graceful spectacle of the Aurora Borealis.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Giratina V – Lost Origin ($270)
Giratina has the most brilliant card background out of the entire Pokémon TCG, and its price point reflects this. The background is made to resemble the shadow realm of the Pokémon world, yet the spots of bright color make this place far less doom-and-gloom than it might have sounded. Giratina’s curled pose and central position disorient the viewer, making it unclear which way is up in this realm.
Best Pokémon TCG Art: Raikou & Suicune Legend – Unleashed ($60.73 for both)
The Legend series, shown here with Raikou and Suicune, spreads artwork across two separate cards that must be used in tandem. This creates a larger canvas for an even more intimidating image. In this case, the criss-crossing forms of two of Pokémon‘s three Legendary dogs play off of one another to create a supersonic spectacle of thunder and ice.
The Mewtwo and Mew Tag Team combines all the best elements of a fantastic-looking card. The color coordination of blues and purples is mesmerizing, with Mewtwo positioned large in the foreground to dominate the picture while Mew frolics in the background. Most crucially however, the personality of the Pokémon is charming: Mew seems like a mischievous kid, while Mewtwo is the unimpressed older brother.
Mew’s mysterious yet innocent personality is its greatest feature, usually lending itself to beautiful card designs. This particular design revels in its simplicity, with the coy Mew peering out at the player from within the card, just caught before flying away. As a Japanese-exclusive Pokémon card, like many Pokémon Center exclusives, it is harder to value than most, but has been sold for upwards of $400, according to eBay.
With over 9,000 cards in print, there are many more spectacularly designed cards for players to enjoy. The illustrators clearly make a painstaking effort to understand the lore and personality of the Pokémon they are depicting, capturing them in a singularly unique moment that it feels could only belong to them. While some hardcore players are focused simply on winning, it’s worth taking some time to appreciate the art in the Pokémon TCG.
Sources: The Official Pokémon YouTube channel, PriceCharting (M Charizard EX, Golurk V, Gengar VMAX, Mega Sableye & Tyranitar GX Tag Team, Pikachu, Ninetales EX, Milotic, Hypno, Beartic, Houndoom, Jolteon, Flareon, Vaporeon, Umbreon VMAX, Reshiram, Shadow Rider Calyrex VMAX, Giratina V, Raikou & Suicune, Mewtwo & Mew GX Tag Team) Mew Promo/eBay