15 Best Pokemon Cards Ever, From 1999 Base Set to Silver Tempest

The Pokemon Company has released thousands of Pokemon TCG playing cards since 1996 and we narrowed them down to the 15 best Pokemon cards of all time.

Whether you are a collector, casual player or competitive trainer; the Pokemon TCG has a lot to offer. And as one of the longest-running card-building decks, there are thousands of cards, ranging from worthless cardboard rectangles to incredibly rare and expensive glossy scraps of paper.

But a card’s market value isn’t the only thing that makes it worth collecting. And in recent expansions, the artwork for some of the Full Art and Secret Rare cards is much more visually appealing than 20-year-old cards worth thousands of dollars.

There are also cards that are highly sought after for their strength in battle or how they defined the meta during their TCM era. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the top 15 best Pokemon cards of all time.

Top 15 Best Pokemon Cards In The World

15. Illustrator Pikachu (Most Expensive Pokemon Card)

At number 15 comes the most expensive Pokemon card ever sold: Illustrator Pikachu. It would be impossible to make a “best Pokemon card” list without mentioning the unique PSA 10 Illustrator Pikachu card that influencer Logan Paul spent $6 million to acquire.

Even outside of a Gem Mint score, Illustrator Pikachu is the rarest card in existence, with only 39 being distributed after a series of matches in the last 1990s.

14. 1st Edition Charizard Shadowless Basic Set (1999)

basic set shadowless charizard pokemon card

The very first holographic Charizard card is considered the Michael Jordan of Pokemon cards. It’s not very flashy by today’s standards, but it’s hailed by many as the best Pokemon card of all time. This is probably due to nostalgia and rarity, and it contains one of the most favorite Pokemon.

The Shadowless Charizard from the 1999 Pokemon base set is low on this list because it’s not easy to come by without hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even then it’s arguably a rather disappointing card. Nevertheless, the hype surrounding this card has earned it a spot among the greatest of all time.

13. Shaymin EX Full Art (Meta Defining Pokemon Map)

shaymin ex pokemon card

During each new era of the Pokemon TCG, a few cards will bow their heads to dominate the meta. However, there has been no map as meta-defining as Shaymin EX during the era of Roaring Skies. The ability to give players numerous options allowed players to fill their hands with up to six cards.

And the full-art version of the map isn’t bad either. It’s not nearly as artistic or visually interesting as cards further down the list, but the sky shape stands proudly against a blue background that terrifies the opponent’s trainer.

12. M Mewtwo EX (highest damage output)

mewtwo ex pokemon card

Many trainers attribute Mega Mewtwo EX from the X&Y BREAKthrough expansion as one of the strongest cards the Pokemon TCG has ever revered. This is thanks to his incredibly powerful Psychic Infinity movement.

This attack deals 10 damage plus 30 additional damage times the amount of energy both you and your opponent have attached to their active Pokemon. And to make matters worse (for your opponents) the damage dealt is not affected by Weakness. With the right amount of energy, M Mewtwo EX could solo teams in an instant.

11. Arceus, Dialga, & Palkia GX (Cosmic Eclipse)

arceus dialga palkia pokemon card

The Sun & Moon expansions offered quite a few “Team Up” cards with two or more Pokemon in a single card. Not just in the artwork, but the map itself was actually representative of two Pokemon, leading to some really interesting combinations and incredible artwork.

But one of the best cards to emerge from this era of teamwork came from the last Cosmic Eclipse on the Sun and Moon. The Arceus, Dialga & Palkia GX trio map featured the gods of the Pokemon universe. And while this Pokemon card wasn’t the dominant force players would expect from a trio of gods, it’s still one of the best Sun & Moon Team-Ups.

10. Gengar VMAX Alternative Art Secret (Fusion Strike)

Gengar vmax Pokemon card

You may have noticed that the top 10 on this list all come from the Pokemon TCG’s Sword & Shield era and beyond, and that’s not by accident. Since the beginning of 2020, The Pokemon Company has produced some of the highest quality cards to date, and each set contains several beautiful collectibles.

To kick off the top 10, we’ve got Gengard VMAX’s Secret Alt Art from the Fusion Strike set. This map is not only beautifully illustrated, but also deals a devastating amount of damage. It’s no wonder this card costs nearly $200, making it the most expensive Pokemon card from the Fusion Strike set.

9. Tyranitar V Alternate Full Art (Battle Styles)

tyranitar v pokemon card

Tyranitar is one of the most terrifying Pokemon outside of the TCG, and it’s seen a lot of play in the competitive card game as well. However, the Battle Styles alt full art map shows a different side of the gentle giant.

Lurking among piles of trash and dirty dishes, this napping behemoth quickly became one of the most hunted cards in the set. But this powerful Pokemon card also had a massive punch, capable of dealing massive damage in one hit at the cost of a few cards.

8. Mew VMAX Alternative Art Secret (Fusion Strike)

mew vmax fusion strike pokemon card

Another stop in the land of Fusion Strike, Mew VMAX’s secret alt-art is a stunning map, both visually and in terms of possibilities. This is not to be confused with the five other Mew cards in the set, one of which arguably has better alt art.

The Mew VMAX is equipped with two of the most ridiculous moves in TCM. Cross Fusion Strike allows Mew to choose one attack from the trainer’s Fusion Strike Pokemon and use it as his own attack. And Max Miracle deals 130 damage unaffected by effects on the opponent’s active Pokemon. It may not be the most expensive card, but it is a force to be reckoned with.

7. Charizard V Alternate Full Art (Brilliant Stars)

charizard v alt art pokemon card

Here’s a Charizard who feels worthy of a spot on any “best Pokemon cards” list. The Charizard V alt art from the Brilliant Stars set does the Gen 1 superstar justice by comparing him to another fan favorite, Venusaur.

This Charizard card isn’t the most powerful, despite the Incinerate attack having the ability to remove all Pokemon tools from its opponent’s active Pokemon. But for longtime fans of the franchise, this snappy map is a perfect tribute to where Pokemon all started.

6. Machamp V Alternative Full Art (Astral Radiance)

machamp v pokemon card

One of the most recently released Pokemon cards on this list, the Machamp V alt art stands out from the Astral Radiance set. The quirky artwork embodies the “new era” of chase maps, showing – once again – another side of an often brooding Pokemon.

There is something to be said for a Pokemon portrayed as a gentle giant who is also equipped with moves that can decimate its opponents. It is the most expensive card in the Astral Radiance set at just over $100 and is a haunt card for many Pokemon collectors.

5. Origin Forme Palkia V Alternate Full Art (Astral Radiance)

origin former palkia pokemon card

The Origin Forme Palkia V alt art card is one of many recent cards that takes the focus away from the featured Pokemon to show off the incredible artwork. This 2.4 x 3.4 inch masterpiece would be better suited as a framed poster or a full page art book. Origin Forme Palkia fits perfectly among the best Pokemon cards in recent history.

This card is top notch in design and is a great way to introduce a new Pokemon (or in this case a new form) to the TCG. And his Hydro Break attack deals a whopping 200 damage at the cost of not being able to attack the next turn.

4. Rayquaza VMAX Alternative Art Secret (Evolving Skies)

rayquaza vmax pokemon card

In the Pokemon TCG’s VMAX era, few cards surpassed the hype for Rayquaza’s VMAX secret alt-art. As one of the greatest Legendaries in the entire franchise, this immaculate piece of art topped every collector’s “must-have” list when Evolving Skies was released.

Not to mention the chunky health bar and devastating Max Burst attack that deals 20 damage plus 80 damage for every Fire or Electric energy the player throws away. Combined with his Azure Pulse ability, this card had the power to be both a threat and a treasure. Now it costs players a few hundred dollars to secure.

3. Umbreon VMAX Alternative Art Secret (Evolving Skies)

umbreon vmax alt ar pokemon card

Of course, the only card that could top Rayquaza from the Evolving Skies set is Umbreon VMAX’s secret alt-art. The giant Eeveelution sits atop a building that reaches to the moon in one of the most poetic works of art to come out of the Pokemon TCG. It is hailed as the best Pokemon card in Evolving Skies.

And for those brave enough to take this wondrous map with them for a walk on the battlefield, its skill and attack are pretty nasty. Dark Signal allows the player to swap his opponent’s active player for one on his couch, and Max Darkness can deal a powerful 160 damage.

2. Regidrago V Alternative Full Art (Silver Tempest)

regidrago v pokemon card

At the time of writing, Pokemon TCG’s Silver Tempest expansion hasn’t been released yet, but we’ve already got a glimpse of one of the alt-art maps waiting for players. Regidrago V easily lands a spot at the top of this list. Once again, a fierce Legendary Pokemon is depicted in a serene setting, chilling among the ruins while the Legendary bird Lugia hovers in the background.

And as usual, the most decadent cards are adorned with some of the best skills. Celestial Roar has the player discard the top three cards from their deck, but if one of those three is energy, they are automatically attached to Regidrago. And a move like Dragon Laser… that speaks for itself.

1. Giratina V Alternative Full Art (Lost Origin)

Giratina v alt art pokemon card

I mean, look at this thing. It wouldn’t be surprising if players found themselves in the midst of the greatest era of Pokemon card design and saw what the most recent set – Lost Origins – has to offer. The Giratina V alternative full art is hands down the best Pokemon card ever printed. You could call Giratina V the Ferrari of Pokemon cards.

Is it the strongest card ever? No, but it does have incredible gear that makes the god of antimatter a formidable enemy. Abyss Seeker allows the player to look at the top four cards on their deck and keep two in their hand, while Shred is a pretty self-explanatory move that deals 160 outright damage.

Now that you’ve had a taste of what’s in store for you in the world of Pokemon card collecting, check out the best Pokemon card packs to buy while building your collections.

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