CGC Trading Cards Certifies Incredibly Rare Pokémon Illustrator Card

Posted on 4/14/2021

Awarded as prizes in Japan in 1998, only 39 of these cards were ever made.

CGC® Trading Cards has authenticated and graded an incredibly rare Japanese Pokémon Illustrator card. The card, which is informally referred to as Pikachu Illustrator, is graded CGC Near Mint/Mint+ 8.5. So far, this is the first example of the famed rarity graded by CGC Trading Cards.

A 1998 Pikachu Illustrator graded CGC Near Mint/Mint+ 8.5
Click images to enlarge.

Only 39 Pokémon Illustrators were released in 1998 as prizes for three illustration contests announced in the Japanese publication CoroCoro Comic. The first, Pokémon Card Game Illust Artist Contest, was announced in the November 1997 issue, with winners listed in the January 1998 issue. A total of 23 examples were awarded in the first contest.

The Atsuko Nishida art on Pokémon Illustrator is a classic.
Click image to enlarge.

Two other competitions were held later in 1998: Mewtwo's Counterattack Commemoration Illust Artist Contest, announced in May 1998, and Pikachu's Summer Vacation Commemoration Illust  Artist Contest, announced in June 1998. A total of eight cards were awarded to winners of each of the contests in July 1998 and August 1998. This brings the total number of officially awarded cards to 39, but the number of extant examples is undoubtedly lower.

"ILLUSTRATOR" text at the top of the card.
Click image to enlarge.

Special pen set symbol and double star rarity on the card.
Click image to enlarge.

The card features unique artwork by Atsuko Nishida, who has worked on Pokémon since its inception. In fact, she designed some of the most popular Pokémon, including Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmander and Charizard! It is also the only Pokémon Trainer card to feature the word “ILLUSTRATOR” instead of “TRAINER” at the top and is the only card with the unique pen set symbol, shown in the photos above.

Due to the card’s rarity and value, extensive tests were conducted to ensure its authenticity. Utilizing advanced technology, including multi-spectral imaging and X-ray fluorescence analysis, CGC Trading Cards graders were able to conclusively identify the card as authentic. In fact, the card perfectly matches regular cards from the same era as well as two old-back Trophy Cards, which were also recently graded by CGC Trading Cards.

“Our team of trading cards experts is increasingly grading rare and one-of-a-kind Pokémon cards,” said Mark Salzberg, CGC Chairman. “We look forward to what collectors have in store for us and proving CGC’s unmatched professionalism and expertise in the trading card certification industry.”

A Pokémon Illustrator currently holds the world record for the most expensive public sale of an individual Pokémon card. In February 2021, an example graded Near Mint 7 by a different third party grader realized $375,000. This is just $15,000 more than the second most expensive cards, which are tied between a Pristine 10 1st Edition Base Set Charizard graded by another third party grading service and the Blastoise Test Print graded by CGC Trading Cards, both of which sold for $360,000.


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