“Who’s that Pokémon? It’s… Pikachu!”
Of the over 1,000 Pokémon introduced over nine generations of games, Pikachu is undoubtedly the most famous. From co-starring in the hit Pokémon television show for over 25 years to becoming the latest viral plush toy to hit the shelves, Pikachu has been a global sensation since the character first appeared outside of Japan in 1998 with the video games “Pokémon Red” and “Pokémon Blue.”
And recently, fans from around the world had the chance to own a legendary piece of Pokémon history: a 1998 Pikachu Illustrator trading card.
Considered the holy grail of Pokémon cards, the Pikachu Illustrator is an incredibly rare trading card because it was never mass-printed to sell. Instead, approximately 41 cards were produced to serve as prizes to the winners of Corocoro Comic’s 1998 Pokémon Illustration Contest (hence the name of the cards) in Japan. The card’s artwork was designed by Atsuko Nishida, who is credited as one of Pikachu’s creators, making it an even more desirable collector’s item for enthusiasts and superfans.
Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) estimates that it has graded around 24 Pikachu Illustrator cards thus far — including the card Tomoya Ohno listed on eBay, which received a PSA grade of eight out of ten, denoting a high-end, near-mint card.
Tomoya, a 24-year-old trading card enthusiast from Japan, has been selling Pokémon cards through his eBay store, Shangri-La Inc., since 2019 — right around the time Pokémon cards witnessed a major resurgence in popularity. To date, the Pokémon Company has printed over 43 billion trading cards, with more than a quarter of them produced between 2020 and 2022.
Like many young people in Japan, Tomoya loves collecting Pokémon cards, and he explained that it’s a common practice among his peers to sell cards online. He also said that eBay was the obvious choice when it came to deciding where to list his rare Pikachu Illustrator card.
“If I sold it at a store in Japan, people in other countries wouldn't be able to purchase it,” said Tomoya. “I chose to sell the card on eBay because I wanted to make the card available not only to Japanese collectors, but also to people all over the world.”
Because the card was ungraded when he first acquired it, Tomoya flew to the U.S. with the eBay Japan team in December 2022 to have it certified at the PSA facility in Los Angeles, where it was declared a Near Mint-Mint 8.
“It’s hard to believe that my Pikachu Illustrator card is 25 years old,” he said. “The previous owner must have taken good care of it, and I hope to see this card sold to someone who will treat it with the same amount of respect.”
Tomoya’s 1998 Pikachu Illustrator card PSA 8 was up for auction on his eBay store, Shangri-La Inc., from February 24 through March 6. The auction is currently closed.