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Best Pokémon Cards

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 18 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 130 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best Pokémon cards

    Last Updated August 2018

    You've played all the games on Game Boy and Nintendo DS and can name every Pokémon from Abra to Zubat. What's left for you to do? We have two words for you: Pokémon cards.

    Whether you're a huge Pokémon fan who needs something new to feed your addiction or a parent who's trying to pick out a gift for a Pokémon-loving child, entering the world of Pokémon cards can be confusing.

    You've got different "generations" of Pokémon cards, as well as your standard Pokémon cards, energy cards, and trainer cards. Add all that to trying to decipher the rules of the game, and it's enough to make you want to walk away and never utter the words "Pokémon card" again.

    BestReviews is here to help you figure out what you need. Read our full Pokémon card shopping guide and prepare to catch 'em all.

    All Pokémon cards belong to a set. There's not just one card for each type of Pokémon, as the same species will appear on different cards across multiple sets.

    What are Pokémon cards?

    First thing's first: what are Pokémon cards? Featuring many of the 800+ species of Pokémon from the games and the TV series, these cards are designed to be used to play the Pokémon trading card game (TCG). However, many people collect, and sometimes trade, these cards without playing the game. Even if you have no interest in playing the TCG, you still might appreciate Pokémon cards as collectibles.

    Types of Pokémon cards

    • Pokémon character cards: Pokémon character cards are the cards that actually feature Pokémon on them. These cards also include stats such as the Pokémon's type, hit points (HP), size, weight, and special moves. These are generally the only kind of Pokémon cards collectors are interested in, though they are also essential for playing the TCG.

    • Energy cards: When playing the TCG, energy cards are what give your Pokémon power. You'll find basic energy cards as well as special energy cards that boost Pokémon of particular types.

    • Trainer cards: You can use trainer cards in the TCG to produce a range of effects. For instance, stadium cards affect the field of play, and item cards can perform a wide range of actions, such as healing or evolving your Pokémon.
    DID YOU KNOW?

    When playing the Pokémon TCG, you use a deck of 60 cards. As a rule, you should choose 20 Pokémon character cards, 20 energy cards, and 20 trainer cards to produce a well-rounded deck.

    Pokémon card generations

    Before you start buying Pokémon cards, you should know a bit about generations. If you're already a fan of the franchise, you might have heard the term "generation" used to describe the different games and their TV show tie-ins. The following are all the Pokémon card generations available at the time of this writing.

    • First generation: Sets in the first generation of Pokémon cards were released for the English-speaking market in 1998 and based on the first-generation Pokémon games: Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow.

    • Second generation: These Pokémon cards are tied into the second-generation games: Gold, Silver, and Crystal. Sets include Neo Genesis, Southern Islands, and Legendary Collection.

    • Third generation: Based on the Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald games and TV shows, third-generation Pokémon cards were first released in 2003 and feature sets including EX Unseen Forces and EX Crystal Guardians.

    • Fourth generation: Fourth-generation games Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, SoulSilver, and HeartGold were the inspiration for the Pokémon cards in this generation, which was first released in 2007.

    • Fifth generation: Look to the Black, White, Black 2, and White 2 games for the basis of these fifth-generation Pokémon cards. This is the first generation to include codes to play online.

    • Sixth generation: Pokémon cards from the sixth generation are based on the games X, Y, Omega Ruby, and Alpha Sapphire. This generation introduces mega evolution and includes 12 different sets.

    • Seventh generation: First released in 2017, seventh-generation sets are based on the latest games and TV shows: Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun, and Ultra Moon. This generation introduces GX cards, as well as the Alolan variants of Pokémon.
    EXPERT TIP

    When trying to identify a Pokémon card, look for the symbol that tells you which set it belongs to.


    Questions to consider when selecting Pokémon cards

    How many Pokémon cards are in the pack?

    You can buy large, themed collections of Pokémon cards as well as individual booster packs. Most booster packs contain 10 cards. Larger packs can contain upward of 100 cards. Before you buy, make sure you know how many cards you're getting in a pack, so you can tell whether or not you're getting a good value for your money.

    What kinds of Pokémon cards are you buying?

    Although you never know exactly which cards you'll get in a pack, you should know which types of cards you'll be getting. For instance, themed decks and elite trainer boxes tend to contain a mixture of Pokémon character cards, trainer cards, and energy cards. Booster packs usually contain mostly Pokémon character cards with a mixture of common and rare offerings.

    Does the pack contain everything you need to play?

    If you want to get started playing the Pokémon TCG right away, you'll want a pack that contains everything you need. Themed decks are ready-to-use decks that come complete with everything you need to get started. They contain Pokémon character cards, energy cards, and trainer cards, as well as a paper gaming mat with the game rules on the reverse, counters to keep track of how much damage your Pokémon have taken, and a coin for when you need to make heads or tails decisions (though the latter can be replaced with a die).

    Themed decks take the mystery out of deck building, although the cards you receive aren't always the best and you often get duplicates, so you'll probably want to build your own deck from scratch once you gain more experience.

    You can also find some other options if you want a pack that has everything you need to start playing, such as trainer kits and elite trainer boxes.

    What's the cost per card?

    It's hard to compare the cost of various packs of Pokémon cards, as they contain different numbers of cards. The best way to see if you're getting a good deal is to work out the cost per individual card. As a rule, you'll pay less per card for larger packs. For instance, boost packs cost between $4 and $5 and contain 10 cards, so you're paying 40 to 50 cents per card. You can also buy boxes of 36 booster packs for $90 to $120, meaning you'll pay 25 to 33 cents per card. Beware of any cards that seem too cheap and don't come in original packaging, as they could be fakes.

    CAUTION

    Beware of fake Pokémon cards when making your purchase online. Official Pokémon cards are manufactured by The Pokémon Company International.

    Tips

    • If you're new to Pokémon cards, think about why you're buying them. If you only want to collect and trade cards, you might prefer packs that only include cards with characters rather than energy cards and trainer cards.

    • Consider using the app. If you don't have anyone to play the Pokémon TCG with, consider using the Pokémon TCG online app, which gives you digital versions of cards in any official packs you buy and lets you play against the computer or online opponents.

    • Find people to trade with. Having a good network of card-trading buddies means it's not so annoying when you get duplicates.

    • Think about protecting your cards. Some Pokémon cards can be quite valuable, especially as years go by. You can buy sleeves to place cards in to keep them safe, even if you play with them.
    As well as plain Pokémon cards, you can also find some foil varieties, sometimes known as "holo" cards or "shinies." As these are rarer, they tend to be more collectable.

    FAQ

    Q. How can I tell if a Pokémon card is common or rare?

    A. Look at the bottom right-hand corner of your Pokémon card to check its rarity index. A circle means it's common; a diamond means it's uncommon; a star means it's rare; and a star H or three stars means it's extremely rare.

    Q. How do you play the Pokémon TCG?

    A. The Pokémon TCG is played in a fairly similar way to the video games, so it will be more familiar to you if you're well-versed in those. Each player has a "deck" of five Pokémon (a bit like your party in the games), which they use in conjunction with the energy cards and trainer cards to knock out their opponents. The exact rules and gameplay are too extensive to list here – you'd need a whole separate page for that – but you can find plenty of resources to help you learn. You can buy trainer kits that come with detailed instruction booklets, as well as cards and other gameplay essentials. These are specifically designed to help new players learn the ropes. Alternatively, you'll find a wide range of websites, videos, and articles online that will teach you the rules.

    Q. What are GX cards?

    A. Part of the seventh generation Sun and Moon expansion packs, GX cards feature Pokémon with a powerful GX move. GX moves work like Z-moves in the recent Sun and Moon games for 3DS, which means you're only allowed to use a single GX move per match, so use it wisely.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor