Are Japanese Pokemon Cards Worth More Than English Cards?

As a Pokemon card collector, you may have noticed some Japanese cards selling for higher prices than their English counterparts. This can leave you wondering – are Japanese Pokemon cards actually worth more than English cards?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In many cases, yes, Japanese Pokemon cards are worth more than English cards. Key factors like earlier release dates, better quality, lower print runs, and exclusive promos make Japanese cards more valuable to collectors.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll analyze the key factors that contribute to higher prices for Japanese Pokemon cards. You’ll learn how release schedules, card stock, promos, artwork, and other elements affect card value to help you understand Japanese card price premiums.

Earlier Release Dates

One of the factors that can contribute to the value of Japanese Pokemon cards compared to English cards is the earlier release dates. In the early days of Pokemon trading cards, the Japanese cards were typically released before their English counterparts.

This meant that collectors and enthusiasts in Japan had access to the latest sets and cards before they were available in other parts of the world.

Wizards of the Coast vs Media Factory

During the initial release of Pokemon cards, the distribution was handled by different companies in Japan and English-speaking countries. In Japan, the cards were published and distributed by Media Factory, while in English-speaking countries, the responsibility was with Wizards of the Coast.

This difference in publishing companies led to variations in the availability and rarity of certain cards.

For example, some cards that were considered common in the English sets may have been more difficult to find in the Japanese sets, and vice versa. This discrepancy in availability added to the appeal and value of Japanese Pokemon cards, as collectors sought to obtain cards that were not as easily accessible in their own regions.

Base Set Comparison

When comparing the base sets of Japanese and English Pokemon cards, there are a few key differences to consider. The Japanese Base Set, released in 1996, consisted of 102 cards, while the English Base Set, released in 1999, had 102 cards plus an additional 16 exclusive cards.

Additionally, the Japanese Base Set featured different artwork and card designs compared to the English version. Some collectors prefer the aesthetics of the Japanese cards, which can contribute to their higher value among collectors.

Promo and Event Releases

Another aspect to consider when comparing the value of Japanese Pokemon cards to English cards is the availability of promotional and event-exclusive cards. Japan has often been the first to receive special promotional cards tied to events, movie releases, or collaborations.

These exclusive cards, which are often highly sought after by collectors, can fetch a premium price in the market. For example, the Pikachu Illustrator card, which was only released in Japan and given as a prize in an illustration contest, is considered one of the rarest and most valuable cards in the world, with a limited number in existence.

Card Quality and Materials

When it comes to comparing Japanese Pokemon cards with their English counterparts, one of the factors that sets them apart is the quality of the materials used. Japanese cards are known for their higher quality card stock, which tends to be thicker and more durable.

This makes them less prone to creasing or bending, ensuring that they maintain their condition for longer periods of time.

Higher quality card stock

Japanese Pokemon cards are often printed on a higher quality card stock compared to English cards. The thicker and sturdier material used in Japanese cards not only adds to their durability but also gives them a premium feel.

This is especially important for collectors who want their cards to remain in pristine condition.

Greater texture and foil quality

In addition to their superior card stock, Japanese Pokemon cards also tend to have greater texture and foil quality. The holographic and foil elements on Japanese cards are often more vibrant and eye-catching, enhancing the overall visual appeal of the cards.

This attention to detail makes Japanese cards highly sought after by collectors.

Better cutting and centering

Another aspect that contributes to the superior quality of Japanese Pokemon cards is their cutting and centering. Japanese cards are known for their precise cutting, ensuring that the borders are symmetrical and well-aligned.

This level of precision is not always guaranteed with English cards, which may have slightly uneven borders. The better cutting and centering of Japanese cards adds to their overall aesthetic appeal and can potentially increase their value in the collector’s market.

It is important to note that while Japanese Pokemon cards often offer higher quality materials, this does not necessarily mean that they are always worth more than English cards. The value of a card is determined by various factors such as rarity, condition, and demand among collectors.

Nevertheless, the superior card quality and materials used in Japanese Pokemon cards certainly contribute to their appeal and desirability among collectors.

Lower Print Runs

Less supply from smaller market

One of the reasons why Japanese Pokémon cards may be worth more than English cards is because of their lower print runs. Japan has a significantly smaller population compared to English-speaking countries like the United States and the United Kingdom.

As a result, the demand for Japanese Pokémon cards is often much higher than the supply, leading to scarcity and driving up their value in the market. This limited supply from a smaller market creates a sense of exclusivity, making Japanese cards more desirable among collectors.

Limited promo runs

In addition to the smaller market, Japanese Pokémon cards often have limited promo runs that contribute to their increased value. The Pokémon Company frequently releases special promotional cards in Japan that are not available in other regions.

These exclusive cards are often highly sought after by collectors around the world, leading to a higher demand for Japanese cards. The limited availability of these promo cards makes them more valuable and adds to the allure of collecting Japanese Pokémon cards.

Regional exclusives

Another factor that makes Japanese Pokémon cards more valuable is the presence of regional exclusives. Some Pokémon cards are only released in Japan and cannot be found in English card sets. These regional exclusives include unique artwork, alternate versions of popular Pokémon, or even entirely new cards.

The scarcity of these regional exclusives adds to their appeal and increases their value in the collector’s market.

It is important to note that the value of Pokémon cards can fluctuate over time due to various factors such as popularity, rarity, and condition. While Japanese cards may generally be worth more than English cards, specific cards and editions can have different values based on their individual characteristics.

Unique Artwork Styles

One of the reasons why Japanese Pokemon cards are highly sought after is because of their unique artwork styles. Japanese artists like Watanabe and Tsunekazu Ishihara have contributed to the creation of stunning visuals on these cards.

Watanabe’s SM Black Star promos

Watanabe’s SM Black Star promos are a perfect example of the unique artwork styles found in Japanese Pokemon cards. These promos feature intricate designs and vibrant colors that make them stand out. Collectors and enthusiasts appreciate the attention to detail and the artistic expression that Watanabe brings to these cards.

Tsunekazu Ishihara’s illustrator cards

Tsunekazu Ishihara, the CEO of The Pokémon Company, is not only a business leader but also a talented illustrator. His artwork can be found on some of the most valuable and highly sought after Japanese Pokemon cards.

These cards often feature iconic Pokemon in dynamic poses, capturing the essence of the creatures in a way that appeals to fans and collectors alike.

SUB legends series

The SUB legends series is another example of the unique artwork styles found in Japanese Pokemon cards. This series showcases legendary Pokemon in stunning illustrations that bring these powerful creatures to life.

The attention to detail and the use of vibrant colors make these cards a favorite among collectors.

It’s important to note that while Japanese Pokemon cards may have unique artwork styles, the value of a card ultimately depends on its condition, rarity, and demand in the market. If you’re considering collecting Pokemon cards, it’s a good idea to do your research and consult with experts or reputable collectors to determine the value and authenticity of the cards you’re interested in.

Other Contributing Factors

Perceived cultural value

One contributing factor to the higher value of Japanese Pokemon cards compared to English cards is the perceived cultural value attached to them. Japan is the birthplace of Pokemon, and as such, Japanese cards are often seen as more authentic and desirable by collectors.

The Japanese language and artwork on these cards adds to their uniqueness and appeal, making them highly sought after in the Pokemon trading card community.

Nostalgia and brand origins

Nostalgia plays a significant role in the value of Pokemon cards, and this factor is especially true for Japanese cards. Many collectors who grew up with the franchise have a deep emotional connection to the original Japanese cards they collected as children.

The cards remind them of their childhood and the excitement they felt when discovering new Pokemon. This emotional attachment often drives up the prices of Japanese cards as collectors are willing to pay a premium for the nostalgia they provide.

Additionally, the fact that Pokemon originated in Japan adds to the allure of Japanese cards for fans and collectors around the world.

Collector preferences

Collector preferences also contribute to the higher value of Japanese Pokemon cards. Some collectors simply prefer the aesthetics and design of Japanese cards over their English counterparts. The vibrant colors, intricate artwork, and unique card layouts are often seen as more visually appealing.

The rarity of certain Japanese cards, such as exclusive promotional cards or limited edition sets, further adds to their value and desirability among collectors.

Moreover, the Japanese Pokemon card market has its own unique features and dynamics. For example, the Japanese market tends to release new card sets earlier than the English market, which creates a sense of exclusivity and anticipation.

This time advantage can make Japanese cards more valuable to collectors who want to stay ahead of the curve and have the latest cards in their collection.

It is important to note that the value of Pokemon cards, whether Japanese or English, can fluctuate over time due to various factors such as card rarity, condition, and demand from collectors. Additionally, individual card values can vary greatly depending on specific cards and their popularity within the Pokemon community.

For more information on the value of Pokemon cards and their collectibility, you can visit websites such as and, which provide comprehensive resources and price guides for collectors.


Due to a variety of market conditions and product differences, Japanese Pokemon cards offer more value to collectors in many instances. From exclusive promos to higher quality materials, the Japanese cards were made with collectors in mind.

Of course, value ultimately depends on card conditions, market trends, and collector interests. But understanding why Japanese cards command higher prices will help you make informed collecting and investing decisions.

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