Pokemon Cards

Complete List of Every Pokemon Card Back (1996 – Today)

Pokemon card back

Immerse yourself in a world of nostalgia, strategy, and, of course, the thrill of the chase that constitutes the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG). Since its inception in 1996, the Pokémon TCG has not only captivated audiences with its front-side illustrations of vibrant monsters and dynamic gameplay elements but also with its back-side designs, an often overlooked but integral part of the game’s rich history. Each card back, subtly marked by the era and region of its birth, narrates its unique tale, contributing to the global phenomenon that is Pokémon. In this article, we will venture beyond the battlefield of the Pokémon TCG, flipping the card over to reveal the intriguing evolution of Pokémon card back designs!

Japanese Pokemon Card Backs

Original 1996 “Pocket Monsters”

Pokemon japanese 1996 card back pocket monsters

The original Pokémon card back from 1996, often referred to as the “Japanese old-back,” was the very first design used when the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) was launched in Japan. It was designed by the in-house team of Media Factory (now known as Kadokawa Future Publishing), who chose to include the phrase “Pocket Monsters Card Game” written in English, reflecting the original name of the Pokémon franchise (which stands for “Pocket Monsters” in Japanese) for branding purposes.

Original 1996 “Pocket Monsters” – Holofoil Edition

Media Factory launched a special campaign in 1998 that invited collectors to mail in two of their Pokémon cards and in return, receive two promotional cards. The Pokemon card Trade Please! was named after the marketing campaign, and stood out for its unique holofoil back, making it one of only two Pokémon cards to sport this feature.

Pokemon Japanese Vending Series

Pokemon vending series card back

These sets were released between 1998 and 1999 and were exclusively sold through vending machines in Japan. There were three series in total, with each series containing a different selection of cards. The cards were dispensed from vending machines in random order and came in a small plastic bag along with a piece of gum and a small insert (usually with info on Pokémon or a mini game or puzzle). The series 3 included a unique card known as the Bill’s PC Pass card, which had an exclusive Pokemon card back variant and was used for the Evolution Communication “Masaki” Campaign.

2002 New Japanese Pokemon Card Back

2002 Japanese Pokemon Card Back

The design of the card back for the Japanese Pokémon Trading Card Game changed in 2022 with the release of the e-Card series, starting with the Base Expansion Pack, known as the Expedition Base Set in North America. There were several noticeable changes with the updated design:

  • The button is now attached to the top part of the Poké Ball, which was a departure from both the previous Japanese design and the English version.
  • Copyright information was removed from the bottom of the card.
  • The logo text changed from “Pocket Monsters Card Game” to just “Pokémon.”

This is the most recent design update for Japanese sets and is still used today!

English Pokemon Card Backs

Original 1999 “Pokemon”

1999 original pokemon card back

This is the original Pokemon card back released by Wizards of the Coast in 1999. Since it’s introduction with the original Base Set, this Pokemon card back has never changed – not even minor tweaks or updates. Because the design has remained consistent over the last few decades, it is the most recognizable card back in the world of trading cards.

Trainer Deck A & B

This design was exclusive to Trainer Deck A and Trainer Deck B, which were special sets released as part of the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) launch in 1999. These decks were primarily used as learning tools for new players who were just getting started with the TCG. Each deck contained a pre-constructed set of 60 cards and were built so that players could use the decks against each other, providing a balanced gameplay experience that made it easier for beginners to learn the rules and strategies of the game.

The Trainer Deck A was themed around the Pokémon Blastoise, while Trainer Deck B focused on the Pokémon Machamp. Both decks are very valuable and highly sought-after by collectors.

Ancient Mew (Movie Promo)

Ancient mew front and back

The Ancient Mew Pokémon card was initially released in Japan in July 1999 and then later in North America in the year 2000 as part of a promotion for the second Pokémon movie, “Pokémon: The Movie 2000” (known in Japan as “Revelation Lugia”).

While this card has an awesome artwork, it unfortunately was not legal for tournament play when it released because of its unique card back design (also the fact that all the text on the card was written in a faux-anicent script, making it difficult to understand its effects without external reference). However, as part of the 20th anniversary of the Pokemon TCG, the Pokémon Company International updated its rules to allow Ancient Mew to be used in tournament play, so long as the player could provide a reference for what the card does.

Metal Cards – Celebrations Ultra Premium Collection

The Pokemon Celebrations Ultra Premium Collection introduced commemorative Pikachu and Charizard cards made of solid metal, showing these characters as they first appeared in the Pokemon Base Set. The card back design is the same from 1999, but made out of metal.

Pokemon World Championship Card Backs

The Pokémon World Championships is an annual event that brings together some of the best Pokémon TCG players from around the world. Players earn their invitations to the World Championships by accumulating Championship Points in various tournaments and events throughout the competitive season. These events can range from local tournaments to larger Regional and International Championships.

From 2004 – 2019, every World Championship introduced a new special card back to commemorate the event.

2004 World Championship (first one ever!)

pokemon world championship 2004 card back

August 20-22, 2004 in Orlando, Florida

Tournament Decks

  • Magma Spirit
  • Rocky Beach
  • Team Rushdown
  • Blaziken Tech

2005 World Championship

2005 World Championship pokemon card back

August 19-21, 2005 in San Diego, California

Tournament Decks

  • Queendom
  • Dark Tyranitar
  • Bright Aura
  • King of the West

2006 World Championship

August 18-20, 2006 in San Anaheim, California

Tournament Decks

  • Mewtrick
  • Suns & Moons
  • B-L-S
  • Eeveelutions

2007 World Championship

2007 World Championship card back

August 10-12, 2007 in Waikoloa Village, Hawaii

Tournament Decks

  • Flyvees
  • Legendary Ascent
  • Rambolt
  • Swift Empoleon

2008 World Championship

2008 World Championship card back

August 15-17, 2008 in Orlando, Florida

Tournament Decks

  • Intimidation
  • Empotech
  • Psychic Lock
  • Bliss Control

2009 World Championship

2009 World Championship card back

August 14-15, 2009 in San Diego, California

Tournament Decks

  • Stallgon
  • Crowned Tiger
  • Queengar
  • Luxdrill

2010 World Championship

2010 World Championship card back

August 14-15, 2010 in Waikoloa Village, Hawaii

Tournament Decks

  • LuxChomp of the Spirit
  • Happy Luck
  • Power Cottonweed
  • Boltevoir

2011 World Championship

2011 World Championship card back

August 13-14, 2011 in San Diego, California

Tournament Decks

  • Megazone
  • Reshiplosion
  • The Truth
  • Twinboar

2012 World Championship

2012 World Championship card back

August 14-15, 2012 in Waikoloa Village, Hawaii

Tournament Decks

  • Pesadelo Prism
  • Terraki-Mewtwo
  • Eeltwo
  • CMT

2013 World Championship

2013 World Championship card back

August 14-15, 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Tournament Decks

  • American Gothic
  • Darkrai
  • Anguille Sous Roche
  • Ultimate Team Plasma

2014 World Championship

2014 World Championship card back

August 13-15, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Tournament Decks

  • Plasma Power
  • Trevgor
  • Emerald King
  • Crazy Punch

2015 World Championship

2015 World Championship card back

August 21-23, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts

Tournament Decks

  • Primal Groudon
  • The Flying Hammer
  • Punches ‘N’ Bites
  • Honortoise

2016 World Championship

2016 World Championship card back

August 19-21, 2016 in San Fransisco, California

Tournament Decks

  • Bebe
  • Magical Symphony
  • Black Dragon
  • Ninja Blitz

2017 World Championship

August 18-20, 2017 in Anaheim, California

Tournament Decks

  • Ice Path FTW
  • Infinite Force
  • Golisodor
  • Samurai Sniper

2018 World Championship

2018 World Championship card back

August 24-26, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee

Tournament Decks

  • Victory Map
  • Dragones y Sombras
  • Garbanette
  • Buzzroc

2019 World Championship

August 16-18, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

Tournament Decks

  • Mind Blown
  • Pikarom Judge
  • Perfection
  • Fire Box

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, the intricate journey through the evolution of Pokémon card back designs reveals much more than mere aesthetic changes. Each transition, each tweak in the design marks a significant milestone in the rich history of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. From their birth in Japan to their global proliferation, these card backs have transcended their initial purpose of mere identification. They have become a canvas for artistry, a testament to the game’s evolution, and for many, a nostalgic time capsule that encapsulates the essence of their childhood.

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