As an intertwining of passion, nostalgia, and appreciation for stunning artwork, the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) has captivated fans and collectors alike since 1996. While the lure of elusive, powerful monsters has always been a driving force, a fascinating trend has emerged that’s breathing new life into the community: the rise of “Waifu” Pokémon cards. Stemming from the Japanese Otaku subculture, the term “waifu” is used to denote affection towards certain fictional female characters within anime, manga, and video games. In the context of Pokémon TCG, this term applies to cards featuring beloved female characters from the Pokémon universe. In this article, we’ll delve into the allure and significance of these waifu cards, exploring their artistic appeal, cultural impact, and the unique blend of fandom and strategy they bring to Pokémon TCG.
Popular Pokemon Waifus
While the term “waifu” is subjective and can vary from person to person based on individual preferences and attractions, it typically refers to female characters from the Pokémon series that have a significant following or are particularly popular. Here are some of the characters often referred to as “waifus” within the Pokémon community:
One of the first companions of Ash Ketchum in the Pokémon anime series and the gym leader of Cerulean City.
The Champion from the Sinnoh region, known for her calm demeanor and formidable Garchomp.
A gym leader from Pokémon Sword and Shield who specializes in water-type Pokémon.
The gym leader of Mistralton City from the Unova region, known for her vivacious and free-spirited personality.
A main character in the Pokémon Sun and Moon games and anime, known for her character growth and relationship with the legendary Pokémon Nebby (Cosmog).
Origin of Waifu Pokemon Cards
The term “waifu” in relation to Pokémon cards is not an official classification but rather a community-created term. Therefore, it’s challenging to definitively say which was the “first” waifu Pokémon card. However, if we consider the first Pokémon card featuring a prominent female character, we could look back to the original Gym Heroes and Gym Challenge sets that were released in the late ’90s and early 2000s. These sets included Trainer cards for gym leaders like Misty and Erika, who were key characters from the original Pokémon anime series.
The “Misty’s Tears” Japanese card from the Gym Heroes set, released in 2000, is often cited as one of the earliest “waifu” cards due to the character’s popularity from the anime series. The artwork for this card was banned in the US and replaced with an illustration showing Misty and Squirtle.
Most Valuable Waifu Pokemon Cards
The value of waifu Pokémon cards stems from a blend of factors that include aesthetic quality, rarity, character popularity, and cultural impact. These factors create a unique niche for these cards within the broader Pokémon TCG market, enhancing their value to collectors and players alike.
Recently, the value of waifu Pokemon cards has sky-rocketed, particularly for Japanese print-runs. Below is a list of waifu Pokemon cards that are fetching a hefty waifu tax in 2023:
Lillie 397-SM-P Extra Battle Day Promo
Generally, Lillie Pokemon cards command higher prices than other Pokemon waifu. However, the 397-SM-P Lillie Extra Battle Day Promo is by far the most expensive waifu Pokemon card in history, with a PSA 10 recently selling on eBay for over $100k!
Initially acquiring this card was an extraordinary endeavor for Pokemon fans, a testament to the luck and skill of its holders. Initially, entrants had to win a lottery for the privilege to compete in the tournament, where they then had to emerge victorious to earn a coveted prize pack. But even then, the odds of finding the Lillie card in the prize pack were just one in three. The rarity of this card was further amplified by unforeseen circumstances: due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, these events were curtailed to a span of two months instead of the originally intended four. The rarity of these circumstances imbues this particular Lillie card with an aura of prestige and exclusivity, coveted by every ardent Pokémon TCG collector – and don’t forget the waifu tax!
Lillie #119 GX Battle Boost
A PSA 10 of this card recently sold for $40k on PWCC and the price continues to climb. There’s a few reasons that may explain why this is now the 2nd most valuable waifu Pokemon card in the market:
The card’s popularity skyrocketed, thanks in large part to the influence of HIKARU, a renowned Japanese YouTuber. Over the past several weeks and months, he has dedicated multiple videos to the PSA 10 version of the card, showcasing it, discussing it, and delving into its pricing. His appearance at a live event in March 2023, card in hand, significantly amplified its popularity, much like Logan Paul’s public display of his Illustrator Pikachu.
The card appears to be relatively scarce outside Japan, suggesting that its price is primarily influenced by the Japanese market. Despite this, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of supply. Evidence from Mercari shows several PSA 10 copies readily available for purchase, and the PSA 10 population has seen a rise of approximately 20% since March 2023, when it was roughly 450. This increase indicates a growing interest in the card, enhancing its desirability among collectors and enthusiasts alike.
Lillie #66 Pokemon Japanese Collection Moon
This card released in the Pokemon Sun & Moon Collection Moon set back in 2016, and has recently sold for over $20k. It’s important to note that that English version of this card is worth significantly less.
Alola Friends #401/SM-P
A PSA 10 Alola Friends was once a 4 figure card, hovering around $2k-$3k. Today, this card has rocketed to $12k-$15k in price, making it the 4th most expensive card to feature Lillie.
This card released as a promo in the “Master Battle Set,” which launched in Japan on August 16, 2019, retailing at approximately 13,200 yen (roughly $124). This special edition set was teeming with exciting goodies for Pokémon fans. It also included a holographic Pikachu promo card, a set of elegant card sleeves, and a playmat to facilitate game play. The set further boasted a synthetic leather deck box to safely store your cards, premium dice for game mechanics, damage counters, and a dedicated box to hold them. Additionally, it featured a card storage box, a metallic GX marker, a unique Pokémon coin, and a practical ballpoint pen. Many of these enticing components were accentuated with holographic embossing that reflected a dazzling array of rainbow colors. This was a limited edition set, so the promo cards were rare even upon release!
Erika’s Hospitality #190 Japanese Tag All Stars
Currently, Erika’s Hospitality is the most expensive waifu card that doesn’t feature Lillie. There is no English version of this card, though one may be released in the future. This card has tripled in value since release, with a PSA fetching $3k+.
Why Japanese Waifu Cards Are More Expensive Than English
The price discrepancy between waifu cards in Japan and elsewhere can be attributed to several factors. The trend was initially triggered by the popularity of the Lillie card from Sun & Moon’s SM1M set, released at a time when Japanese sets didn’t guarantee an SR in every box. The interest surged further with the release of a coveted card from the High Class Pack (GX Battle Boost), illustrated by Naoki Saito, an artist with a devoted following. Saito’s artwork was also featured on the Extra Battle Day winner prize card, further fueling demand. Lillie’s cards effectively set a new standard for the value of modern Pokémon Supporters, which also impacted the prices of cards featuring other popular female characters or those illustrated by the same artist.
The influence of collectors from the Weiss trading card game — which prominently features popular anime characters — further intensified the demand as these enthusiasts extended their collections to include Pokémon cards. Japanese resellers, anticipating that these would be the most sought-after cards in future sets, marked up their prices right from release. The limited availability (as opposed to limited supply) of set boxes in Japan has left collectors little choice but to accept these elevated prices. The case of Scarlet & Violet’s Miriam exemplifies the rapid growth of this trend.
Another contributing factor is the rapid release schedule of sets in Japan, typically every one to two months. This pace may discourage extensive printing of any single set since a new one will soon replace it — in contrast to the English approach of printing a set extensively until demand subsides.
The handling of secret rares also differs between Japan and the English-speaking market, potentially affecting card prices. While a Japanese box might contain a single secret rare, the English version could contain multiple, and Full Art (FA) trainers and Pokémon V are not even categorized as secrets. This discrepancy in rarity can influence both the perception and the actual cost of these cards.
In conclusion, the waifu Pokémon cards have forged a unique place within the Pokémon Trading Card Game community, blending the nostalgia of childhood favorite characters with the intricate artistry of the cards. They represent a cultural crossover, intertwining the allure of the Pokémon universe with the influence of anime and manga.
Their rarity, the popularity of the characters, and their utility in gameplay, combined with their aesthetic appeal, make these cards coveted pieces in any collection. Meanwhile, they also reflect the continually evolving dynamics of the Pokémon TCG world. As trends shift and new expansions are released, these cards continue to captivate audiences and enrich the tapestry of the Pokémon TCG universe.