How to Understand Pokemon Card Rarity

Last Update: March 26, 2023


Pokemon Rarity Preview Image

From its inception Pokemon as a franchise has been sweeping the world. It's impossible to find someone that doesn't know what a Pikachu is. While many people interact with Pokemon through Video Games, or through Anime there are also a huge number of people who interact with the franchise through the Trading Card Game. With over 800 Pokemon in the world, and new cards that combine multiple Pokemon on one card, or even a single Pokemon that require four cards to summon it can be difficult to know what you have. Whether you're looking to get into Pokemon, or are finding your old binders of Pokemon cards it's important to understand Pokemon Card Rarity.

If you're interested in rarity in different card games, after you finish this article you should also check out our exploration of Digimon card rarity and Magic: The Gathering card rarity!


How do I find out the rarity of my Pokemon cards?

Pokemon Card Rarity at its easiest to understand comes down to what symbol appears at the bottom of the card. It's normally in the lower right, but can be in a number of places. Where TCGs like Magic or Digimon use a lettering system the symbol will determine what rarity card you're looking at. Japanese Pokemon cards do use letters. The Pokemon card rarity symbols are as follows:

  • Black Circle - Common Rarity
  • Black Diamond - Uncommon Rarity
  • Black Star - Rare Rarity
  • Black Star with the word PROMO - Promo Rarity (These are cards that are given out related to special events such as movie or game releases)

Well that was easy enough, right? You now know the rarity and you can now look through your card collection to find out what kind of Pokemon cards you have. It's true that these are the only variations of symbol that will appear, but once you get into the Rare class of cards there are a number of different ways that the card will represent itself. At its most basic you'll get a plain looking card with the Black Star, but Pokemon also has a variety of different formats such as holo, reverse holo, and then you start getting into stranger depths like GX cards and half/full art.

Pokemon Card Rarity Symbols
(1) The Rarity Symbol and (2) The card number and set number



How do Holo and other special Pokemon cards come into play?

There are a number of special variants you can get of pokemon cards. The most basic of these just apply shine to the cards but as the Pokemon TCG has developed more and more variety has been added to these special rarity cards.

Holographic Pokemon Cards

There are two types of Holographic cards, these are determined by whether the shininess of the card is in the artwork of the Pokemon or if it's on the lettering and exterior of the card. If your Pokemon card has shininess on the lettering that's what's called Reverse Holo. Any card in a set can be a Reverse Holo and there's always guaranteed one Reverse Holo in every Pokemon booster pack. If the shine is part of the Pokemon artwork that's what's called the Rare Holo, as the name implies the Rare Holo is much harder to obtain. Rare Holo immediately become more sought after than their normal, or even Reverse Holo variant.



Ultra Rare Pokemon Cards

Throughout the evolution of the Pokemon TCG there's been a number of cards that have been introduced with additional effects to them. All Ultra Rare cards will have a Holographic shine to them but will also have text after the Pokemon's name to denote it as one of these special types of cards. These cards might also feature special art covering half or even the full card. Pokemon cards will cycle out each of these types of Ultra Rare cards so while I will be listing all of the different Ultra Rare cards most types are no longer in current circulation so it will be impossible to come across one via booster packs. The types of Ultra Rare Pokemon Card Rarity are:

  • Pokemon ex (2003 - 2007)
  • Pokemon Star (2004 - 2007)
  • Pokemon lv.X (2006 - 2009)
  • Pokemon LEGEND (2009 - 2010)
  • Pokemon Prime (2009 - 2010)
  • Pokemon-EX (2011 - 2016)
  • Pokemon Break (2015 - 2016)
  • Pokemon-GX (2016 - 2019)
  • Pokemon Prism Star (2017 - 2019)
  • Pokemon V (2019 - Current)
  • Pokemon VSTAR

Pokemon Card Rarity Corviknight


Secret Rare Pokemon Cards

Secret Rare Pokemon Cards are the most difficult to obtain, and the type of card you're least likely to encounter. Secret Rare Pokemon Cards will also have the same kinds of distinguishing factors as Ultra Rare so its possible to mix them up, in order to verify if your Ultra Rare is a Secret Rare you'll need to take a look at the cards set number. Just to the left of the Rarity Symbol we were looking at before you'll see two numbers next to each other in the following format XXX/YYY. This will tell you what number the card you're looking at is in the set.

For example, in the Forbidden Light set you could pull a Gogoat and it would display 10/131 in the lower right. This tells you it's card number 10 our of 131 in the set. That second number doesn't ever include the Secret Rare cards though. While the Gogoat is telling the player there's 131 possible cards in the Forbidden Light set there's actually 146 cards in the set. From that same set you can pull the Rainbow Rare Dialga-GX card which will give you the number 138/131.

As soon as you see that the number to the left is above the number to the right that's your indication that the card in your hands is a Secret Rare.


How many cards do I get in a Pokemon Booster Pack?

Each Pokemon Booster Pack contains ten cards. The spread of what you can expect is as follows:


  • 6 Common Rarity Cards
  • 3 Uncommon Rarity Cards
  • 1 Rare Rarity Card

Each pack is also guaranteed to have one Reverse Holo card, though there are no limits to it always being a rare card or whether you might get a Reverse Holo common card. With the wide variety of Rare Pokemon cards, ranging from a regular Rare card all the way up to the Secret Rare cards there's no guarantee that you'll get one of these more sought-after Pokemon.

In a standard Booster Box that contains 36 packs of cards you can expect to come away with the following number of cards

  • 216 Common Rarity Cards
  • 108 Uncommon Rarity Cards
  • 36 Rare Rarity Cards


How much are rare Pokemon cards worth?

As you could expect, on the basic scale common will normally be priced for less and depending on the cards usefulness in competitive battles or difficulty to obtain that price will increase. Once you start getting into the Holographic Pokemon cards and higher it can start getting more complicated. At its base level a Reverse Holo doesn't add much rarity to the base card but as soon as you start getting to Rare Holo and into GX or V cards they can start accumulating more worth. Another large aspect of a Pokemon Cards worth will be in its usefulness in the competitive scene of Pokemon.

Blaziken VMax Sale

Taking a look at the Secret Rare Pokemon from the Chilling Reign expansion depending on the Pokemon and its state a Secret Rare might vary from $9 all the way up to $100. Another factor that goes into the sale of these cards is the quality that the card has been kept in. You might have a card that's extremely expensive in pristine condition, but if you left it under a couch for years and it's folded in half and dog-eared that value will begin to drop rapidly. Some other recommended sites for purchasing and reselling are ChannelFireball and Card Kingdom.



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Release Date
October 1, 1996 (Calendar)