Pokemon Card Rarity – A Complete Beginner’s Guide

Grasp the knowledge of identifying the rarities of your TCG collection with this definitive Pokemon card rarity guide!

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If you’re new to Pokemon TCG, you need to understand that some cards are harder to acquire than others.

These cards, in a general sense, can be considered rare, but The Pokemon Company actually established a system of labeling specific rarity tiers to their cards so players and collectors alike will have a clue about their potential value and usefulness in the game.

For this Pokemon rarity guide, we’re going to give you an overview of what makes a card rare, every type of Pokemon card rarities, as well as identifying the rarity of a Pokemon card through its rarity symbol.

Pokemon card rarity guide

Pokemon Card Rarity Explained

Pokemon cards can be obtained either by purchasing official Pokemon TCG products like booster boxes or trading with other people.

But regardless of how you get your authentic Pokemon cards, a card’s rarity is often determined by how elusive it is, especially when you open a booster pack.

Pokemon card rarity explained
Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Each Pokemon TCG booster pack typically contains 10 cards (12 if you include the Energy and Code cards), which is comprised of three foil, three uncommon, and four common cards.

The three foiled cards in a booster pack have the chance of being “Rare” or higher.

Apart from booster packs, some factors may also affect a Pokemon card’s rarity such as its market price and scarcity of supply.

In some cases, the literal rarity of a card may not coincide with its official rarity.

One example of such anomaly is this Pikachu card, nicknamed “Red Cheeks,” that despite being common, is still priced at more than two hundred bucks for its 1st Edition copy:

Pokemon card rarity guide - pikachu (red cheeks) - base set
Pikachu (Red Cheeks) – Base Set

Pokemon Card Rarity Types

These are the standard rarity types introduced in the early sets of Pokemon TCG:

1. Common

Pokemon card rarity guide - phanpy - call of legends (common)
Phanpy – Call of Legends
Pokemon card rarity guide - heracross - swsh06 chilling reign (common)
Heracross – SWSH06 Chilling Reign
Pokemon card rarity guide - lechonk - 180-197 - sv03 obsidian flames (common)
Lechonk – SV03 Obsidian Flames

Common cards are just like that – commons or usual cards that you will likely find in a booster pack. These cards have the most number in terms of supply and typically feature basic or unevolved Pokemon.

2. Uncommon

Pokemon card rarity guide - graveler - xy - flashfire (uncommon)
Graveler – XY – Flashfire
Pokemon card rarity guide - kirlia - swsh12 silver tempest (uncommon)
Kirlia – SWSH12 Silver Tempest
Pokemon card rarity guide - gurdurr - swsh05 battle styles (uncommon)
Gurdurr – SWSH05 Battle Styles

Uncommons are slightly harder to find than commons but are more abundant in supply compared to the Rares.

Pulling Uncommon cards in a booster pack is almost as easy as pulling commons, and many of them can be Trainer cards and Stage 1 evolution forms of basic Pokemon.

3. Rare

Pokemon card rarity guide - poliwrath - swsh11 lost origin (rare)
Poliwrath – SWSH11 Lost Origin
Pokemon card rarity guide - dragonite - sv scarlet and violet 151 (rare)
Dragonite – SV Scarlet and Violet 151
Pokemon card rarity guide - kartana - sm - celestial storm (rare)
Kartana – SM – Celestial Storm

On average, an English version booster pack should always have at least one Pokemon card of this rarity.

Rare cards are known to be very powerful cards and are often in the form of Stage 2 evolved Pokemon.

In Pokemon TCG, Rare cards are categorized into four sub-classifications, and most of them are Holofoil cards (cards with a glossy finish, making them shiny and look cooler than regular cards).

Four Types of Rare Cards in Pokemon TCG

If you ask every Pokemon TCG collector about what cards you should collect, their answers would most likely be the rare cards.

This is where things might become complicated for newbies, as there are different types of rare cards in Pokemon TCG.

These are:

1. Regular Rare

Pokemon card rarity guide - abomasnow - sv02 paldea evolved (regular rare)
Abomasnow – SV02 Paldea Evolved

The most common type of Rare Pokemon cards, Regular Rares are the ones without the holofoil design.

2. Holofoil Rare

Pokemon card rarity guide - baxcalibur - paldea evolved (holo rare)
Baxcalibur – Paldea Evolved

As the name implies, Holofoil rares are Rare cards printed with the Holofoil design, which are more sought-after by collectors than regular rares.

The Holofoil design of these cards may vary in every set, like the Holofoil Rare cards from the Sword & Shield and Black & White eras:

Pokemon card rarity guide - salamence evolving skies (holo rare)
Salamence Evolving Skies
Pokemon card rarity guide - emboar black and white base set (holo rare)
Emboar Black and White Base Set

Another variant of Holofoil Rare is the Reverse Holo Rare, a type of Pokemon card with a glossy finish around the card except for the card art:

Pokemon card rarity guide - mew - xy evolutions reverse holo
Mew – XY Evolutions

3. Ultra Rare

Pokemon card rarity guide - rayquaza v - crown zenith (ultra rare)
Rayquaza V – Crown Zenith
Pokemon card rarity guide - gengar vmax - swsh08 fusion strike (ultra rare)
Gengar VMAX – SWSH08 Fusion Strike
Pokemon card rarity guide - tyranitar ex - sv03 obsidian flames (ultra rare)
Tyranitar ex – SV03 Obsidian Flames

Ultra Rare cards made up the population of the rarest and most desirable cards in the history of Pokemon TCG.

Every booster pack has a small chance of having an Ultra Rare card.

Ultra Rare cards usually have powerful abilities and moves that may break or modify the current game mechanics.

Some notable examples of game-breaking Ultra Rare cards are:

  • Pokemon ex
  • Pokemon LV.X
  • Pokemon LEGEND
  • Pokemon Tag Team GX
  • Pokemon V and VMAX

In newer sets, some Ultra Rare cards can be printed in a way that the artwork covers the entire card. These types of cards are called Full Art cards.

Pokemon card rarity guide - empoleon v 2021 sword & shield battle styles (full art)
Empoleon V 2021 Sword & Shield Battle Styles

4. Secret Rare

Pokemon card rarity guide - lugia gx (secret) - sm - lost thunder (secret rare)
Lugia GX (Secret) – SM – Lost Thunder
Pokemon card rarity guide - volcanion ex (secret) - xy - steam siege (secret rare)
Volcanion EX (Secret) – XY – Steam Siege
Pokemon card rarity guide - aerodactyl vstar - swsh11 lost origin (secret rare)
Aerodactyl VSTAR (Secret) – SWSH11 Lost Origin

Secret Rares possesses unique features like having a set number greater than the actual number of cards of a set and special distinctive designs.

Some Secret Rares can be made in the form of Full-Art and Rainbow-colored cards like these two Charizard cards from Champion’s Path and Burning Shadows Set:

Pokemon card rarity guide - charizard vmax - champions path (secret rare)
Charizard VMAX (Secret) – Champions Path
Pokemon card rarity guide - charizard vmax - champions path (secret rare)
Charizard VMAX (Secret) – Champions Path

Secret Rares are also available in gold cards, like these ones bearing the Hyper Rare symbol from the Scarlet & Violet series:

Pokemon card rarity guide  - koraidon ex scarlet & violet base set (hyper rare)
Koraidon ex Scarlet & Violet Base Set
Pokemon card rarity guide - miraidon ex scarlet & violet base set (hyper rare)
Miraidon ex Scarlet & Violet Base Set

Cards featuring a Shiny Pokemon are also counted as Secret Rares, mirroring their rarity in the video games.

How Can You Tell the Rarity of a Pokemon Card?

To know the rarity of a card, look at the text in either of its two corners.

You should see the card’s set numbers followed by a certain symbol. That symbol indicates the card’s rarity.

Here are what the symbols mean:

Pokemon card rarity symbol chart

Did you know that the first batch of Japanese Pokemon cards in 1996 had no rarity symbols?

These cards are now considered extremely rare and highly valuable as they are known as the first Pokemon cards ever created.

If the card you have has a symbol that is not present in the table above, it is likely a promo card bearing a unique star symbol or a Double Rare card, a new rarity introduced in the Scarlet & Violet sets:

Pokemon card rarity guide - promo card symbol
Promo Card Symbol
Pokemon card rarity guide - double rare
Double Rare Symbol

Promo cards are very valuable in their own way since they can only be acquired in special events like official Pokemon TCG tournaments.

Additionally, a couple of new Rare symbols are also introduced in the latest sets to provide more distinction to Alternate Art cards:

Pokemon card rarity - illustration rare symbol
Illustration Rare Symbol
(Alternate Art Card for Regular Pokemon)
Pokemon card rarity - special illustration rare symbol
Special Illustraion Rare Symbol
(Alternate Art Card for Pokemon ex & Trainers)

Final Thoughts

Pokemon card rarity is a defining feature that fuels interest and thrill in collecting Pokemon cards.

The diversity of Rare Pokemon cards provides depth and distinction to every set, and embracing the knowledge of Pokemon card rarity is a must for new Pokemon TCG fans.

Now that you know how to read the rarity of a Pokemon card, expect that you will have a more exciting experience the next time you buy a booster box!

For more content about Pokemon games and Pokemon TCG, check out Pokemoncoders, your one-stop source of reliable and up-to-date Pokemon gaming information.

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About Celsos

Celsos is a dedicated writer who's all about Pokémon TCG. With tons of experience playing the game and a massive card collection, Celsos is a go-to guy for all things Pokémon TCG. He brings his love and knowledge of the game to create engaging articles that fellow Pokémon fans will enjoy.

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2 thoughts on “Pokemon Card Rarity – A Complete Beginner’s Guide”

  1. I am so confused with all these symbols & numbers..Gholdengo ex two gold stars #252/182? Maushold ex two shiny white stars#233/182? Cofagrigus ex two black stars with white outline full art card holo. Banette one shiny white star #TG07/TG30 holo with yellow border.What does TG and everything else mean? I can go on but won’t.Thank You

    • Hello, Brad! We understand your confusion, especially with the addition of new rarity symbols from those full-art cards from the Scarlet & Violet Era. But to answer your question, Gholdengo ex is a special illustration ex card, giving it its two gold stars. The two white stars symbol of Maushold ex indicates that its an Ultra rare Full-art card. I think they added the two white stars symbol to make it look different from the regular Ultra Rares.

      A card with two black stars is an example of Double Rare cards. These cards are all ex Pokemon cards that are exclusive only for such rarity. Banette’s a regular Ultra Rare. To make things easier for you, consider searching the cards you want on Google so you can identify their actual rarity.