Five years ago it would have been nearly unthinkable to guess that any Pokémon card would grace the cover of a Heritage Auctions catalog. It would have been impossible, though, to guess that the 1998 Wizards of the Coast Gold Border Foil Blastoise card would be on the cover, because the card was unknown at the time.
This weekend’s Heritage Auctions grouping features a number of high-end Pokémon and Magic the Gathering cards, but only one card that fits into both of those categories.
Apocryphal and virtually unknown until 2016, these test issues to bring Pokémon cards to the United States are extremely rare and highly sought-after. In an attempt to showcase what English Pokémon cards would look like, Wizards of the Coast created test cards that were produced with Magic the Gathering card backs. All of the test cards featured Blastoise on the front.
Over the years, four of these test print cards have surfaced, and all of them have been authenticated, graded, and encapsulated by CGC. (A fifth card is on an uncut sheet, and was utilized by CGC to confirm authenticity.) Three of the cards are like this example, with a Magic the Gathering back and holo front, while the fourth has a blank back and a galaxy star holo pattern similar to the base set.
It’s tough to come up with a corollary as it would relate to sports cards, but I’ll do my best to try. Imagine that to test the popularity of hockey cards in America in 1979, Topps printed a sample Wayne Gretzky rookie card, but they did so on some extra paper that had 1952 Topps baseball backs on it. Now imagine what that card would command if it surfaced a few decades later and got graded by PSA.
Given the rarity and importance of the very first English Pokémon cards, any one of these cards would be the centerpiece of even the most advanced collection. A card like this interests MTG collectors and Pokémon collectors alike — not to mention general collectors and investors who are bullish on the hobby. With wide appeal that will attract multiple rabid collecting fanbases, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a card that surfaces this infrequently have a six-figure hammer price.