We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

What are Shadowless Pokémon Cards?

Shadowless Pokémon cards are a 'holy grail' for Pokémon TCG collectors, worth up to $230k - here's what they are, and how to spot them.

Shadowless Pokemon cards - a shadowless Ninetails card on a lurid background

Shadowless Pokémon cards are rare variants of cards from the first ever Pokémon set; they’re part of the game’s history, and highly sought after by collectors. This guide explains how to spot a shadowless Pokémon card, where they come from, and what they’re worth.

If you’re just now getting into Pokémon card collecting, we don’t recommend setting your sights on nabbing a Shadowless – they’re some of the most expensive rare Pokémon cards in the world, and only a very few are in circulation. Our guide to Pokémon card rarity will help you identify the gems you pull from new booster packs, but sadly these mega-valuable antique cards won’t be among them.

On the other hand, if you’ve got a collection of very old cards, it’s well worth searching them to determine if any of your early cards are actually shadowless – and we’re here to help!

This guide will cover all the essential information you need to understand about shadowless Pokémon cards:

Shadowless Pokemon cads - side by side comparison of a shadowless and a shadowed card

What is a shadowless Pokémon card?

So, what is a shadowless Pokémon card? Shadowless Pokémon cards earn their name because they do not feature a shadow border to the right of the character portrait. They’re very rare, and therefore very valuable.

These distinctive cards were only produced for the first print runs of the Base Set, itself the first ever Pokémon TCG set produced in the US by Wizards of the Coast. They reflect the early stages of the game, before Wizards finalised the card design.

That means you won’t find any shadowless cards in Scarlet and Violet boosters! But if you’ve been playing for as long as us, it’s possible you tossed around shadowless cards in the school playground.

Shadowless Pokemon cards - detail of the border of a pokemon card, showing it has no drop shadow to the right of the Pokemon portrait

How to identify a shadowless Pokémon card

The easiest way to identify a shadowless Pokémon card is to look along the right of the character portrait – a shadowless card does not have a drop shadow here.

Shadowless Pokemon cards - detail of the HP text on a shadowless pokemon card, which has thin and slightly less heavily inked font

Another identifying factor is the thickness of the HP value font. A shadowless card has slimmer writing, whereas a shadowed card’s text is much more prominent. The shadowless Ninetales, above, has pale, sharp HP text; the shadowed vulpix, below, has thicker, bolder HP text.

Shadowless Pokemon cards - detail of the HP text on a regular pokemon card, which has thicker, more heavily inked font

Both of these will help you to spot shadowless cards for Pokémon, but for Trainer cards – which don’t have a drop shadow in any printing, and never have an HP value – you need to check the Copyright information.

Copyright information on a Shadowless pokemon card, which lists 1995, 96. 98, 99

Shadowless cards list all the years 1995, 96, 98, 99 in the Copyright information at the bottom of the card, while later print runs display just 1995, 96, 98.

Shadowless pokemon cards - a shadowed Machamp card with a first edition icon

How to identify 1st edition shadowless cards

If the card sports a 1st edition badge and meets the shadowless criteria then it’s a 1st edition shadowless card. If it doesn’t have that 1st edition logo, it’s just plain old shadowless, indicating it’s from the second shadowless print run. The photo above shows a Machamp with the 1st edition logo (sadly, not a shadowless card!)

Naturally 1st edition shadowless are much rarer and so have greater value. Check out our article on how to spot first edition Pokémon cards for a thorough explanation.

What is the rarest shadowless card?

All the rare cards in the Base Set were printed in equivalent numbers (not counting those that were packed into starter decks), so in principal, there isn’t a single rarest shadowless card. However, some are much more sought after.

Below are examples of some shadowless cards and what they go for. A PSA graded 10 card is the highest achievable grade, indicating practically-mint condition. While ungraded cards may also be in near-mint condition, their market value tends to be lower due to the absence of official grading.

YouTube Thumbnail

Shadowless Charizard

Fan favourite Charizard is the most lucrative Shadowless card. In fact, our affection for Charizard runs so deep that these character cards consistently rank among the most popular throughout the many Pokémon card series. Check out our article exploring the best Charizard cards.

Edition Grade Price
1st Edition Shadowless Ungraded  $1,605
1st Edition Shadowless Graded 10 $230,000
Shadowless Ungraded $512
Shadowless Graded 10 $20,250

Shadowless Blastoise

As the third evolution of the original starter trio, it’s no surprise that Blastoise is also a fan favourite and a popular shadowless card choice.

Edition Grade Price
1st Edition Shadowless Ungraded  $490
1st Edition Shadowless Graded 10 $22,141
Shadowless Ungraded $135
Shadowless Graded 10 $6,850

Shadowless Pokemon cards - a Mewtwo, graded 7.5, sold by Heritage auction hosue

Shadowless Mewtwo

Mewtwo is a personal favourite, and I’m sure it’s many other people’s favourite too. After all, Mewtwo is the legendary Pokémon. No wonder it’s a popular shadowless choice.

Edition Grade Price
1st Edition Shadowless Ungraded $306
1st Edition Shadowless Graded 10  $12,908
Shadowless Ungraded $31
Shadowless Graded 10 $2999

Interested in all things Pokémon? For more Pokémon content why not check out The Best Pokémon Cards 2023 or The Most Powerful Pokémon Cards 2023.