The Gym Heroes set marks the first time Pokémon were attached to a specific trainer, just as in the manga and television show. Prior to this set, Pokémon cards depicted each in their “wild” form, not captured yet in a Poké ball by a trainer. In this world, gyms are synonymous with a stadium in which a Pokémon trainer is the champion. It and must be dethroned to acquire a gym badge. Each trainer used unique Pokémon to defend their title and the Gym Heroes set commemorates that connection between Pokémon trainer and Pokémon. To further commemorate this connection, cards printed in this set attribute the Pokémon to a specific trainer who is both named and pictured on the bottom right-hand side of every card. Let’s take a look at the most expensive 1st edition cards of this set and which trainers rose to popularity in these vintage Pokémon cards.
Starting off the list is the beautiful Blaine’s Moltres, which depicts the fiery legendary bird in a dark holographic foil. Although this card has maintained a consistent value of $5,000-$5,6000 in a PSA 10, in February of 2021 one sale reached $10,000. This card is often confused with Team Rocket’s Moltres, which is also a holographic rare in this same set. However, it is significantly less valuable in a PSA/CGC 10.
One thing you may notice about the most expensive Pokémon cards is that seldom are they green/grass-type Pokémon cards. Why this may be, I don’t quite know. There can be a myriad of explanations. However, Rocket’s Scyther is one of the most expensive cards of this set and of many vintage green Pokémon cards. In a PSA/CGC 10, very few of these cards have been sold since November of 2020. Then, the price peaked at $5,100 with another sale just shy of $4,000. Since then, there have not been any other sales of a PSA/CGC 10.
Sabrina’s Gengar is one of the most valuable cards of this set because of Gengar’s popularity. In addition to its beautiful purple-hue and dark holographic foil, this card carried a bit of controversy. The Japanese version depicted Gengar in a cemetery with crosses. At the time, Wizards of the Coast considered that imagery too taboo for America. The Japanese Sabrina’s Gengar was banned from American Pokémon tournament use. In PSA/CGC 10, this card carries an approximate value of $4,000.
As mentioned above, a holographic rare Moltres appeared twice in this set, but attached to two different trainers. Similar to Blaine’s Moltres, Rocket’s Moltres depicts the fiery bird surrounded in a dark holographic foil that makes the Pokémon image “pop.” However, this card is significantly less valuable than its counterpart, floating around $1,500 in a PSA/CGC 10.
Lt. Surge’s Fearow
Although Lt. Surge is typically associated with yellow/electricity-type Pokémon such as Pikachu, Raichu, and Jolteon, this card is one of few non-electricity type Pokémon attributed to this gym trainer. In November of 2020, this card peaked at $1,600 and has steadily dropped in value to around $1,400.
As a long-time Pokémon collector, Gym Heroes is one of my favorite sets. It attributed certain Pokémon to specific trainers. This association resulted in one of the biggest early changes to the cards. It depicts the gym trainer on the bottom right-hand side of the card. In addition, this set released holographic trainer cards, which are now all the rave. Many new collectors are unaware of the history of trainer cards. One could argue that this set is what rose them to early popularity. Brock and Lt. Surge’s holographic trainer cards are some of the most valuable trainer cards of this set. They fall just short of Lt. Surge’s Fearow in overall card value.
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