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The Mystery of the Pokemon Test/Beta Cards from 1995

Test Cards
To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Pokemon Trading Card Game, Creatures sent TCG artists and other employees a special Creatures Deck showcasing the history of the TCG from 1995 to 2021. Inside the deck features a Chansey Pokemon Test Card with artwork by Ooyama. These test cards were developed by Ooyama and Akabane and have many revisions which I will highlight below.
Early test cards for Charmeleon and Gust of Wind
By January 1996, the final revisions for the test cards are completed, namely the card attacks and other card rules/effects (Aim! Lizardon Tournament History Book). Final artwork and card design was finalized months later. Although it is mentioned that there were many revisions through hundreds of play tests, it might be possible to categorize the stages of development for these test cards.
It is apparent that there are multiple test variants for each card from Base Set and it makes sense since each card had to be play tested and improved for the final product. The earliest versions seem to feature a checkerboard style background (so far only Trainer cards have surfaced in this style).
Charmeleon Silhouette and Gust of Wind
Showing the evolution of test versions from right to left

The 'prototype' designs shown in the CoroCoro comics are almost certainly test cards. They seem to match the style of known test cards and fit the narrative flow from the initial design and concurrent test phases to the eventual release in October.

Another unique aspect of the Test cards is the addition of "habitats". These are featured above the flavour text and include: Forest 森 , Grassland 草原 , Urban 町 , Mysterious 不思議な , and Legendary 伝説 .

From the 28th of February onwards, Takumi Akabane started posting various Test cards on his instagram.
His posts confirm the information gathered so far and add some more clues to help date and uncover more versions. It is apparent the checkerboard style pattern is the earliest version of the test cards, one thing to note however is only Trainer cards have surfaced with this style background.
(Akabane IG - Corocoro - No Rarity)
Charmander has appeared most frequently, the Akabane IG Charmander looks to be identical to the Lizardon Book version.
1996 Pokemon Card Game Prerelease Flyer
Not long after Akabane posted his test cards I discovered there were slight differences to the cards featured in the above flyer (released Aug 1996) compared to their No Rarity counterparts, strongly suggesting that these are also a later version of the test cards. The most obvious examples being the 'Non Holo' Charizard, Nidoking and Clefairy. Most importantly, Charizard has different flavour text below the attack information:
If you click this link for a HD more zoomable picture, you will see that many of the cards featured are reminiscent of the cards featured in Akabane's posts, Machop especially with its strong outlined borders.
Below is a rough guide to the Test versions: 
Version 0
The earliest versions feature more simple designs missing many elements found in later versions and up to the final print run of No Rarity. They also include the English text "WEAKPOINT". 
Versions 1 and 2
Feature "WEAKPOINT" with Poliwag having the flavour text directly below the attack information which was not used in later versions. 
Versions 3
and beyond eliminate "WEAKPOINT" and replace it with Kanji. 
Version 4
Features more finalized artwork and is featured in the Corocoro comics, also the energy symbol placement for Weakness, Resistance and Retreat are more consistent with No Rarity. 
Version 5
From the 1996 Pokemon Card Game Prelease Flyer, which following the previous advertisement route from Corocoro appear to be among the latest versions of the test cards. 
Finally there is No Rarity which was officially released on 20th October 1996.
Note: the above are observations and obviously may not be a hard and fast rule for each version just a convenient way to categorize the apparent test version evolution. This is an evolving topic, more cards may surface and change the information above.
- Shizzle

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