Sports Card Grading Trends Guide


Our sports card grading trends guide aims to provide you with real-time information on where our hobby is headed. We got most of this information from Gem Rate. They do a great job gathering, grading data, and analyzing it.

Cardlines will update this page every month with new grading data.


PSA is the grader of choice for Pokemon collectors. As that TCG increases in popularity, Pokemon is becoming the most popular category for submissions to the biggest company. They are also now the most common cards submitted to Beckett for grading.

However, that does not mean that sports grading is becoming less popular. On the contrary, sports cards continue to dominate submissions to CSG and SGC. Indeed, both receive very few submissions in the TCG category.

The Numbers

Let’s analyze the last year of data and see what we can make of it. All numbers presented here are in thousands. The specific rankings are of PSA cards only, unless indicated otherwise.

The 1999 Pokemon Game Charizard cards are massively popular. Look for a holo on eBay. 

With SGC cards becoming more popular, it may be a good time to pick up some SGC 10 cards. Look at their current values on eBay. 

After a relatively weak April, May saw PSA submissions go up by 8% overall. Here are the submissions to the big graders during this month. All figures are in the thousands.

PSA889
SGC96
Beckett88
CGC81
CSG76

Top Categories

1999 Pokemon Game has long held the spot as the most popular set in grading. Look for raw cards to grade on eBay. 

All grading was up in May, often by a significant amount. But the highest growth by far was in Trading Card Game (TCG) cards. PSA showed an increase of no less than 92% in grading TCG cards, with Beckett also showing a significant 42% increase. And TCG cards shot past basketball and baseball cards to become the most popular category.

What about the big sports? Soccer and basketball were down, which makes sense because their seasons ended. But other downturns are more puzzling. For example, baseball went lower just as it was getting into the swing of things. But golf, wrestling, UFC, and F1 all showed strong growth.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
TCG283.2+92%
Basketball223.3-13%
Baseball165.4-14%
Football106-16%
Soccer22.2-1%
F114.0+21
Fight Sports7.6+39

Top Sets

All five sets are Pokemon this month. The top sports sets are 2020 Panini Prizm and Mosaic football. The popularity of Pokemon is across the board in other grading companies as well. Those submissions are up 92% at PSA, 42% at Beckett, and 15% at CGC.

1999 Pokemon Game
2019 Pokemon Sun & Moon Hidden Fates
2016 Pokemon XY Evolutions
2020 Pokemon Sword & Shield Vivid Voltage
2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo

 Top Players 

Tom Brady has fallen out of the top five this month. That leaves only Pokemon and the most significant basketball superstars among the elite.

Michael Jordan
Charizard
Pikachu
Kobe Bryant
LeBron James

Michael Jordan is one of the few athletes able to compete with Charizard. Look for his Fleer 1990 cards on eBay. 

Top Cards

In lower spots, Mew entered the top ten, and LaMelo Ball left it.

2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard6.2
2019 Pokemon SM Black Star Promo Charizard2.5
1990 Fleer Michael Jordan2.0
2020 Pokemon Japanese S Promo Charizard2.0
2020 Pokemon Sword & Shield Vivid Voltage Charizard1.6

The absolute domination of the Charizard cards continues. The 2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard is now easily the most gemmed card of all. Indeed, seven out of the top ten cards are Pokemon cards, shoving out a few sports cards from the April list.

April saw an overall drop in submissions from the high of March, by -16% overall. So as you can see, SGC is now firmly entrenched in second place, with Beckett languishing at third.

PSA826
SGC94
Beckett79
CGC61

Top Categories

Pokemon had a very weak month in submissions, falling precipitously. That allowed Basketball and baseball to top the April charts.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
Basketball255.8+3%
Baseball191.4-10%
TCG147.6-51%
Football125.6-4%
Soccer22.5-25%
F111.5+43
Fight Sports5.4-4%

Top Sets

While a Pokemon set tops the charts, most of the top ten are ultra-modern sports sets. For example, the highest baseball release in April is the 2021 Topps set.

1999 Pokemon Game
2020 Panini Prizm Football
2019 Panini Hoops Premium Stock Basketball
2020 Panini Mosaic Football
2019 Panini Prizm Basketball

Top Players 

Michael Jordan
Charizard
Kobe Bryant
LeBron James
Tom Brady

Top Cards

Some unexpected cards jumped to the top this month. Neither Christian Pache nor Alec Bohm has really panned out yet, but baseball investors are high on their rookie cards.

2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard3.4
1990 Fleer Michael Jordan2.2
2021 Topps Alec Bohm1.5
1989 Hoops Michael Jordan1.2
2021 Topps Christian Pache1.1

The 2021 Topps Alec Bohm made a surprise appearance in April. Pick one up on eBay. 

 PSA had its all-time best month in March, grading just short of one million cards in a single month. Quite an accomplishment. Aside from that, the big news for March was the performance of SGC. The grading company had an all-time submissions record of 103,000. All in all, March 2022 was a banner month for grading.

PSA987
SGC103
Beckett76
CSG59

 Top Categories

As the PSA backlog cleared this month, it became apparent that much of the system had been clogging up were Pokemon submissions. They continued to outperform the major sports. However, baseball also showed strong growth. That is not surprising as the 2022 MLB season fast approached.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
TCG299.8+28%
Basketball247.5+22%
Baseball212.9+53%
Football131+10%
Soccer29.9+41%
F18.1+96%
Fight Sports5.6+133%

 Top Sets

Pokemon dominated the top sets for the month. The TCG cards led the charts with the top two spots and 5 out of the overall most popular sets.

1999 Pokemon Game
2016 Pokemon XY Evolutions
2019 Panini Prizm Basketball
2020 Panini Prizm Football
2019 Pokemon Sun & Moon Hidden Fates

 Top Players 

Charizard beats out all athletes for the top spot. The rest of the most graded are the usual NBA superstar suspects.

Charizard
Michael Jordan
Pikachu
LeBron James
Kobe Bryant

Top Cards

No surprise at the top of the card charts, with the two strong Charizard cards at the top. However, two of the other cards are quite interesting. First, the strong showing of Bo Bichette indicates that he is a prime investment coming into the baseball season. In addition, the large number of Youssoufa Moukoko Topps Now debut cards show a firm belief among investors in the 17-year-old striker phenom.

2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard6.8
2019 Pokemon SM Black Star Promo Charizard2.4
2020 Topps Bo Bichette1.4
1990 Fleer Michael Jordan1.3
2020 Topps Now Bundesliga Youssoufa Moukoko1.2

February was a pretty weak month in terms of submissions.

The relative position of the big grading companies remained relatively stable in February. Beckett gained some steam but remained well behind SGC in third place.

PSA750
SGC82
Beckett64

 Top Categories

After losing the top spot in January, TCG vaults back into first place. However, because it was a week month overall, most categories saw a decline in submissions. Even the gains seen only in Pokemon and Football were fairly modest.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
TCG233.3+9%
Basketball202.6-14%
Baseball139.4-4%
Football119.2+3%
Soccer21.2-15%
F14.1-23%
Fight Sports2.4-2%

 Top Sets

After losing the top spot, the ever-popular 1999 Pokemon retook the top spot. Among other notable movers, 2018 Prizm basketball completely fell off the list.

1999 Pokemon Game
2019 Panini Prizm Basketball
2020 Panini Mosaic Football
2020 Panini Prizm Football
2019 Panini Mosaic Basketball

 Top Players 

The two biggest Pokemon names topped the February list. There was a backlog at PSA at the time, so no surprise that two of the most popular athletes reflected athletes popular months earlier. Neither Zion nor Herbert made the expected impression, but their earlier prospects were still felt.

Charizard
Pikachu
Zion Williamson
Ja Morant
Justin Herbert

Top Cards

The usual Pokemon suspects top the February list. The baseball cards are interesting because they are of the chases from the 2020 season rather than later prospects. Most likely because they featured prominently in the massive backlog PSA suffered from at that point.

2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard4.8
2019 Pokemon SM Black Star Promo Charizard2.1
2020 Topps Luis Robert1.5
2020 Topps Bo Bichette1.2
2020 Topps Chrome Luis Robert1.1


PSA submissions show strong faith in Bo Bichette as the shortstop of the future. Look for his PSA 10 cards on eBay. 

January saw PSA continue its effort to slog through the backlog, which at this point sat at 6 million cards or so. With few new submissions, the company remained at a steady pace with 775,680 cards overall. A reasonably similar number to the previous month.

After a long run of Pokemon domination, basketball returned to first place in January. However, it would not last for long. Another interesting number is the impressive growth of F1 cards, with no less than a 50% increase.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
Basketball238.7+31%
TCG213.8+28%
Baseball145.5-2%
Football116.1+2%
Soccer24.9+33%
Hockey10.7+11%
F15.4+50
Fight Sports2.4-10%

Top Sets

The long-time first place set, 2019 Panini Prizm Basketball, returned to the top spot. However, it would not remain there for long. A few new entries in the top ten included 2019 Panini Hoops Premium Stock and 2018 Panini Prizm basketball.

2019 Panini Prizm Basketball
2020 Panini Mosaic Football
1999 Pokemon Game
2019 Panini Mosaic Basketball
2019 Panini Chronicles Basketball

 Top Players 

The most interesting thing about this list is that the perennial Michael Jordan fell out of the top five.

Charizard
Ja Morant
Zion Williamson
Pikachu
LeBron James

Top Cards

Although it is the baseball offseason, the top 5 are full of baseball prospects. However, glancing at the names reveals that these were hot prospects a year ago. So once again, it’s evidence of the massive backlog PSA (6.7 million at the start of the month) was facing at the time.

2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard4.7
2019 Pokemon SM Black Star Promo Charizard2.5
2020 Topps Luis Robert1.9
2020 Topps Bo Bichette1.5
2020 Topps Kyle Lewis1.4

Despite the holidays, December was a month of increased capacity for PSA. The company graded 777,219 for an increase of 6% in grading from November. At the time, there was concern that PSA was not grading quickly enough despite expanding facilities. But, as we now know, there was no reason for concern. By mid-2022, they would eliminate most of the backlog.

TCG cards occupy the top spot for the third month straight. However, basketball is getting close and would take over the following month.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
TCG233+3%
Basketball229+8%
Baseball147+10%
Football114+11%
Soccer18+4%
Hockey9-12%
F13-13%
Fight Sports2-4%

Top Sets

The ever-popular 1999 Pokemon Game continued its long reign as the most graded set. However, most of the other top sets were recent sports releases.

1999 Pokemon Game
2019 Panini Prizm Basketball
2020 Panini Mosaic Football
2019 Panini Mosaic Basketball
2019 Panini Chronicles Basketball

Top Players 

The Pokemon super cards take the top spot. Moreover, their main sports card rival Michael Jordan began to lose steam. As a result, his cards would soon fall out of the top five.

Charizard
Pikachu
Michael Jordan
LeBron James
Ja Morant

Top Cards

The list has the usual Pokemon and baseball subjects at the top. However, lower in the rating, there are some interesting entries. Mac Jones cards rose in popularity in December. His Donruss base card ranked 7th overall for the month.

2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard3.9
2020 Pokemon Japanese S Promo Charizard3.0
2020 Topps Luis Robert2.4
2019 Pokemon SM Black Star Promo Charizard1.9
2020 Topps Bo Bichette1.8

PSA managed to grade 734,944 cards over November. That was a healthy sign of increased capacity, reflecting a 15% increase over October. It turned out that the fall in output was merely a blip and part of an adjustment leading to greater future grading capacity by PSA.

For the second straight month, TCG beat out basketball for the top spot and did so comfortably. Likewise, football saw the kind of resurgence you would expect in the fall with a substantial 23% increase.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
TCG227+18%
Basketball212+21%
Baseball134-2%
Football102+23%
Soccer18+7%
Hockey10+15%
F14+13%
Fight Sports4+13%

Top Sets

The Pokemon Game retained the first place while vastly increasing its performance in November. It was also interesting to see the then-recent release of the 2020 Football Prizm increase by a healthy 362% over the month. Indeed, almost every one of the top ten sets increased its population significantly in November.

November saw the highly over-graded 2019 Prizm Zion Williamson base rookie become the first-ever card with over 20,000 PSA 10s.

1999 Pokemon Game
2019 Panini Prizm Basketball
2020 Panini Mosaic Football
2019 Panini Mosaic Basketball
2019 Pokemon Sun & Moon Hidden Fates

Top Players

Back in this month, PSA was still keeping players and Pokemon characters apart in the rankings. So, all you will see in the list of top card subjects are athletes. But that was the last month they did that. Soon Charizard would dominate the list.

In the meantime, Jordan tops the list. Ja showed that he had become the hobby choice for the NBA superstar of the future. Meanwhile, the Lakers superstars LeBron and Kobe round out the top five. Tyler Herro had a surprise showing at 10th. Luis Robert was the top baseball player at 6th, while Herbert and Burrow were the top football stars.

Michael Jordan
Ja Morant
Zion Williamson
LeBron James
Kobe Bryant

Top Cards

November was the first month to see a Pokemon card take the spot as the most graded card overall. The 2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard shot into first place with a bullet that month. It has remained there ever since. The most popular 2020 baseball rookies take up the other prime spots. The Panini Mosaic Zion rookie was the top basketball card at 8th, while the Peyton Manning Collector’s Edge promo was the leading football item.

2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard3.6
2020 Topps Luis Robert2.0
2020 Pokemon Japanese S Promo Charizard1.8
2020 Topps Bo Bichette1.4
2020 Topps Kyle Lewis1.9

Kyle Lewis was the play in November. Look for his PSA 10s on eBay. 

October was a concerning month for PSA output. Its grading output declined to 640,000, down 23% from the previous month. Indeed, it was the lowest total in months.

October was the first month TCG was the top submitted category. Indeed, this month began a run of dominance that the Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering brands have maintained since. Every other type saw a decrease, partially due to overall weak output. However, UFC and other fight sports almost doubled in October.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
TCG193+6%
Basketball175-37%
Baseball134-2%
Football83-9%
Soccer16-42%
Hockey9-51%
F13-19%
Fight Sports2+98%

Top Sets

The 1999 Pokemon game took over from 2019 Prizm Basketball as the most popular set in October. It has remained at the top or close to it ever since.

1999 Pokemon Game
2019 Panini Prizm Basketball
2019 Panini Chronicles Basketball
2020 Panini Mosaic Football
2019 Panini Mosaic Basketball

Top Players

Five basketball players in the top five spots. Nothing new there. The highest-ranked baseball player was Luis Robert, coming in at #6. Interestingly, not a single football star made the top ten that month.

Michael Jordan
LeBron James
Kobe Bryant
Ja Morant
Zion Williamson

Top Cards

October was the last month a sports card was the most common submission to PSA. The big 2020 rookies dominate the list, but the two Pokemon cards lurking and 2 and 3 would soon make a bid for dominance.

2020 Topps Luis Robert1.3
2020 Topps Bo Bichette1.0
2020 Pokemon Japanese S Promo Charizard1.0
2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard1.0
2020 Topps Kyle Lewis1.0

This month PSA graded a record, at the time, of 830,000 cards. That was an increase of 24% in output over the previous month. Gem rates also reached an all-time high, shooting up to 43%.

TCG sees the beginning of the massive surge in submissions that will see it become the most popular category. Hockey also enjoyed an enormous wave, while F1 cards reentered the rankings after falling out of the rankings. They would soon stake out a regular place.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
Basketball277+12%
Baseball204+45%
TCG183+31%
Football91+9%
Soccer28-32%
Hockey19+235%
F14NA
Fight SportsNANA

Top Sets

Basketball sets held the top three spots for September. 2020 Topps Chrome had the fifth spot, the last time a baseball set did that well in the ranking.

2019 Panini Prizm Basketball
2019 Panini Chronicles Basketball
2019 Panini Mosaic Basketball
1999 Pokemon Game
2020 Topps Chrome

Top Players

The basketball stars dominate. Robert is the top non-basketball player on the list. There were no football players in the top ten.

Michael Jordan
LeBron James
Ja Morant
Zion Williamson
Luis Robert

Top Cards

Luis Robert shows his strength with two entries in the top five, including the premier spot.

2020 Topps Luis Robert2.7
2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard2.5
2020 Topps Kyle Lewis2.4
2020 Topps Bo Bichette2.2
2020 Topps Chrome Luis Robert2.1

The Topps Chrome Luis Robert rookie is a beaut. Look for a PSA 10 on eBay. 

During the summer, PSA was having trouble with its capacity, and the end of its massive backlog was not in sight. The company graded 669,000 items, a 9% decrease from July. The National appears to have played a part in the monthly slowdown.

Basketball was utterly dominant in August, nearly double the volume of its closest competitors. TCG had a strong month and will increase in importance throughout the coming year.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
Basketball248-4%
Baseball140-28%
TCG140+18%
Football84-9%
Soccer42+70%
Hockey5-59%
Fight Sports2-16%
F1NANA

Top Sets

Not surprisingly, basketball holds the premier three spots. However, the Pokemon Game is biding its time, ready to strike. The top baseball set in August was 2020 Topps Chrome, sitting in 9th.

2019 Panini Prizm Basketball
2019 Panini Mosaic Basketball
2019 Panini Chronicles Basketball
1999 Pokemon Game
2020 Panini Mosaic Football

Top Players

Jordan was knocked off the top spot in August in favor of LeBron. It’s also interesting to see how early basketball investors identified Ja as the player of the future. Meanwhile, Luka appeared in the top 5 for the last time. Once again, Robert was the top baseball player, and Justin Herbert was the premier NFL star.

LeBron James
Ja Morant
Michael Jordan
Zion Williamson
Luka Doncic

Top Cards

The Robert investment boom continues. However, its close Charizard rival is also showing immense popularity.

2020 Topps Luis Robert2.5
2020 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard2.1
2020 Topps Kyle Lewis1.6
2020 Topps Chrome Luis Robert1.4
2019 Panini Mosaic Zion Williamson1.4

July saw a flat trend in PSA grading. At that time, the company had trouble ramping up to deal with its backlog. But, overall, it graded 599,000 cards, an increase of 1%.

PSA Grading CategoryNumbersShift
Basketball214-6%
Baseball164+5%
TCG89+9%
Football75+10%
Soccer20-9%
Hockey12+33%
F12.7-13%
Fight Sports1.9+7%

Top Sets

As usual, basketball is at the top. However, 2020 Topps Chrome is the highest baseball ranking, coming in at 8th.

2019 Panini Prizm Basketball
2019 Panini Mosaic Basketball
2019 Panini Chronicles Basketball
1999 Pokemon Game
2020 Panini Mosaic Football

Top Players

The top 5 is all basketball, all the time. The highest baseball player is retired Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey Jr in at 6th. Amazingly, no football players ranked.

Michael Jordan
LeBron James
Kobe Bryant
Ja Morant
Zion Williamson

Top Cards

Durant likely owned the top of the charts in July because the Nets were expected to become a dynasty. That didn’t exactly go according to plan. Two junk wax classics rounded out the list. It was the last time older baseball cards appeared this high on the list.

2007 Topps Kevin Durant2.4
2006 Topps McDonalds All-American Kevin Durant2.1
2020 Topps Luis Robert1.9
1986 Topps Traded Bo Jackson1.8
1989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey Jr.1.7

The 2006 Topps McDonalds All-American Kevin Durant is one of his most unique and enduring early cards. Look for one on eBay. 

It is incredible how much grading, and the entire hobby, have changed over the last year. Back in July 2021, basketball and baseball ruled supreme. Jordan was the most graded player, and the thousands were still grading junk wax cards. Pokemon was popular but overshadowed by the most significant sports. Meanwhile, F1 and UFC were barely blips in the rankings.

Cut to mid-2022, and Pokemon seems to have completely taken over. It is now the most popular category. The 1999 Pokemon Game is consistently the most popular set, and Charizard gets graded more often than any athlete. F1 and UFC cards have grown exponentially, while the big sports have basically stagnated.

Cardlines will be here to chart future developments in grading. We will update this page every month. See you back here!

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is a former history and political science professor at UCLA. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary. Shai also worked as a diplomat and journalist on three continents.


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