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Pokemon Reigns + BGC No Longer Number #2 — Sports Card Grading Trends For November 2022

november 2022 card grading report

We are back with the latest trends in grading. As the year comes to its end, the grading companies are adjusting to some new realities. Older companies are lagging behind newcomers and sports cards are weakening. Especially the ultra-modern cards.

We have all the latest trends for you, thanks to the numbers compiled by GemRate. Here are the sports card grading trends for November 2022.

When we last checked, TCG cards appeared to be suffering from a general decline in popularity. Did that trend continue in October and November?

The short answer is no. TCG has strengthened markedly over the last two months. Sure, there was generally an overall slackening in the grading market in November. But the TCG market boosted considerably from September to October by no less than 48%. The following month it went up by 34%, still a nice margin.

The main thing we can take away from the September to November TCG trends is notable volatility in that market. But if it seemed like the genre was on its way down, the last two months indicate otherwise.

This trend is buttressed by the general rise in non-sports submissions over this time. We see a 35% rise in non-TCG cards outside the sports world. So, an excellent month for the non-sports graders.

Sports woes

Baseball, meanwhile, is suffering from the expected offseason blues. Sure, free agents are being signed and all that jazz. But we won’t see the real action until spring training gets people back in the swing of things. So to speak.

More surprising is the slackening of basketball. The NBA regular season had already started; therefore, a 26% dive is unexpected and perhaps a little distressing for basketball collectors. Especially coming after a weak October, this is a sign of weakness for the sport.

You may think that if people aren’t grading basketball, it’s because of increased focus on the shorter NFL season. But you would be wrong. Pigskin cards went down by 30%, even though the season was well underway.

But not all sports are hemorrhaging submissions. As expected, the World Cup did wonders for soccer card grading submissions. But notably not so much at PSA, where they only went up by 6%. But at TCG, November saw a rise of 38% in submissions, which is a real sign of strength, considering that this was not a particularly robust month for grading overall.

Here is a chart for PSA submissions in November and December:

Submission TypeEstimated raw numbers for NovemberMovement from October to NovemberEstimated raw numbers for OctoberMovement from September to October
TCG389,500+38%290,200+5%
Baseball161,300-25%216,100-17%
Basketball194,400-26%194,000-7%
Football133,600-30%191,400+1%
Soccer41,000+6%38,700+0%
Non-Sport55,800+35%41,200+24%
Hockey32,300-2%32,900+3%

It was not the most fabulous month overall for the grading companies. Only CSG saw a general rise in their volume. PSA is at a significantly lower clip than recently, dipping below the one million per month barrier it had smashed. That is two months in a row that PSA has been slipping overall.

CCG saw massive growth in October. But what seemed like the start of meteoric growth has slowed down considerably in November. Though dwarfed by PSA, they have established themselves as the grader with the second-largest overall volume of cards.

They have achieved this despite being almost wholly focused on TCG cards, which make up 91% of their submissions. However, sports submissions to CCG have also increased while PSA has gone down.

Could this be the beginning of a trend in that direction? That is definitely something to keep an eye on.

It is also notable that despite its efforts to entice graders with lowered prices, BGS remains in the doldrums behind its competition. As a result, it seems unable to regain the number 2 place it took for granted for many years.

This may be a general pre-holiday stagnation. On the other hand, it could also result from inflation and fears of recession. We will keep a close eye on developments to see which it is.

Grading companyThe approximate number of cards graded in NovemberMovement in volume from October to NovemberThe approximate number of cards graded in OctoberMovement in volume from September to October
PSA994,000-5%1,047,000-3%
CCG133,000-2%135,000+149%
SGC70,000-13%81,000+17%
BGS50,000-3%52,000-18%

As we saw, there has been a general decline in sports card submissions over the last two months. But is it hitting ultra-modern and vintage equally? The answer, as you might expect, is no. The overall share of cards from the last 12 years has decreased from 67.3% to 57.1%.

What does this mean? That the hit was almost exclusively in ultra-modern cards. Vintage collectors kept doing their thing in similar numbers. Say what you want about vintage folks; they are reliable types.

First, the big guys at PSA:

DecadeNovember 2022October 2022
2020s42%46%
2010s17.1%21.3%
2000s13.5%11.6%
1990s15.9%12.2%
1980s6%6.2%
1970s2.2%2.1%
1960s1.7%1.3%
1950s1.7%1.4%

What about the folks at SGC? We saw last time we did a recap that they have managed to rebrand as an address for ultra-modern. Has that trend gotten stronger? They have tried to market themselves as an option for ultra-modern as well. How well has that worked?

The share of ultra-modern in SGC has only increased. It was at 55.4% for cards since 2010 in October and shot up to 66.7% in November. By now, it’s clear. SGC has shed its classic-only reputation and is now a credible and accepted option for ultra-modern.

DecadeNovember 2022October 2022
2020s44.1%41.6%
2010s22.6%13.8%
2000s4.5%5.4%
1990s6.3%6.9%
1980s5.5%6.5%
1970s5.6%4.6%
1960s9.6%8.6%
1950s and earlier14.3%12.5%

What about the coveted PSA 10 score? Has that become easier to score, or is it getting harder to receive a GEM in the last two months? Let’s look at the numbers:

DecadeNovember 2022October 2022
2020s55.4%55.3%
2010s47.3%49.8%
2000s20.9%22.6%
1990s15.8%13.5%
1980s6.2%6.2%
1970s0.9%0.5%
1960s0.2%0.2%
1950s and earlier0.1%0.55

The changes between the months are minor. Indeed, the PSA 10s for the 2020s are virtually identical. And the other categories are generally a wash. We will keep an eye out to see if gems get harder or easier to get.

November saw a resurgence of TCG cards. How was that trend reflected in most graded players’ charts and characters? First, let’s take a look at what happened in October.

CharacterAmount Submitted In JulyMovement from June
Charizard37,800+46%
Pikachu35,200+26%
Mew19,900+53%
Umbreon10,800+91%
Marnie7,700+129%
Blastoise5,300+31%
Giratina5,300+58%
Rayquaza5,000+27%
Elesa4,700+130%
Venusaur4,600+33%

Although Pikachu didn’t have a stellar month, the two biggest gainers in October were Pokemon superstars Charizard and Mew. Few in sports gained. Mac Jones got a little boost, and outside the top 10, Trevor Lawrence had a 9% increase in grading. That shows people haven’t given up on last year’s promising (but underperforming) quarterback class just yet.

And what did November bring?

Character/PlayerNumber GradedMovement from October
Charizard37,500+13%
Pikachu24,400+28%
Michael Jordan23,500-1%
Mew15,600+21%
Justin Herbert13,500-11%
Shohei Ohtani8,800-45%
Tom Brady8,700-38%
Kobe Bryant7,900-35%
Blasoise7,900+45%
Trevor Lawrence7,700-22%

November was even more vital for the TCG stars. Not only did the old favs Charizard, Pikachu, and Mew grow significantly in stature, but Blastoise also entered the sweepstakes. In sports, Trevor Lawrence entered the top ten despite an overall weakening in his numbers.

That is a surefire sign of the sports market slackening. Meanwhile, we see a few more TCG characters threatening to break into the top ten. Both Umbreon and Venusaur had substantial increases in submissions and are lurking just outside. I would not be surprised to see them among the December top ten.

The top sets in October had a dramatic change for us. That illusion was broken if it had seemed that the 1999 Pokemon Game would remain in first place forever. Its nine-month run as the most popular graded card set around had finally ended.

The set slipped no less than 24% in submissions and found itself languishing behind the two most popular ultra-modern football sets.

What happened in October?

It was also cool to see the 1986 Fleer Basketball set hit the top 10 so many years after its initial release.

SetNumber graded in OctoberMovement from September
2021 Panini Prizm Football17,600+17%
2020 Prizm Select Football11,900-6%
1999 Pokemon Game11,700-24%
2021 Panini Mosaic Football10,500-7%
2020 Panini Prizm Basketball9,800+2%
2021 Panini Donruss Football8,000-24%
2021 Pokemon Celebrations Classic Collection7,100+43%
Pokemon Sword and Shield Evolving Skies6,400+61%
2020 Panini Prizm Football6,300-11%
1986 Fleer Basketball6,300+4%

What changes did we see in November? First, it looks like rumors of the demise of the 1999 Pokémon Game was greatly exaggerated. After gaining 37% from its October numbers, it is back in first place. And this time, it brought some good friends. Two other popular Pokémon sets rose in over 50% of their grading value and took the second and third places, respectively.

But some Pokemon sets also dropped from the list, including 2021 Pokemon Sword & Shield Shining Fates, 2020 Pokemon Sword & Shield Vivid Voltage, and 2016 Pokemon XY Evolutions.

There was a new king for sports as well. 2021 Donruss Optic Football came out of nowhere to top all sports sets in November.

SetNumber graded in NovemberMovement from previous month
1999 Pokemon Game16,000+37%
2021 Pokemon Celebrations Classic Collection10,800+52%
Pokemon Sword and Shield Evolving Skies10,000+55%
2021 Donruss Optic Football9,000+54%
2021 Prizm Football8,900-49%
2022 Pokemon Sword and Shield Brilliant Stars8,500+47%
2021 Pokemon Swsh Black Star Promo7,600+73%
2022 Pokemon GO7,300+44%
2000 Pokemon Rocket7,200+45%
2020 Panini Prizm Basketball7,000+26%

So much for sets. But which cards set the hobby ablaze in October and November? Starting with October, 7 of the top 10 cards were Pokémon. A couple of baseball cards on the list weakened but were not replaced by football cards despite the onset of the NFL season.

CardNumber graded in OctoberMovement from September
2021 Pokémon Japanese Promo Card Pack 25th Anniversary Edition Charizard-Holo #11,500+102%
2021 Pokémon Celebrations Classics Collection Charizard-Holo #41,500+38%
2022 Pokémon Go Radiant Charizard #111,400+141%
2022 Topps Wander Franco #2151,300-13%
2021 Pokémon Sword & Shields Shining Fates Full Art/Charizard Vmax #SV1071,300+44%
2018 Bowman Shohei Ohtani #491,300-14%
2020 Panini Prizm Anthony Edwards #2581,200+6%
1999 Pokemon Game Charizard-Holo #41,100+10%
2021 Pokémon Celebrations Classics Collection Blastoise-Holo #21,100+54%
2020 Pokémon Japanese Sword & Shield Shiny Star V Full Art/Marnie #1981,000+145%

November changes

What changes did we see in November? The entire top ten was Pokemon cards. The highest-graded sports card for November was (amazingly) the classic 1986 Michael Jordan Fleer card, with 800 submissions.

That is well below the 10th most popular TCG card, which had 1,100 submissions. It increasingly looks like sports cards cannot compete, especially in the single cards category.

The second most popular sports card was a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. In other words, the ultra-modern stuff is really struggling in terms of submission popularity right now. Increasingly falling behind the vintage (or, more precisely, junk wax) evergreen classics.

Pokémon cards are not having that problem. The no. 1 with a bullet is the ultramodern, 2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo Special Delivery Charizard-Holo PC UK #75.

It was up over 100% in November, meaning submissions effectively doubled. The high popularity of the 2022 Pokémon Go Radiant Charizard #11 also signifies the strength of ultra-modern Pokémon.

CardNumber graded in NovemberMovement from October
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo Special Delivery Charizard-Holo PC UK #752,100+110%
2022 Pokémon Japanese Sword & Shield Incandescent Arcana1,500+38%
2022 Pokémon Go Radiant Charizard #111,700+23%
2021 Pokémon Celebrations Classics Collection Blastoise-Holo #21,700+50%
1999 Pokémon Celebrations Classics Charizard-Holo #41,700+13%
2022 Pokémon Japanese Sword & Shield Juggler Full Art/Irida #771,600+215%
2021 Pokémon Celebrations Classics Collection Venusaur-Holo #151,500+15%
1999 Pokémon Game Charizard-Holo #41,300+11%
2021 Pokémon Sword & Shields Shining Fates Full Art/Charizard Vmax #SV1071,200-2%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo Charizard V Champions Path ETB #501,100+13%

The slackening in the overall submissions market continues, but it is primarily a result of significant weakening among ultra-modern sports. After a couple of weaker months, TCG bounced back dramatically and made up for most of PSA’s losses in the sports field.

CSG has cemented its spot as the second biggest sports grader, while CGC takes a similar role for TCG cards. What does this mean for Beckett? Their attempts to jump back to the top with some promotions haven’t really worked out. They languish behind, despite their long-time reputation.

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is the emeritus editor of Cardlines. He continues to write for several hobby outlets, including this one and Cardbase. He collects primarily vintage baseball and soccer and has a weird obsession with 1971 Topps.

In his spare time, Shaiel is sobbing into his bourbon when the Mets lose and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a past life, Dr. Ben-Ephraim was a political science professor, journalist, and diplomat. But cards are more fun.

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