Sports Card Grading Trends In May 2023

The grading trends have generally been pretty healthy in 2023. But you can’t have growth every month, and the sports card grading trends for April 2023 saw a decline. However, we are talking about a decrease of 4%, which is probably not a significant indicator of a softening. Indeed, we have often seen the market soften for a month and then make up the lost ground and more in the following month.

Having said that, April should not be a particularly weak month for sports card grading. Baseball season starts in earnest, and the NBA Playoffs swing into action. There have also been new soccer releases and crucial UEFA Champions League Games. So, which sectors and graders had lower submission numbers in April 2023? Did anything fight upstream and grow anyway? We have the answers in our overview of sports card grading trends for April 2023.

Since April 2023 was a pretty stagnant month for sports card grading, we didn’t see any significant changes here in the relative strength of the grading companies.

Grading CompanyTotal Number Of Units GradedMovement From March 2023
PSA1.2 million+0%
CCG and CSG57,000-32%

The trend here is evident. PSA managed to hold on to its incredibly high recent grading numbers. While lack of growth is not particularly glamorous, we must remember that PSA reached an unprecedented height of 1.2 million graded items in March. Therefore, holding on to those numbers is nothing to sneeze at.

Weakness Everywhere But At PSA

But everyone else has suffered a pretty devastating loss. It is easy to explain away the BGS and the CCG shortfall. BGS recently had a complete PR catastrophe with the changes they announced in their grading system. Therefore, the card grading public can be excused for not lining up to grade with Beckett right now. And honestly, they could not afford a blow like that with their low market share. Meanwhile, the folks at CCG have been running their inventory for months now (what is taking so long?).

However, that does not explain the shortfall at SGC. That company has been growing steadily on the strength of its reliably tough grading and growing reputation in the business. Therefore, the -22% drop in SGC submissions (slightly larger than the decline Beckett experienced) is not a great sign.

Sports Card Grading Trends For April 2023: Top Categories

We know from analyzing grading numbers that changes are never uniform. There is always a category for driving modifications. So what was the story in April 2023? Let’s take a look:

TCG499,100 (+3%)6,600 (-22%)24,700 (-34%)57,000 (-32%)
Baseball266,900 (+3%)53,200 (-28%)8,700 (-24%)Not Reported
Football151,300 (+1%)14,500 (-14%7,200 (-1%)Not Reported
Basketball142,800 (-6%)10,900 (-6%)9,100 (-6%)Not Reported
Non-Sport58,200 (-10%2,600 (+18%)900 (-24%)Not Reported
Hockey39,700 (+5%)2,500 (+4%)2,700 (+1%)Not Reported
Soccer32,600 (+18%)1,500 (-38%)800 (-25%)Not Reported
Fight Sports10,000 (-10%)800 (-38%)400 (+34)Not Reported

While TCG has gained a bit at PSA, everywhere else, it tanked. Moreover, the overall losses in this category were more significant in proportion than in the sports categories taken as a whole. Does this mean a whole lot? Not necessarily. We never expected BGS and SGC to become desirable grading avenues for Pokémon cards. And CSG and CGC, far more suitable for these kinds of cards, are doing their endless inventory. But, notably, PSA didn’t grow much when its competitors showed so much TCG weakness. But we have often seen weaker months for Pokémon submissions. Yet, they always seem to come back with more substantial numbers. But this is something to keep an eye on.

What Is Happening At SGC

One thing we did not expect to see is such a significant dip in baseball submissions to SGC. The Florida company is associated with the national pastime, and a downturn of over one quarter a month is nothing to sneeze at. However, it is equally surprising to see that SGC lost a higher percentage than BGS. It makes me wonder if the grading issue is doing a lot of harm to Beckett or if it is just a general downturn. Either way, SGC will be more unhappy with these numbers since there is no clear explanation.

SGC also took losses in basketball and football. In the case of the former, significantly more profound than the competition. But basketball was weak across the board, losing precisely 6% for each large grading company. So was there any good news for SGC? Well, they had an inexplicable bump in non-sports.

Hockey Is Gaining In Popularity

In recent months we have seen a good deal of strength in hockey cards. And in April, the sport made some modest gains yet again. Coupled with a notable weakening of soccer cards, that was enough to bring the overall hockey total over those of the “beautiful game.” That trend may continue since hockey has some substantial rookies, and soccer has yet to unearth a consensus prospect the hobby can get behind. Nevertheless, the gain in hockey submissions for each of the grading companies (a modest one, but still) is a sign of health.

We do not doubt that the popularity of hockey is seasonal. The offseason starts in late June, and we will see a dip in submissions then. But the current strength of Cole Caufield, and the deep slate of prospects we have seen in Upper Deck Series 1 and Series 2 this year, are good indicators for the sport’s continuing popularity.

Sports Card Grading Trends For April 2023: Card Eras

We saw something quite remarkable in March of this year. SGC overtook PSA regarding the percentage of cards submitted from the ultra-modern age. Of course, we need to remember how much larger the number of cards PSA receives is. So, they remained the top address for ultra-modern cards. But SGC seemed to be shaking off that primarily vintage tag. Did that trend continue in April? Let’s crunch the numbers.

EraPSA (sports only)PSA (TCG Only)BGSSGCCGC

The most important numbers here are, again, the ultramodern. We saw a severe downturn in SGC submissions in April. There is no doubt about that. But SGC has also seen its credentials as an ultra-modern leader somewhat dented this month. In March, a complete 54.6% of their submissions were ultra-modern. But in April, the number dipped down to 47.8%, Not far below PSA, mind you. But a lot lower than in March. Meanwhile, the proportion of BGS ultra-modern cards has taken a corresponding jump. However, the numbers for PSA have remained stable overall in terms of the era proportion and overall submissions.

PSA is also doing notably in the 1970s and 1980s categories. Indeed, their market share of the 1980s is more than double that of SGC. More interestingly, BGS has a larger share of its submissions from those decades as well. SGC has maintained its traditional strength in the vintage market from the 1970s and older. It has a particularly large share of cards from the 1950s.

Sports Card Grading Trends For April 2023: Gem Rate

The card grading companies gain their reputation in accordance with their gem standards. Therefore, nothing can be more important when determining where to grade your cards. On the one hand, if you get a ten, it will raise the value of your card. Therefore, you will want to go with a generous grader. On the other hand, if a company is known as an easy grader, its gems have a lower value. We saw with BGS how confusion in grading standards could harm the company’s reputation.

SGC began eating into PSA’s overall market share by gaining a reputation as a harsh grader. But in recent months, we have seen PSA try to undercut that advantage with an orientation towards more difficult grading. Meanwhile, BGS seemed to be trying to give out easier gems than ever before. Perhaps in an effort to increase their traffic. Did these trends continue in April?

EraPSA (sports only)PSA (TCG only)BGSSGCCGC

Are Standards Shifting?

PSA has gotten a bit more generous this month. Their ultra-modern gem rate went up from a pretty severe 44% to 47.7%. The rise in gem rates is probably not high enough to be an intentional policy, but rather that they are maintaining that sweet spot between BGS and SGC. Meanwhile, SGC gem rates also went up a bit from 40% to 42%. Meanwhile, BGS gem rates have remained at their incredibly high rates. As a result, two in every three ultra-modern cards are now gems.

What about the gem rates in earlier eras? We can see a far more significant difference here between SGC and PSA. The more prominent company has only a slightly lower gem rate for the 2010s, while its Florida-based rivals’ gem rate falls down by an entire 10% for this decade. Meanwhile, for the 2000s, SGC had a low 8% gem rate, while PSA submissions enjoyed more than double that. Therefore, the significant grading differences come in earlier periods, while ultra-modern cards have a relative parity.

Sports Card Grading Trends For April 2023: Players And Characters

Now for my personal favorite part of these grading overviews, the most popular players and characters. These charts are usually very different. The athlete lists seem to be wildly different from month to month. Meanwhile, the TCG character lists (well, let’s get real, the Pokémon lists) are very predictable. Especially the top three. Will that repeat in April as well?

Most Graded Athletes

Let’s start with the less predictable list, the athletes’ top 10. Last month Michael Jordan came first by a mile. And one thing was clear. None of the young NBA stars were near the popularity of the established legends like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and (still going strong, but not getting any younger) LeBron James.

Character or AthleteAmount Submitted in AprilMovement from April
Michael Jordan18,200-8%
Julio Rodriguez14,000-4%
Shohei Ohtani11,500+36%
Trevor Lawrence11,500-1%
LeBron James8,000+3%

Once again, Jordan is at the top of the pile with a good 4,000 more than second place. Meanwhile, Julio Rodriguez continues to place above all baseball players despite an uninspiring start to the season. But his form last season was just that impressive. Or maybe the slow start hadn’t quite registered yet. We will see if Julio can match this performance in May.

The Strength Of Ultra Modern Baseball

Meanwhile, Shohei is back near the top. Honestly, considering how historic a player the Angels superstar is, I’m surprised he isn’t always up this high. And, of course, the classics die hard. So, Ken Griffey Jr. continues to lurk in the top ten, even though he hasn’t played a major league game since 2010.

The market for young baseball players is significantly more robust than the top ten would make it appear. Because in the 11th and 12th place, we also have the up-and-coming stars Wander Franco and Bobby Witt Jr.

Where Is Football Going?

In football, we can see that Trevor Lawrence’s impressive late-season push has saved his hobby status. There is a lot of excitement around his potential emergence as a top-tier quarterback over the next year or two. Meanwhile, Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes continue to enjoy the respect they deserve. Now that Tom Brady is retired (we think), it will be interesting to follow his future numbers. Will he become a permanent feature in the top ten like Jordan and Griffey? Or will he fade like most veterans?

The Weakness Of Ultra-Modern Basketball

In basketball, it’s the same story. Even though we are in the midst of an insane round of NBA Playoffs, none of the players involved are taking off. Only LeBron James is in the top ten. Of course, that may have something to do with the lackluster performances of stars like Ja Morant and Giannis Antetokounmpo. But still, it’s remarkable how little traction the younger NBA stars are getting.

Most Graded TCG Characters

Every month we see the same old story on the TCG character charts. The holy trinity of Charizard, Pikachu, and Mew dominate the charts. But, dude, can’t Umbreon get a break?

CharacterAmount Submitted in AprilMovement from April

The short answer is no. Umbreon cannot get a break. The April list is identical to its March predecessor in the first 7 places. Below that, we have three new entries: Giratina, Marnie, and Arceus. So we can say that the gap between Pikachu and Charizard has been cut in half since March. Does that mean the cute little guy will dethrone the dominant lizard? Only time will tell.

And what about non-Pokémon characters? Are they getting any love? Well, the Blue Eyes White Dragon from YuGiOh! placed at 12th and got an increase of 26% in April. So, we may see it back in the charts soon. But Pokémon characters remain utterly dominant.

Combined Character And Athletes List

What happens when we combine TCG characters and athletes? Do you mean besides the recipe for a new and greater Space Jam-type cooperation? In recent months, the TCG characters have topped the charts quite reliably. But besides the Pokémon big three, athletes have usually made up the rest of the top ten. What happened in April?

Character or AthleteAmount Submitted in AprilMovement from April
Michael Jordan18,200-8%
Julio Rodriguez14,000-4%
Shohei Ohtani11,500+36%
Trevor Lawrence11,500-1%
LeBron James8,000+3%

The song remains the same, as Led Zeppelin once told us. The top three TCG characters reign supreme. Although, MJ is getting mighty close to Mew nowadays. Meanwhile, amongst the other Pokémon stars, only Umbreon breaks into the top ten. Just like last month, actually.

Sports Card Grading Trends For April 2023: Top Sets

Last month in the combined charts, sports had been almost entirely displaced from the top ten. Will that be repeated in the April charts? This was not a strong month for submissions of any kind, neither sports nor TCG, so everything is in flux. But first, let’s look at the separate charts.


Last month was an interesting one in the TCG charts. The 1999 Pokémon game, long dominant in the genre, was displaced by a couple of upstarts. The 2022 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Vstar Climax took over first, and the brand new 2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith came into the charts with a bullet at number two. So was it a moment of weakness for the 1999 Pokémon game, or are the new boys in town here to stay?

SetNumber Graded In AprilChange from March
2022 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Universe32,000-6%
2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith23,300+21%
1999 Pokémon Game13,700-2%
2021 Japanese Promo Card Pack 25th Anniversary Edition13,400+32%
2021 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Vmax Climax11,600+23%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo9,300-18%
2021 Pokémon Sword & Shield Evolving Skies8,800-11%
2021 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Eevee Heroes7,800+3%
2022 Pokémon Sword & Shield Incandescent Arcana7,300+34%
2022 Pokemon Sword & Shield Silver Tempest7,000-33%

It seems the grading crowd has become somewhat tired of the 1999 Pokémon Game. And I mean, you would think they would start to run out of cards at some point. After all, over 668,000 cards from that release have been submitted to PSA alone. Either way, these two newer releases: the 2022 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Universe and the 2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith, remain in the top spots. We doubt they have the holding power of that classic 1999 release. But perhaps the future for the 1999 Pokémon Game is similar to the 1986 Fleer set. It won’t top the charts anymore but will continue to lurk in the charts as a perennial classic.


Last month 2022 Bowman Chrome Autographs took over the top spot. It was yet another sign that baseball is getting its mojo back after years of submission to basketball. But did that momentum last in April? And how did other baseball releases fare?

SetNumber Graded In AprilChange from March
2022 Panini Mosaic Football7,500+41%
2022 Bowman Chrome Prospect Autographs6,500-16%
2021 Panini Prizm Basketball6,500-10%
1986 Fleer Basketball6,100-7%
2021 Panini Donruss Optic Football5,700-8%
2021 Panini Prizm Football5,500-9%
2023 Topps Baseball5,300+190%
2021 Panini Select Football5,100-13%
2021 Panini Mosaic Football4,500+9%

2022 Bowman Chrome Prospect Autographs lost the first place in the charts, and its cousin, 2022 Bowman Draft Picks Chrome, dropped out of the charts. However, that is not necessarily because baseball is weakening. Instead, collectors are starting to shift focus to Topps flagship, which has jumped into the charts at number 8. My guess is it will be significantly higher in May and June.

Aside from that, we have not seen much movement in the sports charts. But I was surprised to see the 2022 Panini Mosaic Football jump into the top spot.

Combined List Of Sets

At this point, the combined list is all about the survival of sports releases among the top ten. In March, they were just about pushed out. But with TCG having a relatively weak month in April, maybe things have changed. So let’s take a look.

SetNumber Graded In AprilChange from March
2022 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Universe32,000-6%
2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith23,300+21%
1999 Pokémon Game13,700-2%
2021 Japanese Promo Card Pack 25th Anniversary Edition13,400+32%
2021 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Vmax Climax11,600+23%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo9,300-18%
2021 Pokémon Sword & Shield Evolving Skies8,800-11%
2021 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Eevee Heroes7,800+3%
2022 Panini Mosaic Football7,500+41%
2022 Pokémon Sword & Shield Incandescent Arcana7,300+34%

Like last month, we only have one sports release among the top ten. However, this time, it is 2022 Panini Mosaic Football. There are more sports releases than Pokémon ones overall, contributing to this outcome. But it is still a sign of overall TCG strength.

Sports Card Grading Trends For April 2023: Top Cards

Last month we didn’t even bother to make a combined list of the top ten most graded cards. Yup, the TCG cards were that dominant. What about this month? Let’s not jump ahead and look at how the two categories did separately.


Last month we had two elegant slugging Mariners outfielders in the two top places. And they are both there again but have reversed the order. “The Kid” is now in the prime position, with up-and-coming JRod right beneath him. However, we can see that Rodriguez is losing a lot of ground. With his uninspiring start to the 2023 MLB season, I guess Julio will lose more ground next month. But he’s a quality player and a great prospect. So, don’t bet against the Mariner’s second-year outfielder.

CardAmount Submitted in AprilMovement from March
1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Star Rookie #11,100+0%
2022 Topps Update Julio Rodriguez #US44800-43%
2023 Topps Adley Rutschman #250700+156%
2020-21 Upper Deck Cole Caufield #201600-11%
1989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey Jr. #41T600+20%
2018 Bowman Shohei Ohtani #49600+47%
1980 Topps Ricky Henderson #482500+7%
1993 Topps Derek Jeter #98500+16%
1990 Fleer Michael Jordan #26500+24%
1986 Topps Jerry Rice #161500+5%

You know the world of sports submissions has seen better days when the most graded card ever is number one in the charts, more than 30 years after it was released. And it’s not the only ancient card on this list, with another Griffey, a Rickey Henderson, a Derek Jeter, and a Jerry Rice. But the quick emergence of the 2023 Topps Adley Rutschman #250 as a top card is a good sign for baseball. It will surprise no one that Adley is joining Julio Rodriguez as one of the new faces of baseball collecting. Meanwhile, Cole Caufield has become the consensus hockey young player to invest in. Cole has hung around the list for months now and does not appear to be going anywhere.


We usually find a Charizard at the top of the charts. That makes sense since that dragon-like creature is the most graded of all. But last month, the 2022 Pokémon Japanese SVP Promo Pikachu Scarlet & Violet Pre-Order #1 took the pole position. So did Charizard come storming back in April 2023? And did any non-Pokémon cards make the top ten? We have the answers you seek.

CardAmount Submitted in AprilMovement from March
2022 Pokémon Japanese SVP Promo Pikachu Scarlet & Violet Pre-Order #14,900+3%
2022 Pokémon Japanese Sword & Shield Incandescent Arcana Full Art/Serena #812,300+18%
2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith Full/Art Pikachu #1602,300+21%
2021 Pokémon Japanese Sword & Shield Vmax Climax Full Art Gloria #2762,300+58%
2021 Pokémon Japanese Promo Pack 25th Anniversary Edition Charizard-Holo #12,200+42%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo UPC Full Art Charizard #2622,100-15%
2021 Pokémon Japanese Promo Pack 25th Anniversary Edition Umbreon Gold Star #122,100+48%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo V Sword & Shield Full Art UPC Charizard #2612,000-17%
2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith Radiant Charizard #201,900+14%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo V Sword & Shield Full Art UPC Charizard #2601,900-19%

This has been a dark month for our boy Charizard. The highest placed of his cards is the 2021 Pokémon Japanese Promo Pack 25th Anniversary Edition Charizard-Holo #1 in fifth place. Meanwhile, Pikachu is at the top, and Serena and Gloria also have cards over Charizard. We have to wonder if everyone is getting sick of that lizard. But don’t count him out. Think of the number of comebacks Jordan has had. You can’t keep a good dragon down.

Bottomline Of The Sports Card Grading Trends For April 2023

Whenever the market softens a bit on a particular month, we await the following months’ numbers to put that change into context. So, we won’t start to be concerned about lower numbers until we see what May and June hold.

It’s also worth paying attention to where the weakness resides. PSA has remained at all-time peak numbers. Sure, it hasn’t gained anything. But freaking 1.2 million units in a month is too much to be called a weak number. But all the other companies lost a considerable chunk. We have a good explanation for BGS. But what is the excuse for SGC’s remarkably poor performance? We will watch these companies closely next month and see if this trend is long-term.

The weakness is across the board, hitting Pokémon and sports more or less equally. The one bright spot is hockey, which is enjoying a resurgence focused on Cole Caufield and Matty Beniers.

Some TCG favorites seem to be losing steam. Charizard cards are weakening, and Pikachu appears to be on the rise. We will see if that is a trend. But we can safely say the high performing 1999 Pokémon Game is no longer as popular as it used to be.