What Dominated The Sports Card Grading Market? April 2023

What Dominated The Sports Card Grading Market? April 2023

March was an excellent month for grading. At the beginning of 2023, we were all concerned about a significant recession brought on by inflation and rising interest rates.

Were we worried about increasing poverty rates and unemployment? Of course not! Well, ok, a bit. But mainly about the price of cards and the value of our collections. But so far, there is no sign of that.

Sure, the post-COVID normalization is still with us. But the hobby is healthy, and prices are stable and even going up. And the 19% rise in grading in March indicates the health of grading and the hobby more generally.

So, what brought on this rise? Can it be felt across all of the sectors? Let’s look at the sports card grading trends for March 2023 and find out.

Was the significant increase in grading in March seen among SGC cards or PSA ones? Yes. Both have seen a substantial increase in their grading numbers. Here are the numbers:

Grading CompanyTotal Units GradedMovement from December

The sharpest increase in terms of raw numbers is the PSA one. A rise of 22% from February means 212,000 more cards were graded than the month before. That is one massive jump and a great sign that PSA is consolidating its top spot (not that it was ever in doubt).

But on a relative scale, SGC had an even more significant jump. With a growth of 31%, we are talking about an increase of a full third in turnover. That is an imposing number. But, of course, the raw number increase is only 10% of what PSA enjoyed. But since they are growing faster, the Florida-based company will be happy with their March performance.

The smaller companies

Note that CSG is still undergoing a population report count process. Therefore, they are not updating their numbers. So what appears here are the CCG numbers only. That probably accounts for the poor showing by the company in March.

Finally, we have BGS. They had a reasonably healthy (though unspectacular) monthly performance. But at the end of the month, they announced some grading changes, namely, the categories for Gem Mint versus Gem+. The idea was to harmonize their system with the other significant graders.

However, it did not work out as they had hoped. There was massive pushback from their customer base, and Beckett has gone back to the drawing board. We don’t yet know how it will affect their grading volume. But believing this fiasco will help their already downtrodden reputation is hard.

Sports Card Grading Trends For March 2023: Top Categories

In February, we had a very one-sided trend. The TCG cards were way up, and the sports were way down. So, what did we see in March? Was that trend reversed? Here are the numbers:

TCG485,100 (+16%)8,500 (-19%)37,500 (+27%)84,000 (-17%)
Baseball258,100 (+31%)73,800 (+81%)10,100 (+1%)
Basketball151,600 (+18%)11,500 (+1%)9,700 (-6%)
Football150,500 (+27%)16,900 (+4)7,300 (+7%)
Non-Sport64,900 (+41%)2,200 (-32%)1,200 (+17%)
Soccer39,800 (+20%2,400 (-38%)1,100 (-44%)
Hockey37,900 (+22%)2,400 (-8%)2,700 (-16%)
Fight Sports11,200 (+3%)1,300 (+1%)300 (-2%)

As we have noted previously, that is just a partial report for CSG and CGC. So that is why we have their TCG numbers and not the sports figures.

March was a bumper month, so pretty much everything was up. Just look at the PSA line. It is absolutely beautiful, like when you look at your stock line, and it is all trending green. Breaking it down, the most substantial gains were in baseball, football, hockey, and non-sport.

So, while TCG continued to grow and is still at the top spot, every single major sports category gained a more significant percentage.

What is happening at SGC?

SGC shows a far more complex picture. In recent months we have been reporting that SGC is gaining in TCG cards and, to a lesser extent, with non-sport. February was kinda crazy in that regard. Submissions to the company in the Pokemon and friends area went up a staggering 333%.

The raw numbers were small but increased from a couple thousand to over 10,000. It looked like SGC was becoming a legit address for TCG cards after being almost ignored by that market.

After that high in February, the numbers went down significantly. However, they are still well over double what they were in February. So, the Pokemon market still doesn’t know what to make of the Florida company and its foray into TCG. We will be watching closely.

But SGC will be very happy about their performance in baseball. The last few months have seen a significant growth spurt for the national pastime. And March, with its leadup to Opening Day, was a bumper month. SGC will be happy to see that many baseball collectors now see them as the place to submit.

Their volume almost doubled from February and jumped up to 73,800. But their performance in every other sport was worrisome. Especially considering what a strong month March was, generally speaking. SGC would like to avoid being pigeonholed as a baseball grader, and this will not help that case.


What about BGS? As we said last month, things looked better for Beckett than they probably will soon. Of course, this was before the new grading scale fiasco. But it’s still instructive. Beckett made admirable gains in the TCG department, perhaps taking advantage of the CSG/CGC grading hiatus.

Non-sport saw a nice rise too. But what is concerning for BGS is that in a bumper month of massive submission growth, their performance in all sports categories was lackluster.

Sports Card Grading Trends For March 2023: Card Eras

In the era charts, two significant battles between SGC and PSA have played out over the last few months. First, SGC has been trying to bite into the PSA dominance in the ultra-modern category.

Meanwhile, PSA and SGC have also had a tug-of-war over vintage-era grading. While PSA has more significant absolute numbers, vintage makes up a far larger percentage of SGC’s grading activity. Meanwhile, BGS was creeping up in vintage submissions as well, to our surprise.

How did all these trends play out in March? Here are the numbers:

EraPSA (sports only)BGSSGCCGC

The first thing that captures the eye here, of course, is the SGC ultra-modern rate. If you didn’t know any better, one might think that PSA and SGC were reversed.

The latter now has 54.6% of submissions in the ultra-modern category. A significantly higher percentage than what PSA has.

That is way up from the mere 40% of their ultra-modern card submissions in February. So, thinking of SGC as the vintage guy is becoming increasingly untenable.

PSA and vintage

Meanwhile, PSA had a very notable growth in other decades. But, remarkably, the 1980s stand out, as the percentages of that decade have almost doubled. And you can see significant gains in the 1970s and 1960s categories as well.

But on the other hand, SGC retains substantial portions in the 1960s and 1950s. So, the lines between the two big companies and their specialties are becoming increasingly blurred.

And what about BGS? Their ultra-modern numbers picked up at the expense of some of the gains there made elsewhere in February. It appears the market doesn’t know what to make of the return of BGS yet. The problems they are having with the grading scale will not help in this regard.

Sports Card Grading Trends For March 2023: Gem Rate

Last month we saw PSA toughen up its grading significantly. Meanwhile, Beckett was giving out far higher rates of gems. But of course, those gems included many 9.5s that may or may not be gem mint cards in the future. Did these trends continue in March? Here are the numbers:

EraPSA (sports only)BGSSGCCGC

After grading cards much tougher in February, PSA stayed in that place for March. There is no discernible difference in ultra-modern between this month and last. And in the other categories, the rates are all within the margin of error.

So it appears that PSA is comfortable giving out fewer gems and emulating the SGC model.

BGS, in the meantime, has the highest gem rate they have had in a while. It was 57% last month, so a jump to 64% is significant. But of course, that includes the 9.5s alongside the BGS 10s. And the future of those is unclear.

Once they have figured out what they consider a gem, we will see how BGS pans to grade. Their proposed changes express a policy of conforming to the norms o the other grading companies. So, we may see them lower their gem rates accordingly.

Sports Card Grading Trends For March 2023: Players and characters

The charts for top-graded athletes seem to change every month in wild and unpredictable ways. Meanwhile, the TCG charts are usually very steady and utterly dominated by the big three: Charizard, Pikachu, and Mew. But what will we see in March? Are there any big surprises?

Most graded athletes

Let’s start with athletes. It was a pretty good month for sports card grading overall. But baseball had a solid month.

And with Opening Day at the center of attention for March, we can expect to see more baseball players on the list. But who got the most attention? Let’s take a look:

AthleteAmount Submitted in MarchMovement from February
Michael Jordan20,100+44%
Julio Rodriguez14,500+11%
Shohei Ohtani8,500+5%
Joe Burrow8,300+36%
Tom Brady8,300+10%
Kobe Bryant8,100+11%
Trevor Lawrence8,100+27%
LeBron James7,800+25%
Ken Griffey Jr.7,700+58%
Bobby Witt Jr.6,200+16%

For whatever reason, Michael Jordan continues to dominate. Basketball cards are in decline. LeBron James is the one breaking the all-time points record. But card collectors don’t care. It’s MJ all the way.

It is remarkable how no young NBA players are even close to the top ten right now. The truth is that while there is a tremendous amount of young talent in the league, it is unclear who among the upstarts is destined for true greatness.

I was also surprised that we don’t see more young baseball stars on this list. Julio Rodriguez continues to perform incredibly well. And, of course, Ohtani is in there as well.

But Bobby Witt Jr. barely made it, and that is just three out of ten. Wander Franco, Adley Rutschman, Ronald Acuna Jr., and others who may have incredible seasons ahead are missing.

Most graded TCG characters

Are the top three still in the top spots? Of course, they are. Let’s not get crazy here. But there is some movement elsewhere in the chart:

CharacterAmount Submitted in MarchMovement from February

Serena and Irida are new on the list, and both are showing massive gains from last month. And the prominent gaining character for March is that perennial grading underdog, Umbreon.

So does that mean a challenge for the top three spots is in store for us? Probably not.

Combined Character And Athletes List

The TCG top three are so strong that they usually also dominate the combined list. But then the rest of the list is often comprised of athletes.

This month’s sports were more potent than usual. Meanwhile, our sleek friend Umbreon had a fantastic month. So, what do the combined charts look like in March? Let’s take a look:

CharacterAmount Submitted in MarchMovement from February
Michael Jordan20,100+44%
Julio Rodriguez14,500+11%
Shohei Ohtani8,500+5%
Joe Burrow8,300Joe Burrow
Tom Brady8,300Tom Brady
Kobe Bryant8,100Kobe Bryant

We knew MJ was great, but his ability to break up the Pokémon big three is probably his most outstanding achievement yet. Mew is eating Jordan’s dust. And let’s just salute the Bulls legend for being this popular 20 years after retirement.

And Umbreon has used the significant amount of momentum he received in March to comfortably place comfortably in the combined list. Meanwhile, Julio Rodriguez’s high spot emphasizes the outfielder’s incredible impression on baseball fans last year.

Can he keep the momentum going in the 2023 season? We will keep an eye on him and the other young baseball stars.

Sports Card Grading Trends For March 2023: Top sets

TCG releases have dominated the hobby’s top sets for quite some time. But March was a strong month for sports and especially baseball. Did that move the needle in the top sets game? We will see. But first, let’s break down the TCG and sports sets separately.


After months of relative stagnation, in February, a whole bunch of new releases jumped into the charts. The newbies included 2020 Pokémon Sword & Shield Vivid Voltage, 2016 XY Evolutions, 2000 Pokémon Rocket, and 1999 Pokémon German releases.

But, even more amazingly, we had a new number one. After the seemingly endless domination of the 1999 Pokémon Game, the 2022 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Vstar Climax took over the top spot. So did the old favorites reemerge? Or are we now living in a brave new Pokémon world?

SetNumber GradedChange from February
2022 Bowman Chrome Prospect Autographs7,700-14%
2021 Panini Prizm Basketball7,200-9%
1986 Fleer Basketball6,600+127%
2022 Topps Update Baseball6,600-12%
2021 Panini Donruss Optic Football6,200-1%
2021 Panini Prizm Football6,000+10%
2020 Panini Select Football5,900+15%
2022 Panini Mosaic Football5,300+374%
2021 Panini Select Football5,200+5%
2022 Bowman Draft Picks Chrome4,300+88%

The new 2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith release jumped up to number two in February. This continues the trend of instability, where new releases are overtaking the old reliable items.

And while the 1999 Pokémon Game remains popular, it dropped from second to third place. And we have some fun new entries in February, none of which are particularly new: 2021 Japanese Promo Card Pack 25th Anniversary Edition, 2021 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Vmax Climax, 2021 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Eevee Heroes.

So what will the chart look like next month? We have absolutely no clue.


February was an exciting month for sports sets. The 2022 Bowman Prospects

release took the top spot in one might leap. And we were all surprised to see that old favorite, the 1986 Fleer Basketball set, fall out of the top ten.

We were also used to having a hockey set or two among the top, but the 2021 Upper Deck Hockey dropped out.

What surprises are in for us in March? Let’s take a look at the charts.

SetNumber GradedChange from February
2022 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Vstar Climax33,900+63%
2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith19,300+613%
1999 Pokémon Game13,900+3%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo11,200+7%
2022 Pokemon Sword & Shield Silver Tempest10,400+13%
2021 Japanese Promo Card Pack 25th Anniversary Edition10,200+150%
2021 Pokémon Sword & Shield Evolving Skies9,800+26%
2021 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Vmax Climax9,400+118%
2021 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Eevee Heroes7,600+170%
2022 Pokémon Sword & Shield Brilliant Stars7,400+12%

The list is eerily similar to the February one. But there is one significant difference. Spoiler alert: it’s the return of an old favorite. You didn’t think 1986 Fleer Basketball would stay out of the charts, did you?

You can’t keep a good set down. Close to 40 years after its release, the Michael Jordan-centered set is still being graded at massive numbers.

We don’t usually see Topps Update as one of the most high-ranked sets. But 2022 Topps Update Baseball has a really good rookie class. In particular, collectors love Julio Rodriguez because of his many tools, particularly a significant amount of power. However, Bobby Witt Jr. and Spencer Torkelson are also big names with a lot of upside.

Combined List Of Sets

Last month there were only two sports sets among the combined top ten. But sports fared better overall in March. Will that be reflected in these charts? Let’s have a look:

SetNumber GradedChange from February
2022 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Vstar Climax33,900+63%
2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith19,300+613%
1999 Pokémon Game13,900+3%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo11,200+7%
2022 Pokemon Sword & Shield Silver Tempest10,400+13%
2021 Japanese Promo Card Pack 25th Anniversary Edition10,200+150%
2021 Pokémon Sword & Shield Evolving Skies9,800+26%
2021 Japanese Pokémon Sword & Shield Vmax Climax9,400+118%
2022 Bowman Chrome Prospect Autographs7,700-14%

The answer is clearly no. Sports are close to being run out of the combined charts entirely. Only the 2022 Bowman Chrome Prospect Autographs set clings on at no. 10 for dear life. Granted, there are far more sports releases than Pokémon ones, thus diluting the competition. But the utter TCG domination in this category is nonetheless quite striking.

Sports Card Grading Trends For March 2023: Top Cards

So, much for sets. Which individual cards were the most popular in March 2023? And does the TCG category utterly dominate the single card market, as it did for the sets? Only one way to find out.


We had four baseball players in the top four spots for February. Will we see the same level of national pastime dominance in March? Let’s see:

CardAmount Submitted in MarchMovement from February
2022 Topps Update Julio Rodriguez #US441,500-9%
1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Star Rookie #11,200+85%
2020-21 Upper Deck Cole Caufield #201700+50%
1989 Hoops Michael Jordan #200600+271%
2022 Topps Update Bobby Witt Jr. #US100500-21%
1989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey Jr. #548500+170%
1989 Fleer Ken Griffey Jr. #548500+111%
1986 Topps Jerry Rice #161500+70%
2022 Upper Deck Matty Beniers #213500+89%
1980 Topps Ricky Henderson #482500+66%

Julio Rodriguez maintains the top spot with his beloved 2022 Topps Update #US44 card. If Julio becomes a perennial All-Star and Hall-of-Fame type player, we know which of his cards will be iconic. And speaking of iconic cards of Hall-of-Famers, Ken Griffey Jr. has three cards on the list, including the Fleer rookie, which is a relatively deep cut. It’s just another reminder that no baseball player since “The Kid” has obtained Griffey’s collecting status.

We have a few other unexpected classics on the list. The Jerry Rice Topps rookie is always a favorite at number 8. Meanwhile, the difficult-to-grade Ricky Henderson Topps rookie is on the list, and even a 1989 Hoops Michael Jordan makes an appearance.

Hockey Makes An Appearance

Hockey fans will be happy to see that the 2020-21 Upper Deck Cole Caufield #201 maintains its high spot. But it’s not an outlier for the sport. The 2022 Upper Deck Matty Beniers #213 is also in the top ten. And several other hockey cards are lurking just beneath the top ten.

Of course, hockey cards are helped by a sparse release calendar (by comparison to, say, basketball). But it’s still a sign of strength for hockey cards.


The TCG charts tend to be more stable than their sports equivalents. There are fewer releases and fewer stars. So the big cards tend to be up there for quite a while. Indeed, the top five for January and February were identical. So, what about March? Are there any changes?

CardAmount Submitted in MarchMovement from February
2022 Pokémon Japanese SVP Promo Pikachu Scarlet & Violet Pre-Order #14,800+19%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo UPC Full Art Charizard #2622,500+13%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo V Sword & Shield Full Art UPC Charizard #2612,400+12%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo V Sword & Shield Full Art UPC Charizard #2602,400+9%
2022 Pokémon Japanese Sword & Shield Incandescent Arcana Full Art/Serena #811,900+157%
2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith Full/Art Pikachu #1601,900+562%
2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo Special Delivery Charizard Holo Pokemon Center UK #751,800-17%
2022 Pokémon Sword & Shield Vstar Universe Full Art/Charizard Vstar #2121,700+86%
2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Crown Zenith Radiant Charizard #201,700+1,051%
2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Vstar Universe Full Art/Elesa’s Sparkle #2461.600+81%

Yup, the top five remain the same for the third month running, with hardly any internal movement, either. And it’s amusing to see the 2022 Pokémon Swsh Black Star Promo UPC Full Art Charizard cards run in order from #262 to #260 in sports 4 to 2. Meanwhile, spots 6-10 are all new entries, which is also similar to the February charts.

Non-Pokemon TCG

It is also worth noting that none of the cards in the top 10, or even the top 20 for that matter, are non-Pokémon cards. T

he few Yu-Gi-Oh! cards that used to appear in the TCG charts on occasion have totally disappeared. At this point, when we say TCG, we basically mean Pokémon.

Finally, there is no point in creating a combined list here. The most graded sports card is the 2022 Topps Update Julio Rodriguez #US44. It has 1,500 graded copies, about 100 fewer than 2023 Pokémon Sword & Shield Vstar Universe Full Art/Elesa’s Sparkle #246, the no. 10 entry for TCG cards. So yeah, not a single sports card would place.

Bottomline Of The Sports Card Grading Trends For March 2023

The NBA playoffs start in mid-April and will continue into June. So, we can expect to see some current basketball players break into the charts. Well, aside from LeBron James.

Last year, Ja Morant caught fire toward the end of the season. It is anyone’s guess who will start to take off. Considering how good the Celtics have been all year, it may be time for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to shine.

Meanwhile, March did see a general uptick in sports submissions. Baseball had a good month. But Pokémon remains bigger than any individual sport.

If you put all the sports together, they still remain bigger than TCG in total submissions. But not by all that much. Therefore, Pokémon releases dominate the combined set chart and card chart. Will this last throughout the year? We will keep an eye on it.

But it’s not too hard to see why sports are having trouble. The weakness is more in football and basketball than baseball. It appears that hobby enthusiasts have not fully rallied behind any of the young basketball and football stars.

As a result, we don’t see them remaining in the charts for long or their cards doing substantial numbers month after month. Baseball is doing a bit better since the explosion of Julio Rodriguez and, to a lesser extent, Bobby Witt Jr.  Still; there is a reason Michael Jordan and Ken Griffey Jr. keep outperforming current players.

The hobby enthusiasts just aren’t that into the new guys. Is that lack of enthusiasm justified? Probably not. I would point to Ja Morant, Cade Cunningham, Adley Rutschman, and Trevor Lawrence as guys who probably should be doing better than they are. But the market has spoken, so who am I to argue?

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Author: Thomas Baker