December 2021 Recap
PSA graded 777,219 items during December - a modest 6% increase (or +2% daily average).
TCG (mostly Pokemon) was the top graded category for the third straight month - though only by a very narrow margin in December.
Despite its high volume, basketball did not have a single card in the top 10 graded during December (more below).
The share of cards graded from 2010+ increased to 66% from 61% in November.
The gem rate across all items graded increased by more than 10% and was 42% compared to 38% in November (this is in part due to the mix shift noted in the prior bullet).
Published January 1st, 2022
Note: PSA has started to release data as it relates to grading trends. We are very excited to see them participating and sharing their extremely valuable data in a more transparent fashion.
When comparing GemRate data to PSA, it’s important to remember a couple of items.
1) PSA very intentionally includes the word “shipped” in its descriptions. The timing of when data updates on a pop report (how GemRate collects data) and when an item ships may not coincide perfectly.
2) Population data is subject to things like reclassifications, issuance of new certs, reholders, etc. PSA will always be best suited to account for those types of nuances and therefore will always be the best source of truth as it relates to newly graded cards.
In summary, GemRate data will always be very directionally correct but PSA will always have the source of truth.
PSA output increased by 6% in December (+2% daily average)
PSA output increased by 6% in December compared to November - with 777,219 items graded during the month
PSA posted three days with 40,000+ output in December compared to seven days in November
Average output per day was 25,072 items graded (+2% compared to November)
Ultra modern cards increased (again) as a % of the cards graded during December
Gem rates increased meaningfully in December (partially due to a shift in the mix of cards graded)
The gem rate across all items graded in December increased by more than 10% and reached 42% (vs 38% in November, 38% in October, 43% in September and 40% in August).
Of the top 100 cards graded, 49% saw an improvement in the gem rate during December compared to November
The gem rate for 2019 Prizm basketball increased slightly to 58% in December vs 57% in November. We highlight 2019 Prizm basketball as one of many proxies to gauge overall gem rate trends
TCG was the most graded category for the third straight month - though only by a narrow margin
Basketball, baseball, football, and multi-sport outpaced overall grading activity during December
1999 Pokemon Game holds down the top spot for the third straight month
2020 Topps Chrome baseball rejoined the top 10 in December while 2020 Prizm football dropped off the list
Charizard and Pikachu now sit atop the revamped leaderboard; Jordan volume continues to dip
We are now accounting for Pokemon characters in a similar fashion as PSA (highlighted by this post)
As a result, Charizard is now joined by Pikachu at the top of the most graded list
Michael Jordan very narrowly held onto the top of the sports list
Pokemon and baseball dominate the top card leaderboard (with Mac Jones in the mix)
Despite its high volume and many sets in the top 10 most graded, basketball did not have a single card in the top 10 graded during December
We've touched on this before, but this theme really highlights the difference in grading (and collecting) approaches across categories (for example, TCG and baseball are much more concentrated, while basketball has a much broader array of cards that are graded)
The recent re-opening of PSA regular service without limits came as a surprise (and potentially a signal of weaker than expected demand). That said, we are excited to see how more accessible grading impacts the pop report. While still early, we consider this an important milestone that starts to transition GemRate from being used to tell stories of the past to one that is more representative of current activity (and potentially a predictor of future activity).
PSA hiring on the grading & operations front increased significantly in 2021, yet the numbers only reflect a modest scaling of the team (output to close out 2021 is not much different than that seen in the summer of 2021). We are cautiously optimistic that PSA will begin ramping output meaningfully early in 2022 as more and more new graders hit their stride and PSA aligns the team on what are likely ambitious grading goals (e.g. 1 million items graded in a single month [hypothetical]).