May 2021 Recap

Understanding the Impact of the PSA Backlog Flush

Published June 3rd, 2021

Welcome to the first update from GemRate on the current PSA grading situation.

As most are aware, speculation around the impact of PSA's backlog continues to be a hot topic for the hobby. This report is the first of many that aims to bring some clarity to how the market is being impacted.

Stay tuned for category and player deep dives.

PSA has been steadily increasing its output after getting caught up on order entry


  • PSA data shows a 9% increase in the # of cards graded during May. This is a marked improvement following a 2% decline in cards graded per day during April.
  • This translates to an average of 19k cards graded per day OR 30k graded per business day.

  • Category Summary

    Basketball dominates (shocking!); TCG, Football, Soccer gaining momentum

  • Basketball made up 40% of the cards graded in May which will come as a surprise to few as the category has become synonymous with base cards and junk slabs (leave Bol Bol alone!)
  • There's been lots of speculation that Pokemon cards are a significant chunk of the PSA backlog. While there is some mild evidence pointing to this in the May data, it's more likely to be seen in June and July if that is true.

  • Set Summary

    Prizm basketball leads the way; 1999 Pokemon spikes; Summer '20 releases surge


  • 2019 and 2018 Prizm basketball led the way. However, grading activity remains relatively steady compared to April.
  • Summer 2020 releases - Topps Series 2 (late June), Topps Chrome (August) and Mosaic Football (early September) - were a large chunk of the May activity.

  • Card Summary

    Luis Robert spike adds insult to injury; it's a Prizm base world, we just live in it


  • Luis Robert was the main focus of the 2020 MLB crop and May #s reflect that.
  • Not to be overlooked, 2019 Prizm Basketball secured 5 of the top 10 spots.
  • The correlation between slabs being dumped on the market and pricing is not easily understood largely due to a market-wide correction in pricing that is still finding a bottom.

  • Lastly, there is some evidence that grading has been tougher at PSA. However, that assumption is likely to be challenged by the belief that 1) the market has been flooded with amateur graders submitting (what appears to be) 2) a higher distribution of lower quality cards from the manufacturers.

    What's Next?

    Expect to see basketball growth level off in June relative to Pokemon (Logan Paul), football (fall '20 hype and releases), and soccer (August '20 craze) as they are likely to build on the momentum from May.