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The PSA Water is Wide, but is it Deep?

“It’s just a fad.”

“There are so few collectors of them that it will be hard to sell.”

“The cases destroy cards. I wouldn’t do it.”
“Pretty much everyone hates PSA-graded cards.”

Pokemon collectors are weird about PSA graded cards. As PSA grading has made a stronger and stronger stance in the market, fueled by the increasing legitimacy of the hobby itself and continued lion share of non-sports TCG markets, the collecting world has been pushed into two separate camps. On the one end, collectors embrace all of the positive attributes PSA grading brings to the hobby. On the other end, collectors stuck in their memories of cheap binder sets and widespread ignorance yielding frequent underpricing resist PSA grading on every front. No other hobby has resisted PSA grading so aggressively in modern years. While I can go into more depth on the details of why Pokemon collectors have mixed emotions about third-party grading and authentication, today I want to focus on testing PSA haters go-to attack: “PSA grading is too niche for everyone to do it.”

First, let me say this: the naysayers are correct to a certain extent. If EVERYONE began PSA grading overnight, there would be a period of time where the supply greatly exceeds the demand. That would likely hold true while collectors shifted their interests to accommodate what is available. But this is not a practical criticism of the market as it stands and the hypothetical is overreaching.

What we do know: The demand for PSA graded Pokemon cards is keeping pace with the increased supply.

How we know it: First, let’s lay down the facts. As of the first week of June 2017, searching “PSA Pokemon” on eBay yields 15,218 search results. Change the search filters to “sold listings” and you’ll get 13,969 results.” PSA’s Pop Report shows two massive swellings: 1999 and 2016. Pokemon’s early WOTC sets make sense for grading bubbles but 2016’s 20th anniversary releases account for over 20,000 graded cards in the Pop Report as of this posting.

People are grading. People are buying graded. These are facts. Let’s look at two case studies that further show the depth of grading desirability.

Case Study #1: PWCC Auctions 500+ PSA 10 ex/EX Cards (mostly modern)

The week of May 14th, 2017 caught a lot of high-end PSA graded Pokemon collectors off guard. Pre-War Card Collectors (PWCC), one of the largest and best-known consignment services on eBay put up a private collection that included over 500 PSA 10 Pokemon cards. If these were all base set, no one would be surprised. What made this a unique set of auctions was the assortment of cards and the prices they ended at. All of the cards came from two commonly overlooked eras of collecting. Roughly 30% of the auctions were PSA 10 ex’s from the mid-2000 sets. While both graded and ungraded Gold Stars are actively fetching their highest prices ever right now, the other ultra rares from these sets were not known to be highly desired with the exception of exTRR and exFRLG. The other roughly 70& of the auctions were cards from the Black and White and XY blocks. EXs, Full Art EXs, Shiny Secret Rares, and BREAKs were all up for grabs in PSA 10. This assortment all hitting the market at once in auction format was brand new. Forums and social media groups buzzed about the auctions as they were first listed but really flared when they finished. Every single card earned huge premiums over the mint, ungraded counterparts and most set records for highest publicly earned price. With many having populations less than 5 for the PSA 10 version, this is not a huge surprise overall. The shocker is in the extent to which they earned premiums. Suicune ex from exTMvTA earned $500. Regular EX cards worth $2-5 in mint, ungraded condition yielded $25 minimum with many pushing the $50 mark. This set of auctions was incredibly important for PSA graded market analysis because it proved that there were not just a handful of buyers paying high prices. Instead, these auctions all happened with finite listing time and sold for market-defining prices to hundreds of different buyers.

Case Study #2: Full Art M Charizard EX (101/108) in PSA 10

As of writing this post, 1147 Full Art M Charizard EX (101/108) have been graded from Pokemon’s Evolutions set. With the US grading service for the month of June 2017 we are going to be submitting 11 more. Ludkins Collectables has submitted these on every order since the card came out. Of the 1147 graded, 835 are PSA 10s. While ungraded, Near Mint/Mint copies are consistently selling between $18 and $20, the PSA 10 versions are still averaging a $70 price tag through eBay. 21 copies are for sale on eBay right now and 7 have sold in the last week. This card proves that even with over 800 PSA 10s of a specific Charizard on the market, they still consistently sell at a huge premium over their ungraded counterparts. Where the PWCC auctions tested the depth of the market for the “niche” end of the hobby, figures for the Full Art M Charizard EX in PSA 10 show the depth of the PSA graded market amongst the most sought-after cards.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I believe it is safe to say that PSA graded cards are going nowhere. We can see the strength of the market for PSA-graded cards from every major era in Pokemon. The supply and demand for Pokemon cards have a healthy relationship reflected in the availability and sales of the cards. The idea that you can grade your cards and yield a worthwhile financial result is not a silly rumor: it is a proven fact. And if the trends suggest anything for PSA graded cards from yester-years, getting your PSA 10s as they come out will save you a pretty penny. 

'til next time, 

Charlie Hurlocker