Understanding PSA pop & how recent is recent?

Hello, I’m trying to understand how graded cards work. The 2 main questions I have are:

  1. When do I consider a pop to be low? [Do I take into consideration the number of cards released and the number of psa10 vs psa9? What about the interest people have in getting the card graded(i.e.: not valuable atm, but once the card gains value then everyone starts grading their copies)]

  2. When a card is considered recent? If it has less than X years? X=?

As an example: I’m considering buying a few psa graded cards of the Legend time period (2009-2010). Do I consider those cards to be recent or old? If a card has a pop of 30 psa10 and 9 psa9 and was awarded at a tournament what do I deduce? (e.g.: is it scarce? there’s no interest in grading the card…)
I’d also need the number of cards released for that specific card and/or how many people were collcting them in 2010, but that’s impossible :l

Thanks for the help, some parts probably need to be clarified since I most likely expressed myself wrongly^^

To be honest I would disregard POP, the ancient E4 meme is to just collect what you like don’t get caught up in what is low POP. However POP can be useful to see how difficult a particular card might be to grade, especially for WOTC.

I would say recent would be modern EX card era and up. Very few Pokemon cards are actually ‘scarce’, scarce to me means you have been looking everyday for a year with no luck also just because a card doesn’t pop up on eBay often doesn’t mean it is scarce.

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Just looking at the PSA population report for a particular set will only tell you so much. The main thing you’ll know at a glance is which cards in the set are the hardest to grade relative to the other cards in the set.

Let’s compare PSA population reports for a few different cards -

1st edition Charizard (Base Set):
PSA 10: 120 (5.1%)
PSA 9: 632 (26.7%)
PSA 8: 484 (20.4%)
PSA 7: 304 (12.8%)
PSA 1-6: 830 (35.1%)
Total: 2,368

1st edition Chansey (Base Set):
PSA 10: 46 (4.5%)
PSA 9: 343 (33.8%)
PSA 8: 275 (27.1%)
PSA 7: 130 (12.8%)
PSA 1-6: 223 (21.2%)
Total: 1,015

1st edition Fighting Energy (Base Set):
PSA 10: 472 (49.5%)
PSA 9: 398 (41.8%)
PSA 8: 58 (6.1%)
PSA 7: 6 (0.6%)
PSA 1-6: 19 (2.0%)
Total: 953

1st edition Ampharos (Neo Genesis):
PSA 10: 155 (28.5%)
PSA 9: 279 (51.3%)
PSA 8: 59 (10.8%)
PSA 7: 26 (4.8%)
PSA 1-6: 25 (4.6%)
Total: 544

1st edition Slowking (Neo Genesis):
PSA 10: 10 (1.8%)
PSA 9: 186 (32.7%)
PSA 8: 257 (45.2%)
PSA 7: 83 (14.6%)
PSA 1-6: 33 (5.8%)
Total: 569

1st edition Fighting Energy (Neo Genesis):
PSA 10: 9 (50.0%)
PSA 9: 8 (44.4%)
PSA 8: 1 (5.6%)
PSA 7: 0 (0.0%)
PSA 1-6: 0 (0.0%)
Total: 18

So, what kinds of conclusions can we extract from this data? Among other things:

* Given that the same number of Chanseys and Charizards were produced and 2.3x as many Charizards were submitted to PSA, people were more likely to think that any 1st edition Charizard should be submitted to PSA (the gap has actually narrowed in recent years with the rise of prices in general, back in the day many people would only have seen the Charizard as worthy of submitting to PSA).

* Given that people have more selectively sent Chanseys to PSA compared to Charizards and there is still a lower % of pop 10s, Chansey is likely significantly harder to grade as a 10.

* In Neo Genesis there is an even greater disparity between the easiest-to-grade and hardest-to-grade cards. Ampharos and Slowking have almost the same number of submissions but Slowking is 16x harder to grade as a 10 compared to Ampharos (some of this may have to do with PSA 9 Slowkings being re-submitted to PSA, but the relatively even total population between the two cards shows that for the most part people are probably just submitting once).

* The PSA 10 pop of a 1st edition Fighting Energy (Neo Genesis) is even lower than a 1st edition Slowking. Why is that? Well, the obvious conclusion is that because people don’t think the card is worth grading. This tells you that *almost* no one is actually trying to collect a complete set of PSA 10 1st edition Neo Genesis (which given the population of the rarest holos makes perfect sense). In contrast, it is clear that more people see value in grading literally ANY mint 1st edition base set card.

But there’s still more that’s not being seen… and for that you would really need to understand a couple of things that don’t show up in the data. Namely, how rare is the sealed product for the set? How expensive is the sealed product and how frequently is it being opened? And what are the historical trends in population growth? All of these questions must be considered because the data doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Let’s consider simply the last question I asked - how much have the populations of various cards been growing?

Well, here’s how much a few of the cards I mentioned have seen their populations increase since December 2018:

PSA 10 1st edition Charizard (Base Set): +1
PSA 10 1st edition Chansey (Base Set): +0
PSA 10 1st edition Fighting Energy (Base Set): +64

PSA 10 1st edition Ampharos (Neo Genesis): +35
PSA 10 1st edition Slowking (Neo Genesis): +2
PSA 10 1st edition Fighting Energy (Neo Genesis): +1

(This data comes from pokemonprice.com. See the tab at the top of efour. They have data going back to 2017.)

So what does this tell me?

* The fact that almost no new Charizards and Chanseys have graded as a 10 in the last couple of years tell me that any population of ungraded mint copies of these cards has already been drained and that the sealed product is far too expensive for anyone to open.

* The population increase in the Ampharos tells me that in the last couple of years more people have recognized the value of mint 1st edition Neo Genesis cards. More people now recognize that any mint WOTC 1st edition holo is worth getting professionally graded.

* The Fighting Energy population increase for Base Set vs Neo Genesis continues to tell the story that people see any mint 1st edition Base Set card as worthy of grading, but very few people see 1st edition Neo Genesis the same way.

Generally speaking, you’ll notice that population growth staggers to a halt once the raw mint copies have been drained out of the population the and price of sealed product becomes too expensive to open.

Of course, there is yet another factor if a set has little population growth - people simply don’t care about a set. If cards from a random 2012 set aren’t seeing a big increase in the PSA population, it may simply be because no one cares. That’s why you’ll also want to check the price of the sealed product and see the quantity of sealed product being sold.


Just dont take pop reports too serious, only for well stablished sets in the hobby. Ebay “POP 1” titles are crap, cos no one would ever grade that card so it means nothing.

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Thank you both for your answers!

@shizzlemetimbers, I need to know this stuff because it helps me come up with a price for what I want to buy. If I can understand how graded cards work I’ll have a better chance at finding a good deal or talking with the seller to lower the price by providing him/her with an argument that makes sense^^

@hyruleguardian, Thank you for the super detailed explanation! When it comes to promos awarded at tournaments is there something else that takes part in the process? And I forgot about checking the psa sold trend on pokemon price, definetly something I’m not used to when it comes to graded cards^^

@papafrankgod, Thanks! I wanted to understand pop to try and guess the history/interests of a certain card and possible value

If a set was not heavily graded for years, pop report means nothing imo. Also pop report is never accurate at all, cos people break cases and submit again without sending the label back.

The pop report is a resource, not an absolute answer. It requires hobby knowledge and vocab to understand the context.

A few general points, most set cards past Nintendo Ex are not graded due to lack of interest.

Also re-grades inflate many cards/sets. Some rare cards have almost 25% regrades in the pop (looking at you University Magikarp).

Given that some people crack open their PSA case and re-submit a card to get a higher grade without sending in the label. Wouldn’t this mean that at least the PSA 10 pop is accurate?

I’m interested mostly in promo cards (for example the L-P promo cards like Burned Tower or Copycat), cards awarded at something and that should hold some rarity and value without having to consider trophy cards and super expensive stuff.

For example Burned Tower has 28 psa10, a psa9, 4 psa8, 1 psa7, a psa5;
while Copycat has 25 psa10, 6 psa9, 1 psa8.

So there shouldn’t be a re-grading problem and there’s a lot of psa10 compared to the lower grades. Also they are 10years older and awarded to the top 3winners(BT) and awarded to the top winners (C), what could I deduce from that?

I would think this to be the case. Also I’m sure that PSA 9 pop report for 1st base Charizard is so heavily skewed it’s laughable. Think about how many have been cracked and resubmitted in hopes of 10s, or cracked and sent to BGS hoping for a 9.5. I can’t see people cracking and submitting their PSA 9 Chanseys to BGS.

No *actually rare* card ever needs to be listed as “low pop”. The term is just used to make common items artificially rare.

The question about what “recent” means is super subjective. To many people, anything past wotc is modern