In modern hobby parlance, “PSA Pop Report” has become something like a 21st century equivalent to the “Beckett HI” and “Beckett LO” that helped guide prices ever upward during the boom years of the 1980s and 1990s.
No, the PSA Population Report doesn’t give us values, at least not directly. And it’s probably not as universally cited as the old Becket Monthly was.
But, just like Beckett, the PSA Pop Report is an indispensable tool for collectors who want really understand the modern hobby and how the baseball cards they love fit into the overall market picture.
Indeed, every collector can benefit from understanding this hobby staple, so let’s take some time to dig in to the particulars, shall we?
Yeah, we shall.
“PSA Pop Report” is short for “PSA Population Report,” a free resource maintained by — you guessed it — PSA, or Professional Sports Authenticator.
As you likely already know, PSA is the oldest and largest card grader in the industry, having opened their doors way back in 1991. As you might imagine, the grading giant has handled enormous volumes of sports cards (and non-sports cards, for that matter) during their three-plus decades in business.
And they’ve kept track of every one of them — year, make card #, player pictured … and the condition grade PSA ultimately assigned to that card.
That’s where the PSA Pop Report comes in: it’s basically the physical, external face of the massive PSA database, displaying how many of each grade of each card of each set the company has handed out over the years.
So, for instance, if you go to the 1985 Topps baseball population report, you can see (as of September 2022) that handled 42 total Steve Garvey Record Breaker cards (#2), with 21 of them grading a PSA 9, 14 checking in at PSA 10, five PSA 8s, and one each at PSA 6 and PSA 7.
The population report is exactly what it’s name says, then: a report of the population — or count — of each card-condition combination.
The PSA Pop Report can help collectors make good hobby decisions in a number of ways, starting with allowing us to hone in the relative scarcity of various cards across the condition spectrum.
For instance, the 1979 Topps population report shows that there have been zero Dennis Eckersley cards (through September 2022) that graded out at a perfect 10, even though PSA has processed more than 400 of the cards. By contrast, 13 of the 200 Vida Blue cards have come back graded PSA 10.
Information like that can help us identify condition scarcity — cards that may be widely available but that show up in top grades only rarely — which can be a boon if you find top-notch “raw” copies in the wild for bargain prices.
Similarly, this population information can give you a pretty good idea of the odds you face when submitting your own cards for grading. If you own an Eckersley card, for example, history says there’s little chance it will receive a “10” grade, so that might influence your decision about whether or not to have the card graded at all.
After all, the value gap between a PSA 10 and a PSA 9 can be enormous, and grading is not an inexpensive proposition.
Not quite, but there is generally a Population Report for every card and set that you might find graded and for sale on the market. The exception might be some sets that PSA processed once upon a time but has since removed from their list of supported issues.