At the beginning of 2022 it seemed like the card market “party” would continue without missing a beat. Buying and selling with 100% margins were becoming the rule and not the exception. In the first half of 2022 it appeared as if collectors, flippers, and everyone in between would continue profiting off the hobby’s boom.
As recently as late April 2022, ultra-modern cards (2009 and later) were still making gains. But then things got rocky. According to the Card Ladder index, ultra-modern cards are down on the year by 35%. The Modern Card index (1984-2008) is down 34% for the year.
In reaction to the downturn in modern cards, some hobbyists saw vintage cards as a safe “store of value” – and with good reason. The Card Ladder pre-war vintage index was up 29% for the year.
As a whole, vintage cards, defined by Card Ladder as cards released between 1946 and 1984, were down 5% for the year. While a negative return for the year may not be much to brag about, the losses in vintage – as a whole – have not been quite as dramatic as in the modern market.
But vintage is also cooling down. Pre-war vintage, while up considerably on the year, is down 9% in the past 3 months. The last three months have seen vintage cards lose a large chunk of value, decreasing by nearly 11%.
Most Graded Sets
With the increased perception of vintage cards as stores of value, the number of submissions to grading companies increased. According to data provided by Ryan Stuczynski, founder of GemRate, there were 562,000 vintage cards graded last year by PSA, SGC, and CSG. PSA saw a dramatic rise in vintage submissions in the second half of the year.
This year’s most graded vintage set (pre-1970) was 1968 Topps baseball. What stands out most in the data is the increase in submissions in the second half of 2022.
Ten of the top 11 vintage sets graded by PSA this year (all baseball), saw more than a 250% increase in submissions in the second half of the year. Submissions for 1967 Topps Baseball increased by 385% in the second half of 2022.
For context, approximately 2,700 cards from 1967 Topps baseball were submitted in the first half of 2022. The second half saw about 13,000 submissions. The 1968 Topps baseball set had approximately 4,200 submissions in the first half. There were 16,500 submissions from July through December.
Much of this is due to the company pushing through the backlog and reestablishing lower cost options for grading in quantity in the second half of the year. It’s also possible that with the downturn in the modern market in May, some speculated into the vintage market to try to extend a waning bull market.
The highest graded basketball set was 1969-70 Topps with more than 5,300 submissions. 1969 Topps was also the most graded football set by PSA, but football trailed considerably in popularity.
About 2,160 submissions were made for the 1969 Topps football set while the top 16 baseball sets had more than 210,000 submissions combined. By comparison, 1966 Topps Batman had nearly as many submissions with 2,140.
SGC also saw an uptick in submissions but not as dramatic as PSA. For instance, the 1968 Topps baseball set, the fifth-most graded set by SGC only saw a 4% increase in the second half of the year.
Where SGC really saw an uptick was in pre-war vintage, specifically with the T206 sets. 1909 Old Mill backs saw a 94% increase, 1910 Piedmont backs were up 93%, and 1909 Piedmont backs were up 83%.
SGC’s most graded baseball set was 1958 Topps with about 500 more submissions than the second set on the list, 1960 Topps. Both sets saw a 12% and 11% increase, respectively, in the second half of the year.
Most Popular Players
Based on data provided by GemRate, the most graded players from the past were nearly identical across PSA, SGC, and CSG. The most graded players by PSA and SGC, in order, were:
- Mickey Mantle
- Willie Mays
- Hank Aaron
- Roberto Clemente.
The next most graded players by the major grading companies were Ernie Banks and Sandy Koufax.
Among non-baseball players, two names appeared on both PSA’s and SGC’s Top 50 list – Pele and Jim Brown. They were the only two non-baseball players to appear on the PSA list. Jesse Owens also appeared on SGCs Top 50 list. Muhammad Ali, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, and Brown were the only non-baseball players to make CSGs Top 50 list.
Most Graded Vintage Cards of 2022
Below is a list of the most popular vintage cards graded by PSA and SGC. It’s not surprising and pretty clear that Mickey Mantle cards are far and away some of the most newly slabbed vintage cards.
However, the single most graded vintage card in 2022, combining PSA and SGC, was the 1968 Topps Mets Rookies #177 – the rookie card shared by Nolan Ryan and Jerry Koosman saw 2,434 submissions in 2022.
Also of note, the number of collectors who submitted their Jackie Robinson cards to SGC instead of PSA. The 1954 Topps Robinson was submitted to PSA 554 times, less than half the amount submitted to SGC.
- 1968 Topps Mets Rookies (Koosman/Ryan Rookies) 1,420
- 1966 Topps Mickey Mantle 1,292
- 1968 Topps Mickey Mantle 1,222
- 1968 Topps Reds Rookies (Bench/Tompkins Rookies) 1,179
- 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson 1,157
- 1969 Topps Mickey Mantle 991
- 1960 Topps Carl Yastrzemski 982
- 1967 Topps Mickey Mantle 974
- 1958 Topps Mickey Mantle 973
- 1964 Topps Mickey Mantle 945
- 1968 Topps Tom Seaver 866
- 1954 Topps Jackie Robinson 1,162
- 1966 Topps Mickey Mantle 1,030
- 1968 Topps Mets Rookies (Nolan Ryan) 1,014
- 1957 Topps Yankees’ Power Hitters (Mantle/Berra) 997
- 1968 Topps Mickey Mantle 988
- 1958 Topps Mickey Mantle (All-Star) 980
- 1968 Topps Reds Rookies (Johnny Bench) 810
- 1964 Topps Mickey Mantle 738
- 1969 Topps Mickey Mantle 725
- 1967 Topps Mickey Mantle 724
- 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson 724
Other star players like Babe Ruth and Christy Mathewson were also among PSA’s Top 50 most graded. However, their numbers are much lower given the greater scarcity of pre-war cards.
GemRate founder Stuczynski notes that while the vintage market saw an increase in grading, they only accounted for a little more than 4% of all submissions to PSA, SGC, CSG, and Beckett in 2022, including trading card game (TCG) submissions.