One of the terms you seen thrown around a lot in the Pokemon collectibles sphere is "pop report". A pop report or population report is a valuable tool when assessing the rarity of a card as well as its value when taken in a broader context including the popularity of the card/artwork, the rarity of the set, and how difficult it is to grade. In this article, we're going to explore what a pop report is, what it means for the value or collectibility of your graded Pokemon cards, and how to use and interpret it.
What is a Pop Report?
A graded card pop report is a database that provides information about the population of graded cards for a specific trading card set or series. Graded cards are cards that have been professionally evaluated and given a grade based on their condition, and the pop report provides information about how many of each graded card has been issued by a particular grading company (PSA, CGC, or BGS).
Typically, the pop report will include information about the total number of cards that have been graded, the grades that have been assigned to each card, and the distribution of those grades. It may also include information about the rarity of certain cards within the set or series, as well as the overall condition of the graded cards.
Pop reports are used by collectors, dealers, and investors to get a sense of the market for a particular set or series of trading cards, and can be helpful in determining the value of individual cards or the overall market for a set. For example, a card with a low population of Gem Mint 10s may be more valuable than a card with a high population of Gem Mint 10s.
How does the pop report affect card value?
The graded card pop report can affect the value of a particular card in a number of ways. One of the main factors that can affect a card's value is its rarity, and the pop report can provide information about the relative rarity of a particular card within a set or series or at least in terms of how many of that card have been graded. If a card is rare, it may be more valuable because it is harder to find, and the pop report can help collectors and investors determine the rarity of a particular card assuming that a certain percentage of any given card gets graded over time.
In addition to rarity, the condition of a card can also affect its value. Graded cards are assigned a grade based on their condition, and the pop report can provide information about the overall condition of the graded cards within a set or series. If a card is in particularly good condition, it may be more valuable because it is more visually appealing and likely to be in better condition than other cards. One thing to keep in mind is that the distribution of grades (number of 10s, 9s, etc) can also tell us about print condition/quality of the card coming out of the pack. Some cards are notorious for how bad the print quality was (see Burning Shadows Charizard for example) and you will tend to see lower grades overall. For vintage cards, there is generally lower populations of high grades because it is rare to find them in pack fresh condition.
Finally, the demand for a particular set or series of trading cards can also affect the value of individual cards. If there is a high demand for a particular set or series, the value of the cards within that set or series may increase. The pop report can provide information about the overall demand for a particular set or series, which can help collectors and investors determine the value of individual cards. If a card is deemed to be in high demand, there tends to be more of that card sent to grading because the time and money involved in grading the card makes good financial sense. But keep in mind that this may be at odds with the rarity of the card and this is where some knowledge about the Pokemon collectibles market and trends is helpful to provide context.
How to use a Pop Report
First let's actually go over the steps for finding and accessing pop reports. All three major grading companies, PSA, CGC, and BGS have publicly available pop reports. You can search by card name, set name, or the card number. The card number is the best way to verify you are looking at the information for the correct card. As with our last article, I'm going to use the Umbreon VMAX Alt Art from Evolving Skies as my example card. Here are the pop reports for this card from the three major grading companies:
PSA Pop Report:
CGC Pop Report:
BGS Pop Report:
What the reports are telling us is that there have been about 6,500 copies of this card graded among the big three grading companies with the bulk of those taking place at PSA. And 4,000 of the cards graded received a Gem Mint 10 grade and that tells us two things... One, this is a very popular card to grade and a card that grades well meaning that it is in generally good condition out of the pack and has a very high chance of hitting a 10. Two, people will most likely continue to grade this card as it is from a current set still in production meaning that the number of this card existing in the world will continue to grow. Chances are this card over time will have a huge number of Gem Mint 10s in existence and if you are just looking at this as a collector, that's probably a good thing and you can easily find a 10 to purchase or have a good chance of hitting a 10 if you grade a raw copy of the card. Now if you looking at this in terms of buying and selling, you'll need to consider the current and trending value of the card. Check out our article on How to Research Pokemon Card Values for more information on that.
We can also use the pop reports to help us decide where to grade our card. Notice that 80% of the cards sent to PSA received a 10, 13% of the cards sent to CGC received a Perfect or Pristine 10, and 31% of the cards sent to BGS received a Pristine 10 or Black Label. You can look at this two when considering the value of grading with one company or another (see What Pokemon Card Grading Service is Best)... One, with PSA you appear to have a much, much higher chance of getting a 10 so it feels like a safe bet to grade with them if that is your goal. Two, there are so many PSA 10s of this card on the market that is may actually hurt the value of the card and you may be better grading with CGC or BGS in the hopes of hitting a Pristine 10 or Black Label respectively.
Final Thoughts on the Pop Report
The grading companies' pop reports are very helpful when gathering information about the collectibility and rarity of a given card BUT that information should be looked at in a broader context with at least some knowledge of the Pokemon card market. It should be one part of your decision making process and can be just a fun thing to track for cards you own or hope to own. Check out our other posts about grading for more information. Going Twice is always happy to help in the process and we are a certified CGC Dealer.