It’s a frequent message board debate: Is SGC closing the gap with PSA for vintage values? Folks tend to respond with anecdotes and made-up statistics. Several years ago, most SGC other than prewar did carry about a 25% “penalty.” SGC market share was tiny—and at best they were best considered a boutique prewar grader.

Enter COVID, the infamous PSA backlog, and SGC’s successful scale-up to help absorb the market demand. SGC has held onto those gains, to the point that they were enough of a competitor to warrant a purchase by Collector’s. So, where do things stand today? Is there still an SGC “penalty” or is SGC competing on more even ground?

Difficult Question to Answer

First, let’s acknowledge that question of whether SGC is closing the gap for vintage is difficult to answer. First, what’s vintage? Second, how do we arrive at an overall value comparison? Do we chart monthly sales of every single vintage card? (Not practical).

While not directly related to values, vintage market share of each brand is worth some acknowledgement. While PSA dominates SGC in total grading market share, vintage is very close between the two leading brands. According to Gemrate data PSA graded about 19,000 cards1950’s and earlier in May. SGC graded about 18,200 cards from that same era. Given that PSA grades more than 4x cards as SGC overall, this dead heat is very telling. And if we could single out prewar specifically, SGC probably leads. (Note: to get the total items graded you need to multiply total sports items graded by the percentage of 1950’s and earlier).

But market share is not sales, obviously. So, how can we attempt to compare apples to apples?


  • For iconic vintage, PSA still holds an overall edge in closed auction prices.
  • For “everyday collector” vintage, SGC and PSA are valued about the same in the marketplace.
  • For prewar, SGC holds an edge.

Vintage Price Index: Comparing Icons

Last month I wrote a data-driven vintage market report. “The vintage market” is also a tough thing to grasp in any concrete way, but I devised a relatively simple way to track some broad overall market dynamics by homing in on some key vintage cards that are both iconic but also in the budget wheelhouse of most vintage collectors. ’52 Mantle and other monster cards are excluded here by design. But the methodology here can be repeated with any cards to study price trends, and I’ll tackle other segments in future .

To this end, I cobbled together a Vintage Price Index (handy acronym, VPI—sounds official!) consisting of the following cards in the following grades:

1. 1948 Leaf Jackie, 2 grade

2. 1953 Topps Satchel Paige, 3 grade

3. 1956 Topps Mantle, 4 grade

4. 1968 Topps Ryan, 5 grade

5. 1971 Topps Clemente, 6 grade

The goal here was to choose somewhat iconic cards from across the spectrum of vintage—recognizable cards in relatively “affordable” grades. If you are a serious vintage collector, you have owned at least one of these or at least wanted to!

The Methodology

While it’s interesting that many of the top vintage sales of all time are recent sales of iconic cards in SGC holders, that fact doesn’t do much for me. For one, a mint ’52 Mantle will sell well regardless of the holder, so long as we are talking SGC and PSA.

Second, that’s not a card I could ever afford anyway—nor can most collectors. So if one holder carries a premium in that space, great—but irrelevant to most of us.

For the market report, I used PSA data only, since it was easiest to gather. For this project, I will use VCP data as the easiest and perhaps most reliable way to gather PSA and SGC data to compare. I will also scour eBay to make sure nothing is missed there. I will use the same cards and grades here to avoid any charges of cherry-picking.

The idea is to compare the most recent 5 auction sales of each card, in the specified grade, and in each brand’s plastic. The result will be a recent average value for each card, making a PSA vs. SGC value comparison relatively accurate and fair. It will provide us with a few tiny data points from which we can argue or build.

I also examined data for several “less iconic” but still desirable cards (like a low-grade 1957 Topps Hank Aaron, for example) and some low-grade prewar (Goudey Ruth in a 1 grade, for example). The idea was to try to form some conclusions about how PSA and SGC compare and compete in different market segments.

The Results Part 1: Advantage PSA for Iconic Vintage

For my homebrew Index, PSA is the clear overall head-to-head value leader, as seen below:

Card Grade PSA Average SGC Average Difference
1948 Leaf Jackie 2 $7,710 $7,252 6%
1953 Topps Paige 3 $838 $778 7%
1956 Topps Mantle 4 $1659 $1407 15%
1968 Topps Ryan 5 $1020 $883 13%
1971 Topps Clemente 6 $336 $276 18%


What About Non-Icons? It’s A Wash

Interestingly, when we bump down the desirability scale just a tad, things even out significantly. Not only has SGC closed the gap but often they outsell PSA. You can try this on your own with any cards, but let’s look at a 1957 Hank Aaron in VG / 3 grade. Average of last 5 PSA auctions is $182 and SGC is $179. I repeated this experiment with several dozen cards (later career Mays and Clementes, non-iconic HOF rookies like Joe Morgan, etc.) and the results went both ways about evenly. I can do a deeper dive here in a later article.

What About Prewar? Advantage SGC, Mostly

We can’t just make blanket assumptions—but from my VCP analysis, most prewar favors SGC. Even Babe is not immune to the trend! Does it get any more iconic than 1933 Goudey Ruth 181? Last 5 PSA 2 auctions average $6142, and last 5 SGC 2 auctions average $7983. It’s a small sample size, but again, I repeated the process for several prewar staples and the results leaned SGC much more often.


Full disclosure, I own no PSA. I prefer the look, service, and consistency of SGC grades for vintage, period. If my cards are worth a bit less—well, I’m also buying them for less, so it’s a wash there as well. And card for card, I just think the edge goes to SGC in terms of the appeal of the actual card in the slab. Personal opinion / observation. And fuller disclosure, none of the companies mentioned in this article paid Cardhound for any aspect of this report.

What the future holds remains to be seen now that both companies are owned by the same parent, but my guess is that SGC will continue to thrive in vintage, and even if the gap remains, the market will remain strong.

SGC could close the gap entirely, I think, by rolling out a robust set registry. The impact of registry on PSA vintage values overall is probably underestimated. But there seems to be plenty of room for both brands in the overall vintage market.