Throughout the history of our beloved hobby, collectors have always wondered just exactly how scarce their cards are compared to other cards from similar years or eras. It's often perceived that the older a set is, the scarcer it is. Well, generally, that's true. Several factors account for this; principally, it's because the further back you go in time the less likely people were to associate cards with any lasting value and the more likely they were to pitch them upon popping their tobacco or gum into their mouths!

Certain very old sets, specifically the T206, seem almost as commonly seen as Goudeys, Bowmans and Topps, but lack the depth of material in the higher grades. Also, you're more likely to remember a stack of T206 that you see at a show than the stack of 1952 Bowmans sitting next to them; they really are less common! Finally, due to the sheer age of the cards, the older they are the more chances that they've had to have been moved or destroyed.

As we move into the 1950's, 60's and 70's issues from Bowman and Topps, we are able to get a little clearer picture of the available supply from the data put out in the PSA Population Report. The two charts accompanying this text include the same information, but presented two ways. First, you'll see a chronological listing of the 32 most commonly seen sets from the modern era. The purpose of this first chart is to provide a handy reference that summarizes the total number of cards graded within each set as well as break down the ratios of high grade 8's, 9's and 10's. A key element of the chart is what I've called the "Multiple", which is simply the total number of cards graded for the set. This number tells us very little by itself, but when compared to the multiples of sets from a similar era (chart 2) a picture begins to unfold. The purpose of Chart 2 is to rank the sets from each era by multiple, which tells us many things. For example, it's easy to see that only around 18 copies of each card from the 1955 Bowman set have been graded, while an average of over 60 of each 1956 Topps card has gone through PSA. That's a significant difference! Of course, the popularity of the sets and the selection of players definitely have something to do with it, but at least it should help you to know that. Similarly, a 1952 Topps card in a PSA holder is about three times more commonly seen than a 1950 Bowman!

Another interesting irony is that, while we know that cards from the 1950's are less common, generally, than cards from the 1960's and 1970's, the multiples for the older cards are much higher than those of the newer sets! This can be attributed directly to two facts: commons from the 1950's sets are regularly submitted for grading while they aren't for the newer sets, and stars for the newer sets are usually submitted with the expectation of at least an 8, while cards worthy of the EX-MT or NM grades are submitted from the older sets.

Finally, critical information can be gleaned from the percentages of 8's, 9's and 10's from any set from any era, and can go very far towards helping a collector determine the relative scarcity. For example, it's easy to note that a disproportionately high percentage of cards from 1968 and 1969 Topps have been graded MINT 9 by PSA, (around 15% of the total), while under 2% of all 1953 Bowman Colors have been graded 9! Consequently, are 1953 Bowman Colors undervalued? I think so! Take some time and delve into these numbers - if nothing else you'll be much more informed, and e-mail me at Superior Sports with any commentary! Thanks and enjoy your hobby!

Relative Scarcity Study
Year
Issue
Total Graded (E)
# of cards in set

Multiple

(A)

8's
% of Total (B)
9's
% of Total (C)
10's
% of Total (D)
1948
Bowman
1,638
48
34.13
641
39.13
128
7.81
3
0.18
1949
Bowman
4,947
240
20.61
1,796
36.30
207
4.18
11
0.22
1950
Bowman
4,561
252
18.10
2,056
45.08
193
4.23
6
0.13
1951
Bowman
8,244
324
25.44
3,935
47.73
247
3.00
5
0.06
1952
Bowman
7,516
252
29.83
3,228
42.95
324
4.31
9
0.12
1953C
Bowman
7,580
160
47.38
2,881
38.01
149
1.97
1
0.01
1954
Bowman
5,153
224
23.00
2,313
44.89
231
4.48
8
0.16
1955
Bowman
5,754
320
17.98
2,979
51.77
211
3.67
16
0.28
1952
Topps
20,562
407
50.52
6,773
32.94
570
2.77
47
0.23
1953
Topps
10,717
280
38.28
4,786
44.66
295
2.75
3
0.03
1954
Topps
9,795
250
39.18
4,169
42.56
326
3.33
3
0.03
1955
Topps
10,940
206
53.11
4,461
40.78
237
2.17
7
0.06
1956
Topps
20,827
342
60.90
10,041
48.21
826
3.97
25
0.12
1957
Topps
18,666
411
45.42
8,878
47.56
962
5.15
69
0.37
1958
Topps
10,681
495
21.58
4,565
42.74
459
4.30
8
0.07
1959
Topps
12,375
572
21.63
5,699
46.05
671
5.42
13
0.11
1960
Topps
9,698
572
16.95
3,818
39.37
438
4.52
6
0.06
1961
Topps
13,210
589
22.43
6,542
49.52
954
7.22
47
0.36
1962
Topps
10,520
598
17.59
5,435
51.66
802
7.62
14
0.13
1963
Topps
10,076
576
17.49
5,315
52.75
573
5.69
12
0.12
1964
Topps
6,856
587
11.68
3,474
50.67
584
8.52
20
0.29
1965
Topps
8,117
598
13.57
3,893
47.96
675
8.32
13
0.16
1966
Topps
5,032
598
8.41
2,295
45.61
301
5.98
11
0.22
1967
Topps
6,755
609
11.09
3,574
52.91
552
8.17
4
0.06
1968
Topps
9,638
598
16.12
3,742
38.83
1,408
14.61
173
1.79
1969
Topps
8,144
664
12.27
3,619
44.44
1,420
17.44
62
0.76
1970
Topps
3,849
740
5.20
1,789
46.48
206
5.35
7
0.18
1971
Topps
3,849
752
5.12
2,222
57.73
138
3.59
5
0.13
1972
Topps
4,616
787
5.87
2,134
46.23
427
9.25
12
0.26
1973
Topps
2,852
660
4.32
1,250
43.83
369
12.94
37
1.30
1974
Topps
2,479
660
3.76
1,085
43.77
383
15.45
17
0.69
1975
Topps
4,750
660
7.20
2,317
48.78
350
7.37
12
0.25
 
(A) The multiple is the average number of each card graded from the set, determining relative scarcity (B) Normal 8 range of 35 - 55% (C) Normal 9 range of 2 - 8% (D) Normal 10 range of .10 - .30 % (E) All numbers are from the Fall 1999 PSA Population Report
 
Sorted by Multiple, Least Common to Most Common
1960's:
 
1966 Topps
5,032
598
8.41
2,295
45.61
301
5.98
11
0.22
1967 Topps
6,755
609
11.09
3,574
52.91
552
8.17
4
0.06
1964 Topps
6,856
587
11.68
3,474
50.67
584
8.52
20
0.29
1969 Topps
8,144
664
12.27
3,619
44.44
1,420
17.44
62
0.76
1965 Topps
8,117
598
13.57
3,893
47.96
675
8.32
13
0.16
1968 Topps
9,638
598
16.12
3,742
38.83
1,408
14.61
173
1.79
1960 Topps
9,698
572
16.95
3,818
39.37
438
4.52
6
0.06
1963 Topps
10,076
576
17.49
5,315
52.75
573
5.69
12
0.12
1962 Topps
10,520
598
17.59
5,435
51.66
802
7.62
14
0.13
1961 Topps
13,210
589
22.43
6,542
49.52
954
7.22
47
0.36
1959 & earlier:
 
1955 Bowman
5,754
320
17.98
2,979
51.77
211
3.67
16
0.28
1950 Bowman
4,561
252
18.10
2,056
45.08
193
4.23
6
0.13
1949 Bowman
4,947
240
20.61
1,796
36.30
207
4.18
11
0.22
1958 Topps
10,681
495
21.58
4,565
42.74
459
4.30
8
0.07
1959 Topps
12,375
572
21.63
5,699
46.05
671
5.42
13
0.11
1954 Bowman
5,153
224
23.00
2,313
44.89
231
4.48
8
0.16
1951 Bowman
8,244
324
25.44
3,935
47.73
247
3.00
5
0.06
1952 Bowman
7,516
252
29.83
3,228
42.95
324
4.31
9
0.12
1948 Bowman
1,638
48
34.13
641
39.13
128
7.81
3
0.18
1953 Topps
10,717
280
38.28
4,786
44.66
295
2.75
3
0.03
1954 Topps
9,795
250
39.18
4,169
42.56
326
3.33
3
0.03
1957 Topps
18,666
411
45.42
8,878
47.56
962
5.15
69
0.37
1953C Bowman
7,580
160
47.38
2,881
38.01
149
1.97
1
0.01
1952 Topps
20,562
407
50.52
6,773
32.94
570
2.77
47
0.23
1955 Topps
10,940
206
53.11
4,461
40.78
237
2.17
7
0.06
1956 Topps
20,827
342
60.90
10,041
48.21
826
3.97
25
0.12
 



Chris Porter handles both Direct Sales and Auctions for Superior Sports Auctions of Traverse City, Michigan. He can be reached at (231) 922 - 9862.