Guide to Sports Card Grading

The concept of sports card grading has been around for decades.  Early collectors like Jefferson Burdick, Buck Barker and Lionel Carter gave grades to their baseball cards, even if they were a little different than some of the terms we use today.  “Professional” grading has only been around since the 1990s, however.

It wasn’t until Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) was born that cards were viewed by independent third party graders, assigned a numerical and corresponding word (gem mint, mint, near mint-mint, near mint, excellent-mint, excellent, etc., etc.) and placed in a slab for safe keeping.

Since that time, we’ve seen other grading companies come (and some go).  At the moment, PSA is joined by Sportscard Guaranty (SGC) and Beckett Grading Services (BGS)  as the most widely recognized graders in the hobby.  That isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

While their methods, holders and labeling may be different, the concept is the same.  Third party grading is meant to give the buyer and seller a point at which they can agree regarding the condition of any trading card.

PSA now uses ‘half grades’ for cards its graders feel are ‘tweeners’…cards that are better than one full grade but not as good as the next  highest full grade.  SGC uses two digits..starting at 10, going to 20 and upward through 98.  It also includes a numeric grade below its own number that generally matches what PSA uses.  Beckett uses half grades and also assigns individual grades for corners, centering,etc.

PSA grades more cards than any other company.  SGC is often lauded for its grading of pre-World War II cards while Beckett is often the choice for modern issues.  However, all three grade cards of all eras.  It’s usually just a matter of personal preference, price, service, etc.

Graded cards often sell at a premium, although sometimes if the grade isn’t what you’d hoped for, the cost of the grading may be more than what the card is worth.  This is where bargains can be found on eBay.  For instance, PSA 7 cards are very nice and common cards from the 1960s and 70s in that grade (and even 8s) can often be found online for $5 and less.  You’ll build a nice collection for a cheap price.

When determining whether to have your cards graded, it’s best to consult a dealer to see what he thinks they would grade if sent in.  Newcomers often overstate the grade of their cards.  In the case of sports card grading, mint means just that—mint.  Razor sharp corners, good centering, no print flaws, scuffing or other issues.  Until you’re certain of your ability to grade, it’s best to buy a few cards in various grades or look at online guides to see what constitutes a specific numeric grade.




1956 Topps Baseball #314 Hobie Landrith PSA 7 Near Mint
1956 Topps Baseball #314 Hobie Landrith PSA 7 Near Mint
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1977 O-PEE-CHEE #161 JIM ROOKER PIRATES POP 6 PSA 9 B2075911-733
1977 O-PEE-CHEE #161 JIM ROOKER PIRATES POP 6 PSA 9 B2075911-733
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2001 ALBERT PUJOLS ROOKIES #T247 TOPPS TRADED & #295 UPPER DECK BGS 8.5  NM/MT+
2001 ALBERT PUJOLS ROOKIES #T247 TOPPS TRADED & #295 UPPER DECK BGS 8.5 NM/MT+
$54.50
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1977 O-PEE-CHEE #8 LEADING FIREMEN POP 10 PSA 9 B2075918-729
1977 O-PEE-CHEE #8 LEADING FIREMEN POP 10 PSA 9 B2075918-729
$18.99
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1956 Topps Baseball #315 Milt Bolling PSA 7.5 Near Mint+
1956 Topps Baseball #315 Milt Bolling PSA 7.5 Near Mint+
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1971 Bazooka Bert Campaneris Numbered Card Proof PSA 8
1971 Bazooka Bert Campaneris Numbered Card Proof PSA 8
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1954 Bowman #50 George Kell signed auto SGC Authentic
1954 Bowman #50 George Kell signed auto SGC Authentic
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1911 T201 Mecca Cigarettes Laporte/Stephens SGC Graded 40 VG 3
1911 T201 Mecca Cigarettes Laporte/Stephens SGC Graded 40 VG 3
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1979 HOSTESS HAND CUT #115 EDDIE MURRAY ORIOLES HOF POP 2 PSA 9 B2075741-376
1979 HOSTESS HAND CUT #115 EDDIE MURRAY ORIOLES HOF POP 2 PSA 9 B2075741-376
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Jim Rice 1975 Topps Mini #616 Rookie RC PSA 7 NM Red Sox HOF Vintage
Jim Rice 1975 Topps Mini #616 Rookie RC PSA 7 NM Red Sox HOF Vintage
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JORGE SOLER 2012 BOWMAN CHROME PROSPECT BGS 9.5/10 ROOKIE AUTOGRAPH AUTO
JORGE SOLER 2012 BOWMAN CHROME PROSPECT BGS 9.5/10 ROOKIE AUTOGRAPH AUTO
$71.00 (6 Bids)
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1967 Topps, #496, Orlando McFarlane, Angels, Catcher, PSA-7.5, NM+
1967 Topps, #496, Orlando McFarlane, Angels, Catcher, PSA-7.5, NM+
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