July 25, 2014

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.




2010 Topps Legendary Lineage #LL39 Rizzuto/Jeter PSA MINT 9
2010 Topps Legendary Lineage #LL39 Rizzuto/Jeter PSA MINT 9
$12.95
Time Remaining: 32m
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Anthony Rendon 2012 Bowman Chrome Refractor BGS 9.5 Gem Mint 64/500
Anthony Rendon 2012 Bowman Chrome Refractor BGS 9.5 Gem Mint 64/500
$59.99
Time Remaining: 34m
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1972 TOPPS #593 RICH MORALES PSA 6 WHITE SOX *4552
1972 TOPPS #593 RICH MORALES PSA 6 WHITE SOX *4552
$6.30
Time Remaining: 35m
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1933 Goudey Al Spohrer #161 PSA 5 Ex Boston Braves
1933 Goudey Al Spohrer #161 PSA 5 Ex Boston Braves
$69.95
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2011 Finest Rookie Autographs Refractor 71 Mark Trumbo Rookie BGS 8.5 10 309/499
2011 Finest Rookie Autographs Refractor 71 Mark Trumbo Rookie BGS 8.5 10 309/499
$19.99
Time Remaining: 36m

2011 Bowman Chrome George Springer Rookie Refractor Autograph BGS 9.5/10
2011 Bowman Chrome George Springer Rookie Refractor Autograph BGS 9.5/10
$199.99
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2002 Donruss #3 Derek Jeter Yankees PSA Gem Mint 10
2002 Donruss #3 Derek Jeter Yankees PSA Gem Mint 10
$11.95
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1972 Topps Curt Blefary #691 A's PSA 8 NM/MT
1972 Topps Curt Blefary #691 A's PSA 8 NM/MT
$15.99
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Bubba Starling 2012 Bowmans Best BGS 9.5 Gem Mint
Bubba Starling 2012 Bowmans Best BGS 9.5 Gem Mint
$39.99
Time Remaining: 40m
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Bubba Starling 2012 Bowmans Best BGS 9 Mint
Bubba Starling 2012 Bowmans Best BGS 9 Mint
$14.99
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2007 BOWMAN CHROME DRAFT PICKS DAVID PRICE PSA 10 RC
2007 BOWMAN CHROME DRAFT PICKS DAVID PRICE PSA 10 RC
$24.99
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1974 Topps Deckle Edge Willie McCovey #28 PSA 8 Nm-Mt
1974 Topps Deckle Edge Willie McCovey #28 PSA 8 Nm-Mt
$199.95
Time Remaining: 43m
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