November 24, 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.




1978 Topps #449 TIM BLACKWELL Mint PSA 9 Expos  h673
1978 Topps #449 TIM BLACKWELL Mint PSA 9 Expos h673
$12.00
Time Remaining: 29m
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1967 Topps # 136 Carroll Sembera SGC 7 NM
1967 Topps # 136 Carroll Sembera SGC 7 NM
$4.99 (1 Bid)
Time Remaining: 30m

1971 Topps Nolan Ryan New York Mets #513 Baseball Card PSA Graded EX 5
1971 Topps Nolan Ryan New York Mets #513 Baseball Card PSA Graded EX 5
$50.00
Time Remaining: 30m

2000 UPPER DECK #216 TONY GWYNN PADRES HOF PSA 10 B1771258-172
2000 UPPER DECK #216 TONY GWYNN PADRES HOF PSA 10 B1771258-172
$6.99
Time Remaining: 30m
Buy It Now for only: $6.99

1964 Topps 377 Bob Skinner.  PSA 9 MINT.  (TX45676).
1964 Topps 377 Bob Skinner. PSA 9 MINT. (TX45676).
$60.00
Time Remaining: 30m
Buy It Now for only: $60.00

1976 TOPPS #468 JESUS ALOU METS PSA 9 B1761854-496
1976 TOPPS #468 JESUS ALOU METS PSA 9 B1761854-496
$5.99
Time Remaining: 30m
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1961 Topps Willie Mays #150 PSA GRADED MINT 9!!!
1961 Topps Willie Mays #150 PSA GRADED MINT 9!!!
$1,000.00
Time Remaining: 30m

1973 TOPPS ALL-STAR ROOKIE #193 CARLTON FISK RED SOX HOF PSA 8 B1813770-610
1973 TOPPS ALL-STAR ROOKIE #193 CARLTON FISK RED SOX HOF PSA 8 B1813770-610
$35.99
Time Remaining: 30m
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1978 Topps #707 Paul Molitor/ Alan Trammell RC PSA GRADED EX 5
1978 Topps #707 Paul Molitor/ Alan Trammell RC PSA GRADED EX 5
$35.00
Time Remaining: 31m

1977 TOPPS #649 DAVE CASH PHILLIES PSA 9 B1762890-711
1977 TOPPS #649 DAVE CASH PHILLIES PSA 9 B1762890-711
$5.99
Time Remaining: 31m
Buy It Now for only: $5.99

1972 TOPPS #703 DOUG GRIFFIN RED SOX PSA 8 B1662988-192
1972 TOPPS #703 DOUG GRIFFIN RED SOX PSA 8 B1662988-192
$9.99
Time Remaining: 31m
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1977 TOPPS #516 BAKE McBRIDE CARDINALS PSA 9 B1811335-449
1977 TOPPS #516 BAKE McBRIDE CARDINALS PSA 9 B1811335-449
$5.99
Time Remaining: 31m
Buy It Now for only: $5.99



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