July 31, 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.




1963 Topps #350 Bob Purkey  PSA 9 MINT
1963 Topps #350 Bob Purkey PSA 9 MINT
$110.00
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2006 Topps Series 2 Duke Snider Signed Card BGS 10 Auto Mint Beauty Rare
2006 Topps Series 2 Duke Snider Signed Card BGS 10 Auto Mint Beauty Rare
$74.99
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2008 Topps Sterling Framed White Thurman Munson #131 PSA GEM MT 10 Pop 2 02/50
2008 Topps Sterling Framed White Thurman Munson #131 PSA GEM MT 10 Pop 2 02/50
$34.95
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2008 MICHAEL INOA DONRUSS ELITE AUTO RC -- PSA 9 MINT -- 1154/1199
2008 MICHAEL INOA DONRUSS ELITE AUTO RC -- PSA 9 MINT -- 1154/1199
$9.99
Time Remaining: 30m
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PSA - Rays Red Sox Scott Kazmir Josh Beckett R8
PSA - Rays Red Sox Scott Kazmir Josh Beckett R8
$9.00
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1963 Topps #355 Dean Chance  PSA 9 MINT
1963 Topps #355 Dean Chance PSA 9 MINT
$195.00
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2005 Chris Young Bowmans Best Autograph Gold #104 #06/25 BGS 9 Mint Auto
2005 Chris Young Bowmans Best Autograph Gold #104 #06/25 BGS 9 Mint Auto
$249.00
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PSA - Rays Carl Crawford 21
PSA - Rays Carl Crawford 21
$9.00
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PSA - Dodgers Chin-Lung Hu GJ-CH
PSA - Dodgers Chin-Lung Hu GJ-CH
$9.00
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EARL AVERILL 1959 TOPPS MLB BASEBALL CARD #301 PSA 7
EARL AVERILL 1959 TOPPS MLB BASEBALL CARD #301 PSA 7
$14.99
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2007 MATT WIETERS TRISTAR AUTO RC PSA GRADED 8 NM/MINT
2007 MATT WIETERS TRISTAR AUTO RC PSA GRADED 8 NM/MINT
$19.00
Time Remaining: 31m
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PSA 9 1999 Gold Label Race To Aaron Ken Griffey Jr PSA 9 Mint
PSA 9 1999 Gold Label Race To Aaron Ken Griffey Jr PSA 9 Mint
$10.95
Time Remaining: 31m
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