April 1, 2015

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.




1971 Topps Steve Kealey #43 Angels PSA 9. Low Pop
1971 Topps Steve Kealey #43 Angels PSA 9. Low Pop
$149.99
Time Remaining: 31m

2001 Upper Deck Gold Glove N.Y. Yankees Roger Maris PSA  8 Game Jersey S/P
2001 Upper Deck Gold Glove N.Y. Yankees Roger Maris PSA 8 Game Jersey S/P
$138.99
Time Remaining: 32m

1955 Bowman Set # 195 Erv Palica No Traded Line PSA 5
1955 Bowman Set # 195 Erv Palica No Traded Line PSA 5
$50.00
Time Remaining: 32m
Buy It Now for only: $50.00

2011 Topps Heritage Minor League Edition #6 Wil Myers PSA Gem Mint 10
2011 Topps Heritage Minor League Edition #6 Wil Myers PSA Gem Mint 10
$29.99
Time Remaining: 35m
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1955 Bowman Set # 192 George Strickland PSA 4
1955 Bowman Set # 192 George Strickland PSA 4
$12.50
Time Remaining: 36m
Buy It Now for only: $12.50

2013 Panini Prizm #202- Hyun-Jin Ryu Rookie Card! PSA Gem Mint 10! Pop 4!
2013 Panini Prizm #202- Hyun-Jin Ryu Rookie Card! PSA Gem Mint 10! Pop 4!
$34.99
Time Remaining: 37m
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1961 Fleer Set #91 Dale Alexander PSA 6 MC
1961 Fleer Set #91 Dale Alexander PSA 6 MC
$9.99
Time Remaining: 39m
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2012 Panini Prizm #TP4 Gerrit Cole Top Prospects PSA 9 Mint
2012 Panini Prizm #TP4 Gerrit Cole Top Prospects PSA 9 Mint
$17.99
Time Remaining: 40m
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1955 Bowman Set # 193 Howie Judson PSA 5
1955 Bowman Set # 193 Howie Judson PSA 5
$15.00
Time Remaining: 41m
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2011 Bowman Chrome Refractors Dylan Bundy RC Rookie BGS 9.5 w/10 Orioles
2011 Bowman Chrome Refractors Dylan Bundy RC Rookie BGS 9.5 w/10 Orioles
$27.99
Time Remaining: 41m
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2012 Panini Prizm #MVP20- Yoenis Cespedes
2012 Panini Prizm #MVP20- Yoenis Cespedes "Team MVP" Rookie Card PSA MINT 9!
$19.99
Time Remaining: 42m
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WILLIE MAYS 1960 TOPPS SGC 4.5 VERY GOOD/EXCELLENT PLUS 55 4 5 bvg bgs psa 1960!
WILLIE MAYS 1960 TOPPS SGC 4.5 VERY GOOD/EXCELLENT PLUS 55 4 5 bvg bgs psa 1960!
$70.00
Time Remaining: 43m
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