Grading Your Cards

You’ve purchased cards and you even have some great storage arranged for your collection, but should you consider grading any of your cards? What is a graded card? What does the grading process look like? Who should you have grade the card?

Many collectors are unclear on how to decide which cards they should grade, if any. What they may know is that graded cards typically hold a higher value than ungraded cards. Today, we’ll do a quick overview of what a graded card is, why it’s significant in collecting, what the process looks like, and even look into a couple of strong grading company options.

What does it mean to have my card graded?

Having a graded card simply means that the card has been inspected and evaluated by a third-party for its authenticity and condition. Once evaluated, the card is given a rating between 1 and 10, indicating how your card compares to the others out there. Graders will then seal the card into a holder and mark it with a serial number. After this is done, a card’s condition is recorded into a database that can be accessed by collectors globally.

The reason that grading is important in the collecting world is because condition is vital to the value of a card. If condition is left to the eye of the beholder, there would be much uncertainty as to the value that should be given to a particular card. Grading services can help to solve this issue because they are unbiased inspectors evaluating the card’s condition.

When should I consider grading my card?

Although this can be up to the collector in a lot of cases, there are a couple insights that might be worth considering. Vintage cards oftentimes have varying amounts of wear, meaning that a third-party evaluation is important to have. Vintage collectors often feel much more confident about investing in a card that they can know the precise condition of due to the consistency of grading services. For this reason, a graded vintage card can bring in significantly higher value than ungraded ones.

A second type of cards that would be worth considering getting graded are modern day rookies and autographs. Because these players could eventually become stars and have booming value, collectors will jump on the opportunity to buy highly graded rookie autographs. With that in mind, the grading investment is worth the cost.

Which grading service should I use?

PSA and BGS are both well-regarded services.

There are all sorts of grading services out there, but there are also different qualities within those companies. Just because a card is graded highly by one service doesn’t mean it will have the same value as one graded by another. That seems confusing, but we’ll try to explain it a little more. Anyone can open up a grading service, and, as a matter of fact, many people do. Imagine a card sent to a new grading service that was started in a garage compared to a card graded by an extremely reputable company. People aren’t going to value them the same. Or at least they shouldn’t!

So, who should you use? PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) and BGS (Becket Grading Services) are the two most widely accepted grading services out there. Each company has their loyal following, but both are highly regarded in the hobby. We’d certainly recommend either of these companies if you’re looking to have a card graded or if you’re thinking of buying a graded card. There are others that are good and reliable, but these two tend to be the best.

How much does grading cost?

The cost of grading a card largely depends on the company that you have selected to do the grading. For the above companies, rates begin around $15 per card and continue to increase as card values do. You also should anticipate the costs involved with two-way shipping and insurance for your card.

There are ways that you can reduce the costs incurred per card, such as submitting many cards at the same time or submitting at a card show in which the service is present. Due to the expensive nature of grading a card, we suggest doing your research on card values with and without grading, how you can estimate what grade your card will get, and other related topics.

What does the grading process look like?

Once you’ve decided that you want to have your card(s) graded, the next thing you’ll have to do is choose a grading company. After you’ve done your research and selected a company, you’ll have to prepare to ship the card.

The first thing that you need to do is fill out the submission form that you’ll send with your card. As far as your card goes, it is common practice to ship the card in a penny sleeve tucked into a semi-rigid protector sleeve. Many grading services will return the card ungraded if sent in a different type of holder.

When it comes time for packaging, you’ll want to provide some additional protection for your card while in transit. Some will use cardboard, newspapers, packing peanuts, or a combination to ensure their card isn’t damaged. In addition to having the protected card, you’ll need to include your completed submission form and payment. Once you’ve included each of these things, be sure to seal your box with packing tape.

Once the card has been submitted, graded, and returned, be sure to review all of the materials to make sure that your card has been correctly documented. To help with this review process, it is good practice to keep a copy of your submission form.

If there are further requirements or questions you have about your grading service, be sure to check out their website.

Summary

Grading services allow for consistent evaluation of cards, which means collectors can know exactly what they are getting. Because there are many grading services out there, it’s important to do your research before submitting a card. The grading process may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but the specific instructions are to help the company and collector smoothly move through the steps without complications.


We know that there are many elements to the card hobby. Whether you’re just starting out or have been doing it for years, we’ll do our best to help you better understand the ins and outs of collecting. If you’d like to receive our updates, we’d be happy to have you join us on this journey!

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