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Card Grading 101: Understanding the Importance and Process

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Card grading is an essential aspect of the card collecting hobby. It involves assigning a numerical value to a card based on its condition, with higher grades indicating better condition. The higher the grade, the more the card is worth. The grade of the card is essential because it helps collectors determine both the value of a card and ensures the authenticity of the card. In this post, we will explore the basics of card grading, including why grading is important, the different grading scales and companies, and how to submit cards for grading.


Why is Grading Important?

First and foremost, card grading is important because it helps determine the value of a card. As the sports card collecting industry continues to grow, the importance of card grading has become increasingly prevalent. The difference between a card graded as PSA 10 and one graded as PSA 9 could potentially amount to thousands of dollars. Grading cards has become an expensive and lengthy process. All of this hassle has led to the creation of pre-grading services.


Pre-grading cards is a process that involves inspecting and evaluating trading cards before submitting them for professional grading. This step is crucial for collectors who want to ensure that their cards meet the grading standards and maximize their investment potential. Pre-grading typically involves examining the card's centering, corners, edges, and surface to identify any flaws or imperfections that could lower the card's grade. By performing a careful pre-grading assessment, collectors can make informed decisions about which cards to submit for grading, potentially saving time and money in the process. 528 Collectibles offers a pre-grading service in our store if you are looking for a place to pre-grade your cards.


As such, because of the money involved and the peace of mind that comes with buying a graded card, the card grading industry has been growing rapidly and will continue to grow. Whether you're a casual collector or a seasoned investor, understanding the importance and prevalence of card grading is crucial to success in the sports card market.


How Are Cards Graded?

The most common grading scale is the 10-point scale, with 10 being the highest grade and 1 being the lowest. Cards are graded on a number of factors, including centering, corners, edges, and surface quality. The centering of a card refers to how well the image is aligned, while the corners, edges, and surface quality refer to any visible wear and tear on the card.


Each grading company has its own grading scale and standards. PSA, for example, uses a 10-point scale. However, other companies also assign half-grades to indicate cards that are between two grades.


Grading Companies:

There are several grading companies that provide card grading services, with the most popular being PSA, BGS, and SGC. Each company has its own grading standards and pricing, so it is important to research and compare them before submitting cards for grading.


Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA):

PSA was founded in 1991 and is considered the industry leader in card grading. According to their website, “PSA has graded more than 40 million cards and has established itself as the preeminent leader in authenticating and grading collectible cards.” PSA offers several different grading levels, including Standard, Economy, Regular, Express, Super Express, and Walkthrough.


Beckett Grading Services (BGS):

BGS was founded in 1999 and is one of the most popular grading companies in the industry. According to their website, “Our grading standards are widely regarded as the most stringent in the industry, and our commitment to accuracy and consistency has made us a leader in the industry.” BGS offers three different grading levels, including Standard, Economy, and Premium. BGS, unlike PSA, offers half grades for cards that are between two grades i.e., a BGS 9.5 In addition, they offer sub grades for a cards, centering, edges, corners, and surface, so that the collector knows exactly where the grade comes from.


Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC):

SGC was founded in 1998 and is known for its strict grading standards. According to SGC, “SGC is the only grading company that offers a guarantee on its grades, ensuring that collectors are getting what they paid for.” SGC offers several different grading levels, including Standard, Economy, Express, and Priority. SGC is often viewed as the most affordable grading service, however, the brand recognition is not quite at the level of PSA or BGS.


Submitting Cards for Grading:

To submit cards for grading, collectors must first create an account with the grading company of their choice. They then select the grading level they want for their cards, with higher levels having more strict grading standards and higher fees. The cards are then mailed to the grading company, where they are examined by professional graders and assigned a grade.

The grading process can take several weeks to several months, depending on the grading company and service level chosen. Once the grading process is complete, the graded cards are returned to the collector in protective cases, which not only preserve their condition but also increase their value to collectors. Since the process can be so costly and lengthy, we recommend considering using a pre-grading service as this can save you a lot of time and money.


As such, card grading is an essential aspect of sports card collecting as it helps collectors determine the value of a card and ensures that they are getting what they paid for. There are several grading companies to choose from, each with its own grading standards and pricing. Collectors can submit cards for grading by creating an account with a grading company, selecting the grading level they want, and mailing the cards to the grading company. Graded cards are then returned to the collector in protective cases, preserving their condition and increasing their value.


About 528 Collectibles

528 Collectibles is a one-stop-shop for all things collectibles, memorabilia, and trading cards. Our mission is to provide collectors with the best possible experience by offering a wide variety of products, exceptional customer service, and a welcoming community of collectors. Whether you're looking to buy, sell, trade, or participate in live box breaks, we have you covered. We also offer pre-grading services for trading cards and consignment options for all collectibles. With a passion for all things collectible and a commitment to customer satisfaction, 528 Collectibles is the ultimate destination for collectors.



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