Trading Card Grading Guide
Do you have a pile of trading cards and want to know how much they’re worth? The best way to know the value of your trading card is by having them graded by a professional trading card company. Having your cards graded and authenticated can help increase their value and wealth, especially if you plan on selling them.
What’s the History of Trading Cards?
Trading cards have an interesting history. In the late 1800s through the early 1900s, businesses included trading cards as prizes in their packaging. These cards, made from thick paper, had colorful images with a theme ranging from lovely imagery to comedic pictures, depending on their intended audience. People traded cards with each other to make a complete collection of their themed cards, thus leading to the name trading cards.
By the 1930s, businesses like manufacturers of bubble gum had prints of famous athletes or celebrities placed on the front of the card with their biography written on the back. Kids during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s collected these cards, and the ones that weren’t destroyed or tossed away became valuable. Today, many trading cards, collectively known as hobby cards, include professional athletes from various sports, including baseball, football, basketball, and more. In addition, you can also find valuable cards from trading card games like Pokémon.
Whether you plan on flipping trading cards, invest in them for future higher prices, or want to collect trading cards for the nostalgic aspect, having them graded is an important step. This process helps determine their value. The most valuable trading card collections today all have top grades and can fetch a substantial amount of money.
How Does Grading Trading Cards Work?
The first step of the grading process includes picking the individual card or set of cards you want graded. Any trading card you submit for grading should be in pretty good condition, whether it’s from the 1970s or 1870s. In general, collections or set-builder trading cards are more desirable than single cards. However, some investors or collectors may look for a one-off card to complete their collection.
Next, choose your trading card grading company based on your needs and time frame. Before sending the card for grading, pick up clear sleeves to put the card in, place the cards between two sturdy pieces of cardboard, add a rubber band to keep the cards snug, then wrap them in bubble wrap, and pack them in a thick cardboard envelope. When you send them off to the grading company, you’ll pay two-way shipping and insurance.
When you receive your cards back from the grading company, the card will come in a solid plastic container with the grade the company gave on the top. The card will also have the company’s certification number and logo.
Who Are the Top Grading Companies for Trading Cards?
There are several outstanding grading companies. Each company may have a slightly variable grading system, yet they base the grade on the condition of the card, including how the image aligns to its four edges, the condition of the corners and edges of the card, and whether the surface of the card has creases or scratches. Most grading companies use a standardized numbered grading system ranging from poor (1) to gem mint (10). If you’re looking for the most reputable trading card grading companies, consider the following three.
Professional Sports Authenticator
Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is one of the most reputable third-party trading card companies. Based on the card’s conditions, including image clarity, lack of wear and tear, clean edges, and non-folded corners, PSA rates the cards on a scale of one to ten:
- GEM-MT 10: (Gem Mint).
- MINT 9 (Mint).
- NM-MT 8 (Near Mint-Mint).
- NM 7 (Near Mint).
- EX-MT 6 (Excellent-Mint).
- EX 5 (Excellent).
- VG-EX 4 (Very Good-Excellent).
- VG 3 (Very Good).
- GOOD 2 (Good).
- PR 1 (Poor).
Beckett Grading Services
Beckett Grading Services (BGS) specializes in grading sports and non-sports collectible cards. While they also use a 1-10 scale system from poor to pristine, they also descend in half-increments while grading each of the four categories, centering, edges, corners, and surface separately. Each card then receives a grade with a color-coded label:
- A gold label for a 9.5 to 10 rating.
- A silver label for an 8.5 to 9 rating.
- A white label for all other ratings.
Sportscard Guaranty Corporation
Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC) also grades cards using a scale of 1-to 10. In order to get a 10 PRI grade on your trading card through SGC, your card needs to be “virtually flawless”. This means the image on the card has 50/50 centering, four sharp corners, no breaks in the surface gloss, no stains, and no visible wear under magnification. SGC offers a variety of estimates and delivery times based on your needs, including:
- Standard: 20 to 25 business day estimate.
- Express: 10 business day estimate.
- Super Express: 5 business day estimate.
- Immediate: 1 to 2 business day estimate.
How Can I Store and Preserve My Trading Cards?
Now that you have your trading cards graded, you want to keep them in good condition by storing them properly. Ways to store and organize your trading cards include:
- Trading card or penny sleeves. These clear covers help protect your cards from dirt or damage and from sticking together.
- Plastic top loaders. Top-loading plastic containers offer durable protection for your trading cards.
- A binder or box. You can use storage boxes to hold your cards. However, placing them in binders is an easier way to show them to your friends and guests.
- Hanging display cases. This is a good option when you have your cards graded and encapsulated in hard plastic.
Whichever method you use to store your trading cards, try to keep them in a cool, dry place to keep them preserved for years.
Americash Jewelry and Coin Buyers is the premier place to buy and sell collectible sports memorabilia, including trading cards, in the Westmont, Illinois, area. We also pay cash for gold, fine jewelry, diamonds, and coins. If you have questions about the value of your trading cards, feel free to contact us. We look forward to assisting you.