Card Grading: Finding the Right Company To Grade Your Sports Cards

Card Grading: Finding the Right Company To Grade Your Sports Cards

There's a variety of reasons collectors pay card grading companies to grade their sports card. Several of the more common reasons are to verify the authenticity of a card's signature, create added value based on card condition and to preserve the cards. The most important thing to consider when getting your card graded is which company to go with.

Although it would seem that picking one company for all your grading needs would be the best route to take, that isn't always the case, especially if your collection features a combination of both vintage and modern cards. Below is a look at the four most commonly taken trails when it comes to trading card grading.

PSA (Professional Sports Authenticators)

CLEMENTE PSARC ImageThis is a must for any card made between 1950 and 1980. Because PSA is considered the first major grading company, vintage card collectors prefer PSA graded cards over BGS. The primary reason for this can be attributed to vintage set builders, as they prefer a singular slab in order to create continuity. Whether you're a set builder or not, this factor plays a key role in the value of your card. Below are a few examples of cards that are best suited for PSA.

  • 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle
  • 1955 Roberto Clemente RC
  • Non-rookie year vintage Topps cards
  • Non-superstar vintage Topps cards
  • Cards from 1950-1980
  • Vintage cards commonly associated with trimming or counterfeiting
  • Vintage Topps Venezuelan and O-Pee-Chee versions

PSA/DNA

This is a service offered by PSA that does nothing more than certify the authenticity of a card's autograph, it doesn't take card condition into account. PSA/DNA is best for certifying cards you have gotten signed in person or cards that are commonly associated with forgery such as Topps Rookie Premiere autographs and AFLAC autographs.

SCG (Sports Card Guaranty)

TEDWILLIAMS PLAYBALL ImageLike PSA, SCG specializes in the grading of vintage cards. SCG is more commonly associated with pre-1950's card grading. SCG is primarily used for high-dollar, stand alone vintage cards that don't rely heavily on the neighboring cards in a set for value. SCG is geared toward vintage singles collectors rather than vintage set builders.

  • 1939 Play Ball Ted Williams
  • 1908 E102 Ty Cobb
  • Pre-1950's cards
  • Vintage basketball cards
  • Non-standard size vintage cards such as Topps Tall Boys Basketball
  • Vintage cards of substantial stand-alone value
  • Odd ball vintage cards

BGS (Beckett Grading Services)

MIKETROUTBGS SLABBED ImageThough they can be inconsistent at times, this is without a doubt the best grading company for post 1980's cards, especially when it comes to the modern pack pulled autograph. For instance, a BGS graded 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout autograph is worth substantially more than one graded by PSA. This is because BGS grades both card condition and the autograph on a 10 point scale. Collectors also prefer the overall aesthetics of a BGS slab over the other major grading companies.

  • Bowman Chrome Autographs
  • Any pack pulled autograph
  • Book Cards
  • Relic Cards
  • Post 1980's cards

Sports Card Terminology/Notes:

  • Slab - word used to describe the plastic case graded cards are encased in.
  • Book Cards - cards that fold open like a book and often contain multiple player relics and autographs.
  • Try and stick to PSA, BGS and SCG for all your grading needs. Cheaper grading companies may seem like a bargain at the time, but cost you dearly when it comes to both short and long-term value.
  • Four primary card attributes that go into card grading - Centering, Corners, Surface and Edges
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3711529935494040 1 Image
JULIO URIAS 2014 BOWMAN CHROME REFRACTOR AUTO RC # 500 BGS 9.5 GEM MINT DODGERS
$199.95
1913465164624040 1 Image
LASTINGS MILLEDGE 2004 BOWMAN CHROME AUTO REFRACTOR RC #343 BGS 9.5 GEM MINT
$9.95
2011619642864040 1 Image
2010 Topps Chrome Bowman Previews Autograph ROB GRONKOWSI Auto RC BGS 9.5 # 25
$199.99
3214814732114040 1 Image
JULIO TEHERAN 2009 BOWMAN CHROME PROSPECTS BGS 10 PRISTINE NON AUTO
$119.99
2215585464384040 1 Image
2010 Bowman Chrome Blue REFRACTOR AUTO Albert Almora #'d 93 99 RC BGS 9.5 Cubs
$149.99
3808342919054040 1 Image
2004 BOWMAN CHROME REFRACTOR AUTOGRAPH GIO GONZALEZ BGS 9.5 AUTO NATIONALS RC SP
$75.00
3215333977824040 1 Image
Chris Coghlan 2007 Bowman Chrome Auto Blue Refractor BGS 9 with Grade 10 auto
$24.95
2011818172594040 1 Image
2012 Bowman Chrome Kyle Zimmer Blue Refractor auto 150 BGS 9.5 10 gem mint
$149.99



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Brett is a former contributor to The Cardboard Connection.

User Comments

  1. Question: Does BGS grade autographed cards that are not certified, or is PSA/DNA the only route to go here?

    I have several cards that I got autographed in person or through the mail, but as you wrote, I really like the looks of the BGS slab. Thanks in advance for an answer.

  2. Question: Does Beckett grade and the slab book cards so that they are open and visible, since there is no way to purchase holders for these?

  3. Yep, the slabs are huge.

  4. PSA/DNA is definitely the way to go. I don’t believe that Beckett does at the moment, but I would think they would start something like that sometime soon.

  5. Beckett suggested I use James Spence Authentication the last time I sent them an autographed card that did not say “Topps certified autograph” (or whatever is written to indicate it is authentic) on the card. They also sent me a submission form but you can also download one from their website. The card would be authenticated and directly sent to Beckett for slabbing and grading (if preferred) afterwards.

  6. Interesting, so are you saying that Beckett slabs James Spence Authenticated cards? Good catch, as I had no clue they did that.

  7. How do I get a bowman sterling book card graded

  8. How do I get a bowman sterling book card
    Graded?

  9. Robert cipolla » I’m not aware of any companies who have an out of the box grading service for book cards. I would recommend contacting PSA on that one to see if they would be willing to grade it.

  10. I have a Michael Jordan fleer rookie card that I am interested in getting graded and would like to know where I need to send my card! Thanks a bunch!!

  11. Traci Hayes (ID 111001) » The companies linked in this article have all the info required. Your best bet, as far as resale value goes, would be PSA or BGS.

  12. What are the actual fees for each of the top grading co.’s please? I have a perfect looking Pinnacle certified 1997 mirrored black card and want to handle it best am able. Also are cards of this sort really 1/1? Also what would be the lowest /highest resale on a mint graded one of these please?
    Thank you for the advise,
    James Albares

  13. James Albares » Grading companies have several different levels of service, each with their own prices. For up-to-date pricing, their sites would be the best place to check.

  14. how much per card is it to grade thinking bout letting yall grade some cards like need to know how much per card and the shipping cost to send them back to us thanks

  15. james robinson » Each company has different prices based on the type of card and how fast you want it done.

  16. I have a handful of BC cards, some pack pulled autographs, that are worth around $20 bucks if graded. Right now SCG has a deal where I can get them graded for $6-$7. Is Beckett really that much better?

  17. Chase » For modern cards, BGS and PSA seem to perform best on the market.

  18. Thanks. I still have a good amount left to catalog, so I might end up finding something really worth it, but at this time, I don’t think any of them are worth the cost for BGS or PSA.

  19. I know there are other companies grading cards, as well as one that went out of business that kind of make you think grading is deterring people from coming back to the sports card business. This is also why having numerous product lines as well as numerous manufacturers just confuses folks, and why they stay away. I can forsee the same happening w/ grading.

    Also, just because Beckett established what looks to be the 1st standard for autographs doesn’t mean it’s good for the hobby. For them, as a business decision, yes, it gives them an early advantage. However, human being signatures vary for numerous reasons, especially when you’re signing a lot of a product. I dare anybody to replicate their own personal signature more than once. Extremely difficult to do. Not quite sure how something that’s really subjective and variable can be graded based on only a few factors, but ultimately, customers will dictate if it makes sense. Thanks.

  20. What company would be best for promotional cards?

    7-Eleven had prepaid phone cards, I have a 30 minute mark mcguire #7 from ’97.

    An iron kids bread Ivan Rodriguez also from ’97.

    Also… I got a hold of some 1990 score packs and they have the little inserts “The MVP’s” I tried to find out about these but I guess without a picture they were tossed out.

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