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 cards. Several of the more common reasons are to verify the authenticity of a card and/or signature, create added value based on card condition, protect your investment, 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 three most commonly taken trails when it comes to trading card grading.
Nevertheless, picking a card grading company is never as simple as it seems. None of the options are infallible and every grading experience is subjective.
Top Card Grading Companies
PSA (Professional Sports Authenticators)
This is a must for any card made between 1950 and 1980, and many go with PSA for modern, as well. Because PSA is considered the first major grading company, many 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. The classic style of the PSA slab is also a key selling point.
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
Of course, PSA is a major grader for modern cards, as well, and many prefer PSA for all their cards.
This is a service offered by PSA that does nothing more than certify the authenticity of a card's autograph. This process 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 forgeries, such as Topps Rookie Premiere autographs or AFLAC autographs.
SGC (Sports Card Guaranty)
Like PSA, SGC specializes in the grading of vintage cards. SGC is more commonly associated with pre-1950s card grading. SGC is primarily used for high-dollar, standalone vintage cards that don't rely heavily on the neighboring cards in a set for value. SGC is largely geared toward vintage singles collectors rather than vintage set builders.
- 1939 Play Ball Ted Williams
- 1908 E102 Ty Cobb
- Pre-1950s cards
- Vintage basketball cards
- Non-standard size vintage cards such as Topps Tall Boys Basketball
- Vintage cards of substantial stand-alone value
- Oddball vintage cards
BGS (Beckett Grading Services)
Though they can be inconsistent at times, BGS is among the top grading companies for post-1980s cards, especially when it comes to the modern, pack-pulled autograph. For instance, a BGS-graded 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout autograph can often be worth more than one graded by PSA. This is because BGS grades both card condition and the autograph on a 10-point scale.
Some collectors also prefer the overall aesthetics of a BGS slab, including the more detailed grading breakdown, over the other major grading companies.
- Bowman Chrome Autographs
- Any pack-pulled autograph
- Book Cards
- Relic Cards
- Post-1980s 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 SGC for all your grading needs. Cheaper grading companies may seem like a bargain at the time, but can 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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