A Beginner’s Guide on How to Get Cards Graded

So you’ve finally gathered a collection of trading cards that you’re proud of, and now you’re thinking, “What’s the next step?” That’s where card grading comes in. Whether you’re a rookie card collector or a seasoned pro, getting your cards professionally graded can add value to your collection and enhance the overall enjoyment of the hobby. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll walk you through the process of how to get your cards graded, from understanding the importance of grading to choosing the right grading service and everything in between. Get ready to take your card-collecting game to the next level!

Table of Contents

What is Card Grading?

Definition of card grading

Card grading is the process of evaluating and assigning a numerical grade to trading cards based on their condition, authenticity, and overall quality. It involves a thorough assessment of various factors such as centering, corners, edges, surface, and any potential flaws or damage. The grading process provides collectors and enthusiasts with a standardized and objective way to assess the value and condition of their cards.

Why is card grading important?

Card grading is important for multiple reasons. Firstly, it helps establish the authenticity of a card, ensuring that it is not counterfeit or altered. This is crucial, especially for rare and valuable cards, as it protects collectors from purchasing counterfeit or fraudulent items. Moreover, card grading provides a definitive grade that represents the condition of the card, allowing collectors to accurately determine its value and rarity. Graded cards also have increased desirability in the collecting community, as they are seen as a reliable measure of quality and condition.

Benefits of card grading

Card grading offers several benefits for collectors. Firstly, it provides a standardized and consistent evaluation of a card’s condition, removing subjectivity and bias. This creates a level playing field for collectors and ensures fair pricing in the marketplace. Additionally, graded cards are securely encapsulated in protective holders, safeguarding them from damage caused by handling, UV light, dust, and other environmental factors. Graded cards also have enhanced marketability and can fetch higher prices compared to ungraded cards, especially for cards in pristine condition or from popular trading card games.

Choosing the Right Card Grading Service

Researching different grading services

When selecting a card grading service, it is essential to conduct thorough research to find the one that best suits your needs. Look for reputable grading companies with a track record of reliability and accuracy. Consider factors such as their experience, expertise, and reputation within the collecting community.

Grading Card Services Overview

When it comes to card grading services, several companies stand out in the industry, including PSA, SGC, CGC, and BGS. These companies offer professional grading services to evaluate the condition and authenticity of trading cards. The grading process typically involves a thorough examination of the card’s surface, edges, corners, and centering. Once graded, cards are encapsulated in a tamper-evident case, ensuring their protection and preserving their graded status. The turnaround time for receiving graded cards varies among these companies, with some offering expedited services at a premium price.

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PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator)

PSA is one of the most recognized names in card grading. They offer a range of services, including card grading, autograph authentication, and more. Their grading scale ranges from 1 to 10, with 10 being Gem Mint. The turnaround time can vary based on the service level chosen, with some services taking several months.

SGC (Sportscard Guaranty Corporation)

SGC is known for its rigorous grading standards and its unique tuxedo-style slab design. They have a grading scale that ranges from 1 to 100, providing a more detailed assessment of a card’s condition. SGC’s turnaround times are competitive, often faster than some of their counterparts.

CGC (Certified Guaranty Company)

CGC is a newer entrant in the card grading scene but has quickly gained recognition. A testimonial from a user discussion on CGC Comic Book Collectors Chat Boards mentioned a cross-grade comparison between BGS, PSA, and other grading companies with CGC. The user noted that CGC might be one of the strictest grading companies in the market. Another user expressed frustration with CGC’s grading, suggesting that there might be inconsistencies in their grading process, especially for cards that are perceived to be in mint condition.

BGS (Beckett Grading Services)

BGS, a division of Beckett Media, offers card grading services with a focus on modern cards. They use a sub-grade system, providing grades for centering, corners, edges, and surface. This detailed grading approach gives collectors a comprehensive understanding of the card’s condition. BGS’s turnaround times can be lengthy, especially during peak submission periods.

Comparing grading fees and turnaround times

Grading fees and turnaround times can vary significantly between different grading services. It is crucial to compare these aspects to find a service that aligns with your budget and time frame. Keep in mind that faster turnaround times often come with higher fees. Balance your priorities to choose a grading service that offers a reasonable combination of affordability and efficiency.

Considering the grading company’s reputation

The reputation of a grading company is an important factor to consider. Look for reviews, testimonials, and feedback from other collectors to get an idea of their experiences with a particular grading service. Consider factors such as accuracy of grading, customer service, and overall satisfaction. A reputable grading company with positive customer feedback is more likely to provide a reliable and satisfactory grading experience.

Reading customer reviews and testimonials

Reading customer reviews and testimonials can provide valuable insights into the quality of service provided by a grading company. Look for reviews that specifically address the grading process, customer support, and overall experience. Pay attention to both positive and negative reviews to get a balanced picture of the grading service’s strengths and weaknesses.

Preparing Your Cards

Collecting necessary supplies

Before submitting your cards for grading, gather all the necessary supplies. These typically include top loaders, soft sleeves, card sleeves, and a clean and dust-free workspace. Having these supplies ready will ensure a smooth and efficient preparation process.

Examining the cards for any damage or imperfections

Carefully examine each card for any damage or imperfections. Look for things like creases, dents, scratches, ink smudges, or signs of tampering. Identifying any flaws in advance can help you determine the potential grade a card is likely to receive and decide whether it is worth submitting for grading.

Cleaning the cards properly

Before grading, it is crucial to clean the cards properly. Use a microfiber cloth or a soft-bristle brush to gently remove any surface dust or dirt. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that may damage the card’s surface or compromise its condition. Cleaning the cards ensures that they are presented in the best possible state for grading.

Sleeving the cards

Once the cards are clean, sleeve them using soft sleeves or card sleeves to provide additional protection during the grading process. Place the sleeved cards inside top loaders for added rigidity and protection. This will help minimize the risk of damage and ensure that the cards remain in optimal condition throughout the grading process.

Submission Process

Filling out the submission form

When submitting your cards for grading, you will need to fill out a submission form provided by the grading service. This form typically requires information such as your contact details, card details (set, card number, etc.), and grading preferences (turnaround time, authentication, etc.). Be sure to provide accurate and complete information to avoid any delays or confusion during the grading process.

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Packaging your cards securely

Packaging your cards securely is crucial to prevent any damage during transit. Use protective materials such as bubble wrap or cardboard to ensure that the cards are tightly secured and adequately cushioned. Place the packaged cards in a sturdy box to provide additional protection, and seal the box securely to prevent any tampering.

Choosing the right shipping method

When shipping your cards for grading, choose a reliable and trackable shipping method. It is recommended to opt for a shipping service that offers insurance and tracking to ensure the safe and timely delivery of your cards. Retain the shipping receipt and tracking information for reference and peace of mind.

Tracking your shipment

Once your cards are shipped, use the provided tracking information to monitor the progress of your shipment. Regularly check the tracking updates to ensure that your cards are en route and on schedule. Being aware of the shipment’s progress allows you to anticipate the arrival of your graded cards and plan accordingly.

Understanding Grading Criteria

Grading scales and their meanings

Card grading companies use various grading scales to evaluate the condition of the cards. The most commonly used scale is the Gem Mint scale, which ranges from 10 (perfect condition) to 1 (severely damaged). Other grading scales may have different names or criteria, but they generally follow a similar pattern. It is essential to familiarize yourself with the grading scale used by your chosen grading service to understand the meaning of each grade.

Factors considered during grading

Grading companies consider several factors when assessing the condition of a card. These factors typically include centering (the card’s alignment within its borders), corners (sharpness and wear), edges (smoothness and potential chipping), surface (print quality, gloss, and any imperfections), and any visible flaws or damage. Each factor is evaluated and assigned a grade, which ultimately determines the overall grade of the card.

Common grading terminology

Grading companies use specific terminology to describe the condition of a card. Understanding these terms can help you interpret the grading report and communicate effectively with other collectors. Common grading terms include Gem Mint, Near Mint-Mint, Near Mint, Excellent-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, and Poor. Each term represents a specific range of condition and is accompanied by numerical grades.

Payment and Insurance

Understanding the grading fees

Grading services charge fees for evaluating and grading your cards. These fees vary depending on the grading company, the type of cards, and the desired turnaround time. It is important to carefully review the grading fee structure and understand what is included in the cost. Grading fees typically cover the evaluation, encapsulation, and grading report, but additional services such as autograph authentication may require extra fees.

Calculating the total cost of grading

To accurately calculate the total cost of grading, consider the grading fees, any additional services requested (such as autograph authentication), and the cost of shipping to and from the grading service. Be mindful of potential insurance costs if you choose to insure your cards during transit. Summing up these expenses will give you a clear picture of the overall cost of getting your cards graded.

Insurance options for your graded cards

Graded cards, especially those with high value, should be insured to protect against loss or damage. Some grading services offer insurance options for your graded cards. Consider the value of your cards and the associated risk when deciding whether to opt for insurance. While insurance adds an extra cost, it provides peace of mind knowing that your valuable cards are protected in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Grading Time and Turnaround

Average grading timeframes

The grading timeframes can vary depending on the grading service and the chosen turnaround options. On average, grading companies may take several weeks to several months to complete the grading process. However, it is important to note that these are estimates, and actual grading times may vary depending on factors such as the workload of the grading service and any unforeseen circumstances.

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Factors that can affect the turnaround time

Several factors can influence the turnaround time for your graded cards. These include the grading service’s current workload, the number of cards being submitted, any additional services requested (such as autograph authentication), and the chosen turnaround time option. Understanding these factors can help manage your expectations and plan accordingly.

Options for expedited grading

If you require a faster grading turnaround, many grading services offer expedited grading options. These options typically involve higher fees but ensure a quicker evaluation and return of your graded cards. Consider whether the benefits of faster grading outweigh the additional cost to determine if expedited grading is the right choice for you.

Receiving Your Graded Cards

Notification of grading completion

Once your cards have been graded, the grading service will notify you of the completion of the grading process. This notification may come via email or other preferred communication methods. Pay attention to any instructions or additional steps provided in the notification to ensure a smooth and efficient card return process.

Methods of card return

Grading services typically offer various methods for card return. These may include options such as mail-in delivery or collection in person from a designated location. Choose the method that is most convenient and secure for you. If opting for mail-in delivery, ensure that the cards are packaged securely and that any necessary insurance or tracking is applied to protect their safe return.

Inspecting the graded cards

Once you receive your graded cards, take the time to inspect them thoroughly. Examine the encapsulation to ensure it is intact and undamaged. Carefully inspect the graded cards for accuracy and check that they match the grading report received from the grading service. If you notice any discrepancies or issues with the graded cards, contact the grading service promptly to address the matter.

Caring for Graded Cards

Proper storage and display options

Graded cards should be stored and displayed properly to ensure their long-term preservation and protection. Consider investing in protective storage solutions specifically designed for graded cards, such as graded card sleeves, plastic storage boxes, or display cases. These options help shield the graded cards from dust, moisture, UV light, and other potential sources of damage.

Avoiding damage to the cases

When handling graded cards, it is important to exercise caution to avoid damaging the cases. Hold the graded cards by the edges or use clean, lint-free gloves to prevent fingerprints or oil transfer. Avoid placing heavy objects on top of the graded cards or exposing them to extreme temperatures or humidity. By handling the cases with care, you can help maintain the integrity and condition of the graded cards.

Maintenance and preservation tips

To ensure the long-term preservation of graded cards, consider a few maintenance and preservation tips. Regularly inspect the graded cards for any signs of deterioration or damage, and address any issues promptly. Store the graded cards in a cool, dry, and controlled environment to minimize the risk of moisture damage or warping. Finally, avoid excessive exposure to direct sunlight or harsh artificial lighting, as it can cause fading or discoloration over time.

Value and Selling Graded Cards

Impact of card grading on card value

Grading can significantly impact the value of a trading card. Higher grades, such as Gem Mint or Near Mint-Mint, command a premium price due to their rarity and desirability. Graded cards are often perceived as more reliable and trustworthy in terms of condition, making them more appealing to collectors. On the other hand, lower-graded cards may have a lower market value, depending on their condition and demand within the collecting community.

Where to sell graded cards

When looking to sell graded cards, there are several options available. Consider online marketplaces specifically tailored for trading cards, such as eBay, TCGPlayer, or specialized forums and trading card communities. Auction houses and local card shops may also accept graded cards for consignment or direct purchase. Research potential selling platforms, consider associated fees, and choose the option that aligns best with your selling goals.

Tips for selling graded cards

When selling graded cards, keep a few tips in mind. Firstly, accurately represent the condition and grading of the card in your listing or presentation. Provide clear and detailed photos of the graded card and its corresponding grading report. Research current market prices for similar graded cards to ensure competitive pricing. Lastly, communicate transparently with potential buyers, promptly addressing any inquiries or concerns they may have. Building trust and confidence with potential buyers can increase the likelihood of a successful sale.