How To Decide Which Cards To Grade

So, you’ve got a collection of trading cards and you’re wondering which ones are worth grading. With so many factors to consider, it can feel overwhelming to determine which cards are deserving of that extra step. Well, fear not! This article will guide you through the process of deciding which cards to grade, helping you make informed and confident choices. From rarity and condition to demand and historical significance, we’ll explore the key factors that can elevate a card’s value and make it worth those grading fees. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge you need to assess your collection and make strategic grading decisions that could potentially unlock hidden treasures.

Factors to Consider

When deciding which cards to grade, there are several important factors to consider. These factors will help you determine the overall value and potential investment of a card. By carefully evaluating the condition, rarity, popularity, potential value, and demand for a card, you can make informed decisions about which cards to send for professional grading.

Condition of the Card

The condition of a card is crucial in determining its value and desirability among collectors. When assessing the condition of a card, several elements should be taken into account.

Surface Condition

The surface condition of a card refers to the overall appearance and quality of the card’s front and back. It is important to look for any signs of wear, such as scratches, creases, or smudges. Cards with pristine surfaces tend to have higher value.


Centering refers to the card’s alignment within its borders. A well-centered card is considered more desirable and valuable. Off-centering can significantly affect the overall appeal and potential grading score of a card.

Corners and Edges

The corners and edges of a card can show signs of wear, such as dings, chipping, or rounded corners. Cards with sharp corners and clean edges are more desirable and typically receive higher grading scores.


The condition of the borders is another important aspect to consider. Look for any signs of chipping, jagged edges, or discoloration along the borders. Cards with clean, well-preserved borders are generally more sought after.

Print Quality

The print quality of a card refers to the clarity and resolution of the images and text. Any printing defects, such as blurry images or misprints, can impact the value and desirability of a card. Cards with exceptional print quality are often more valuable.

Rarity of the Card

The rarity of a card can greatly influence its value and demand in the market. When determining the rarity of a card, consider the following factors.

Limited Edition

Cards that are part of limited edition sets or releases tend to have higher value and desirability. Limited edition cards are produced in smaller quantities, making them harder to find and more sought after by collectors.

Unique Features

Cards with unique features, such as special foil finishes, holographic elements, or rare variations, are often deemed more valuable. These unique attributes set them apart from other cards and make them highly sought after.

Limited Production Run

Cards that were only produced for a limited period or in limited quantities can be highly desirable among collectors. The scarcity created by limited production runs often drives up the value of these cards.

Historical Significance

Certain cards hold historical significance within the trading card industry or the sports they represent. Cards associated with memorable moments, records, or iconic players can generate significant interest and value among collectors.

Error Cards

Error cards, which contain printing or production mistakes, can be highly sought after by collectors. These cards are often considered unique and rare, contributing to their appeal and potential value.

Popularity of the Card

The popularity of a card is influenced by various factors, including the player’s reputation, team affiliation, historical importance, championship wins, and fan base.

See also  The Ultimate Guide to David Beckham's Most Coveted Soccer Cards

Player’s Reputation

Cards depicting players with strong reputations and achievements in their respective sports tend to be more popular among collectors. The fame and success of a player can significantly impact the value and desirability of their card.

Team Affiliation

The team affiliation of a player can also influence the popularity of their card. Fans of a specific team may actively seek out cards featuring players from their beloved team.

Historical Importance

Cards associated with significant historical moments or milestones often attract attention and interest from collectors. These moments can range from record-breaking performances to iconic plays or events.

Championship Wins

Cards of players who have won championships or have been part of successful teams tend to be more desirable. Accomplishments such as Super Bowl victories, World Series championships, or NBA Finals wins can elevate the value of a card.

Fan Base

The size and enthusiasm of a player’s fan base can contribute to the popularity of their card. Fans often collect cards featuring their favorite players, which can drive up demand and value.

Potential Value of the Card

Assessing the potential value of a card is crucial for making informed grading decisions. Consider the following factors to determine the potential value of a card.

Historical Sales Data

Reviewing historical sales data can give you insights into the potential value of a card. Look for comparable sales of graded cards to gauge the potential selling price of your own card.

Recent Auction Prices

Monitoring recent auction prices can provide you with a sense of market trends and the current value of certain cards. High auction prices can indicate strong demand and potential appreciation in value.

Price Guide Information

Consulting price guides, such as the Beckett or PSA Price Guide, can be helpful in estimating the value of your card. These guides provide price ranges based on the card’s condition, rarity, and popularity.

Investor Interest

Consider the interest of investors in the market. Cards that attract investor attention can experience significant price increases, especially if there is a belief in future appreciation.

Market Trends

Stay informed about market trends and fluctuations. Market conditions can impact the value of cards, and being aware of trends will help you make more informed decisions regarding grading.

Demand for the Card

The demand for a card plays a vital role in determining its value and desirability. Consider the following factors that influence card demand.

Player’s Performance

The current performance of the player depicted on the card can impact its demand. A player in good form or having a breakout season can generate increased interest in their cards.

Current Hype or Trend

Cards associated with current hype or trends in the sports world often experience a surge in demand. This can be due to a player’s exceptional performance, a unique marketing campaign, or other factors that capture the attention of collectors and fans.

Collectors’ Preferences

The preferences of collectors can greatly influence demand. Certain players, teams, or card designs may be more favored by collectors, leading to increased demand.

Sports Memorabilia Market

The overall state of the sports memorabilia market can impact card demand. If the market is experiencing growth and increased interest, the demand for cards is likely to follow suit.

Potential Buyers

Consider who the potential buyers of your graded card might be. Identifying specific target audiences, such as team collectors, player enthusiasts, or investors, can help gauge the potential demand and value of your card.

Considerations for Grading Companies

When deciding on a grading company, it is important to consider several factors that can affect the grading process and the overall credibility of the graded cards.

Reputation and Expertise

Choose a grading company with a strong reputation and expertise in the industry. Research the company’s history, accreditation, and reviews from fellow collectors to ensure they have a track record of delivering accurate and reliable grading services.

Authentication Services

Consider the authentication services offered by the grading company. Authenticating the card ensures its legitimacy and adds value to the graded card.

Grading Standards

Different grading companies may have varying grading standards. Familiarize yourself with the grading standards of the company you choose to ensure consistency and accuracy in the grading process.

Turnaround Time

Consider the turnaround time offered by the grading company. Faster turnaround times can be beneficial if you are looking to sell or showcase the graded card quickly.

Cost of Grading

Compare the cost of grading services among different companies. Consider both the base grading fee and any additional fees for extra services, such as expedited grading or dual grading.

PSA Grading

PSA, or Professional Sports Authenticator, is a widely recognized authentication service in the world of card collecting, particularly for sports cards. Their services are essential for collectors who seek to verify the authenticity and condition of their trading cards, including baseball, basketball, football, and other sports cards, as well as non-sports trading cards.

Key Services Offered by PSA:

  1. Grading: PSA is best known for its card grading system. Cards are carefully examined by professional graders for authenticity, and then assessed for their condition. The grading scale ranges from 1 to 10, with 10 being a card in perfect condition. This grading system adds significant value to the cards, as a higher grade usually translates to higher market value.
  2. Authentication: PSA experts authenticate cards to ensure they are not counterfeit. This process involves examining the card’s material, printing techniques, and other characteristics that verify its legitimacy.
  3. Encapsulation: Once a card is graded and authenticated, PSA encapsulates it in a tamper-evident, sonically sealed case. This case not only protects the card from physical damage but also includes details of the card’s grade and unique identification number.
  4. Registry: PSA offers a registry service where collectors can list their graded cards. This registry is a great tool for collectors to showcase their collections, track the value, and compare with others.
  5. Pricing Guide: They provide a pricing guide that helps collectors understand the current market value of their cards based on the grade and rarity.
See also  How to Crack a Graded Card Slab: Expert Techniques and Safety Tips

Benefits for Collectors:

  • Increased Confidence: Knowing that a card is PSA-graded gives buyers and sellers confidence in its authenticity and condition.
  • Market Value: PSA-graded cards often fetch higher prices in the market due to their verified condition and authenticity.
  • Preservation: The encapsulation service helps in preserving the card’s condition over time.
  • Community and Credibility: Being part of the PSA registry allows collectors to be part of a community and adds credibility to their collection.


  • Cost: Grading and authentication services come with a fee, which varies based on the service level and turnaround time.
  • Turnaround Time: Depending on the demand, the grading process can take several weeks to months.
  • Subjectivity: While PSA strives for consistency, grading can sometimes be subjective, and opinions on a card’s grade can vary.

SGC Grading

SGC, or Sportscard Guaranty Corporation, is a prominent authentication and grading service in the world of card collecting, particularly known for its expertise in vintage sports cards. Over the years, SGC has expanded its services to include modern sports cards and non-sports trading cards, gaining a strong reputation among collectors for its accuracy, consistency, and customer service.

Key Services Offered by SGC:

  1. Grading: SGC’s grading system is highly respected in the collector community. Cards are meticulously evaluated for authenticity and then graded based on their condition. The grading scale used by SGC ranges from Poor (1) to Pristine (10), with half-point grades offered for more precise assessment. This detailed grading helps in accurately determining the card’s market value.
  2. Authentication: A crucial part of SGC’s service is the authentication of cards. This process involves rigorous examination to ensure that the card is genuine and has not been altered. SGC’s authentication is particularly valued for rare and vintage cards.
  3. Encapsulation: After grading and authentication, cards are encapsulated in SGC’s distinctive tuxedo black holder. This holder is not only aesthetically pleasing but also provides secure, tamper-evident protection, preserving the card’s condition and displaying the grade prominently.
  4. Turnaround Time: SGC is known for its relatively quick turnaround times compared to other grading services, which is a significant advantage for collectors eager to receive their graded cards.
  5. Customer Service: SGC prides itself on transparent and responsive customer service, offering collectors clear communication and support throughout the grading process.

Benefits for Collectors:

  • Credibility and Confidence: SGC’s rigorous grading and authentication process provides collectors with confidence in the quality and authenticity of their cards.
  • Market Recognition: SGC-graded cards are well-recognized in the market, often enhancing their resale value, especially for vintage cards.
  • Protection and Presentation: The unique encapsulation preserves the card and presents it attractively, making it appealing for display or sale.
  • Faster Turnaround: Collectors often choose SGC for its quicker processing times, which is a significant advantage in a fast-moving market.


  • Cost: Grading services come at a cost, which varies based on the type of card and the service level chosen.
  • Market Perception: While SGC is highly respected, especially for vintage cards, the market perception can vary, and some collectors may prefer other grading services for certain types of cards.
  • Subjectivity: As with any grading service, there is an element of subjectivity. Different graders may have slightly different opinions on a card’s grade.

Beckett Grading

Beckett Grading Services (BGS) is renowned in the collectibles industry for offering the finest, most consistent, and accurate grading services. They cater to a wide range of collectibles, from modern to vintage cards, and are recognized as the #1 Card Grading Service in the industry.

Key Features of Beckett Grading Services:

  1. Trusted and Accurate Grading: Beckett operates with integrity and knowledge, having been named the “Best Grading Service” for six consecutive years by Card Trade readers. Their grading process increases the value of cards compared to ungraded (raw) cards, making them easier to sell.
  2. Authentication Services: As part of the grading process, Beckett also authenticates cards, verifying their authenticity.
  3. Industry Reputation: Beckett Grading is the most trusted source in collecting and is the most recognized name in the industry for objective grading services.
  4. State-of-the-Art Protection: Cards are encapsulated in a crystal-clear holder with advanced security features and archival material, ensuring maximum protection and enjoyment. The holders are designed for easy stacking and storage.
  5. Comprehensive Grading Scale: Beckett uses a 1 to 10-point grading scale, with descending increments of one-half point (e.g., 10, 9.5, 9, 8.5, etc.), ensuring a precise and detailed assessment.
  6. Grading Service Levels & Pricing: Beckett offers various service levels, including Collectors’ Special, Base, Standard, Express, and Priority, with turnaround times ranging from 60+ business days to as fast as 2-5 business days. The pricing varies depending on the service level and whether subgrades are included.
  7. Pop Report and Beckett Guarantee: The Population Report is updated daily and available at no extra charge. Beckett guarantees the finest, most thorough, and consistent grading efforts in the industry.
  8. Grading Criteria: Cards are graded on four key categories: centering, corners, edges, and surface. Beckett was the first to use this unique system, assuring accuracy in grading.
See also  The Art of Card Collecting

Additional Information:

  • Beckett also grades and authenticates a variety of collectibles beyond sports cards.
  • The website provides detailed information on how to submit items for grading and the options available for different types of collectibles.

Reputation and Expertise

When assessing the reputation and expertise of a grading company, consider their industry experience, online reviews, professional networks, consistency in grading, and knowledgeable staff. Choose a company that is well-regarded and trusted within the collector community.

Industry Experience

A grading company with years of experience in the industry is likely to have a better understanding of card grading and market trends. Look for established companies that have proven their expertise over time.

Online Reviews

Read online reviews and feedback from collectors who have used the grading company’s services. Positive reviews can indicate a reliable and reputable grading company.

Professional Networks

Consider the grading company’s affiliations and partnerships within the industry. Associations with respected organizations and collaborations with reputable collectors can further validate a grading company’s expertise.

Consistency in Grading

Consistency in grading is crucial for maintaining the credibility of a grading company. Look for companies that consistently deliver accurate and dependable grading results.

Knowledgeable Staff

A grading company with knowledgeable and experienced staff is more likely to provide reliable grading services. Consider the expertise and qualifications of the company’s graders when making your decision.

Authentication Services

Authentication services are essential for ensuring the legitimacy and value of graded cards. When evaluating grading companies, consider the following aspects of their authentication services.

Secure Encapsulation

Look for grading companies that offer secure encapsulation of graded cards. This ensures that the card remains protected and tamper-proof after grading.

Tamper-Proof Seals

Tamper-proof seals add an extra layer of security to graded cards. These seals provide visible evidence of any attempts to tamper with the card’s grading or condition.

Serial Numbering

Grading companies that utilize serial numbering for graded cards offer additional reassurance of authenticity. Serial numbers can be tracked and verified, enhancing the value and marketability of the card.

Third-Party Experts

Consider whether the grading company employs third-party experts for authentication. This independent verification further validates the legitimacy of the graded card.

Quality Control Measures

Grading companies with robust quality control measures in place ensure consistent and accurate grading results. Look for companies that have strict protocols and checks to maintain the integrity of their grading process.

Cost of Grading

The cost of grading is an important consideration when deciding which grading company to choose. Evaluate the pricing structure and associated fees to make an informed decision.

Tiered Pricing Structure

Grading companies often offer tiered pricing structures based on the estimated value and rarity of the card. Consider the cost associated with different grading tiers and choose one that aligns with your budget and card’s potential value.

Additional Services Fees

Take into account any additional fees that may be charged for related services, such as expedited grading, dual grading, or insurance options. These additional fees can impact the overall cost of grading.

Return Shipping Costs

Inquire about the return shipping costs of graded cards. Shipping expenses can vary depending on the grading company’s location and the level of insurance required.

Bulk Submission Discounts

If you plan to submit multiple cards for grading, consider whether the grading company offers bulk submission discounts. Taking advantage of these discounts can help reduce the overall cost of grading.

Insurance Options

Grading companies often provide insurance options to protect the graded cards during transit or while in their possession. Evaluate the insurance options offered and consider the associated costs for added peace of mind.

In conclusion, when deciding which cards to grade, carefully evaluate the condition, rarity, popularity, potential value, and demand for the card. Consider factors such as surface condition, centering, corners and edges, rarity, unique features, historical significance, player reputation, team affiliation, potential value, market trends, and demand. Additionally, when selecting a grading company, assess their reputation, authentication services, grading standards, turnaround time, and cost of grading. By taking these factors into account, you can make informed decisions and maximize the value of your graded cards.