Understanding the Sports Card Grading Process and Its Impact on Card Values

three sports cards standing upright

Getting the perfect grade on a prized card can multiply its value tenfold, turning a small investment into a massive profit. However, the card grading process isn’t as simple as you might think, and there area few things you can do to ensure your card gets a better grade. Find out how to get your sports cards graded with this Giant Sports Card guide.

What Grading Means For You

Grading is the process of evaluating the condition of a trading card and assigning it a grade to represent its authenticity and condition. Sports card grading involves thoroughly examining the card's corners, edges, surface, and centering.

The card is then assigned a numerical or alphabetical grade on a scale. Note that this scale can vary depending on which agency is doing the grading.

  • PSA follows a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being a ‘Gem Mint’ and 1 being a card in poor condition.
  • BGS, the second most popular grading agency, follows a half-point scale that provides deeper insight into the card’s condition. For BGS, the perfect card is a ‘Black Label Pristine’, requiring four perfect subgrades.

The purpose of sports card grading is to provide collectors with a standardized way of assessing a card's condition and value and to protect against counterfeit cards being passed off as authentic.

How Do I Get My Sports Cards Graded?

The right answer to this depends on the number and type of cards that need to be graded. For instance, a UFC trading card collector might send their submission to a different company than someone who collects soccer cards. Let’s run through some of the main options:

  1. Direct Submissions: Select a grading company and submit your cards yourself. Popular grading companies include PSA, BGS, and SGC. Collectors must fill out a form, prepare their cards, and arrange for shipping.
  2. PSA Dealers: PSA dealers are usually the most convenient option for sports card grading. Authentic dealers take care of the entire submission process for you. All you have to do is bring the cards to the store. Working with a certified PSA dealer is also a great choice if you need to submit cards in bulk since manually filling out the paperwork and preparing each card for a direct submission can be a huge hassle.
  3. In-Person Grading: This option is perfect if you don’t want to risk a card getting damaged in shipping for a direct submission. Reputable companies like PSA often open grading booths at major trading card shows, allowing attendees to get their cards graded in person. Getting your cards evaluated in person is a great way to learn more about sports card grading, as graders are usually more than happy to answer any questions.

Which Grading Company Is The Best?

The first step in learning how to get your sports cards graded is choosing a grading company. This can be a surprisingly daunting decision, with over ten major companies to choose from. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on the most popular and widely available options: PSA, BGS, and SGC.

Easily recognizable, both domestically and internationally. While popular, it lacks PSA’s immense brand recognition. Increasing in popularity among new collectors.
PSA cards cancommand higher prices in the secondary market. BGS grading offers more information about each card due to its complex system. Known for fast turnaround times and excellent customer service.
Follows a 0-10 scale with single-point grades. Follows a 0-10 scale with half-point grades. Follows a 0-10 scale with half-point grades.
Uses thinner slabs, making cards prone to transit damage on rare occasions. Thicker case sizes, which are ideal for thick patch cards. Black border around the card and slightly larger than BGS slabs.
Most popular sports card grading company. Equally popular for general TCGs (Pokémon, One Piece, etc.) and other, like racing cards. Popular for baseball and basketball rookie card grading. Popular for grading new releases to quickly sell on the secondary market and vintage cards.

Since each company has its own distinct card grading process, you should make a careful decision only after considering the state of your collection.

How Does Grading Impact Card Values?

  • Authenticity: Fake cards are worthless on the secondary market. A certification from a major grading company is the best possible vote of confidence in your card’s authenticity, significantly increasing its resale value.
  • Buyer Confidence: Even collectors who know very little about how sports cards get graded understand the meticulousness of the process. Price fluctuations in negotiations are often caused by concerns that the card might be damaged or even fake. A graded card signals buyers that they don’t have to worry about those issues, guaranteeing a higher price.
  • Rarity: Sports card grading can turn uncommon cards into some of the rarest cards on the market. Consider a Luka Doncic rookie card from the Panini Prizm basketball lineup. Even if Panini only created, say, 20 of these signed cards in 2018, the number of cards surviving today with a PSA rating of 9 or 10 is bound to be even smaller. For context, this card already commands over $800 on some online marketplaces.
  • Protection: This isn’t a major reason to get your cards graded, but it does affect their final value. Once the evaluation is over, grading companies ship back your cards in a high-quality, tamper-proof cover that keeps your card in top condition for the long term.

What Should I Do Before Submitting?

Now that you know how to get your sports cards graded, you’re ready to ship them out! Before anything else, you’ll want to ensure that your cards are actuallyworth grading. If your cards are damaged or altered in any form, sports card grading might end up being more expensive than the final return on your investment.

Follow these steps to prepare your cards for submission:

  1. Gently clean your sports cards with a soft microfiber cloth, and try to avoid directly touching the surface.
  2. Use a reliable sports card sleeve to store the card after cleaning.
  3. Avoid using chemicals to clean your cards. Grading companies can mark chemically cleaned cards as ‘altered,’ rendering them worthless.

Ready For a 10?

The card grading process is as simple as you want it to be. If you think you’ve got a winner in your collection, it’s time to brush the dust off and get a professional evaluation.

If a direct submission seems risky or too much of a hassle, get your cards graded through Giant Sports Cards, a certified PSA dealer! As authorized dealers, we work directly with the grading company to get your cards graded and sent back as quickly as possible. Whether you’re looking for day 1 shipping for upcoming sports card releases or the lowest prices on new sports card releases, we’ve got you covered from A to Z.