As the popularity of Pokemon cards continues to soar, many collectors and investors are looking for ways to accurately determine the value of their collections. One solution to this problem is to have the cards graded by a third-party grading service. Grading Pokémon cards involves a thorough examination of the card’s condition and quality by a team of experts, and the assignment of a grade based on established standards. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of grading Pokemon cards and provide a guide for choosing the right grading service for your collection.
Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA)
PSA was founded in 1991 and is the most well-known Pokemon card grading service among collectors. During the peak of the Pokemon craze in 2021, PSA was so overloaded with submissions that they temporarily suspended new submissions and extended turnaround times by 6+ months. Today, the dust has settled and PSA is accepting cards again with speedier service.
PSA grades on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest possible grade. PSA has a strict and comprehensive grading system, and they examine each card thoroughly to ensure that it meets their strict standards. To receive a PSA 10 grade, a Pokemon card must meet the following criteria established by PSA:
- A Pokemon card must have near-perfect centering on both the front and back, with no more than a slight deviation from true center.
- The specific centering ratios required for a PSA 10 grade vary depending on the size and design of the card, but generally, a card must have a minimum of 55/45 centering on the front and 75/25 on the back.
Corners and Edges
- Corners must be sharp and well-defined, with no signs of fraying or rounding.
- The card should not have any dings, nicks, or white spots that are visible to the naked eye.
- Corners should not show any evidence of creasing or bending.
- The corners should be symmetrical and aligned with the card’s borders.
- The card should have a clean and glossy appearance, with no scuffs, scratches, or cloudiness.
- The card should have even color, with no noticeable discoloration, fading, or oxidation.
- The surface of the card should be free of any print defects, such as misalignments, blurring, or dotting.
- The surface of the card should not have any noticeable creases, wrinkles, or bends.
How to submit Pokemon cards to PSA for grading
- Choose the right type of submission: PSA offers several submission options, including standard, value, and bulk submissions. Choose the one that best suits your needs based on the number of cards you want to submit, the turnaround time you prefer, and your budget.
- Obtain the submission materials: To submit cards to PSA, you will need to purchase submission materials, such as PSA holders, label sheets, and shipping materials. These can be purchased from PSA or authorized dealers.
- Prepare your cards: Clean and carefully handle your cards to prevent any damage before placing them in PSA holders. Make sure to fill out all necessary information, such as the card’s name, set, and condition, on the label sheet.
- Pack and ship your cards: Package your cards securely in a box and ship them to PSA using a reliable shipping service, such as FedEx or UPS. Make sure to properly insure your shipment for the full value of your cards.
- Track your submission: Once your cards have been received by PSA, you can track the status of your submission online using your PSA account. You will receive an email notification when your cards have been graded and are ready to be returned to you.
- Receive your graded cards: Upon completion of the grading process, PSA will return your graded cards to you in their secure PSA holders. You can then enjoy your certified and graded Pokemon cards!
A general rule of thumb is that PSA 10 cards from modern sets have a 3x multiplier from their raw value and a 5x – 15x multiplier for vintage, depending on the card.
Beckett Grading Services (BGS)
Beckett was founded in 1984, but the company didn’t open it’s grading service until 1999. Compared to PSA, it is a lot more difficult to obtain higher grades for Pokemon cards through BGS, making BGS 10 cards rarer and more valuable than PSA 10s. It’s important to also note that PSA uses a 10-point grading scale, while BGS uses a 10-point grading scale that includes subgrades for centering, corners, edges, and surface. There are a few other key differences between PSA and BGS:
PSA uses a numerical grading scale and provides a detailed condition report, while BGS uses a more subjective grading scale and provides a detailed breakdown of the card’s condition in each of the subgrades. PSA also has a faster turnaround time for grading, with most cards being graded and returned within 2-3 weeks. BGS typically takes longer, with turnaround times of 4-6 weeks or longer.
PSA generally has higher grading fees, with prices ranging from $20 to $200 or more, depending on the type of card and level of service. BGS generally has lower grading fees, with prices ranging from $10 to $50 or more, depending on the type of card and level of service; however, subgrades will incur additional fees, which can make BGS more pricier than PSA.
Casing and Services
For BGS, cards that receive a grade of 9.5 to 10 are identified with a distinctive gold label on the front of their protective case. Cards with grades ranging from 8.5 to 9 have a silver label. Any card that receives a grade below 8.5 is distinguished by a distinctive and eye-catching white label. For PSA, all cards receive the same label and casing, regardless of grade.
Beckett Grading Services also offers the holy-grail of grading services – the BGS Black Label. Cards that receive four “10” subgrades are considered exceptional and will receive the special black label. The BGS Black Label signifies that the card has achieved the ultimate grading standard and serves as a symbol of the card’s exceptional status.
Comic Guaranty Corporation (CGC)
Comic Guaranty Corporation (CGC) was founded in 1999, but didn’t launch it’s TCG grading service until 2020. It is one of the leading third-party grading and certification companies for comic books, as well as other collectibles such as trading cards, including Pokémon cards. CGC’s mission is to provide collectors with a reliable and trusted method of determining the authenticity and condition of their collectibles, and to help protect the value of their investments over time.
While CGC is the go-to choice for grading comic books, its reputation for grading Pokemon cards is lesser known and perceived as the lower-quality grading alternative. CGC services are cheaper than PSA and BGS and uses the same criteria to evaluate cards (centering, corners and edges, and surface condition).
Similar to BGS Black Label, CGC has it’s own ultimate perfect grade. A CGC Perfect 10 is the epitome of card grading excellence. To achieve this distinction, a card must receive the highest possible grade from CGC, known as “Pristine 10,” with each of its four sub-grades (centering, corners, edges, and surface) also receiving a score of 10. This “quad 10” designation means that the card is flawless under 10-times magnification and is considered the best a card can be.
TGA, CCA, and Ace Grading
TGA (The Grading Authority), Ace Grading, and CCA are new companies that offer Pokemon card grading services. While each company offers competitive pricing, unique and cool label designs, and new grading elements, they aren’t yet established as a trusted authority among collectors. In fact, both companies have been criticized for their inconsistent distribution of grades. It’s worth keeping an eye on these companies to see where they land in the market over the next few years, but for now it’s a safer investment to use PSA or BGS for your Pokemon cards.
Grading Pokemon cards can be a valuable investment for collectors and enthusiasts, as it helps to authenticate the condition and value of their cards. There are several reputable grading companies to choose from, including Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), Beckett Grading Services (BGS), and Comics Guaranty LLC (CGC),. Each company has its own set of standards and grading criteria, and the prices and turnaround times can vary. When considering a grading company, it’s important to research their reputation, grading standards, and customer reviews to determine which one is right for you. Regardless of which grading company you choose, it’s important to remember that grading is just one factor in determining the value of your Pokemon cards, and that other factors such as rarity, popularity, and condition play a significant role as well.