One of the most important rules about baseball card collecting is that ‘condition is everything.’ You may own the rarest, most highest valued baseball card in the world, but if it looks like it went through your bike spokes and then thrown in a shoe box, then it is not worth anything. One option collectors have is to have their cards professionally graded.
There are a few card grading companies that collectors can use, but I will reference the biggest two here. Both ‘Professional Sports Authenticator’ PSA, and ‘Beckett Grading Services’ BGS offer different levels of grading packages and pricing. At the simplest level, card grading is based on four components: centering, corners, edges and surface. These four categories are then given a number grade from 1-10. There are specific guidelines and characteristics that are used to help determine a cards condition. The centering of a card is just that. Is the picture centered left to right and up and down? There is a measurement used to gauge the percentage “off-center” the card is. The corners need to be sharp and un-frayed or rounded. The edges should be straight with no chipping or layering. Both the surface of the front and back of the card cannot have any scratches, dents or dings. The higher a card’s overall grade, the higher a card’s value. ‘Gem Mint’ cards often sell for several times the listed value of the same un-graded card.
To better answer the question of weather or not you should send your cards in though, you need to ask yourself another question. What do you plan to do with your cards? If you are a collector who buys and sells cards for profit then grading your cards may be a good idea. Follow the basic stock market principle, “buy low, sell high.” Buy raw or un-graded cards, send them in and hope for high grades, and then turn around and sell the grade 9 and 10 cards for more then you bought them for. Keep in mind though that it does cost to have the cards graded in the first place. Both companies have different rates depending on how many cards you send them at one time and the turn around time you would like them back in.
Some collectors are player or team collectors, or someone who will never sell or get rid of their cards. Having your cards professionally graded may not be worth it. A grade 8 on your card will not increase the sentimental value. If you are never going to sell them anyway why would you need to know that you could sell it for more if it were a grade 10?
I am a player collector, and will never get rid of my cards until my kids inherit them. I also have a few graded cards however. I have never paid to send my cards in though. The cards I have were picked up in trades. There is a novelty to graded cards. Seeing a card encased in a permanent holder and being able to look up the individual barcode/serial number on the company’s website is pretty cool. Cards graded from the same company all stack very well as the cases are made to nest together. I will be running a series highlighting different card grading companies in the future. In the meantime, please enjoy some examples of graded cards.
Here we see three different copies of the same card, graded from three different companies. “The Final Authority” is no longer doing business. Note the individual sub-grades for the four characteristics.
Here are a couple of more of my graded cards of my favorite player.
Until next time, keep collecting, collect for the joy of the hobby and collect for the fan in all of us.