Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – PSA Grading Service Review

Posted on 20 February 2013 by Tim Danielson

Continuing with my series of card grading services, this week we look PSA.


Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is the largest and most trusted third-party grading and authentication company in the world. PSA is the preferred choice of collectors, dealers and auction houses worldwide. PSA has processed over 16 million cards and collectibles with a cumulative declared value of nearly a billion dollars.

Founded by PSA in 1998 in response to widespread counterfeiting, forgery and piracy of autographed collectibles, PSA/DNA is the world’s leading third-party authentication service for autographs and memorabilia.


Cards that I submitted for grading:

1980 Topps #482 Rickey Henderson RC – PSA Grade 7 NM

1982 Granny Goose #35 Rickey Henderson – PSA Grade 7 NM

1990 Score McDonald’s #5 Rickey Henderson – PSA Grade 7 NM


I will admit that some of the cards I submitted for grading I was hoping I would stump the researchers at PSA.  These were some of the easier ones though.  The 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson RC is one of the cornerstone cards to own from the 1980′s.  Common printing problems from the early 1980′s include off centering, printing marks and rough edges.  This Rickey Henderson RC card has evidence of all three.  I am surprised with a grade of 7.  Compared to other graded Rickey Henderson RC cards I have witnessed I was expecting a grade of 6.  Possibly a little challenging was the 1982 Granny Goose Henderson card.  This is a good example of a regional food issue card.  Cards in this set were distributed on the west cost in potato chip packaging.  The centering is better than on the Henderson RC card but still a little off center.  There is also some yellowing on the card.  I was expecting a 7 and satisfied that my suspicions were verified.  The 1990 Score McDonald’s is another example of a regional food issue.  These cards were available only in select Iowa McDonald’s locations.  To my untrained eye this card looks pretty good, perfect centering, sharp edges, good eye appeal.  There is a little fuzzing on one of the corners.  I was expecting a grade of 8.  Upon closer inspection, it appears that the corners are a little more damaged than I thought.  Still a nice grade, I am happy to have it protected from further damage because of how rare it is.

1910 E29 Philadelphia Carmel Zoo Animals, Wolf – PSA Grade 1 Poor

1937 Ogden’s LTD Zoo Studies, Wolves – PSA Grade 5 EX

1937 Gallaher LTD Wild Animals, The Wolf – PSA Grade 6.5 EX-MT+

1978 Brooke Bond & Co., Vanishing Wildlife, Wolf – PSA Grade 6 EX-MT


My next few cards I submitted I hoped would prove more difficult to identify but the research team at PSA was up to the challenge.  Pre World War Two tobacco cards are very popular.  Some of the highest realized auction prices of graded cards have been of sports figures from this era.  Maybe slightly less popular are other subjects and themes on tobacco cards.  The 1910 card deserved the grade of 1  besides the very obvious layering of all four corners, there are three pin holes in the top of the card.  The 1937 Ogden’s card has really great eye appeal and looks very clean.  It is very slightly off-center from the top to the bottom of the picture.  I thought the card would be graded a 6.  The corners are not noticeably bad to me.  Inks, papers and printing techniques have changed in the past 85 years and PSA grades accordingly.  This is the one card I do not quite understand the reason for the grade.  The 1937 Gallaher was graded just as I though it would.  To me this card actually has one worse corner than the Ogden card.  I am very happy with the grade this card did get however.  I thought the 1978 wolf card would grade at a 6 or 7  The physical characteristics of the card look alright but there is some yellowing on the card.  Overall I am pleased with the grades of these vintage cards and like the inserts for the tobacco sized cards compared to regular sized cards.

2011 Goodwin Champions, Animal Kingdom Patches, Timber Wolf – PSA Grade 8 Nr-Mt


I knew that this card would not be difficult to identify, but submitted it to illustrate that PSA will grade memorabilia style cards.  What I did not expect was the awesome display encapsulation case the card was put in!  I did not even know that such holders existed.  The card itself graded exactly like I thought it would.  I just love the holder though.  The recessed holder actually sits 1/2 inch tall.  The arrowhead corner protection design not only provides superior card protection, but make the card pop as well.  This card is now a centerpiece on my desk.

1999 Wizards of the Cost, Magic the Gathering (MTG) Portal Three Kingdoms (P3K), Wolf Pack (Japanese version) – Not Graded

2007 Nintendo Legend of Zelda, Twilight Princess, Wolf Link Gold G6 – Not Graded


I actually thought these cards would have been easier to grade than the vintage cards.  I know PSA does grade MTG cards, however the foreign language may have disqualified it.  Modern non-sport and entertainment cards can sometimes be the hardest to identify.  The sheer number of card sets produced and the lack of checklists add to this problem.  The gold foil chase cards from the Twilight princess are very rare and can command a premium in on-line auctions.  Do not fret though collectors.  If you submit cards that PSA is unable to grade you will receive vouchers for future submissions.  It will help to check out their website however for a list of cards that PSA will and will not grade.

PSA is the most popular grading service for several reasons.  PSA has been around longer than other grading service.  They have graded a larger volume of and realized a larger dollar amount of graded cards and memorabilia then others.  These reasons make PSA the most trusted and recognized name in the hobby.  Just walk around a card show or search an on-line auction site.  The total number of PSA graded cards is greater than all of the cards graded by other companies combined.  This is especially true with vintage cards.  I have seen entire sets of cards all graded and encased by PSA.  I really like the holders used by PSA.  They are much thinner than other companies holders and in fact seem to by much more sturdier.  PSA’s website is nicely laid out and very easy to use.  There is a wealth of resources available from a graded price guide, population reports, card registry, caparisons of card values before and after PSA grading and even an introduction to third party grading a “collecting 101.”  The customer service was good with e-mail updates of when they received my cards, when the grades were available to view on-line and when they shipped my cards.  Being the most popular and arguably the best comes at a cost though, for customers.  PSA does have some of the highest submission prices.  Unless you are like me and are going to keep your cards no matter what, single and small quantity card submissions can add up quickly.  For dealers looking to flip cards for profit or groups of collectors working together, PSA is the industry standard.  PSA does offer monthly and themed grading special which offer some savings.  I do recommend PSA/DNA services for everyone.  Depending on what and why you collect though will determine if the cost is worth the benefit.

Until next week, keep collecting, collect for the joy of the hobby and collect for the fan in all of us.

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