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Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – ISA Grading Service Review

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Bike Spokes and Shoe Boxes – ISA Grading Service Review

Posted on 05 March 2013 by Tim Danielson

We have already discussed reasons for having your cards professionally graded. Continuing this week we will look at International Sports Authentication ISA.  ISA Grading is a relative new-comer to the card grading industry.  Some ISA graded cards have already realized auction values that rival cards graded by other companies however.  ISA was founded to be a customer focused company that strengthened the hobby and promoted fun.  Offering the best submission prices and turnaround times in the industry, ISA is a rapidly growing grading company catching on with collectors and dealers alike.


ISA’s website and submission form are very user friendly and easy to use.  ISA does grade most licensed sport and non-sport cards.  It is recommended that you contact them first if you have any questions about getting something graded.  ISA offers custom encapsulation of cards from tobacco to standard sized cards up to 40 points thick.  ISA will be adding slabs for “tallboy” and 80 point thick cards soon.

Cards I submitted for grading:

1996 Topps Sean Casey RC – ISA grade 9 Mint


This was the easiest to identify card I submitted to be graded.  I was expecting a grade of 8 due to the slight yellowing of the card.  I was very surprised that the corners, edges, and surface of the card are all in outstanding shape which held this card to the high grade.

1931 John Player and Sons Wild Animals Heads #48 Wolf – ISA grade 7.5 NM+

1937 Ogden’s Ltd. Zoo Studies #49 Wolves – ISA grade 4.5VG-EX+

W.D. & H.O. Wills Birds Beasts and Fishes #40 The Wolf – ISA grade 2 Good


These were the cards I was hoping would stump the research department.  Only one card proved to be a little difficult however.  The 1931 wolf head card is probably my favorite of the three.  Four sharp corners, clean edges, and a clean back free of glue and tape common in tobacco cards, this card is in great shape for a card over 80 years old.  The 1937 Zoo Studies cards is another favorite card of mine.  I really like the horizontal layout and picture of the wolf pack.  Three of the four corners have a slight touch of wear and the card is a little off center top to bottom.  I thought the card would have graded at a 5, but I am not disappointed in the final grade.  The last card proved to be the most challenging to identify.  I was told that there are several different versions of this card printed from 1938 to 1942.  Some have a blank back, some do not have the scoring to have the card stand up.  Even though this card does have a printed back ISA was still unable to pinpoint the exact year.  This is similar to T series cards which were printed from 1909-1911 for example.  The slight off-centering and dirty appearance aside, the biggest reason for the grade of 2 is the big area of dried glue on the back of the card.  Any pencil, pen ink, tape, glue or waxy stains on cards from the era are pretty much unilaterally graded a 2 from all third party graders in the business.  The black inserts really make the cards pop.  Also notice the different size of inserts used to accommodate different sized tobacco cards.

2012 Magic the Gathering M12 core set Hunter’s Insight – ISA grade 10 Gem Mint


ISA also grades collectable gaming cards like magic, Pokemon and Yi-Gi-Oh.  The interesting part this this card though is that it graded at a perfect 10.  Gaming cards often are played and show the signs of being handled and shuffled in decks.  Black border cards are especially difficult to get good grades on as the black edge on both the front and back of the cards is almost always chipped or dinged.  Even taking these cards out of the package, a lot of these cards get damaged enough to not be a perfect gem mint copy.

2011 Panini Adrenalyn XL Superbowl promo Tim Tebow – ISA grade 9 Mint


This is another example of a game card only with a twist.  These cards were only available at the Fanfest event at the Superbowl.  The only thing keeping this from a grade of 10 is that there is a slight raise or bump in one of the corners.

1988 NWA Superstars #102 Sting – ISA grade 7 NM


Though not necessarily hard to Identify, this is definitely an oddball card.  Pretty badly off-center left to right, this is the exact grade I was expecting for a 25 year old possible rookie card of the professional wrestler Sting.

2008 Upper Deck Champ’s Hockey Natural History Collection Dire Wolf – ISA grade 8.5 NR-MT+


If you have not guessed by now, I like wolves and wolf cards, a lot.  To my naked eye, I would have graded this as a 9.  The right edge and bottom right corner of the card both have a slight ding in them.  This is just another example that ISA grades all types and sizes of cards and has the inserts to match.

1980 Topps #482 Rickey Henderson RC – ISA result, not graded due to being trimmed.

1908 International Tobacco of Canada Silk Animals and Country Flags, Wolf, Siberia – ISA graded, ungraded.


The edges and corners of the Henderson looked perfect to my untrained eye.  The only flaw being that it is severely off-center, almost mis-cut.  It turned that the edges were too perfect as it was determined that all four were trimmed.  Cards from the early 1980’s are near impossible to find this clean.  The card also measured slightly smaller than industry standard sized cards.  I am disappointed that the card is altered, but happy with the quality of work from ISA to determine that it is.  The silk card was my fault for sending in.  I did not completely research what cards ISA could and could not grade, nor did I call first.  It is always recommended that you contact ISA first with any questions you have about unusual cards.  There is also really no standard to grade silk cards against.

I really like the custom holders ISA uses.  They have combined popular elements from other grading companies into their slabs.  This makes for a very eye appealing and unique protective holder for your cards.  To date, similar cards with similar grades have shown that auction prices are higher between other third party grading companies and ISA.  It seams that dealers and “flippers” are waiting for ISA to become more established before using them.  As a collector who will never get rid of his graded cards though, ISA’s prices and turnaround times cannot be beat! Looking to have your personal collection cards graded and protected for display?  I encourage you to use ISA Grading services!

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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