Updated: November 3, 2023
Even without grading, your cards still have value.
- Rarity or scarcity
- The represented point in time
- Number of previous owners
- Popularity or fame of original owner or previous owners
- Public interest in the item
- Market interest in the item
- Subject to forgery, fraud, theft
- Others desire having the item
Those value traits reside either in nostalgia or buy and sell markets. However, having your cards graded provides optimal market value, preservation and identification. Grading will also determine if your card is fake or altered. Getting your popular, rare, unique or valuable cards graded is recommended. The sales and trade market for raw cards is large and very active. It’s also full of scammers pedalling non-authentic cards. As a buyer of cards, you should be aware of this and ideally purchase high profile cards that are either graded or from someone with a Verified Seller Certificate.
There is an on-going debate amongst card collectors about the best grader in North America. They will argue about grading results, grading criteria, slabs, past performance, labeling and turn around time. What they don't mention often is integrity. ~the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
Here’s what you should know:
- All graders are in an unregulated market. There is no industry license or certification to participate in grading. There are no audits from third parties to monitor quality or errors. There is no universal standard or even an association of graders to have a forum on managing fakes, labeling, or security.
- Customer service is not great. Some effort is being made to let consumers know which submission month of cards are currently being graded.
- Rates vary based on volume, time or market value.
- Company ownership ranges from publicly traded to private. Some graders have been in business since the early 1990s.
- Some graders equate higher resale value only by market persuasion.
- The look and security of slabs and labels vary by grader.
- Due to the recent attention of a few trading cards selling over $1 million, demand for grading is high and turn around times now are from 2 to 52 weeks. Some graders had to temporarily stop receiving cards.
- The spike in grading volume has also created new grading companies who want in on this multi-million dollar industry.
- The number of human graders has increased which helps deal with the volume but could present inconsistencies if proper quality control measures are not in place.
- New technology is being introduced to speed up the grading process, identify imperfections and track previous condition of resubmissions. This could potentially change a grade or devalue cards that have been graded prior.
- Scrutiny between the relationship of online auction companies and their preferred grading company is getting more attention and growing concern in the marketplace about the grades received and amounts paid.
Each card will receive its own serial number. While your card might look like it's in great condition, centering on both sides, print quality, surface residue, and slight imperfections in the corners and edges will have an affect on its grade. Don't be disappointed if you get a grade less than 8. Mid to low grade cards are in demand too if you plan to sell it.
How to decide:
- Proximity. Not a big factor because you can ship your insured card anywhere. Cross border services could subject you to duties and tariffs.
- Grading standard. Graders will score a card between 1 and 10 but may have slightly different criteria for each whole grade and a .5 grade. Some graders will have a sub-grade for key criteria such as centering or corners.
- Grading wait period. Unless you have that $1 million+ card, be patient. You've likely been waiting decades already. Faster turn around times come at a premium price.
- Personal collection. If you don't intend to sell your cards, higher market value graders is not a big consideration. You might even experiment with different graders based on proximity, your budget or the look of the slab.
- Market value for reselling. The market dictates the selling price. Don't get too excited about the listing price that you see on buy and sell sites or the cumulative resale value by grader. If you shave off the top 5% of dollar sales, you are likely left with sales of all the other cards under $10,000 per card (subjective observation but you get the point). Many social media card groups will freely give you a grade prediction on your card. If you end up in the top 5%, you may want to consider two or three graders that have a recent track record for high value sales.
- Budget. If you are holding a million dollar plus card, the cost of grading is a low consideration. However, if the average market price for your card is around $200, you will be more selective on your choice. Rates will vary by volume, time and market value. Plus you need to factor in, where applicable, the cost of packaging, shipping, insurance, taxes and duties, listing fees, and transaction fees.
- Don’t listen to the squabble. It will confuse you and there is no end to it. Many of the people with graded cards and many who wish they had graded cards spew rhetoric about graders.
- Origins. Your card is the same card no matter what slab it is in.
If you are getting your cards graded or buying graded cards, securing them with a blockchain certificate is a consideration. It's a digital twin and proof of ownership. Learn more...
Here is the list of graders (in no particular order):
Before you ship your cards, remove them from their protective case, take pictures of the front and back of the card with your ID in the shot. This could help you to find it or claim a loss if your card is lost or stolen while in transit or with the grader. Buy shipping insurance for your high value cards at a minimum.
Here's our services to help you manage your collectibles:
- Gretzky rookie card portal. Factual insights and resources for effective card management.
- Sprunger Card Management Manage your trading card collection with confidence and peace of mind.