What is Card Grading?


While the trading card industry is a big business today with sophistications like card grading, online pricing, auction houses and even digital trading cards, it hasn’t always been this way.

In fact, it took many years for technology to catch up with the hobby of trading cards turning into the big money business it is today.

The early days of card collecting was mostly comprised of like-minded collectors that collected cigarette and gum cards. These early pioneers of card collecting would trade with each other though the mail. Mail auctions began, giving collectors from across the United States the opportunity to acquire cards for their collection. The supply and demand of scarce cards gave birth to card values. While common player 1909 T206 cigarette baseball cards were commanding a price of 10-cents each, the famed Honus Wagner card, the most expensive baseball card today, was commanding the hefty sum of $50!

As trading card values exploded in the 1980s, greed and lack of knowledge began causing real problems for collectors and anyone wanting to buy into the extremely popular hobby. As the values continued to rise, terms like “investment” started to enter into the hobby.

Unscrupulous individuals were altering the condition of cards in an attempt to make them appear to be in better condition then they were and raising their value. Trimming off portions of a card, rebuilding worn down corners and removing creases are just a few of the types of doctoring being preformed on cards in order to deceive buyers.
Another very big problem in the hobby during this time was counterfeiting. Just like currency and fine art, trading card values had reached the point where it became profitable to counterfeit valuable trading cards.
And yet another problem that arose during this time of growth in the industry was sight-unseen commerce. As previously stated, mail auctions had been going on in the hobby since the 1930s, but as we entered into the 1990s, sight unseen buying and selling was moving from mail order and mail auctions to internet trading.
A dealer selling cards in his/her mail order business may have a particular card listed as being in “Mint” condition. The problem arises when your definition of “Mint” may differ from that of the seller, or vice-versa. Even with a trusted independent standard defining the scale of condition for trading cards, it was the application and interpretation of these condition definitions that caused the discrepancy.

That difference can be costly. In today’s hobby, with cards from the 1950s realizing auction prices into six-figures, being off by just a single condition grade could potentially cost you thousands of dollars when buying and could potentially keep you from realizing thousands of dollars when you go to sell your cards.

What was needed was a trusted, unbiased third party grading service. A company made up of hobby industry experts that had no stake in the market or in the cards being graded.

It was for this very reason that Dr. James Beckett, founder of Beckett Publications in 1984, created Beckett Grading Services in 1999. Integrity and honesty in the hobby he loves were the building blocks of BGS.


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  1. Dawn M. Becker 9 April, 2018 at 23:01

    I would like to know how you go about in having cards graded. Are there forms that need to be filled out and how much is the service cost?

  2. paul varlese 23 February, 2019 at 20:21

    Why cant I get anyone to correct an error or omission in Beckett on line price guide after I informed Beckett of the problem. I get plenty of phone calls when you want me to re-up on my on line subscription but no response when I ask you to correct the many mistakes that I have found and reported to Beckett? I cant document these cards from my collection into the guide until you do what I am paying you to do – fix the problems.

  3. Carl 10 April, 2019 at 22:53

    In your grading systems, where do cards with creases stop at? Can a card that is rated a 4.5 have a crease in your grading system?

  4. Mike Forslund 16 May, 2019 at 23:36

    Whats the grading fees for a NICE 1951 Bowman Mays, a near mint 1954 Topps Aaron, a 1952 Musial MINT?

  5. Nathan Murphy 26 June, 2019 at 10:37

    When does Zion’s true cards( listed in the Beckett start) not Panini instant? Prizm? Contenders draft maybe just curious

    • Ryan Cracknell 26 June, 2019 at 10:46

      @Nathan – I believe Contenders Draft is the first pack-based set of 2019-20.

  6. sergio zorio 28 July, 2019 at 11:54

    I need to grade my cars, what I need to do?
    And where I can get the form to send?

  7. Edward Lebeaux 28 December, 2019 at 12:33

    I have about 40 cards I would like graded . Olive in Long Island NY. What is the process and fees for mailing the cards or can I go to a show like the one in Westchester NY on Jan 11 and 12. If I go to the show what is the cost for grading
    Thank you
    Edward Lebeaux

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