What is Card Grading?

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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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33 comments

  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

  8. Warren Steinberg 15 June, 2020 at 13:28

    I am confused about the sub grading. I see a card graded at an 8 with sub-grades, but I also see that the form says only cards graded at a 10 will include sub grades. So if I pay for sub-grading and my card is a 9.5 does that mean I won’t see the sub grades on the case?

  9. Edwin Fernandez 16 August, 2020 at 10:00

    Hi Ryan,
    It is important to me to know the difference between graded and a sub-graded cards and the charges to get them processed.

    Thank you

  10. Edwin Fernandez 16 August, 2020 at 10:07

    Hi Ryan,

    I am a new sport cards collector specially with hall of fame players A-Z in baseball, basketball, football, hockey,Pokémon and non sports cards as well.

    Ryan, please I would like to have your honesty in what is the cost grading cards regarding the value of the card?

    Thank you

  11. Eric J Materna 20 August, 2020 at 21:16

    Hell,
    When grading the surface of the card is the back surface just as important as the front?

  12. Tony 26 November, 2020 at 12:05

    When I send card in for grading, do they come back in a SEALED case? So id I wanted to get a PSA grade for the same card, could I have it opened up?

  13. N8raaf1971 8 July, 2021 at 03:44

    I Have a Black Lotus in NM condition. I Live in Belgium and i wonder if i pay the costs and send the card to you guys to grade for me, if i have a guarantee that this valuable card won’t be ‘lost by mail’ and never arrives at yours…,
    Or that it won’t arrive back to me after sending the card back. to me.
    I’m sure it’s the real thing and that it ios not a fraud or copy or proxy or whatever.
    The weight, size etc are correct. And i got it long time ago from a reliable source.
    I do want to sell it now the value has increased so much.
    Can you help me figure out how i could get the best price that it;s worth?
    Thanks in advance.
    Greetings from Belgium.

  14. MICHAELCLLOYD55 8 September, 2021 at 11:58

    Hello,
    I am liquidating my baseball collection of assorted items. I am new at this, so here are my questions:

    1. I have a baseball signed by Ichiro that I obtained at a Mariners Silent Auction. What is the process or who do I contact in getting this authenticated?

    2. I have a 1979 Wayne Gretzky Topps Rookie card in what I think is excellent shape. How does the process work in determining the value?

    3. I have several sets of baseball cards from between 1979 and 1991. I am looking to sell them. What is your recommendation for handling this.

    I appreciate your time and await your response.

    Thank you.

    • Ryan Cracknell 9 September, 2021 at 11:22

      Info on Beckett Authentication can be found at: https://www.beckett-authentication.com/
      The price guide can be accessed: https://www.beckett.com/online-price-guide

      As for selling, it really depends on the size of the collection and how much work you’re wanting to put in. Selling on your own through eBay and/or local marketplaces could lead to the most money but it may take time and work. Offloading the entire collection in one go is faster but you likely won’t get as much. Consigning saves work but the dealer/consignee will need a cut as well.

  15. diesellam 16 September, 2021 at 08:46

    I want to know do you still offer the on-site grading service? I live in San Francisco and can’t find any location close to me. There used to be a store in Daly City but I think it’s closed permanently.

    Any idea? I’m worried if I ship the cards for grading and the shipment could get lost.

    And if you do offer the on-site grading service, how long does it take usually for each card? I’m thinking to have 10 cards that need for grading.

    Thanks in advance.

  16. xing xing li 27 September, 2021 at 21:10

    Graded service issues I sent and arrived at your company 2 batches of card orders But only received one invoice

    Economic 135 sheets for receipt on August 25, 2020
    Standard 100 sheets for receipt on November 20, 2020

    There is only one order invoice The other one is missing?

    What is the reason? Thank you

    • Eric Norton 29 September, 2021 at 07:40

      Xing Xing Li, it would be best to direct this question to your grading rep. In fact, perhaps Mr. Stabile would be better. He can be reached at cstabile@beckett.com. He should be able to get you squared away.

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