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Trading Card Grading Guide

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Getting Started: The Basics on Grading Sports CardsYou've just bought a brand new sports card of your favorite player, showed it off to friends and found it the perfect hiding spot from prying eyes. Now we really get into the nitty-gritty which is accurately placing a dollar sign value to the card itself. When it comes to sports cards, there is perhaps no better way to ensure authenticity and to assign the right value than by getting the card graded by a trusted card grading company. Before we dive into the basics of the grading process, let's talk about some of the pros and cons of card grading, and also speak a bit on the type of card that may or may not be worth getting graded. Graded vs. un-graded cards have a distinct difference between them and collectors need to figure out the best approach before deciding which direction they want to go. There are some simple guidelines to follow, but keep in mind that it lends itself to some, if not a lot, of subjectivity. Don't fret because as time wanes on and you've got some experience under your belt, you will have developed a keen eye for assessing the quality of the card. Let's get started by going over some of the pros and cons of getting a sports card graded.

1. Authenticity - When submitting a card to a certified grading company, collectors can rest assured that the card will go through a strict verification process. This is crucial as only the most authentic cards will attain the highest value. Furthermore, the current owner protects themselves because they know exactly what they've got. Subsequently, any future owner can shove aside any concerns of authenticity when deciding to purchase a graded card.
2. Higher Resale Potential - The importance of resale is obvious to most collectors as the trading card market can be very active with cards changing owners left and right. How much profits you gain and lose depends heavily on the value of the card itself. Getting a card graded gives current and prospective owners confidence in the value of the sports card. It is this reason that graded cards can sell exponentially higher, and quicker, than their un-graded counterparts.
3. Accountability - Cards that have received an official grade are thus entered into an online population database with unique reference numbers. This database lists all the number of times the card has been graded, as well as how many cards received a certain grade by that grading company. This further protects all owners of the card since they can validate the authenticity of the card very easily.
4. Added Protection - Grading companies will return a graded card in a sturdy protective case that is less prone to damage and wear than those found in other places. Getting a card graded is one thing, but preserving and protecting it is a journey long taken afterwards.

1. Time and Money - Submitting a card to a grading company can be a time consuming and costly process. Depending on the number of cards you are submitting and the turnaround time that you require, the cost can be hefty. Throw delivery costs, insurance and confirmation costs into the mix and you can easily see why people may balk at the chance to get any card graded.
2. Opportunity Cost - Getting a card back from a grading company with a less than desired grade can actually hurt the value of the card. Sometimes leaving the card un-graded is the better bet depending on the value and scarcity of the card itself. This is a tough one for lots of people and is often seen as a gamble.

With the pros and cons out of the way, let's shift our attention to which cards should be graded and perhaps which of those are better left un-graded. Any card CAN be graded, but sometimes it just doesn't make sense to get a card graded.

To Grade or Not To Grade Sports CardsDO GRADE:

1. Cards for your personal collection - If value is not high on your list of priorities, then by all means get that card graded for your own personal protection. What's sacred to one owner may not be the next one's cup of tea, so do what feels right in this particular instance.
2. Cards that currently have a high value or are considered high end - These cards speak for themselves and you should not suffer many letdowns by getting these cards graded. Getting these classes of cards graded and mounted into a solid protective case is very sensible in almost any regard.
3. Cards that you expect will jump in value substantially - Exactly what qualifies as substantial depends on many factors, but more often than not, the anticipated jump in value should surely cover the cost of grading and not hurt profit margins. Sometimes you just have to roll the dice and roll with the punches.


1. Common cards - These cards have low value in the eyes of the market, thus relegating them to lowly status among collectors. Why spend all the time and money to grade a card whose destiny is the attic or landfill? Save your time and money and just wait for the right card to come along that is worth getting graded.
2. Cards with obvious signs of damage or abnormalities - When a card is sent to a grading company, they use high precision instruments and lighting to spot any flaws and blemishes. Yes, even those not visible to the naked eye can be spotted by the experts at the company. Surely if you see something, these experts will definitely notice it, and if you know it will hurt the value of the card when receiving a lower grade, then do yourself a favor and take your chances out on the open market.
3. 1/1 cards - These cards already hold all the value they can get just by being the only one ever made. There won't be much of a lift in value by getting these graded and, as we've seen already, doing so may actually hurt its value.

In closing, nothing spoken here is immune to subjectivity meaning collectors should hone their expectations on what the best practices are for their particular situation. With the right training and repetitions, a collector can get through the initial stages of grading without any major hitches. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages serves as a foundation in the decision making, while knowing which cards make good candidates for grading allow them to take that next step.

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