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Should You Grade Your Trading Cards?

Collect A Hobby, Should You Grade Your Trading Cards

Should You Grade Your Trading Cards? I see this question asked all the time. People will post pictures of their cards, asking if they should get them graded. The truth is, only you can decide if you should grade a card or not. We do not know your financial situation, your intentions with the card or even the quality of the card. These are all things that only the owner can know. Grading can increase the value of the card as it gives a 3rd parties evaluation of a card. With that being said I will go through some things you think about if you are considering to get your card graded.

Pre-grading

Pre-grading is looking over the card before deciding to send it in for grading. Make sure to be extra critical. Do not assume you will get the highest grade. If you are pre-grading on a scale of 1-10 and can’t decide between a 7 or an 8, you should assume it will be a 7. Do not hope that the grader misses some whitening or goes easy on your centering. These grading companies can be very picky when grading. You would not want to send in a bunch of cards, all for them to return a grade or two lower than you expected. Think to yourself, if this card got a grade lower than my pre-grade, would I be happy with that outcome?

Condition

First thing you should look at on your trading card is its condition. There are a few areas you should take a look at.

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Centering

Is the border of the card equal on all sides? Make sure to send in cards that are equal on all sides. If this is not perfect it can harm the overall grade of the card. You can usually ballpark if the card is off-center or not. Use your best judgement, the more off-center the card is, the lower your grade will be for centering. If the card is severely off-center, it might qualify as a miscut card which can be very desirable to some collectors. However, getting a miscut qualifier is very difficult so look for cards to send in that have perfect borders.

Corners

Does the card have a nice square or rounded corner? (Depending on the trading card.) If it is dinged, bent or has whitening, it will hurt the grade. It can be difficult to see corner imperfections. If a card is dropped it can cause an almost unnoticeable bend. Make sure to put the card up against a different color background and examine closely. With the right lighting you might see a bend or whitening you never saw before. Sometimes, the card is cut poorly from the factory and can be damaged out of the pack, so look extra closely at those corners!

Edges

Similar to corners, are the edges. Are they clean with no dings or whitening? This is where you will find most of the whitening on the card. In Trading Card Games, the ones that have been played with suffer from horrible edgewear. Every time the card was shuffled gives it a chance to have edgewear. If you are playing with the cards, even in sleeves they can get damaged. When you are trying to put it in a hard sleeve, you can ding the edge. We have all done it and though it may seem insignificant, enough force while miss judging putting it in a hard sleeve can cause damage to lower the grade.

Surface

Check carefully for scrapes, scratches, dirt, smudges and anything else that can make the card imperfect. Look extra closely as some scratches can only be seen under certain lighting. Similar to edges, if the card was played with surface damage would most likely be noticeable. Sliding the card even on a flat or soft surface can scratch the card. The sliding of the cards against each other, even when pulling them from the pack can scratch them. Do not forget, these are just thin pieces of cardboard so they are very delicate and any amount of handling them can cause scratching.

Dents

Dents are extremely important in grading. Some companies will reduce your grade several points for a dent. The smallest of dents can drastically impact the grade of your card, even if the rest of the card is flawless. If you stored the card in a 3-ring binder and did not close it properly, the cards on the left side where the rings are can push down and dent the cards. These are called binder dents, so if you are storing your cards in a binder be careful. Also, be careful with how you handle your trading card as your fingernail with enough force can indent the card. The best way to prevent denting is to put the card in a brand-new penny sleeve and then in a top loader or card saver.

Print lines

When cards are printed, sometimes there are very faint straight lines running across the card. These can be mistaken for scratches but they are a perfect straight line. When a grader sees this, they consider it an imperfection, even though it came from the factory like that. Look under a light to see if you notice any print lines on your trading card.

“Pack Fresh”

Pack fresh does not automatically mean a perfect card. It refers to a card that was pulled from a pack and placed immediacy into a sleeve. I see this mistake a lot and as mentioned above with print lines, centering and corners you can have a flawed card before you even open the pack. Make sure to inspect every element when trying to judge the grade of the card before you send it off.

Cost

There are a few things you want to keep track of when it comes to price. Make sure to know how much you spent on the card, how much you will be spending in grading fees, the shipping of the card and how much the card will be worth once it is graded. If the combined price you paid for everything is more than the value of the card, then it is not worth getting graded. You would not want to pick a $10, ship it out for $5 and have it graded for $40. Only to have the card in a grade 10 is $35. Make sure to be aware of the cost you put into grading a card to see if it is worth it.

Willing To Wait?

A lot of grading companies have a long turnaround time. Grading in the past few years has become extremely popular and the backlog on many companies is thousands of cards. Are you willing to wait weeks to even months for your card to come back? Be careful that if you send a card in to sell, there could be hundreds of that card in the backlog, and by the time you get it back it could have a very high population. Not to mention that the value could be drastically different than when you sent it in originally.

Just Buy It Graded!

So you really want a particular card graded, but do not currently own a raw copy. You can buy the card online or pull from a pack, put it into a card saver and send it off only to get a low grade. In this case you wasted time and money and didn’t even get the grade you wanted. Most times the market has pricing down to a science. With the money you spent, you could have just bought the card in the grade you want outright. Look up all the pricing and be realistic on how much it will cost and the probability of you getting the grade you want. If the odds are against you, just buy the card instead of trying to grade it.

Do You Even Want The Card Graded?

When I see people asking if they should get a card graded, it seems like they are looking for reassurance and do want to get the card graded. They got a valuable card and feel like they SHOULD be grading it. You should ask yourself do you really want to go through the hassle of grading, then selling for potentially a small to no profit? Sometimes it’s better to just hold onto the card, trade it for one you actually want or sell it raw. There is this feeling, especially recently that every card that is pulled with value should be graded. Try to take a step back and recognize if you actually want to get it graded or because you feel like you are expected to.

Sentimental Cards

The last thing to consider when asking yourself “should you grade your trading card” is something you and only you can decide. You cannot give your card to someone else and look it over to decide this for you. They can’t run advanced mathematical equations to determine if it is financially profitable. This could be a childhood card, a card given to you by a friend or just your favorite card that you finally pulled from a pack. You can send it in at the lowest and slowest tier so that this card can be graded.

When it comes to these sentimental cards, I notice a lot of people do not care about the price, making a profit or waiting to get the card back. These cards usually stay in people’s collections and they do not sell them. If you have a card like this in your collection, and really love it, grading it is not a bad idea. Lots of grading companies will authenticate cards and not put a grade on it so you can have your sentimental card in a slab without worrying about a low numerical grade.

Go Get That 10!

As you can tell, there are so many variables in grading cards and you sometimes never know what to expect. This is why you should be 100% certain of the card you are sending in and willing to be able to accept any grade that it comes back with. This can be anything from missed dents that the grading company finds to sending in a perfect card and getting a 10. With the information above, you can confidently go gather up your best cards and send them in for grading!

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