How To Know If A Card Is Worth Grading

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In most cases, grading raw cards certainly increases their value and authenticity, but it’s important to establish what factors determine whether a card is worth the time and expense of grading.

In some cases, but not all, it’s worth grading cards.

Ultimately, if you’re grading a card to increase its value and sell, then it comes down to the time and money it’ll cost and the potential profit that will be made.

There’s multiple factors to consider, which change based on different goals; I’ve covered everything you need to know below.

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The Main Factors To Consider When Deciding Whether To Grade A Card

The first step is deciding which grading company to use, which is an important decision in itself. Higher reputation grading services, like BGS and PSA, will give a card more added value than a lesser-known service.

We’ve established that it’s important to know what to grade, but what are the factors to consider that help to know if a card is worth grading?

There are several things to look at, let’s take a look at them:

The Condition Of The Card

The first factor to consider, and arguably the most important, is the condition of the card in question.

Higher graded cards are more collectable and sought-after than lower graded cards, they’re rarer as well as being more appealing, which contributes to higher values.

A card with a very low grade, can actually be worth less than the same card ungraded, or at least less than the value of the raw card with the expense of grading added – That’s because a collector could buy it raw in the hope it will grade higher, whereas if it’s already been graded then there’s no potential for further added value.

We know that a card that’s in pristine condition, and achieves the top grade, like a PSA 10 for example, will be worth far more than the same card in worse condition – There’s usually a big jump in value between the same card that’s graded PSA 9 compared to PSA 10, and the value drops further with each lower grade.

Grading a raw card that will come back as a grade 8 or higher is likely to give a good or decent return on the expense paid to get it graded, but as you start getting lower grades, the profits start minimizing or go into losses. That scale does change with old vintage cards, because a grade like a PSA 6 for those cards is something to celebrate, and will hold good value.

So, it’s important to evaluate the condition of the card before submitting it. You can even get a pre-grade, which will give an indication of what grade the card would likely receive if it was submitted to one of the grading services.

You can also use your own experience, which will build up once you’ve been through the process multiple times and been around cards long enough, or you can get the opinions of others in the hobby.

There are 4 areas that grading companies generally consider when evaluation card condition:

  • Surface
  • Corners
  • Edges
  • Centering

Properly preparing and cleaning a card before submitting it can help it achieve a better grade.

Once you get an indication of the potential grade, you can check the current value of the card in that grade, and the grade above and below, and decide whether it’s worth it.

The Rarity And Scarcity Of The Card

Mainstream releases, with high print-runs, are more risky to grade – That’s because the supply of each grade in that card could keep increasing after new submissions.

If there’s an abundance of PSA 10s for a particular card, which keeps increasing, the value will drop, which will have a knock-on effect for the lower grades, which will also decrease.

Rare and hard-to-find cards are more valuable, and have the potential to increase in value over time, especially if there’s no potential for an increase in graded supply.

If you’re grading a card to sell for profit after, mainstream and common cards are generally not worth submitting, unless they achieve the top grade maybe.

A few examples of cards that are worth grading are:

  • Lower-numbered parallels and inserts
  • Hits (ie. Autograph and patch cards)
  • Rookie cards
  • Vintage cards
Insert, hit, rookie and vintage ungraded sports cards

The Popularity And Demand Of The Card

The popularity and demand for a card can also influence whether it’s worth grading.

Think about the reasons that a particular card is valued at its current price – If a short term event causes a spike in demand, which pushes values up, that might not sustain at that level – You have to be prepared for the grading process to take weeks or months to complete, so consider whether prices will remain at current levels in the meantime.

If a card is valued high because it features a popular player who’s a legend of their sport, for example, the value is likely to sustain or increase in the time it takes to grade, whereas a player who’s had a good few weeks, and has seen a surge in card prices due to short term hype, might not sustain those card values for long enough for you to receive your graded card back, and sell it.

The Best Tools To Help Determine Whether To Grade A Card

Market Movers

Market Movers allows you to track your collection all in one place; Of all the tools that I’ve tried for tracking my collection, it’s the best one.

You can search specific cards, either ungraded or in specific grades, and see graphs and tables with pricing history from multiple top auction sites, like eBay for example.

It’s a helpful app to help decide which cards to get graded, because you can check prices of your cards over time, in the potential grades they’ll achieve, and see the current trends and popularity of cards.

Population Reports

Many of the top grading companies have a free population report resource, which allows you to check specific cards and see how many of them have been graded (by that grading service), and which grade was awarded.

Both BGS and PSA have population reports on their website – I would recommend checking both to see how much graded supply there is for the card you’re considering submitting for grading.

Cards that have high levels of supply, particularly in the highest grades, will generally be worth less.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, grading a card can increase its value and provide assurance of its authenticity and condition. However, it’s important to carefully consider the factors listed above that help to know if a card is worth grading.

While there are advantages and disadvantages to grading, it can be a worthwhile investment for collectors who have rare, valuable, or high-demand cards in their collections. By choosing a reputable grading service and familiarizing yourself with their grading system, you can start to predict grades based on experience.

Picture of Jason Clarke

Jason Clarke

Jason is a lifelong sports fanatic and a huge fan of the NBA and NFL. He's long been a collector of sports cards - For over 20 years in fact. He collects various different sports, as well as some non-sport cards. He has a particular soft spot for 90s basketball inserts. Find Jason on X (Twitter): @jason_clarke91.
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