In recent years, card grading has become a huge part of the sports card hobby. There’s many good reasons to get a sports card graded, such as increasing the value if you’re looking to sell the card.
PSA are arguably the most well-known and most used card grading service right now. In the last couple of years, there’s been a huge spike in the number of submissions, with hundreds of thousands getting submitted every week. In fact, it’s gotten so crazy that PSA have had to temporarily suspend their services and pause any new submissions recently, due to the sheer volume, and that’s even after they almost doubled the price of all the services – they haven’t got the resources to keep up with the demand.
Current PSA grade pricing:
Card collectors and investors know that a card encased with a PSA grade, on the 1-10 scale, can x10 it’s value on the market… It’s like the hobby’s stamp of approval, or disapproval of a card’s condition and authenticity.
Collectors trust grading companies like PSA, because of their reputation, and that’s why they’re so popular. However, with the recent high volumes causing a suspension of services, and with ever-rising costs of grading with PSA as well as crazy wait times (this year it’s been over 6 months minimum turnaround), there’s a need for alternative services.
It’s important to look beyond just turnaround times and price and remember that not all grading companies will hold the same weight that PSA does. Just because one company might be able to grade and return your card a lot quicker than PSA or even offer the service a lot cheaper, it doesn’t mean you should necessarily use them. As I just mentioned, there’s a trust established on PSA grading because the company has built that over many years, so collectors will pay a premium for highly graded PSA cards.
If you’re grading a card with the intention of increasing its value to sell for profit, it’s worth researching the value any given grading brand will add before making a decision.
Here’s a look at the best alternatives to PSA grading:
If you’re someone who’s been in the card collecting hobby for a while, then Beckett shouldn’t be a name that’s new to you. Beckett grading is just as well known as PSA and close in popularity.
They have a slightly different grading scale to PSA, which includes sub-grades. So with Beckett, your card can grade a 9, 9.5 or 10 for example, whereas with PSA it’s either a 9 or a 10.
Beckett’s premium grade, the black label pristine 10, probably holds more value than any other grading in the hobby, including a PSA 10 – that’s because Beckett have a bit of a reputation for being ‘stricter’ when it comes to awarding their top grades, so for some collectors, it’s seen as the pinnacle, and that’s what gives it so much value.
Is Beckett better than PSA? There’s not a lot of difference between the two. They have slightly different grading scales but both are trusted by collectors and both hold weight in terms of value.
It’s worth noting you’ll have to pay a similar amount to grade with Beckett and the turnaround time is also going to be similar so if you’re looking for an alternative to PSA that gives you something better on one of those factors, then you’re best to consider a different option.
BGS’ Current Pricing:
‘Economy’ – $35/card
‘Standard’ – $50/card
BGS’ Turnaround Time:
Currently 8+ months
SGC seems to be establishing itself as the ‘third in-line’ grading company for popularity right now. The current turnaround times, compared to PSA and Beckett, make them an appealing alternative option to collectors looking to grade their cards.
They’re also established enough now to increase the value of a card with a high grade enough to make it worth spending the money to have them graded.
After changing a few years ago, they also now work with a 1-10 scale (with .5’s like Beckett) but they work on a pricing system whereby you pay based on the card’s declared value – so the more the card is valued at, the more you’ll pay for it’s grading.
SGC more than quadrupled their workforce during the 2020 trading card boom to keep up with demand, which they seem to be doing as they’re still able to offer good turnaround times – this is where they win big over PSA right now.
SGC’s Current Pricing:
Based on the declared value of the card.
<$1,500 – $30/card
<$3,500 – $85/card
<$7,500 – $250/card
<$20,000 – $500/card
<$50,000 – $1,000/card
<$100,000 – $2,000/card
>$100,000 – $3,750/card
SGC’s Turnaround Time:
Currently 20-25 Days
HGA is very much a new grading option for card collectors. They claim to have the best ‘slab designs’ on the market and offer something quite different to what PSA currently offers, which is digital grading. Their grading scale is also 1-10 (with .5’s as well).
With the concept of grading cards with software still in its infancy, it hasn’t yet fully established itself and gained mass trust among collectors, certainly not to the level of PSA anyway – but that’s not to say it won’t in the future. HGA are trying to change the game and move away from humans grading cards, which will definitely have its benefits in terms of turnaround times, if it does prove successful.
HGA is the cheapest grading card service on this list for entry level grading. PSA’s cheapest option is priced the same as HGA, however there’s a cap on card value (currently $499), which there isn’t currently for HGA, so it’s cheaper to get cards over that value cap graded with HGA.
The design of their slabs also match the colors of the card design, so each slab will become more unique to a specific card, rather than having a standard slab design for all grades, as with PSA – something I think will appeal to many collectors.
Their current turnaround times and prices definitely make them a good alternative option to PSA. You need to consider whether HGA, and it’s fairly new concept of digital grading, is right for what you want – again, if you’re grading a card to increase it’s value and sell, I would always research current values of the same card that has been graded by HGA.
HGA’s Current Pricing:
‘Best Value’ – $20/card
‘Popular’ – $35/card
HGA’s Turnaround Time:
Currently 30-60 Days
PSA is the most popular grading service for good reason, they’re established, trusted and reliable, but they’ve struggled to scale at a pace that matches the recent boom in demand for card grading. It can’t be ignored that their turnaround times and price increases currently make them a less desirable option to many card collectors looking to submit cards for grading.
The 3 alternative services I’ve listed above are definitely viable other options to PSA. BGS arguably have the same issues right now as PSA, because they’re also a hugely popular and well-known grading service, but they have the pull of the black label pristine 10 to consider. SGC and HGA certainly offer a much faster service currently, and they both have differences to PSA which are appealing, such as SGC’s pricing system or HGA’s digital software grading, as well as their tailored slab designs.
If you’re grading to increase a card’s value, then make sure to check current values of each of those cards with grading from all the options you have, to see if it’s worth doing – then consider how fast you’ll have the card back in your hands.