One of the most common questions we get from collectors is whether they should get a specific card graded by one of the third-party grading companies.
The unfortunate issue is that there isn’t always a clear-cut answer to this question.
Numerous factors go into third-party grading, ranging from grading costs to personal preferences or the additional value a graded card might provide.
In nearly all circumstances, a graded card is worth more than its raw counterpart.
There might be some minor exceptions to this. For example, if a card is returned from a grader labeled as questionable authenticity, we could theoretically say that the card values are approximately equal.
But if we assume that a card gets a numerical grade, it normally should increase the value versus the raw version.
Graded Cards Are Worth More Than Raw Cards
Third-party grading companies such as PSA, Beckett, and SGC have transformed the hobby over the past decade. When I started the hobby in the mid-1980s, there was no uniformity, and it was a complete free-for-all all.
If I had a card of questionable authenticity, it was up to me to try and figure out whether it was real. If I had a card that looked nice, I had to estimate a value (based on condition) and then get someone else to believe that value was the correct figure.
Nowadays, it is so much easier.
There are population reports, so I can see the exact number of cards that have been graded to help estimate the overall population of a card.
There are certificate numbers in which I can go online to verify if a card in question has been graded or not.
The condition scales have provided a level of consistency and transparency in pricing, making it so much easier to transact with others.
I no longer have to guess the condition of a card when a grading company has already done the work for me.
And the fact that a graded card is encased and preserved in a consistent holder through whatever grading company you are dealing with makes it much more attractive for collectors.
With a graded card, I know EXACTLY what I am buying and that it has been authenticated to ensure it is not a forgery.
This goes a long way in helping drive prices higher in a hobby that used to be besieged with counterfeit cards. Now, I’m not saying that scammers don’t still exist, but it has become a much cleaner and more transparent environment.
Why Should I Get My Card Graded?
The obvious answer as to WHYis that, as noted above, getting a card graded will immediately add value to the card.
Now, this isn’t 100% always accurate, especially if you overestimate the condition of your card. Thus, when trying to self-grade a specific card, I stress that you always estimate conservatively.
The grading companies can be consistent, but you often run into a grader who decides for one reason or another that the card has a MUCH less desirable grade than you believe.
So being conservative is always essential when thinking about submitting for grading.
In addition to adding value, a graded card provides much better liquidity.
If you need to sell your card, the chances are (considering equal grades) that a graded copy will sell for more money than a raw copy.
Check Out Our Guide To The 30 Most Valuable Football Cards Of All-Time
Buyers have trust in the big three third-party graders and their ability to provide an accurate grade. This leads to better resale value in the end for graded cards.
When you submit your card to one of the grading companies, one of the significant benefits, in my mind, is the holder provided (also known as a ‘slab’ throughout the hobby).
Some critique how well the holders protect your card, but in my mind, the cases are the best solution for storage on the market.
To Grade Or Not To Grade
Now, we first need to consider the COSTS of the actual grading service and the time involved.
For PSA, the baseline cost in everyday environments is around $20, with a rough 25-business-day turnaround. However, recent grading disruptions in the hobby have led to massive price increases and the halting of economy-based services.
SGC and Beckett have also instituted price increases and changes in service levels.
(Note with PSA, there are quarterly membership offers that can occasionally reduce the per-card grading costs but requires bulk-type submissions typically.)
For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that the cost of grading a card is $20.
Let’s say we have a Roger Clemens Topps rookie card in what we think is right around Near Mint condition.
PS- if you want to learn more about grading and how to estimate conditions, our card grading tutorial should help you!
Here’s our Clemens card:
If you’ve read our grading guide, I think Near Mint would be a reasonable estimation of the condition. The corners are pretty sharp, but a tiny bit soft on that bottom left corner.
Remember to always be conservative with your grade.If we think it’s a Mint card and it comes back as Near Mint, then we have likely overestimated the actual value of our card.
I would start the process by going to PSA’s website to get an idea of the grading population.
Here’s a snapshot of how many PSA-graded Clemens rookies are out there:
If you weren’t already aware, the 1985 Topps set was massively over-produced, with nearly 23,000 Clemens cards graded by PSA.
Note that this doesn’t even include any other third-party populations, such as SGC or raw cards.
Needless to say, the Clemens card has a massive supply.
Next, I would head to eBay to see what a PSA 8 (Near Mint) Clemens rookie card goes for. Since the Clemens Topps rookie was massively produced, there is no shortage of these cards in the marketplace.
The average selling price is around $15 for one of his cards. Thus, for the rough cost of getting our card graded, we could go out on eBay and buy a Near Mint Clemens and have $5 left over.
Even if the card came back as a PSA 9 (Mint condition), the value only goes up to around $30.
So the really simple equation that you need to remember is this
Estimated Card Value (based on current eBay pricing) – $20 > $0
(note using $20 here as grading cost but likely much higher at today’s prices).
Please check out our Sports Card Grading Calculator for updated pricing information and advice on whether you should grade your card.
If it’s not greater than zero, don’t bother. If it’s precisely zero, I probably wouldn’t bother either, but then it becomes more of a personal decision.
If you are grading just because you want it graded and don’t care how much value it adds, then by all means, go for it.
Find Out If YOUR Cards Are Worth Grading
All Vintage Cards will review your collection and provide some advice on whether to grade or not
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Pre-War Baseball Cards (Printed Prior to 1945)
Cards of Hall of Famers and stars from this era can easily be worth thousands of dollars, especially if they are in great shape. Even common cards (those of non-star players) can be worth major money depending on which card it is.
In addition to adding value, a graded card provides much better liquidity. If you need to sell your card, the chances are (considering equal grades) that a graded copy will sell for more money than a raw copy. Buyers have trust in the big three third-party graders and their ability to provide an accurate grade.What grading company is best for vintage cards? ›
PSA is the biggest player in the sports card grading industry. Owned by Collectors Universe, and founded in the early 1990s, they are the first grading company in the hobby and have graded millions of cards since their inception. In some cases, PSA graded cards command a premium over other TPGs.Is it worth getting cards graded by PSA? ›
So in the end, does it make sense to grade cards? If you'd like to increase the value, and are certain the card you're grading will receive a great score, then sure. On the other hand, if you simply want to authenticate or protect your collection, then yes as well!Are 80's and 90's sports cards worth anything? ›
Those were some great cards back when they were first released, but they aren't going to put anyone through college today, let alone buy a ham sandwich. Sports card values from the late 1980s and early 1990s are pretty much worthless, with some notable exceptions.Are 80s sports cards worth anything? ›
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Much to the surprise of novice collectors, getting cards graded does not always increase their value. In fact, most cards, once graded, will return less than if they were sold raw. *Note: If you're looking for an explanation of the grading system and its intricacies, we've got a separate page for all that.Is it better to buy raw or graded cards? ›
Graded cards are generally worth more than their counterparts that aren't graded because graded cards have been examined, authenticated, and assigned a condition by an expert. Thus, a card deemed to be gem mint is going to be valued higher than one that looks mint in “raw” condition. This makes sense.What is the harshest card grading company? ›
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Current Consensus for What Qualifies As 'Vintage' For most, the definition of vintage is anything produced prior to 1980. However some think those 60's and 70's cards don't necessarily deserve a vintage designation and see anything produced as prior to the 1960's as vintage.
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1961 Fleer #43 Jerry West Rookie Card PSA 9: Sold in August 2021 on Heritage Auctions for $87,000. 1957 Topps #17 Bob Cousy Rookie Card PSA 8: Sold in August 2021 on Heritage Auctions for $63,000. 1985 Prism Jewel Stickers Michael Jordan Rookie PSA 8: Sold in February 2021 on eBay for $53,332.What year sports cards are worth the most? ›
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- Cards of important and popular players.
- Rookie cards.
- Cards from main brands.
- Rare cards.
- Old and popular cards.
- Cards with the highest condition possible.