Welcome to the Beginner’s Guide to Grading, a weekly series where we take you through the ins and outs of finding a card to grade and getting a PSA grade. There are loads of resources on the internet, so here’s your one-stop-shop.
Last week we went over how to select which cards to send away for grading. Now that you’ve determined the cards that matter to you with regards to your collection goals, it’s now time to take a look at what PSA look for when grading a card.
PSA have grading standards that they adhere to when inspecting your card before encasing it. This grading standard is used to determine where your card falls in line with their sliding scale from a PSA 1 (Poor) to a PSA 10 (Gem Mint).
According to the PSA grading standards, “Gem Mint” PSA 10 “is a virtually perfect card.”
PSA does not provide a breakdown of the grade your card receives, that being said other grading companies do. From the perspective of understanding exactly what makes a perfect card and what to look out for before sending your card away via Ludkins Collectables to PSA let’s break down the four categories required when grading a card.
The centring on a card is the outer border that encompasses the content of the card. There are two types of centring to take into account: back and front centring. When looking for a card that will grade highly, PSA perceives perfect centring to be within a tolerance of approximately 55/45 and 60/40 percent on the front and 75/25 percent on the back.
Here is a comparison between a PSA 10 and a PSA 8 which showcases perfect centring vs a less equal perspective. The PSA 8 has thicker yellow borders on the left-hand side and therefore is outside of the 60/40 percent leeway given by PSA.
A PSA 10 must have 4 perfectly sharp corners according to the PSA guidelines, this means that the corners of the card have little to no whitening and form the perfect shape you would associate with a Pokémon card.
This is a comparison between perfect PSA 10 corners and the corners of a Pokémon card that has been graded as a PSA 8. You will notice a little bit of whitening on the PSA 10, there are allowances for this sort of thing but they are very small allowances. On the PSA 8, there is more whitening across multiple corners on the back.
These corners are most commonly the reason why your freshly pulled card is a PSA 9 over a PSA 10 and this is what makes a Gem Mint card so special, it’s never guaranteed that a newly packed is perfect.
Edges follow the same rules as corners but instead of the points of the card, it’s the sides. This means you want to make sure the card you’re sending in for grading doesn’t have any whitening on the sides. In the picture documented below, the left and right edges have whitening severely impacting the would-be grade of this card.
The final aspect of a well-graded PSA card is the surface, which means a card must not have scratches or print lines in the holo pattern. A good example of surface scratches is the Neo Genesis Lugia from last week’s article. At first glance, the card looks to have a very clean surface (right) but shine a light on the holo (left) and micro scratches appear all across the front of the card. For a card like this, there is still value in grading due to the age and rarity, that being said this card will most definitely have a much lower grade due to the surface.
Now that you have more information on the PSA guidelines for grading cards, take one of the cards you selected for grading last week and inspect it. Remember, grading is a skill and the professionals over at PSA will most likely be able to determine flaws you may have missed when sending your cards away. This is why pre-grading services such as the one offered at Ludkins Collectables is a great way to make sure you can set your expectations and not get disappointed during your return.
If you would like to look further into PSA grading standard, their list can be found here.
John-Anthony Disotto – Ludkins Media Editor