Do you remember the first deck of Pokemon cards you ever received? The excitement you felt opening that sealed package, then flipping through a set of colorful cards, excited to bring it to school the next day? Well, today we will speak about graded pokemon cards, and the grading systems
How would you feel if ten years later you discovered that deck in the exact same condition?
Trading cards really did bring a lot of thrill and excitement to our lives back then. But for a select number of people, maintaining the condition of these cards over time was their vision. Why? To make a huge amount of money by selling them? To preserve a beautiful memory? For passion?
Whatever the reason, if you happen to have what you think is a rare or well-preserved Pokemon card, it’s best to get them traded immediately.
To help you on this journey, we’ll explain the basics of Pokemon card grading.
Why should you have your cards graded?
Of all the trading cards of our generation, there are only a handful that have become collectibles that can be resold for a good sum. If you have kept your NBA Trading Cards, Magic the Gathering Cards or Pokemon Cards in good condition, then there is a high possibility that you can sell them for a good sum.
However, this is not the case with all the old Pokemon Cards out there. Even if you can check the condition yourself, you still won’t be able to sell it for a good price unless it has been verified by an authority.
Ask yourself, would you take the risk of buying jewelry from someone who says it’s 24 karat, or would you rather go to a licensed and well-known jewelry store?
Having your cards graded by reputable card grading companies lets you know what the exact value of your card is. Therefore, there is no chance of devaluing your card. This is reason enough to have your cards sent to the companies we will mention later.
So, if you’ve been storing your Pokemon cards in good condition, it’s time to pull them out of your closet and get them graded!
Where should I have my cards graded?
Currently, three official card grading companies are trusted by collectors around the world. They are Beckett Grading Services (BGS), Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), and Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA). Having your cards graded by one of these companies would give your card a seal of legitimacy that can drive up its resale price.
How will my cards be graded?
Each of these card grading companies has their own grading scores and sub-grades or qualifiers. And even though their ratings are almost the same, each would still have a different value in the marketplace.
That is, a Charizard GEM-MT 10 graded by the PSA would sell higher than a Charizard Pristine 10 from CGC. This is because PSA is the more reliable and reputable grading company of the two.
But simply put, your Pokemon cards will be graded on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 is the lowest grade you can receive.
On what are Cards Graded?
Below are the things that card graders evaluate when you give your card for grading:
When grading Pokemon cards, the condition of the card’s surface is the most important. Graders put your card under a microscope (literally), to find micro-tears, scratches, stains, and any other visual flaws on your card.
If you have Pokemon cards with large tears or scratches, it’s almost pointless to have them graded, as these will greatly devalue the value of your cards, making it a waste of money.
Edges and corners
The next thing that will be evaluated are the edges and corners of your card. They will look at bleaching, which is an indicator of frequency and usage.
High value cards will have little or no whitening on the edges and will maintain a sharper edge than cards that have been played a lot.
For most card collectors, the edges and corners are not as important as the surface and the card itself. But for purists, having a flawless card means a lot.
Printing and cutting
Finally, graders will evaluate the quality of printing and cutting by the manufacturer. While this is something outside of your control, it’s still important in determining the value of your Pokemon cards.
They will evaluate how good the print quality is and if there are any printing defects such as off-center images, blurry images, etc. They will also look at whether or not the edges of your card are even and if your card is printed in the center.
If you have papers with manufacturing defects, don’t expect to get a high grade, even if you’ve taken good care of them.
How Beckett Grading Services evaluates Pokemon cards.
Beckett Grading Services (BGS) was founded as a price guide for card collectors. However, in 2001, they began their grading services. Although they are best known for grading MTG cards, most Pokemon card collectors still consider a BGS 10 to be the gold standard in card collecting.
On their website, BGS claims to offer a simple grading scale. As mentioned, they use a 1-10 point grading scale, with decreasing increments of half a point.
|9||Mint||4||VG-EX (Very Good-Excellent)|
|8.5||Near Mint-Mint +||3.5||VG+|
|8||Near Mint-Mint||3||VG (Very Good)|
|7.5||Near Mint +||2.5||G+|
|7||Near Mint||2||G (Good)|
|6||EX-NM (Excellent-Near Mint)||1||Poor|
What sets BGS apart from other card grading companies? Well, they offer a very detailed report card compared to PSAs and CGCs. At a glance, you’ll know the subgrades of your cards.
There are four categories that determine your paper’s overall grade – centering, corners, edges, and surface.
According to BGS, the overall numerical grade is not a simple average of the four subgrades. BGS uses an algorithm that determines the final grade using the four subgrades – the lowest overall grade is the first category to look at.
Let’s take a quick look at their example below:
The reason this card received an 8.5 is that even though the surface grade was an 8 (the lowest grade ever), the 9.5 grades on centering and corners were strong enough to bring it up a full point to reach the 8.5 level.
Most Pokemon card collectors would say that BGS is the most accessible and convenient choice for them – which is true. However, this grading system shows us that the company still maintains its integrity in meticulously grading cards.
In fact, they gave us a sneak peek and explanation of their process, which you can read here.
How the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) values Pokemon cards
Certified Guaranty Company (CGC)
Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) is the youngest of the three card grading companies. Although they’ve been around almost as long as the other two companies, they started out as a comic book grading company and it wasn’t until 2020 that they began grading trading cards.
Although they are young in the card grading game, collectors believe they follow strict standards that make them respectable. Like BGS, they also provide sub-grades for your Pokemon cards. And, to ensure impartiality, CGC Trading Cards graders are prohibited from commercially buying and selling collectibles!
CGS is more transparent when it comes to its standard grading scale:
|10 Gem Mint||must have no evidence of any manufacturing or handling defects||5.0 VG/FN||average collectible with several moderate defects.|
|9.9 Mint||nearly indistinguishable from a 10.0 but will have a very minor manufacturing defect|
will not have any evidence of handling defects.
|4.5 VG+||slightly below-average collectible with multiple moderate defects|
|9.8 NM/M||nearly perfect collectible with negligible handling or manufacturing defects||4.0 VG||below-average collectible with multiple moderate defects|
|9.6 NM+||very well-preserved collectible with several minor manufacturing or handling defects||3.5 VG-||below-average collectible with several major defects or an accumulation of multiple moderate defects|
|9.4 NM||very well-preserved collectible with minor wear and small manufacturing or handling defects||3.0 G/VG||collectible that shows significant evidence of handling with several moderate-to-major defects|
|9.2 NM –||very well-preserved collectible with some wear and small manufacturing or handling defects||2.5 G||collectible that shows extensive evidence of handling with multiple moderate-to-major defects|
|9.0 VF/NM||very well-preserved collectible with good eye appeal|
a number of minor handling and/or manufacturing defects.
|2.0 G||collectible that shows extensive evidence of handling with numerous moderate-to-major defects|
|8.5 VF+||attractive collectible with a moderate defect or a number of small defects||1.8 G-||collectible that shows extensive evidence of handling with numerous major defects.|
|7.5 VF –||above-average collectible with a moderate defect or an accumulation of small defects||1.5 Fa/G||collectible that shows extensive evidence of handling with a heavy accumulation of major defects.|
|7.0 FN/VF||above-average collectible with a major defect or an accumulation of small defects||1.0 Fa||very poorly handled collectible with a heavy accumulation of major defects.|
|6.5 FN+||above-average collectible with a major defect and some smaller defects, or a significant accumulation of small defects||0.5 Poor||heavily defaced collectible with a number major defects. Some pieces will also be missing|
|6.0 FN||slightly above-average collectible with a major defect and some smaller defects, or a significant accumulation of small defects|
|5.5 FN –||slightly above-average collectible with several moderate defects.|
It’s no wonder CGC has gained the trust of many Pokemon card collectors in a short period of time. Their insanely detailed and specific grading scale leaves no room for error and produces a grade that truly matches the card.
How the Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) grades Pokemon cards.
Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is at the top of the card grading scale. They are the grading choice for most card collectors – especially Pokemon collectors.
However, with the resurgence in popularity of Pokemon cards in the last 2020, their service has slowed down, and getting your cards graded will take months to complete. They are also the most expensive grader of the 3 options.
If this is MasterChef, then PSA is Gordon Ramsay, and having a GEM-MT 10 card means cooking the most tender, juicy, and flavorful Kobe steak with a side of caviar and truffle sauce.
So, how strict is the PSA really? Their website is very transparent when it comes to their grading standards, but let us summarize for you!
|GEM-MT 10 (Gem Mint)||virtually perfect card, from its four sharp corners and no creasing to its sharp focus and full original gloss intact.|
free of any staining, though allowances are made for slight printing imperfections if they don’t impair the card’s overall appeal.
image must be centered on the card within a tolerance not to exceed 55/45 to 60/40 percent on the front and 75/25 percent on the reverse.
|MINT 9 (Mint)||exhibits only one of the following minor flaws: a very slight wax stain on the reverse, a minor printing imperfection or slightly off-white borders|
Centering must be approximately 60/40 to 65/35 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse
|NM-MT 8 (Near Mint-Mint)||appears Mint 9 at first glance, but upon closer inspection can exhibit one or more of the following: a very slight wax stain on the reverse, slightest fraying at one or two corners, a minor printing imperfection and/or slightly off-white borders.|
Centering must be approximately 65/35 or 70/30 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse.
|NM 7 (Near Mint)||showing slight surface wear visible only upon close inspection.|
There may be slight fraying on some corners.
Picture focus may be slightly out-of-register although a minor printing blemish is acceptable.
Slight wax staining is acceptable on the back of the card only. Most of the original gloss is retained.
Centering must be approximately 70/30 to 75/25 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse.
|EX-MT 6 (Excellent-Mint)||may have visible surface wear or a printing defect which does not detract from its overall appeal.|
A very slight scratch may be detected only upon close inspection.
Corners may have slightly graduated fraying and picture focus may be slightly out-of-register.
Card may show some loss of its original gloss, may have minor wax stain on reverse, may exhibit very slight notching on edges and may also show some off-whiteness on borders.
Centering must be 80/20 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse.
|EX 5 (Excellent)||minor rounding of the corners is becoming evident. Surface wear or printing defects are more visible. There may be minor chipping on the edges.|
Loss of original gloss will also be more apparent. Focus of picture may be slightly out of register.
Several light scratches may be visible upon close inspection but don’t detract from the appeal of the card.
Card may show some off-whiteness of borders. Centering must be 85/15 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.
|VG-EX 4 (Very Good-Excellent)||Corners may be slightly rounded and surface wear is noticeable.|
The card may show light scuffing or scratches with some original gloss still intact.
Borders may be slightly off-white and light creasing visible. Centering must be 85/15 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back
|VG 3 (Very Good)||card reveals some rounding of the corners, although nothing extreme.|
Some surface wear is evident as well as light scuffing and/or scratches.
focus may be somewhat off-register and much of the card’s original gloss may be lost.
Other elements that may lead to a grade of VG 3 include a slight stain may be showing on the obverse as well as wax staining on the reverse.
Centering must be approximately 90/10 or better on the front and back.
|GOOD 2 (Good)||corners will show accelerated rounding and surface wear is obvious.|
might also be several creases on the card as well as scratching, scuffing, light staining or even chipping on the obverse.
original gloss might be completely gone.
may also show considerable discoloration. Centering must be approximately 90/10 or better on the front and back
|PR 1 (Poor)||defects may have advanced to such a serious stage that the card’s eye appeal has completely vanished.|
may also be missing one or two small pieces (corners) and may exhibit major creasing. In addition, extreme discoloration or even dirtiness might make even it difficult to simply identify the issue.
|Half-point Grades||Cards that exhibit high-end qualities within each particular grade, between PSA Good 2 and PSA Mint 9, may achieve a half-point increase.|
The most difficult of all
Here’s the truth: every collector in this world has their “most reliable” card grader. The companies mentioned above have great reputations when it comes to grading Pokemon cards, but at the end of the day, PSA is king. They are the Academy Award that every card collector aims to get someday.
Let’s put it this way, CGC gives the 10’s as candy while the PSA 10’s are extremely hard to get. This makes a card with a PSA rating of 9 more valuable than a CGC 10. However, recent forums tell us that Becket (BGS) is improving its grading game, putting it in the middle of the grading scale.
To give you an idea of how strict the PSA is, let’s look at their Pop Report for Trading Card Games (where Pokemon cards belong) 20 years after the first Pokemon card was released:
Out of 122,343 TCGs they received in 2016, they only ranked a total of 55,536 a GEM-MT 10! That’s under 50%!
So while it seems like PSA, CGC, and BGS have similar grading systems (which they do), it doesn’t mean their mint cards are equivalent in the trading world.
What should I do before shipping them?
Before shipping your Pokemon cards to any grading company, here are the things you should do:
Do your research
As a Pokemon card enthusiast, you should know which cards are rare and which cards are common. But if you’ve forgotten which ones are, then you should first do some research on which cards might be valuable. This would help you limit the amount you will spend on getting your cards graded.
Examine your cards
Do a preliminary examination of your cards and see if they are in good enough condition to be graded. The last thing you want to do is spend money on getting a damaged card graded, only to find out that it has no value. For this, you’re better off getting a jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass and a good lamp to help you conduct a deeper examination of your cards.
Take HD photos of your cards.
For your own safety, be sure to take a high-definition photo of your cards and keep it for reference once the cards are graded and returned. This would be your insurance policy if something goes wrong during the card grading process.
Now that you know more about card grading, would you like to have your beloved Pokemon cards graded and sold, or would you rather keep them in the album where you’ve kept them the longest?