Grading cards can seem like an arduous task, but don’t worry; thousands of collectors send their cards in to be graded every day!
For the most part, all major professional grading companies look for the same things: any imperfections, including errors due to manufacturer defects and micuts, centering, staining, sharp edges, and creases. The more perfect the condition of the card is, the higher the value of the card will be. The numerical grades given to cards are based on the centering of a card, the corners of a card, the edges of a card, and the surface of a card.
Getting a card graded — also known as getting a card slabbed or encapsulated — is relatively straightforward:
Grading companies may also offer autograph authentication in addition to grading. A professional autograph authenticator will look at every signature that comes across their desk to determine if they’re genuine or not. Autographs can be graded in addition to the trading card itself. This is a process that takes into consideration any defects or errors within the signature on the card.
Please note though that different grading companies can affect the value of the card. Some graders are more widely accepted in the hobby than others. We recommend doing your research before submitting your collection to a grading company that may not carry the same weight on the secondary market as a better, more established company.
For the most part, it can be very difficult to grade the condition of your trading cards just by eyeballing. Without knowing what to look for specifically (and with sports cards selling for all-time highs), most collectors will only trust the condition from a professional grader. If you’re buying or selling your trading cards, it’s best to include or ask for high quality scans of the front and back of the card to get an idea of the condition. Sometimes, small imperfections can only be visible in certain lighting, so be sure to ask for tons of pictures if you’re making a deal!