Tips and Tricks for Grading Sports Cards

Tips and Tricks for Grading Sports Cards

Last week we spent a little time diving into the importance of grading your cards. Today, we wanted to share some tips and tricks on what to look for before submitting your cards for grading. We’re not professional graders by any means, but that doesn’t mean we don’t hate having a card sit at PSA or BGS for 6-12 weeks only to have it grade a 7-8. These are a few things you should look for before you submit your card for grading.

It’s important to know that all major grading companies look for flaws in four categories for grading.


Centering measures how "centered" your card is - this takes into account right to left, as well as top to bottom and even looks at the back of the card. It’s remarkable how many modern-day cards come out of packs completely off-centered, but the good thing is this is the easiest way to judge a single card you’re purchasing. Be wary of anyone selling cards digitally (on eBay or Facebook) that only lists a photo of the card at an angle. This tactic makes it difficult to evaluate the centering of the card on a listing. Recently, I bought this unique tool off eBay that helps measure a card’s centering. For $15 this has saved me hundreds by not submitting substandard cards. It’s also worth noting, that for centering, PSA is the most lenient when it comes to consideration for GemMint grading.


The corners category is the most commonly referenced category for card grading because it's the easiest to see this criteria's quality. The easiest way to tell if you have a soft corner is to look for any white present. All three major grading companies are hardest on this category, so this will significantly reduce your chances of Minting. 


The surface is the hardest category to judge before submitting it. There exist so many things that can affect a card’s surface, print lines, dimples, scratches you name it. The best thing you can do to truly analyze a card’s surface is to take the card out of the case and sleeve and take it outside in natural light. Rotate the card around and see if any imperfections materialize while you’re doing this exercise. This category is often difficult to photograph, for instance you can barely see the print line running from left to right through the basketball on this Jarren Jackson Jr silver Prizm. 


Typically, this category isn’t as important when grading modern-day cards as printing technology has adapted over time. Most cards in the present-day era have great edges, but if you’re grading anything retro you’re going to want to look for how clean the edges are. Edge damage can be easily seen by looking alongside the card's surface.

Each of the major grading companies publishes their standards and scales, but it's also important to remember that humans grade your cards which can create significant irregularities in the grading process. 

Click the logo to see each company's defined Grading Standards.


 These are just some simple tips and tricks to try to get the best grade when you submit, but there are also other reasons to have a card graded. I recently submitted several Derek Jeter 1993 SP Foil’s, not because I thought they could Gem, but because it preserves the card and proves that it isn’t one of the hundreds of fakes.

Finally, if you want to submit cards yourself to PSA, The GemMint group on Facebook is an incredible place to learn more. Jared Landress has done a great job submitting thousands of cards/month. If you’d like to join yourself - you can do so by following this link.