Sports Card Grading: The What, Why, and How

Sports Card Grading: The What, Why, and How

The sports card market has been on the rise the past year and truly accelerated during the lockdown caused by COVID-19. As thousands of people enter the hobby, one thing new collectors need to know is the importance of grading your cards. Unlike collecting memorabilia, comics, or sneakers - sports cards can vary in quality based on how they came off the printing press, how they were handled in the market, or even how the elements where you store them.

One way to lock in your investment and preserve the quality of your card is to submit them for professional grading. These companies will use a professional process to score your card, and then place it in what is known as a "slab." These slabs protect the card for the long term. While there are dozens of card grading companies, if you truly want to maximize your value, you should really keep your collection focused on the big three - PSA, BGS, and SGC

Each of these companies have their own scale and detail in what they consider "Gem Mint." Typically, the market has viewed the value of these grades in the following rank order:

  • BGS Pristine 10 Black Label
  • BGS 10
  • PSA 10
  • SGC 10
  • BGS 9.5
  • PSA 9

You can see those values manifest in one of the hottest cards in the hobby - the Zion Willamson 2019 Prizm rookie. Typically, you can pick this card up raw for between $120 - $175, but once you grade the card you can see how much a premium grade will affect its values. 

Market Movers Data Analysis 60 day read ending 7/19/2020

If we take a look back at May 24th - the last day all variations of the cards (with the exception of BGS Black Label) sold on the same day, you can see the Premium Value of grading the card is pretty significant. In fact, the SGC 10 has approximately a 20% discount in value to PSA's Gem Mint, and the far more likely Mint BGS 9.5 has nearly a 40% discount to the PSA 10. 

That's why I focus on PSA as the gold standard in grading. Yes, they have significant backlogs of cards, but they're far more reasonable at grading Gem Mint than BGS, and their values hold significantly more than SGC. 

If you're interested in learning more about submitting cards for grading, or you're looking for a group to help you submit, I strongly recommend GemMint Facebook Group. Jared Landress has done a fantastic job in bulk submitting cards for thousands of collectors and has a unique online portal to track your progress. You can join the GemMint facebook group, and sub yourself by following this link