Making the (PSA) Grade – Part 24 min read

Defining PSA card grading differences between VG-EX 4 to PR 1

Last month, we defined PSA card grading from EX 5 (Excellent) all the way up to GEM-MT 10 (Gem Mint). The higher the grade, the better condition the card, the more money it likely yields at auction. This month, let’s look at what goes into a grade of VG-EX 4 (Very Good-Excellent) down to a PR 1 (Poor). For the sake of consistency we’ll once again be using PSA-graded examples of the sought-after 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card (#311). Do you know how to tell the differences between grades? Although these may not be the desired grades you want for your prized cards, they can still ignite bidding wars with surprising results at public auctions, especially surrounding the older, 19th century and pre-war (WWII) issues.

With a better understanding of PSA’s card grading scale you can determine your set’s potential worth. And with that information clarified, you can make sounder decisions regarding potential cardboard trades and investments in the future.


VG-EX 4 (Very Good-Excellent): A PSA VG-EX 4 card’s 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): A PSA VG 3 card reveals some rounding of the corners, although nothing extreme. Some surface wear is evident as well as light scuffing and/or scratches. The focus on the card 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): A PSA Good 2 card’s corners will show accelerated rounding and surface wear is obvious. There might also be several creases on the card as well as scratching, scuffing, light staining or even chipping on the obverse. As for the card’s original gloss, it might be completely gone. The card may also show considerable discoloration. Centering must be approximately 90/10 or better on the front and back.

FR 1.5 (Fair): A PSA Fair 1.5 card, denoting a half-grade, shows extreme wear possibly even affecting the framing of the picture. The surface of the card will no doubt show advanced signs of wear including scuffing, scratching, chipping and staining. The picture on the card may possibly be out of register and its borders may have become brown and dirty. To receive a Fair grade, a card must be fully intact, which means no missing pieces whatsoever (major tear or missing corner, etc.). Centering must be 90/10 or better on the front and back.

PR 1 (Poor): A PSA Poor 1 card will exhibit many of the same qualities of a PSA Fair 1.5 card although the defects may have advanced to such a serious stage that the card’s eye appeal has completely vanished. A card with this designation 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.

As mentioned previously, depending on the player’s popularity and the card’s collectability, you may very well be surprised with some of the results of cards graded between VG-EX 4 and PR 1 still yield at auction.

A perfect example of a high price obtained for a card graded in PR 1 (Poor) condition by PSA comes in the form of SCP Auctions’ June 2017 sale of a 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner card illustrated here. Referred to as “The Original Wagner” by virtue of the fact that this particular T206 Wagner received mainstream press coverage as far back as 1930, the card sold for $609,294. Though not in the best of shape, the aged card still managed to yield more than half a million dollars at auction, an astounding sum of money any way you slice it. Needless to say, the T206 Wagner is a prized commodity in whatever condition you find it. Only 32 versions of the card have ever been recorded by PSA and from that number, a total of 10 have been graded PR 1.

Posted by Terry Melia

Terry Melia is a hobby veteran who has served in various PR, marketing and content roles for industry movers and shakers including The Upper Deck Company and SCP Auctions and is currently working as PSA's Public Relations and Content Specialist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.