Learning the PSA Grading Scale7 min read

 

Say you wake up one day and discover that your great grandfather left you a footlocker full of T206 cards. Or your late father willed you his entire 1952 Topps Baseball card collection once you secured your bachelor’s degree. Or, you uncovered your long-lost cache of 1st Edition Pokémon cards. Now’s the time to take your collection to the next step.

When it comes to taking your collection to the next step, have you considered trading card grading with PSA? The market shows that cards in PSA holders continue to yield incredible results at auction. And, PSA’s sonically-sealed holders and labels offer security and protection for your collectibles. But before you submit your cards for grading, it helps to have a better understanding of PSA’s card grading scale.

The PSA Grading Scale

What’s the Difference Between Gem Mint, Near Mint-Mint and Excellent-Mint?

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in PSA Gem Mint 10.

GEM-MT 10 (Gem Mint): A PSA GEM-MT 10 is a virtually perfect card, from its four sharp corners and no creasing to its sharp focus and full original gloss intact. A card that earns this distinction must be free of any staining, though allowances are made for slight printing imperfections if they don’t impair the card’s overall appeal. The 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.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in Mint 9.

MINT 9 (Mint): A PSA MINT 9 is a superb condition card that 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.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in PSA Near Mint-Mint 8.

NM-MT 8 (Near Mint-Mint): A PSA NM-MT 8 is a super high-end card that 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.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in PSA Near Mint 7.

NM 7 (Near Mint): A PSA NM 7 is a card 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.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in PSA Excellent Mint 6.

EX-MT 6 (Excellent-Mint): A PSA EX-MT 6 card 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.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in Excellent 5.

EX 5 (Excellent): On a PSA EX-5 card, minor rounding of the corners is becoming evident. Surface wear or printing defects are more visible. There may be minor chipping on 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.

Defining the PSA Card Grading Scale: VG-EX 4 to PR 1

Now let’s look at what goes into a grade of VG-EX 4 (Very Good-Excellent) down to a PR 1 (Poor). Many 19th century and pre-war (WWII) issues may earn these grades and still retain considerable trading card value.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in PSA Very Good-Excellent 4.

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.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 in PSA Very Good 3.

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.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in PSA Good 2.

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.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in PSA Fair 1.5.

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.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in PSA Poor 1.

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.

Depending, of course, on a 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. 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.

Two years later, SCP sold another T206 Wagner card, one that was graded PSA Good 2, for $1.2 million. Needless to say, the T206 Wagner is a prized commodity in whatever condition you find it. Only 33 versions of the card have ever been recorded by PSA and from that number, a total of 10 have been graded PR 1.

The point is, trading card grading makes a difference. And now that you understand the difference between each PSA grade, you’re ready to start your submission! 

 

Posted by Terry Melia

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

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