Not All Fresh Pulls Grade PSA Gem Mint 102 min read

“But this card was pulled out of a pack and sent directly to PSA!” As a customer service representative for PSA, it’s a statement I hear from collectors all too often. Their disbelief comes across loud and clear when a card they pulled from a previously unopened pack and placed directly into a protective holder was sent to PSA for grading and did not come back as a Gem Mint 10.

There seems to be a common misconception that “freshly pulled cards” are automatically worthy of a PSA 10 grade, or at a minimum, PSA 9. This is the case with not only ultra-modern (2017-present) submissions, but also packs that are decades old. We see it often with those collectors hunting for the elusive 1999 Pokémon First Edition Charizard or the 1986 Fleer Basketball #57 Michael Jordan rookie card in ultra-high grade.

What submitters often forget is that PSA considers multiple factors beyond obvious wear and tear when assigning a grade to a card, many of which don’t necessarily come from handling of the card. The manufacturing of a card plays an equally large role in the grading process as the condition of its corners and edges, poor centering, and any surface issues and manufacturing print defects can all dramatically affect the grade as well.

“With older packs, there is always the chance that the entire pack could have been ‘OC’ [Off Center]. Back in the day, the quality control on trading cards was not so great,” shared one senior member of PSA’s grading team.

With higher quality control standards and better manufacturing practices employed these days, pulling higher-grade cards directly out of newer packs has become more likely, but is not a guarantee. It’s also worth noting that occasionally pack-pulled cards won’t qualify for a grade at all due to a manufacturing defect.

A submitted card may be returned unprocessed and labeled as “N6 – Minimum Size Requirement.” This non-gradable classification is what PSA graders assign to cards that were manufactured significantly smaller than set specifications. If PSA graders find that your card is under the factory standard for that card, it will not be eligible for a numerical grade. For more information, please see PSA Grading Standards. For photo grade comparisons, please visit PSA PhotoGrade Online.

The best approach is to inform yourself of the fundamental basics of card grading, and to set realistic expectations based on that information. Trying to convince yourself that the Shadowless Charizard you pulled “fresh” from a 21-year-old pack of cards garners an automatic PSA 10 requires further education on your part. Arm yourself with the various tools and information that PSA provides before making your submission. Your card may very well earn a high grade, but it may not. That is the thrill of the hunt, and why we collect and grade our cards. Choose wisely, do your homework and remember – have fun!


Posted by Matt Edmund

Matt Edmund is a PSA Customer Service representative who is a hobby enthusiast and lifelong San Francisco Giants fan. Prized personal collection items include a Willie Mays 1959 Home Run Derby card in PSA 4 and a 1942 spring training scorecard signed by Ted Williams.

6 thoughts on “Not All Fresh Pulls Grade PSA Gem Mint 102 min read

  1. I had received 10 Panini Immaculate cards from PSA and was upset by low grades until I looked at previous years and saw the same across the board for these cards. I didn’t even think about not slabbing the ones under a certain grade but it’s my bad. I should have looked at the Pop Reports from previous years BEFORE I submitted them, not after.

    1. Well, the pop report doesn’t directly affect the grading process. However, by viewing the pop report before submitting, you can see how others have been graded in the past and then apply that information to the decision whether to submit your cards.

  2. How much is current pop considered? Is card grade less likely to get a 10 when the pop is overly indexed in 10s? It’s my history that the card grade isn’t consistent With the actual condition of the card. I’ve seen a 9 with a whacked corner and and 8 that looks perfect even under magnification. The condition of the card should be the only factor, not who is sending it in or what the current 10 pop is. Seems to be mystery (by design) of what’s going on at PSA

  3. It seems to be thick cards with extra cutout edges for patches that grade the worst. On another note, I sent 16 cards back to Panini due to print lines of every card of 2019 Mosaic Choice Basketball. They were very expensive boxes that I purchased and could tell that they would get really low grades, if I was the one doing the grading. No telling if and when I ever get them returned though. LOL I’ve never had a problem to that extent with other types of their cards. If I had looked at the POP reports for prior years on the cards I got back with low grades I probably would have thought twice about buying them. I know one thing, grading is a hard thing to do and I’ve learned something new.

  4. Grading card section is great. Perhaps add a small section there explaining your qualifiers and how they may affect pricing. It seems as soon as I see an OC or PD, etc on a PSA card there is no way that I am aware of where you can confidently assess the cards value on grade alone.

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