PSA-graded cards are sometimes found with qualifiers attached to the number grade to identify specific imperfections around qualities such as centering and staining. Some qualifiers – like “Marks” and “Miscut” – are applied without exception. All other qualifiers are optional. In other words, the imperfection can carry a qualifier, or it can be reflected in the numerical grade. Historically, qualifiers have been applied by the grading staff unless the submitter specifically requested “No Qualifiers,” and mark their submissions accordingly on a card-by-card basis. PSA recently changed its policy on the use of qualifiers in the card-grading process.
As part of our efforts to continually improve operational efficiency as we work through the backlog of orders, PSA no longer requires submitters to decide whether to request “No Qualifiers” on items in their submission. Characteristics such as Centering, Staining, Print Defects and Focus will typically impact the numerical grade rather than carrying a qualifier. The qualifiers will be used infrequently and at the discretion of the grading staff when they feel it’s in the card’s best interest to apply a qualifier.
As an example, let’s consider two cards that are both mint, one mildly off-center, and the other one significantly off-center. Historically, both cards would have earned a grade of 9(OC), unless the submitter specifically requested “No Qualifiers.” Moving forward, the mint card with mild centering issues would grade a PSA 7 or PSA 8 as opposed to being a 9(OC). In other words, the centering would be reflected in the numerical grade. However, in the case of the mint card with significant centering issues, the grading staff may decide to apply a qualifier, assigning the card a 9(OC) rather than dropping the grade all the way to a PSA 4 or PSA 5.
For reference, following is a description of the six PSA qualifiers, two of which are required, and four that are optional.
- MK (Marks) – Any and all cards with writing, ink marks, pencil marks, etc. or evidence of the impression left from the act of writing will be designated “MK.”
- MC (Miscut) – Any and all cards that exhibit an atypical cut for the issue, which may result in portions of the subject card being cut off or more than one card being visible, will be designated “MC.”
- OC (Off Center) – Cards that are off center will either by designated “OC” or will have a numerical grade that reflects the minimum centering allowed for the grade.
- ST (Staining) – Cards with staining will either be designated “ST” or will have a numerical grade that reflects the minimum staining allowed for the grade.
- PD (Print Defect) – Cards with printing defects will either be designated “PD” or will have a numerical grade that reflects the minimum print defects allowed for the grade.
- OF (Out of Focus) – Cards that are out of focus or out of register will either be designated “OF” or will have a numerical grade that reflects the minimum focus standards allowed for the grade.
There are exceptions and we encourage collectors to review the updated policy on the PSA Grading Standards page.