Getting your baseball cards professionally graded is an important step for many serious collectors and investors. Third party grading gives collectors a reliable, impartial assessment of a card’s condition and authenticity. This provides assurance to buyers and establishes an agreed upon grade that can be referenced when trading or selling the card.
While grading is not necessary for all cards, it makes the most sense for high-end, valuable rookie cards, autographs, etc. An established grade is essential if you ever plan to resell the card. It also allows cards to be searched for and cross-referenced by grade when using services like eBay.
There are several major grading companies that authenticate and assign condition grades to baseball cards. The three largest and most well-known are PSA, BGS (Beckett Grading Services), and SGC (Sportscard Guaranty Corporation). Each uses their own grading scales from 1-10, with 10 being gem mint. PSA and BGS tend to be the most stringent while SGC’s scale is a bit more lenient.
All three companies offer different submission tiers depending on your deadlines and budget. Their basic bulk submission services take several months to grade a large volume of cards at a lower per-card cost. Expedited express services cost more per card but are graded much faster, usually within a few weeks. There are also economy and bulk discount options available if submitting larger quantities.
The grading process usually takes 4 basic steps. First, authenticated experts visually inspect each card under high-powered lighting and loupes to analyze every aspect of condition – centering, corners, edges and surface. Second, they determine the appropriate numeric grade based on established photo guides and population reports. Third, the cards are then encapsulated in tamper-proof plastic holders with the assigned grade label. The graded cards are logged into the company’s registry database for future verification and re-sale protection.
Before submitting, research population reports on key cards you own to get an idea of their relative scarcity and investability at different established grades. Not all cards make good grading candidates. Cards with heavy play wear, flaws, creases or damages are unlikely to grade well and may not be worth the cost. Focus first on high-end vintage rookies, scarce inserts, autographed cards in apparent pristine condition.
When submitting, package cards securely in rigid holders like toploaders to prevent damage or loss in transit. Provide clear paperwork listing each card along with your preferred submission service and contact details. Pay close attention to weight and package limits so they arrive safely without incurring oversize shipping fees. Retain digital photos of all cards as a condition record prior to sending them in for grading.
Keep in mind grading is a service, not a guarantee. While reputable companies like PSA, BGS, and SGC take great care, errors can theoretically occur during the authentication and grading process. Always carefully inspectholdered cards upon return for any issues before acknowledging receipt. Companies generally offer reconsideration services within 30 days for legitimate resubmission if you disagree with the assigned grade.
The cost of third party grading depends on company, service level chosen, and number of cards submitted. A single PSA or BGS Express submission averages $20-$30 per card currently for turnaround within 2-3 weeks. Economy submissions are closer to $10 each but take months to complete. For some valuable vintage stars, proper grading can boost resale value enough to easily justify costs. But before submitting, make sure cards would reasonably grade at a level making resale viable as an investment.
Once a card is professionally graded, you can list it confidently on eBay or sell through major auction houses knowing the grade is established and trusted. Research sold values of similar graded cards to guide reasonable price expectations. Always disclose the assigned grade upfront in listings along with clear photos to establish grading integrity. Grade labels and digitalMATCH verification help reassure buyers and maximize sale prices.
Third party grading is an excellent option for serious collectors seeking to certify condition, establish an agreed upon grade, and maximize returns should valuable cards ever be sold. Done responsibly, it can greatly enhance the collectibility and investment potential of prized pieces in any baseball card collection. Just be selective in submissions and understand not all cards make financial sense to grade given today’s market. With care and research, it’s a valuable service collectors can leverage to build trusted portfolios for years to come.