Update April 2021 – With huge demand in the hobby, PSA recently announced that they’re having to suspend submissions. As such, some of the advice in this article needs updating. I’ll be working on it ASAP, as well as including more credible alternatives for grading. Please bear with me, the new version will be live shortly. In the meantime you can view the PSA Customer Update here.
What is Pokemon Card Grading?
Pokemon card grading is the process of getting the condition of your cards evaluated.
The better the condition, the higher the ‘grade’ they’ll get, which is typically a numerical score out of 10.
Pokemon Card Grading Companies
There are two main Pokemon card grading services that are widely accepted among collectors.
PSA has the largest market share, but Beckett is well respected for it’s more detailed grading scale.
Pokemon Card Grading Scale
There are four key factors that effect the grade of your Pokemon cards:
This refers to how well centered the artwork on the card is. Grading services tend to be stricter with centering on the front of the card, compared to the back. They will also work off certain centering ratios to determine the grade of the card.
This refers to the condition of the corners. Anything like whitening, nicks, or unsymmetrical cutting can affect the grade of a card.
This refers to the condition of the edges of the card. Again, whitening, nicks and edgewear can affect the grade.
This refers to the condition of the surface of the card. Scratches, nicks print lines and even holographic bleed can affect the grade.
PSA Pokemon Card Grading Scale
PSA run a simple grading scale from a ‘Poor 1’ to a ‘GEM MINT 10’. Details of their process can be found here.
Beckett Pokemon Card Grading Scale
Beckett has a more in-depth process, giving subgrades for the four key factors mentioned above. Their range runs from a ‘Poor 1’ to a ‘Pristine 10’.
Interestingly, they also have an elite level above that called a ‘Black Label Pristine 10’ for cards that score 10 for all the subgrades. As you can imagine, these cards are highly sought-after and valuable.
See here for more info on grading your Pokemon cards with Beckett.
Alternatives For Grading Pokemon Cards
As demand for PSA and Beckett has shot up massively this year, the popularity of an alternative Pokemon card grading service has increased.
This company is CGC (Certified Guaranty Company).
Although I think it’s fair to say their case designs aren’t quite as aesthetically pleasing as PSA or Beckett, their wait times are considerably less, which is likely the reason for their increased populairty.
How to Grade Pokemon Cards if You Live in the UK
With all three of these Pokemon card grading companies being based in the US, international shipping can be an expensive and uncertain path for UK-based collectors.
Thankfully, we have a very well trusted service here in the UK called Graded Gem, specifically to get your cards graded with PSA.
- Competitive pricing
- Insurance per card
- Customer dashboard on their website
- Payment plans
What’s The Cost of Grading Pokemon Cards
Through Graded Gem, you can pay as little as £7.99 per card. They also offer express services which cost £15.99 or £39.99 per card, depending how quickly you want them back.
How Long Does Pokemon Card Grading Take?
This year has seen unprecedented demand for Pokemon card grading services. As such wait times have never been longer.
Currently, for a standard service (i.e. not express) you should expect to wait anywhere from 6-12+ months to receive your cards back.
This is of course an estimate.
The likes of PSA have hired considerably more staff this year, and refined their processes. However, the likelihood is demand is still far greater than their resources.
Personally I believe the best view to take is that you are encapsulating an investment piece for the future. Try not to worry too much about the wait times 🙂
How to Submit Your Pokemon Cards For Grading
To ensure the safety and integrity of your cards’ condition, it’s recommended you submit your cards in the following way:
1. Put your card in a penny sleeve
2. Attach a post-it tag to the penny sleeve so it’s easy to pull out
3. Finally, put the penny sleeved card inside of a semi-rigid card holder
Important! Do not send cards in a toploader. The card can easily move around and may get damaged.
Conclusion: Is it Worth Grading Pokemon Cards
Whether you’re looking to increase the value of your cards, or simply protect them, I believe grading Pokemon cards is indeed worth it.
Certainly for vintage cards, or rare variants, Pokemon card values have increased exponentially in recent times.
By ‘locking in’ or preserving a card’s condition you’re giving it the potential to be a sought after piece that many collectors will want to get their hands on.
Grading cards adds another level of rarity, and if you’re lucky enough to hold a desirable card, with a top grade, you just might be sitting on a gold mine!
Last updated April 8, 2021