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2020 Sports Card & Pokemon Investors! A Step by Step GUIDE How to Decide What Cards to Grade?

November 05, 2020 4 min read 1 Comment

2020 Sports Card & Pokemon Investors!  A Step by Step GUIDE How to Decide What Cards to Grade?


Probably one the most frequently asked questions I get, and one of the most important questions to consider. You don’t want to waste time and money grading cards that don't make financial sense or do not need to be graded. Note, it is totally up to you if you want to grade your own cards for YOUR personal collection, but this video is about grading cards for re-sale. I definitely recommend getting your high-end cards graded so you know what grade you have and it also protects them. 

Step #1 Grade the guys that sell

  • Duh! This is a no brainer but worth mentioning.  No sense in getting Bol Bol graded unless it is a 1/1 card.
  • Who are the guys that sell?
    • I recommend keeping your finger on the pulse of the market by tracking the trends and using data driven analytics. For example, according to Market Movers by Sports Card Investor, here are the most popular players over the last 90 days (guys who have sold the most cards). The top 10 by total amount of $ sold:
      • Lebron James, Luka Doncic, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Zion Williamson, Patrick Mahomes, Giannis, Ja Morant, Tom Brady, and Mike Trout.
    • Wouldn’t that be crazy if these were the guys I have been talking about to be buying, hmmmmmmmmmmmm

    Step #2 Find cool looking cards or rookies

    • Having a card with an iconic image of that player is always a plus. Jordan or Shaq dunking for example.
    • Good quality sets and brands are preferred. Prizm is a hot one now.  So is Select.  Especially for the newer players.
    • Pick cards that, from a design standpoint, have a good chance to grade well.
    • Avoid cards with dark edges or really silver designs (easy to see surface imperfections which will impact the grade level).

    Step #3 Find out what PSA 10s sell for

    • Yes card may go up and value and that is what we hope happens, but ideally, you would like to have at least a 4x ratio for a PSA 10
      • For example, buying a card raw for $15, paying $25 for grading equals a $40 investment. Hopefully, a PSA 10 sells for at least $160.  That’s a good ratio in my opinion.
      • Another example, if a PSA 10 of a card sells for $100, buying a raw card for $15 and grading it for $25 may not make a ton of sense when you start factoring other costs such as shipping, selling fees, time waiting for grading, etc. Plus, if your card comes back a PSA 9, you are screwed.

    Step #4 Research the PSA population report

    • Ideally find high demand cards that have a low pop report. One doesn't  want to be competing against half of china when selling a certain card.
    • What is considered low? I like cards that have had less than a few hundred graded because that means less competition. But it just depends on the card. Rookies are obviously going to have more graded and can still be valuable.
    • Find cards that grade well. Decent chance of getting a PSA 10 or 9.
      • What’s decent? I would say over 50% chance of getting a 10 is good.
      • There is one exception to the above rule. Buying a card raw that grades PSA 10 less than 5% of the time isn’t always a good thing. You are less likely to get your raw card rated at a 10. That said, keep in mind that some cards still sell well at lower grades. For example, Michael Jordan 1986 Fleer has a low PSA # like that, but his PSA 5-9 also sell well. Can’t say that for other cards most of the time and there are very few cards out there that meet this exception.

    Step 5 – Buy raw cards

    • Ebay is a good place to buy, but quality has really gone down since most entrepreneurs understand that grading cards is the top way to get the best return on investment.
    • Facebook groups are also a good source. Talking directly with a seller can save them fees. I’ve had a mixed bag of buying from people here.
    • Buying your own boxes and grading cards from there. This is my preferred method because you aren’t at risk for getting PSA rejected cards from sellers. Keep in mind that this can be more expensive though.

    Step 6 – Inspect your cards

    CRITICAL!!!!!!!!!!!  You have to do this if you are serious about your time and financial investment.
    • How do you do this?
      • Get a magnifying light. They cost around $20. I have one from Brightech. This is a MUST to see print lines and scratches on the surface of your card. I can't stress enough to take time inspecting the surface.
      • Inspect the corners. PSA is really big on corners. Having sharp corners is an absolute must.
      • How is your card's centering? One can usually see this with the naked eye, but there are centering tools out there. PSA is a little easy on centering, allowing for up to 60/40 ratio.
      • Ensure the card has clean edges. There can be no chipping if you want your card to rate well.
    This may seem overwhelming, but trust me it is not. I would not have a card graded if it has a big scratch or if one or more corners have an issue with them. Good chance that card is an easy 8 or less.  Remember, this doesn’t apply to every card as I mentioned about Michael Jordan 1986 fleer, but for the newer stuff, which I am assuming most people are grading, it does.

      Step 7 – Get your cards graded

      • I would suggest using a PSA submission group such as PC sports cards or, who I personally use, Wax Pack(gemmint.com). Jared is great over there.
        • For cards valued at $500 or less, use PSA's 20 day service for cards that sell as PSA 10s
        • For cards valued at over $500, use PSA's 10 day service
        • Never use PSA's 45 day service! You will NEVER get your cards back. EVER!

      That’s it!  That’s the process I walk through every week.

      1 Response

      Tim Lapointe
      Tim Lapointe

      May 02, 2023

      How do you know what the value of the card is before submitting it. For the purpose of determining whether it is worth more or less than $500?

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