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How to Get a PSA 10 Autograph Grade On Your Next Sports Card

May 13, 2022 8 min read

How to Get a PSA 10 Autograph Grade On Your Next Sports Card

I posted a video to my Instagramthe other day and today I wanted to dive into that topic a little bit deeper and explain some things more in depth. This video, and today's blog ultimately are meant to talk more about how you as a collector can get a PSA 10 grade on your autographs when you send in your cards to be encapsulated by PSA.

In this post I will cover what you can do to set yourself up for success to get that coveted 10 grade, if it's better to use a specific kind of pen when you get your cards signed, and is it even all that important to get your autographs graded. Spoiler, it's at least worth thinking about.

I've got a stack of cards here with me today that we'll go through together so you can see what I'm talking about and know why I will or will not be sending in these cards to get the autographs graded. I want to be really clear about something here. In these cases, I am not talking about getting the cards themselves graded. That is a totally different conversation. Here, we are just talking about getting the autograph itself evaluated and graded. Is it possible to have an autographed card graded for the auto and the card itself? Yes, absolutely, and we've talked about that on the show as well, but today will just be about the autograph itself.

Starting off, we'll talk about these two Hunter Renfrow Flawless cards. 

I had these two cards signed with the exact same pen, but you can immediately notice there is a bit of a different in the autos. Obviously one is more spotted/blemished than the other. This can be because the athlete just signs different between the cards, of course, but it can also be because sometimes a pen, in this case blue sharpie, just doesn't perform well. Unfortunately, that was the case here.

Looking at the better of the two cards, you'd think, "Yeah, that looks like a PSA 10 worthy autograph."  I would have to disagree. PSA has a thing about autographs hitting the edges of cards, and as you can probably see, Hunter's autograph just seems to hit the edge of the card.

What do I do then with these cards? Well in this case, I'll still get them sent in, but I'm not paying the money for the autograph grading. It's just not worth it.  To me, it's just not worth paying the extra $10 to get a PSA 9 grade. In my opinion, at that point, I'd rather save the money because a PSA 9 autograph grade doesn't really add much to the value of a card.

Moving on here to Amanda Nunes.

We'll dive more into pen choices with this card now. Basically, if you want the best chances of a PSA 10 auto grade, then I'd highly suggest you use a blue Sharpie for your autographs. You can see with this card the auto looks great, it doesn't have any imperfections, no streaking, no spotting, and of course it avoids the edge. That is a PSA 10 auto.

Looking at this other Nunes card, again we've got a solid looking blue Sharpie autograph. It goes on smooth, it's legible, and the color is consistent throughout the autograph. Nothing wrong with any of those. In this case, I'd submit both these cards for auto grading because those are clearly PSA 10 worthy in my book.

I can hear you asking though. Should you only use blue Sharpies for the rest of your life? I mean, if you want that 10 every time, yeah maybe, but I just get so bored with always having blue Sharpie, so I like to change things up and see what happens. In this case, I tried out a white paint pen on this next Nunes card.  I don't think it turned out that bad. Is it PSA 10 level? No, I don't think so. It's got a little bit of streaking, and I don't think the white really popped as much as I hoped, but still, it's a great looking card! Sometimes you've really just got to try out other colors and styles. If you really think white paint pen will look mind blowing on a card, then try it out! See what happens. For sure, a PSA 10 auto grade adds some value to your card, but you know what, so does overall looks. Collectors also want cards to be exciting and look great. There is absolutely something to be said about a good-looking card with a great looking autograph. 

Time to talk a little about Buster Posey.

Now I have to admit. I was a bit disappointed with how these turned out. This is a 2010 Topps Refractor, and the autograph just doesn't really pop, and it's definitely got some inconsistent density going on.

This is a great example of also needing to understand your athlete. In Posey's case, he just had a bit of a soft autograph. He doesn't really seem to push down on that pen, and it ends up creating inconsistencies in the autograph. Going forward, if I were to get another of his cards signed, this is where I'd definitely use a blue Sharpie. The Sharpie pen should make up for his lower pen pressure and give that consistent looking auto that we are looking for. 

Again, this is just the risk you take with using different colors and pen types, but I still really think it is worth it. Some of these autographs are not that expensive so it can be okay to experiment a bit and see what works. At the end of the day, you could come away with a very unique looking autograph on your card!

Looking at this other Posey card, it's basically the same issues. Not enough pressure on the white paint pen, and so we can see some density/streaking problems with the auto. Again, blue Sharpie probably accounts for that and then everything would be great. I want to say it again though, it's worth trying these different things out from time to time. I know I could test at home using penny sleeves, but sometimes that doesn't really replicate the real look of a signed card. It just is what it is.

Looking at some Ben Wallace cards now.

This first one is just a gem, really. It's a beautiful card and the autograph looks flawless. Definitely a card that could get a PSA 10 for an auto grade. 

Looking at these next bunch though, things fall apart a little bit. In this first case Ben put his huge autograph on the card, right up to the edge. We've already talked about that, so we know that can't work out for us as a 10. That's basically the story for all 4 of these cards I got Ben to sign for me. They are all blue Sharpie, which works great of course, but it just gets too close to that edge.

Now this one looks pretty good. Smooth and just barely seems to avoid the edge, but if it was sent to me as a grader, I still don't think I would give this a 10.  I will just get it slabbed as an authenticated card and move on. If this was a Tom Brady card or Michael Jordan, maybe I'd reconsider. Those are big names and so even a PSA 9 could boost that value, but Ben Wallace isn't Michael Jordan. Don't get me wrong, he's a great guy, but it's just not really worth it at the end of the day when I'm trying to turn these around to sell. 

Last, but not least, let's look at Terry Bradshaw.

You might notice right away, that his autograph is a bit blocky or condensed than some other guys. All the letters are really squished together, and it's just a very tight auto. Originally, I wanted to do a white paint pen for him, but thinking about it, I realized that probably wouldn't work so well. The reason is because paint pens take a little longer to dry, and so an autograph this tight would probably end of bleeding more and ultimately looking more like a blob than a distinguishable auto, so at the last moment I changed my mind to the blue Sharpie. In my opinion, this card should meet the mark as a PSA 10 auto as well, but we'll have to see.

I've also been opting for the extra authentication hologram on the back of my cards lately. I know this is a pretty debated thing, but I just prefer to have it there so we all know it's legit and can easily verify it's authentication too. There's no extra hassle or uncertainty, and that's worth it to me. 

Another thing to keep in mind when you send these cards in, is that PSA has two options for a slab. You can get the "trading card" slab, where it just says trading card, and you've basically just asked PSA to put it in a slab at that point. It costs around $20. Alternatively, you can get them actually authenticated as real and legit cards, but that costs $120. You have to kind of weight these costs in your mind and what it's all worth to you. For this Bradshaw card? Yeah, I could probably be okay with the full $120.

A lot of these other cards though, they are just getting the "Trading Card" treatment. I mean think about it, it's a 5X difference in price, so if you want to make that commitment it really has to be worth it. If you're only collecting cards and don't do anything in terms of reselling, then by all means, do whatever makes you happy, I have zero problems with that, but if you're trying to make some money back on these, then you really have to be thinking about this stuff. 

The finale.

I hope that helps to make your PSA 10 auto attempts more successful. Just remember, that blue Sharpie really can play a huge part of getting the grade you want, so don't forget about that. It's a very consistent color and almost always seems to work well, so it can't really let you down. 

Of course, if you like paint pens, give them a try! Sometimes they work really well. You just got to kind of know your athlete with these things because that can be a big factor. Paint pens are more likely to bleed, run wild, streak, and all that kind of stuff, so just more things to think about.

Lastly, it's worth quickly talking about space on these cards. Take the Renfrow cards for example. They are great looking cards, but they don't have a ton of room for autographs. Sure, you can have him sign across the "Flawless" text or something, but it just looks cleaner where I had him put the autographs. The problem is just you run the risk of those edges again. 

Again, I hope this all helps you all out, if you've got any questions drop a comment and I'll try to get back to you. Just remember to enjoy the hobby. I know it can become easy to get stuck in the little details, but you got to have some fun too!

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