How to Prepare Your Cards for Grading to get the best results for your card grading submission.
We’ll go in details about how to prepare your cards for grading, what you should be doing with your collectibles before sending them to a grading company like ours. A lot of people tend to just grab whatever cards they are emotionally or financially attached to in, resulting in grades they were not expecting.
Prior to sending your cards in for grading, keep in mind that we’ll be looking at these four key factors from a “result” perspective.
A quick check of your cards prior to submitting will save you money in determining whether the cards are worth grading, but also keep companies less busy, shortening wait times. The market has exploded with new and returning hobbyists, which is a good thing, but it also creates a massive demand for card grading. Here’s the tools you’ll need to pre-assess your cards, get them clean and send them in.
- Magnifying glass
- Paper towels
- Card centering tool (available on Amazon for a few bucks)
- Check your card corners before sending them for grading.
- Use your magnifying glass- look to see if the corners are soft or razor-sharp. Look for turned-up corners or splitting of corners (layers of the card separate). Cards that have colours are easier to see where corners have turned up. White corners need to be checked closely.
- Obviously, cards that have multiple soft or turned-up corners will grade lower. Start by checking corners, as it’s the most obvious area of damage, and also the easiest. Notice the white showing on the card below- an obvious sign of corner damage.
- Card Edges- again, use your magnifying glass, as well as a light (or even flashlight). Check all 4 edges, looking for uneven edges, and unsharp or fluffy edges. Hold your card at eye level and use the light to look for imperfections. Newer cards, especially the ones with foil will tend to have rougher edges as it is very difficult to get an absolutely even edge when cutting foil.
Older cards, mostly before 1980 will have their edges cut with wires, which gives them a jagged feel to it, so don’t think your card is ruined because the edge looks like a saw blade, it’s all good!
Notice the top edge of the Trevor Lawrence card, showing some wear and “fluffiness”. This means it will take a few points down from your overall grade because edges like this will never get a 9 or 10, bringing your grade down. Your best bet, avoid edges issues on newer cards and only send in the ones with clean edges. If it’s meant to be for your personal collection and you’d just love to see your favorite card in a beautiful clean slab, then this doesn’t matter to you.
- Card Surface- this is where the paper towels come in. Some people will also use a cleaning agent, such as eyeglass cleaner, but be careful, as these can stain, or even damage the surface of your card. Remove all stains, by careful wiping your card down. You can also use a microfiber cloth, but be careful not to catch the corners of your card when wiping.
- Again, hold your card up to your eyes and use the reflection from a light to look for scratches, indents, or any other imperfections. Chrome cards (Topps Chrome, Panini Prizm, Panini Mosaic etc) are very prone to scratching- check carefully. Remember to check both sides.
- Centering- perhaps the easiest of all 4 to see with your plain eye, especially on cards with borders- borders should be equal on all sides. If in doubt, use the card centering tool that was recommended above. PSA uses the OC (off-centre) designation for cards that are in good condition but off-center.
- Most other grading companies do not use this, and a badly off-centered card can destroy your overall grade. For cards with borders, look at where the player’s name is, text boxes on the back, and compare it to other cards from the set to see if there is any difference. Generally, cards without borders are harder to determine centering.
Notice the centering off on the card on the left. The card on the right has much better centering. Centering will take points off your overall grade, but for most people, this isn’t a big issue when it comes to the aesthetics of the card, especially if they wanna keep the graded card for their personal collection.
Always check for all the aspects that companies will be scoring your card on. Sending in a card with a dinged-up corner expecting it to get a good grade because the rest of the card is immaculate will result in a bad surprise! The same goes for a vintage Gretzky Rookie Card which can fetch quite a few thousand dollars if it is in mint condition. That said card has a big crease in the middle… price will go down a LOT.
Keep the hobby fun, enjoy your collecting days and remember to take amazing care of your collectibles.
If you have any questions regarding our grading packages or anything related to card grading, don’t hesitate to ask.