“To grade, or not to grade?” This is a question which many collectors found themselves asking more and more as the trading card market reached new heights in 2020. Most collectors have their own preference for ungraded (“raw”) or graded cards when it comes to their own personal collection, but might be new to the process of sending cards off for grading themselves. Submitting your cards for grading will require research, money, and patience, but could ultimately result in profit and peace of mind for you.
Let’s examine some of the important pros and cons of getting your trading cards graded.
Why you should get your cards graded
Protecting Your Investments
Graded cards hold up much better over time than a standard raw card. If you want to invest in a player that you believe in, grading their cards is an excellent way to protect your investment for the long haul. Raw or poorly-protected cards can get lost or damaged over time, but grading them can help preserve their condition and value.
It’s a great idea to get cards graded of some of your favorite rookies or prospects. If you think they’re going to become a superstar later in their career, getting their cards graded early on could prove to be very lucrative in the long run. By the time the players are in their prime, you’ll already have graded copies of their cards in hand and ready to sell with confidence.
Simply put: the higher the grade, the better it sells! If you pull a low numbered parallel of one of the game’s hottest players, that’s great. Getting it graded and having it come back as a 9.5 or 10 is even better. Many buyers are willing to pay steep premiums for high-grade copies of certain cards, creating opportunities for value creation if you have a good eye for gem mint raw cards.
Grading a card provides you with an expert valuation of its condition, which is extremely beneficial whether you intend to sell or hold the card. Buyers who are particularly selective about the condition of raw cards know exactly what they’re getting with a graded card, saving you the headaches of condition-related returns claims.
Even if you have no intentions of selling the card, having it graded will help you establish its value and authenticity for your own collection.
There is no better form of protection for a card than a graded slab. The slabs themselves are very difficult to damage, and you won’t have to worry about the safety of the card inside. While a scratched or chipped slab might negatively affect the value, it takes a lot to damage graded slabs as long as you are careful handling, storing, and shipping them.
If you have after-market autographed cards from TTM or in-person signings, major grading companies can offer an extra sense of security that the autograph on the card is authentic. Authenticity can also be a concern for vintage cards, and getting them graded will establish that they are not counterfeit or altered.
Online Certification Database
When your card gets graded, it gets added to the grading company’s database and assigned its own certification number. This certification number could help identify your card if it were to ever be stolen, which can be especially valuable for vintage or otherwise unnumbered cards.
Why you shouldn’t get cards graded
If you want to make quick cash, forgo grading and sell your cards raw. As the trading card industry boomed amidst the pandemic, turnaround times at most major grading companies became much slower than expected and are still in flux today. Given how volatile the trading card market can be, your cards’ value will likely change during the time they are going through the grading process. For leading grading companies’ standard services, many collectors have been waiting for more than six months to receive their cards back. If you’re looking to sell your card in the short term, think carefully before sending away for grading unless you are using one of the fastest turnaround services.
While some grading companies offer services starting at $10 per card, these low-price services come with longer turnarounds and certain maximum value restrictions. Grading in bulk or using more premium grading services comes with substantial upfront costs, never mind the opportunity cost associated with sending the cards away. Beyond the grading fees themselves, you must consider all of the costs of getting the cards to the grading company in the first place. Unless you have the opportunity to drop the cards of for grading in-person, this will include supplies, postage, and insurance for your shipment. So, if you’re going to get your cards graded, you better be sure they’re going to be worth the investment.
They Can’t All Be Perfect Tens
Receiving high grades can add value to your cards, but for some modern cards any grade less than “Gem Mint” 9.5 or 10 could result in the loss of value. A card which might seem to be a Perfect 10 to the untrained eye could still have flaws, resulting in disappointment when it comes back with a less than mint grade. Even the adage of cards being gem mint fresh out of the pack isn’t always the case. Before you develop your own eye for Gem Mint Tens, consider seeking a second opinion on the condition of your cards before submitting them for grading. Another risk which must be considered is that your cards will be damaged or lost in the process, so be sure to ship them to the grading company with the utmost care.
Graded cards can be hard to store compared to raw 3 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ cards which can be easily preserved in widely-available nine-pocket pages and cardboard boxes. Some collectors will invest in custom boxes, containers, or even display cases to keep all their graded cards together, but those can be expensive and take up a lot of space in your home.
Low Value Cards
If you’re considering grading low-end cards, you should carefully evaluate whether its even worthwhile based on recently sold listings and overall demand for the card. In many cases with base and widely produced cards, there are enough cheap raw options available where sellers would probably end up losing money on a lot of what they sent away to get graded.
One of Ones
There has been much debate within the hobby about whether or not one of ones are worth grading. Some collectors would argue that the only time you should ever get a one of one graded is if you’re 100% sure you’re going to get a 10. After all, why go to the trouble of grading a one of one when there’s no other copy out there in better condition than yours? Conversely, grading can help establish a card’s authenticity as a true one-of-one.
We hope this blog provided you with some informative pros and cons about grading your trading cards. When considering grading your cards, remember to ask yourself “Is this worth the risk?” Good luck!
COMC.com accepts consignments of cards from many of the leading grading companies, including PSA, BGS, and SGC. To see the full list of grading companies whose cards we accept for consignment, visit this link. COMC also offers a Condition Review service, where 2-3 people independently look at the physical item and determine the condition rating. To learn more about COMC Condition Review, visit COMC.com/grading.
About the Author:
Roman Tomashoff is a Senior Trading Card Specialist at COMC. Prior to working at COMC, Roman worked in the sports department at the Everett Daily Herald newspaper. He’s a big fan of baseball, football, and basketball, the proud dad of two dogs, and he’s been collecting cards his whole life. His personal collection includes a wide array of Boston Red Sox, Washington Huskies, and New England Patriots cards.