It has become one of the common questions in the sportscards market since grading really began to grow in popularity in the late 1990s. We get this question often from new collectors who are learning, but also hear from seasoned collectors who have not tried grading as part of their hobby yet. Grading, as you may know, entails sending your sports and non-sports cards to a 3rd party authenticator to have the condition formally evaluated. While there are nuances in scale for different companies, the general range is how nice the card is on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best condition. Once there is a grade, valuing and trading the cards becomes a lot easier. Grading increased in popularity quickly as sales moved more and more to the internet versus in person. It gives one a good idea of condition without being there in person with the seller of a card. Grading will enjoy popularity for a long time as long as cards are sold online.
The short answer to the question is that it depends. In this post we will expand on that answer and discuss some common thoughts as one goes through the decision process on grading.
The concept of grading is popular because it serves a few major purposes for most collectors that grade cards. The first and most is to determine authenticity. This is especially important with high dollar cards from vintage to modern. By the late 1980s as collecting got into the "boom years" it became common for larger and larger scale counterfeiting groups to move in and try to make some money with fake cards. It was increasingly popular to "manufacture" some of the most popular cards at the time from the timeless 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle or a classic 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth to a 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan, 1979 OPC Wayne Gretzky, or a 1985 Topps Mark McGwire. If you could make passable cards in those days it became the same as printing fake money. Many key cards were faked and as a result grading began to emerge and was made popular by PSA. As the years passed, BGS and SGC also emerged to make a trio of leading authenticators. Making sure your cards are real is a very valid reason to get them graded, regardless of the condition.
Secondly, as noted grading serves the purpose of assigning a condition to the card including catching alterations. Another issue by the late 1980s was many, many unscrupulous "dealers" at the time tried to sell unsuspecting buyers misgraded and altered cards as often as they could get away with it. An advertisement in a magazine or catalog would claim "near mint" for condition and you would receive cards with VG to EX corners or a wrinkle. Other times the cards would be recolored or maybe a mark was removed with a soaking process. Trimming became more and more popular, a process where cards would be cut down to size and passed off as factory cut. While grading has not been perfect in catching alterations in cards over the years, it has done a tremendous service to the hobby to reduce the amount of altered cards out there.
Lastly, collectors and dealers use grading to help value cards. Having a third party evaluate the condition of a card can help two parties come to an agreement quickly on its condition and subsequent value. This became very important with more cards exchanging hands via the internet every year. It's significantly easier to buy and sell if you have a very good idea of the type of condition card you are buying and selling. Many cards in certain grades trade in bands just like stocks. Highs and lows are established for grades and many buy and sell more graded cards for this reason.
Some rumors have traveled through the hobby off and on about grading over the years. The one that stands out that many think of when they hear of record sales prices that graded cards often bring, is that all cards should be graded. It's often thought initially by those first learning about grading cards that if the potential is there to increase the value you should always grade the cards. However, the clear truth is that in many cases getting cards graded can lower their value. Often less experienced collectors and dealers will naturally over grade their cards. It's human nature to want to give the best rating to cards that you can...especially the owner. They may really believe a card is near mint, when in reality it's no better than very good. In those cases, especially the newer a card is, it often lowers the value. Most newer cards made since the 1980s that are ungraded trade closer to values that assume the card is in near mint to mint or better condition. As these newer cards are easier to find, lower grades can make them significantly less desirable which lowers the value because less collectors will want them in lower grades.
We hope this post helps you think more about whether to grade your sportscards! Let us know if you have questions around grading cards anytime!
If you ever need help with your sportscards collection, feel free to contact us. We would also welcome some comments below if you have any other questions or thoughts on this post. For more general information on sportscards, like us on facebook, follow us on twitter, instagram, or pinterest!