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Does grading cards increase their value?

Making the decision to choose the right card for grading can be a tricky task. Today I flipped through my ungraded cards and asked myself if grading would be a good decision to increase their value. So every now and then I read that question in forums and facebook/reddit groups. Therefore, I did a little research to provide some guidance. Let’s dive right in.

Firstly it is important to differentiate between the value-add of the grading service itself and the value of a graded card on the market. In general, grading increases card value, especially from the big market leaders PSA and Beckett. Main factors that increase value for collectors and traders are: certified authenticity, certified condition, protection and increased tradability. Secondly a high upside in value is possible when grading the right modern / vintage card. Further cost for grading services are reflected in the market price. Try to keep grading cost low to even further maximize your collection value.

Florian, Pokémon card collector and blogger at Grading Checker

Topics of this blog post:

  1. What is the value add of grading?
  2. Which cards to grade to increase collection value?
  3. What to do after receiving your cards from grading to increase collection value?
  4. Conclusion

What is the value add of grading?

After sending in a ungraded card for grading value is mainly added by examining, certifying and encapsulating that card by an external third party (e.g. PSA, Beckett). Firstly, the grader checks the card authenticity. Secondly he/she deines the overall condition after assessing card centering, corners, edges, and the surface. Thirdly, the grade (between 1-10) is documented in an online register. Lastly, the grader encapsulates the card to protect the card from damage and fraud activities (e.g. plagiarism / fake / swapping).

PSA graded card that is highlighting the value add of grading including the card information and holder.
PSA graded Pokemon card (photo from GradingChecker.com)

Additional value is added when it comes to buying or selling a graded card on the market. Deals are not based on subjective condition assignments and authenticity can be easily checked online. Compared to a ungraded card in same condition the graded card is easier to trade and clearly removes uncertainty for a potential buyer. Keep in mind that the grading service comes with a cost which is also reflected in the price compared to a similar ungraded card. A potential big upside in profit is possible when the right cards are being graded. You hit the jackpot, if the right and most popular cards receive a Gem Mint or even Pristine grade.

Which cards to grade to increase collection value?

Answering this question shifts focus to the current and future value of a graded card on the market. For myself it is important to consider only cards for grading that I really would like to have in my personal collection before I even think about the potential value. So personal value is always guaranteed even during market lows.

Key to success in maximizing value in the long run is building up an understanding of the modern and vintage cards market and their differences.

Modern vs. vintage cards

Compared to modern cards, vintage cards provide historical information that needs to be checked before choosing cards for grading (e.g. auction „sold“ price history on eBay, population reports). As information is widely available, spots for undervalued cards change over time. And there are plenty of chances in the vintage market!

Modern cards provide less available information and high uncertainty about the overall print quantity and potential re-prints. Additionally, most of the ungraded cards are in mint condition as collectors treat cards more carefully.

So, which cards to grade? Here are my guard rails for identifying the right modernd / vintage cards for grading to maximize collection value:

Example of modern ungraded Pokémon cards in toploader (Pikachu and Greninja). Grading will increase their value according to the guard rails.
Ungraded modern cards (photo from GradingChecker.com)

Guard rails for modern cards:

  1. Only choose english cards (for Pokémon Japanese is the second language of choice)
  2. Only choose popular characters / persons from popular sets / promotions that are in high demand. Stick with the most popular characters / persons!
  3. Only choose cards that are/were hard to get (low pull rates, available only in limited products/promotions)
  4. Only buy cards in mint / near mint condition for the lowest price possible, or open booster packs for MSRP (if possible)
  5. Send in multiple copies of a ungraded card to increase the chance for a Gem Mint (10) grade
  6. Submit only to PSA or Beckett for grading and choose the service with the lowest price (consider bulk submission or submissions via Ludkins Collectables, GradedGem). Choose a service that includes subgrades (if available)
Picture of vintage ungraded Pokémon cards in toploader (Pikachu and Squirtle). Grading will increase their value according to the guard rails.
Ungraded vintage cards (photo from GradingChecker.com)

Guard rails for vintage cards:

  1. Choose only english cards (for Pokémon Japanese is the second language of choice)
  2. Stick with popular characters / persons from popular sets / promotions that are high in demand
  3. Assess the market to identify undervalued cards / collections in the best condition possible (please check population reports as well as „sold prices“ from auctions)
  4. Choose cards that were hard to get (low pull rates, available only in limited products/promotions)
  5. Send in all ungraded card in any condition for super popular cards (e.g. a Shadowless 1. Edition Charizard)
  6. Send in the best copies. Aim for cards that have a chance for excellent to mint (between 5 and 9) potential to rank in the upper range of the population report
  7. Submit only to PSA or Beckett for grading and choose the service with the lowest price (consider bulk submission or submissions via Ludkins Collectables, GradedGem). Choose a service that includes subgrades (if available)

Guard rails for identifying the right cards for grading (Infographic):

Infographic highlighting the guard rails for choosing the right cards for grading.
Infographic highlighting guard rails for identifying the right cards for grading (photo from GradingChecker.com)

What to do after receiving your cards from grading to increase collection value?

First of all it is important to enjoy the thrill of receiving your graded cards. Today, chances are high that you haven’t seen your cards in a while. Say “hi” your new „buddies“ as standard services currently take 6-12 months if submitted to PSA or Beckett. That is a long time…

Hold your cards long term and focus on high grade cards with low population (Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels)

Speaking about long time, according to Statista the card market is currently as its all time high with expected annually growth rates by 5.18% worldwide (2021-2025). If you want to maximize collection value you need to think long term and focus on owning high grade cards with a low population. Of course you can collect lower grades but don’t expect big changes in therms of value over time.

For modern cards:

Focus on Gem Mint (10) cards in your collection. Typically price multiples for Gem Mint (10) versions of a popular card beat their Mint (9) and lower versions by far. In the short term it is possible to achieve high multiples, especially if your are one of the first sellers on the market. But keep in mind that you check the population report of your card at PSA or Beckett over time to get a good feeling of the number of 9s and 10s out there.

Sell your modern cards with a grade smaller than a Gem Mint (10) as well as Gem Mint (10) duplicates. Re-invest into ungraded cards or the Gem Mint (10) version of a card that you would like to have in your collection. Key is to diversify your Gem Mint (10) card collection. Celebrate if you achieve to receive a Pristine (Black Label) from Beckett – these can be worth a fortune! 

For vintage cards:

Also focus on accumulation high grade cards in your collection. Certainly most of your submitted vintage cards will not receive a Mint (9) or Gem Mint (10) grading. If so, great! Keep them.

Sell low grade cards and re-invest into Mint (9) or Gem Mint (10) versions of popular vintage cards with a low population. Those tend to have a higher growth rate in a shorter timeframe. Don’t expect big price jumps for vintage “grail” cards in the short term as their value typically grows constantly with a lower rate. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, increasing value lies in the eye of the beholder. Collectors will increase their collection value by focussing on grading high grade modern / vintage cards in the long run. Moreover, grading companies provide additional value to the collector by ensuring authenticity, physical protection as well as increased tradability. Most importantly value is added by removing subjective condition assignments and providing easy to check authenticity.

Do you think grading increases card value? Leave a comment!

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