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How to get cards graded for cheap?

How to get your cards graded for cheap? Firstly, it sounded to me like an easy to answer question. And in reality I got lost in details and options from various grading companies and “middle man” services. Secondly, I was confused.

But good news, I made it! So this is the answer for all U.S. located hobby collectors that want to get their beloved trading cards graded for cheap and don’t care about when they get them back (so if you are getting cards graded for business that might not be the right answer):

Answer:

In short, you get your cards graded for cheap if you submit them to PSA via GradedGem. In addition, it doesn’t matter if you are sending in 3, 10, or 25 cards per month, quarter or year. So this is the cheapest option, by far. But if you require subgrades, go for Beckett or CGC. However CGC will cost you about thirty to fifty percent less than BGS but is only possible for Pokémon and Magic cards.

Decision helper to answer the question "How to get cards graded for cheap" and providing answers based on a decision tree.
Decision helper to grade trading cards for cheap (photo from GradingChecker.com)

To sum up, these are the underlying requirements to come to the conclusion:

  • Firstly, I want to grade modern english trading cards (incl. sports cards from 2018 onwards) at lowest cost possible
  • Secondly, I want to stick with the biggest U.S. grading companies
  • Thirdly, the declared value per card should be less than $499 after grading
  • Fourthly, the maximum number of submitted cards at a time is twenty-five
  • Lastly, I require domestic U.S. shipping and insurance

So do you want to understand how I identified the cheapest card grading service? Then let’s get right into it!

Topics of this blog post:

  • Setting the scene
  • Standard self-submission without membership (Option One)
  • Self-submission via membership program (Option Two)
  • Submission via official agent / middle man (Option Three)
  • Conclusion
  • Additional information

How to grade cheap review:

Setting the scene

For which person is this article?

When it comes to cheap, requirements lie in the eye of the beholder.

That is to say, you want to ensure that the money you spend for grading is spent well.

I assess “cheap” for a card collector that a) wants to get modern trading cards graded at lowest cost possible b) has a maximum declared value per cards smaller than $499 c) submits a maximum of twenty-five cards at a time d) requires U.S. domestic shipping and insurance.

Who are the contestants?

So in my opinion cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better. There is a high risk of receiving a bad service when aiming for cheap card grading. Especially in the grading world. Therefore I decided to consider trustworthiness and reliability when choosing grading companies in scope. Certainly in disfavor for the new kids on the block that offer cheap card grading.

As a result I stick with the biggest and oldest grading companies in the world when assessing the question on “how to grade for cheap?”.

After that you find the final contestants:

  • PSA – with more than 40 million collectibles grade the biggest player on the market in therms of volume
  • Beckett – the oldest player on the market (est. in 1984)
  • SGC – one of the most trusted player when it comes to sports
  • CGC – the biggest player when it comes to grading of comics

Additionaly options?

In addition to that I wanted to add options. Of course, I had to add membership programs to even get access to potential cheaper card grading options. Next to that I decided to add official agents (also known as “middle man”).

Today official agents are becoming more popular as collectors want to minimize potential headaches when it comes to form filling, shipping, and insurance. Even more important, they advertise that they offer low cost card grading services. So I added Ludkins Collectables and GradedGem as official PSA grading agents to the list.

  • Ludkins Collectables: the largest non-sports PSA service in the world
  • GradedGem: PSA official agent

How to grade cheap review:

Standard self-submission without membership (Option One)

Since years, self-submission is the standard way to go to get your cards graded. But is that a good option to to get your cards graded for cheap?

Certainly, grading services and options can vary depending on the grading company. For example, Beckett and CGC are the only ones offering subgrades at them moment.

Requirement fulfillment:

In general, all contestants fulfill the requirements except for CGC. On the other hand, if you love sports cards CGC is unfortunately not the right choice for you as they provide grading services for Pokémon and Magic cards only.

PSABGSSCGCGC
Grading of modern trading cards (incl. sports cards) possible?YesYesYesPokemon and MTG only
U.S. domestic shipping available?YesYesYesYes
Insurance available?YesYesYesYes
Cheap card grading review | Requirement fulfillment summary for PSA, BGC, SCG, CGC

Service cost ranking:

When it comes to grading cost, PSA is the most expensive company to go with.

Overall BGS and CGC are offering the cheapest grading services. BGS’s is currently the cheapest for regular and economy services ranging from $20 to $30.

On the other hand, CGC is providing the cheapest express service for $60. However, CGC lost its first position for economy and regular services after the recent price increase.

Lastly, BGS and CGC are providing the cheapest super express/walk-trough service without sub-grades.

PSABGSSGCCGC
SUPER EXPRESS / WALK-TROUGH3121
EXPRESS4321
REGULAR31(/)2
ECONOMY31(/)2
Cheap card grading review | Service cost ranking for PSA, BGC, SCG, CGC

Shipping and insurance cost ranking:

Overall lowest cost for domestic shipping and insurance are provided by PSA. Beckett is the most expensive, especially for total oder values that are higher than $1k. However, SCG makes first place for the order value range $1k – $5k. CGC is overall positioned at third place.

Total order valuePSABGSSGCCGC
$1 – $1k1423
$1k – $5k2413
$5k – $15k1423
Cheap card grading review | Shipping and insurance cost ranking for PSA, BGC, SCG, CGC

How to grade cheap review:

Self-submission with membership (Option Two)

Meanwhile membership programs are very popular and offer access to lower grading prices, promotions and vouchers. In conclusion, this sounds like they are the answer to “how to get your cards graded for cheap?”. However, a good indicator about the high demand is that PSA membership level “Elite” and “Premium” are constantly out of order. Moreover, membership programs are currently not available for Beckett and SGC. On the other hand CGS is offering memberships to their Collectors Society program.

In short, the main differences between the PSA and CGC membership programs are reflected in the yearly cost, the discounted grading fees and grading vouchers / credits. And of course the availability which is given on all levels at CGC.

Membership program value ranking:

PSACGC
Platinium / Elite(2)1
Gold / Premium(1)2
Silver / Associate12
Cheap card grading review | Membership program value ranking for PSA and CGC

From a cost perspective, CGC is offering the cheapest yearly memberships. However, in line with CGC’s recent price increase, membership programs benefits have been adapted.

For example, discounted grading fees have been removed from the associate and premium membership program. Additionally, the discounted grading fee is cut by 5% in the elite program.

As a result, CGC is no longer winning in the overall membership comparison from a benefit perspective.

PSA’s silver membership is now the cheapest way to get access to $20 value pricing.

However, CGC’s elite program is still providing best benefits in the top level.

How to grade cheap review:

Submission via official agent / middle man (Option Three)

During the last 5-8 years, official agents for PSA have come to existence to streamline the increasing grading demand from U.S. and non U.S. countries. In other words, collectors can send them their ungraded cards and they will handle the rest of the grading process. Especially in Europe, Ludkins Collectables and GradedGem have established a strong fellowship. Ludkins Collectables and GradedGem also offer their services in the United States.

Certainly, they advertise with faster turnaround times, high standard insurance, and best value for money. Moreover they offer pre-grading services even before submitting the cards to PSA. But are they really that cheap when it comes to get your cards graded or are there some hidden costs?

So the main difference between Ludkins Collectables and GradedGem lies in the cards that they accept and the price. For instance, Ludkins Collectables handles trading cards only and is not accepting sports cards. However, GradedGem handles both. Moreover, GradedGem is offering the lowest rates on all levels and free domestic U.S. shipping.

Requirement fulfillment:

Ludkins CollectablesGradedGem
Grading of modern trading
cards (incl. sports cards) possible?
All TCG excl.
sports cards
Yes
U.S. domestic shipping available?YesYes
Insurance available?YesYes
Cheap card grading review | Requirement fulfillment summary for Ludkins Collectables and GradedGem

Service cost ranking:

Ludkins CollectablesGradedGem
PSA Grading Standard21
Cheap card grading review | Service cost ranking for Ludkins Collectables and GradedGem

How to grade cheap review: Conclusion

To sum up, there are plenty of options given if you want to get your cards graded for cheap. Therefore I recommend sticking with established and big grading companies. But more important that you check out GradedGem first if you want to grade your cards for cheap.

Another option to keep grading cost low is to submit with another friend/collector as part of a bulk submission. But be careful with who you are comfortable to handle your cards as they could get lost or damaged in the process.

So how do you grade your cards for cheap? Please let me know in the comment section below!

Lastly, if you value this article or found it interesting, it would mean a lot to me if you could share it on Social Media!

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