How Dean's Cards Grades Sports Cards

Dean's Cards uses the Grading Standards of PSA as the minimum baseline for grading the cards in our inventory. In addition, Dean heavily weights a card's "eye appeal" when considering a card's overall grade. As collectors ourselves, we tend to be a bit more critical of a card's eye appeal than the professional grading companies.

Please watch the video on the right for a more detailed look at our grading standards.

Even if a card meets all of the technical requirements for a particular grade, we also require that it have an overall look that represents that grade. For example, we tend to be more critical of cards that are blurry, dull, have diamond-cut (crooked) images or possess rough-cut edges. Collectors who are accustomed to purchasing ungraded cards from other vendors are usually amazed at our tough grading standards. It is quite common for Dean's Cards to be graded one to three grades lower than similar raw cards (graded by the seller) that are sold online.

Our website shows the actual scans of each of the vintage cards that are listed online. Even with a huge image of the card that you are viewing, scans can sometimes be deceptive. By grading our cards conservatively, Dean's goal is that the cards you order from Dean's Cards will meet, and hopefully exceed your expectations. This practice is simply good business from our point of view.

If a card should fail to meet your expectations for any reason, please return it for a full refund. The reasoning behind this is simple: If you pay to have your card graded and encased and it is over-graded, you are probably happy. If you buy a card from us and you feel that it is under-graded, you are not happy.

Until 2012, we did not have scans of our vintage card inventory online. Before the scans, we had to exceed grading expectations, in order to avoid the business expense (as well as the customer frustration) of returned cards. Even though we now have (huge) actual images of our vintage cards, we have not relaxed our tough standards. 

Another difference that we have from PSA graded cards is that Dean's Cards does not use qualifiers on cards with flaws, such as OC (off center) or ST (stained). Dean's Cards will simply have a lower grade after taking that card's flaw into consideration. For example, a card that would grade PSA 8 (OC) would most likely be graded a Dean's Cards 6 - but not always.  It is often graded lower.

To further increase the quality of our product, we ask our customers to report cards that appear to be graded too easy (or too tough) so that we can review the card and possibly adjust the grade.

Our goal for your Dean's Cards purchase is the exact same goal when we buy cards -- we want you to be completely satisfied with the card you receive and never have to be hassled with returning unwanted cards for replacements. Our entire staff will do everything that we possibly can to exceed your expectations on the first try. No mistakes and no excuses. Your time is too valuable and your business is greatly appreciated.

Want to sell your vintage baseball cards or other sports cards? Click here

Here's An Overview of Our Tough Sports Cards Grading Standards

Near Mint/Mint (NM/M) - 8

This is what our highest graded cards will look like when it comes to quality and centering.

Near Mint/Mint (Dean's Cards 8) is our top grade for vintage cards. Depending on the issue, 1% to 5% of post World War II vintage cards grade this high. To quote PSA Grading Standards: "A NM-MT 8 is a super high-end card that appears Mint 9 at first glance, but upon closer inspection, the card can exhibit the following: a very slight wax stain on reverse, slightest fraying at one or two corners, a minor printing imperfection, and/or slightly off-white borders. Centering must be approximately 65/35 to 70/30 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse."

Near Mint (NM) - 7

A card graded Near Mint can have slight surface wear and fraying on some corners.

To quote PSA: "A NM 7 is a card with just a slight surface wear visible upon close inspection. There may be slight fraying on some corners. Picture focus may be slightly out-of-register. A minor printing blemish is acceptable. Slight wax staining is acceptable on the back of the card only. Most of the original gloss is retained. Centering must be approximately 70/30 to 75/25 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back."

Excellent/Mint (EM) - 6

An Excellent/Mint card can have graduated fraying and picture can be slightly out of focus.

"A EX-MT 6 card may have visible surface wear or a printing defect which does not detract from its overall appeal. A very light scratch may be detected only upon close inspection. Corners may have slightly graduated fraying. Picture focus may be slightly out-of-register. Card may show some loss of original gloss, may have minor wax stain on reverse, may exhibit very slight notching on edges and may also show some off-whiteness on borders. Centering must be 80/20 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse." * Taken from PSA's website.

EX-MT 6 is the highest grade a card can receive if the card features a scratch-off on the back that has been rubbed with a coin to expose a cartoon or trivia answer.

Excellent (EX) - 5

Excellent cards can have slight rounding of the corners and surface wear or printing defects.

"On EX 5 cards, very minor rounding of the corners is becoming evident. Surface wear or printing defects are more visible. There may be minor chipping on edges. Loss of original gloss will be more apparent. Focus of picture may be slightly out-of-register. Several light scratches may be visible upon close inspection, but do not detract from the appeal of the card. Card may show some off-whiteness of borders. Centering must be 85/15 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back." * Taken from PSA's website.

Very Good/Excellent (VG/EX) - 4

Very Good/Excellent cards can have light scuffing or even creases.

A VG-EX 4 card's corners may be slightly rounded. Surface wear is noticeable but modest. The card may have light scuffing or light scratches. Some original gloss will be retained. Borders may be slightly off-white. A light crease may be visible. * Referenced from PSA.

Very Good (VG) - 3

Very Good cards are middle to lower grade cards that can have slight rounding of the corners and creasing to the card.  Most cards are in this range.

"A VG 3 card reveals some rounding of the corners, though not extreme. Some surface wear will be apparent, along with possible light scuffing or light scratches. Focus may be somewhat off-register and edges may exhibit noticeable wear. Much, but not all, of the card's original gloss will be lost. Borders may be somewhat yellowed and/or discolored. A crease may be visible. Printing defects are possible. Slight stain may show on obverse and wax staining on reverse may be more prominent." *Taken from the PSA Grading Standards page.

A Dean's Cards VG 3 card is considered an "off-grade" card. Please remember that "Very Good" is a grading term and not an adjective! While several creases may be present in this grade, these cards will have other positive attributes to make up for these flaws. The 1957 Klu (pictured above) is an example of a very weak Dean's Cards VG 3. Most will have a bit better eye appeal. This grade can also have pen marks on the back of the card. A card that has been trimmed or altered can be graded as high as VG 3, but we will clearly state this in the title of the card if we suspect tampering.

Good (G) - 2

Good condition cards are not ideal cards.  The word good is more of a title rather than a description of the condition of the cards.

"A Good (2) card's corners show accelerated rounding and surface wear is starting to become obvious. A good card may have scratching, scuffing, light staining, or chipping of enamel on obverse. There may be several creases. Original gloss may be completely absent. Card may show considerable discoloration.", as stated by PSA.

A card graded Dean's Cards 2 GOOD is not good. It is downright LOUSY! For that reason, a GOOD card sells for only 10% or less of it's price in NEAR MINT condition. It may have four rounded corners and multiple creases. They may also have a small amount of writing on the front or back of the card. Cards that grade "GOOD" are the lowest grade that we usually carry for post-war common players. The exception is a few Super Star Cards. These cards are very worn. If you are looking for nice condition cards, please do not buy this grade!

Fair and Poor (F & P) - 1.5 & 1

Cards graded Fair and Poor are in the worst shape possible.  These cards are generally undesirable unless they are Pre-War cards that are rare in any condition.

PSA states that "A Fair 1.5 card's corners will show extreme wear, possibly affecting framing of the picture. The surface of the card will show advanced stages of wear, including scuffing, scratching, pitting, chipping and staining. The picture will possibly be quite out-of-register and the borders may have become brown and dirty. The card may have one or more heavy creases. In order to achieve a Fair grade, a card must be fully intact. Even though the card may be heavily worn, it cannot achieve this grade if it is missing solid pieces of the card as a result of a major tear, etc. This would include damage such as the removal of the back layer of the card or an entire corner."

"A Poor 1 will exhibit many of the same qualities of a PSA Fair 1.5 but the defects may have advanced to such a serious stage that the eye appeal of the card has nearly vanished in its entirety. A Poor card may be missing one or two small pieces, exhibit major creasing that nearly breaks through all the layers of cardboard or it may contain extreme discoloration or dirtiness throughout that may make it difficult to identify the issue or content of the card on either the front or back. A card of this nature may also show noticeable warping or another type of destructive defect."

A card that has one or more severe defects. Cards with this grade are in REALLY, REALLY BAD condition. Fair or Poor cards may have been altered by trimming or cutting or may have significant paper loss. Pen marks or writing can be on the front of the card. A POOR card is a "1" on a 10 point scale. usually only sells Pre-War and star cards in Poor condition.


Cards are defined as Authentic when a numerical grade is not applicable. This could be true when a card presents severe damage, a major defect, or when an alteration has been made. This condition simply indicates that the card is indeed genuine.

by Dean Hanley

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