Should I Get My Baseball Cards Graded by PSA?

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Having Your Sports Cards Professionally Graded

Some people think getting a card graded increases its value.  The truth is that some cards sell for less after paying to have them graded.
Some people think getting a card graded increases its value. The truth is that some cards sell for less after paying to have them graded.

Some people - who are looking to sell their collections - have been told "baseball cards are worth more when they are graded".  The professional card grading companies such as PSA, SCG & Beckett love to make this claim, as it is a justification for charging $5 to $15 to grade a common card!  The real cost to have a card graded is usually $14 to $17 per card when you consider the overpriced shipping and insurance charges.  As the value of the card goes up, so do the charges.  It is quite common to pay $40 to $300 (plus shipping, handling, and insurance) to have a Mickey Mantle baseball card (or another high dollar card) graded.

The truth is that some cards actually sell for less on the market after the owner has paid to have them graded!  While some cards are worth more after they have been professionally graded, I have found that most cards gain very little value when professionally graded and rarely gain enough value to cover the additional incurred fees.  It all depends on the card.

Usually, it does not make sense to get a card graded unless it is very old or in near perfect condition.  Getting cards professionally graded is expensive and may even reduce the value of the card.  If you are selling a collection, you are usually better off saving yourself the expense and just selling the cards ungraded.

The reason that some graded cards sell for more is that the professional graders grade harder than we collectors did 20 years ago.  They tend to be very critical of flaws.  It is very common for people to send a card off to be graded that the owner feels is in NEAR MINT condition and have it come back graded EXCELLENT!  

So does it really matter that they get a little more for their card that is professionally graded "EXCELLENT" - when compared to other cards that are graded EXCELLENT"?  Especially if they could of sold it ungraded as "NEAR MINT" for 75% more? Most people that send a group of cards off to be graded the first time are shocked at the low grades that they receive.

Great Marketing

Dean's Cards buys and sells hundreds of graded pre-war and vintage cards every year.
For that one card that graded a "10" and sold for thousands of dollars, there are tons of cards grading lower and selling for a fraction of the price.

PSA and SGC run ingenious advertisement where they show a $5 or $10 card that was graded a "10" that sold for thousands of dollars.  While the ad is technically true, the real reason for the value is because it is a great card - not because it was graded by PSA.  Out of the millions of cards printed it may be THE best one!

Stories like this are rare.  It would be like seeing that a rare diamond sold for millions of dollars and expecting to get the same amount for your wife's engagement ring.  After all, they are both diamonds, right?

For that one card that came back graded as a "10", there are a dozens of that same card - that looked just as good - that were graded "9" that are worth $20 and hundreds graded "8" that are worth about $6 or $7.   The vast majority of the cards grade much lower and the prices go down from there.

Too often, we have seen people - that have inherited collections - spend far more on grading fees than the collection is actually worth!  Many collectors feel that professional grading is a racket, as it is not uncommon for someone to send a borderline Mantle card off 9 times and have it come back ExMt (or maybe even EX) and send it off that 10th time and get a NrMt grade.  In that example the process takes about a year and costs the owner thousands of dollars for that card alone!  PSA does not seem to mind....

Please understand that we are totally "agnostic" and unbiased when it comes to professionally graded cards. We buy and sell both graded and ungraded cards - so it really does not matter to us.  We make money either way.  If you insist on getting your cards graded, please do yourself a favor and send only few to test the results. PSA, SGC and Beckett are main grading companies that I recommend.  The rest do not carry any value.

Many collectors prefer ungraded cards

Even when we buy a card that is professionally graded - we still grade the card ourselves.  For example, if PSA graded a card ExMt and we feel that it should be Nr/Mt - we will pay the NrMt price.  If we agree, with the grade - we may pay a few bucks more (seldom more the cost of the grading!).  Quite often we will remove the "under graded" cards from the PSA case to allow us to sell them for more money.

We usually do not have cards professional graded because it actually reduces the number of potential buyers and possibly reduces the value of the card.  As we grade on par with anyone, we can sell to both the graded and non-graded card collectors.  We offer a money back guarantee, so if collectors do not agree with our grades - they may simply return the cards.  MOST TRUE COLLECTORS DECIDE THE CONDITION OF THE CARD THEMSELVES.  The graded card collectors simply buy the ungraded cards and submit the card themselves.    

Dean's Cards has found that our graded cards sell slower than our ungraded cards. Many collectors are unwilling to pay a premium for a graded card.  There are occasions, when collectors will purchase a graded card from us and ask us to remove it from the case before shipping it to them.  The graded card slabs that PSA, SGC & Beckett use are very heavy and take up a lot of storage space.  Besides, most people want to actually touch the card!

In my opinion, you come away better about 98% of the time not having the cards graded - with much less hassle and expenses.  Yes, you will get a little more for that card that receives a high grade, but that profit it is quickly offset by your nice cards that received poor grades.

I do not want to give the impression that I am totally against grading companies.  I am not.  They are very helpful when we get a pre-war collection of highly valuable cards.  It is sometimes worth the cost to get a pre-war card (worth thousands of dollars) authenticated.  This way the buyer knows that the card is truly authentic. Hope this information helps.

By Dean Hanley

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