Taking My Hacks

Card Grading and Urban Legend

Joe Orlando

Over the years, 16 to be exact, there have been many theories offered about the PSA grading process. While it is pure speculation in most cases, some of those theories have become Urban Legend in the hobby. Most of the time, the rumors are honest misunderstandings about the process.

Here are the five biggest misunderstandings about the PSA card grading process.

1) Graders Measure Each and Every Card With a Ruler - False

When a card is evaluated by a grader, they may or may not choose to physically measure the card. Many people are under the false impression that locating evidence of trimming, for example, is a simple product of measurement and nothing could be further from the truth. Graders will measure the card if they think the card needs to actually be measured. Their eyes, due to their experience, are much more crucial than a ruler.

2) Graders Consider the Population Report or the Marketplace When Grading - False

This is a conspiracy theorist favorite. The people who believe this statement think that if a card is scarce in a particular grade or hot in the marketplace that the graders will be extra tough on it. The graders consider one thing and one thing only when grading the card - the card!

3) From Time to Time, Graders are Ordered to be "Looser" or "Tighter" in Company Meetings - False

I hear this one a lot. We do not have meetings where I or anyone else asks the graders to loosen up or tighten up on the grading line. We do meet about grading and discuss particular grading issues but never and I repeat - NEVER - do we instruct the graders to do such a thing. The grading process works best if they have autonomy.

4) Graders Use Magnifying Glasses or Loupes to Grade Every Card - False

Do graders utilize these tools to assist in grading when they feel the need to use them? Of course, but the vast majority of cards are graded with the naked eye. Yes, I said it - the naked eye. In order to be a full-time grader, you need to have an extraordinary eye and these tools can, at times, distort aspects of the card.

5) Graders are Heartless Robot Minions Who Have Been Sent from the Future to Kill Your Submissions and Sarah Connor - Partially True - Kidding

Alright, this one was just thrown in for kicks but the point here is that the graders approach their job with neutrality. They are not trying to help or harm anyone like The Terminator; they have to focus on the characteristics of the cards. If they can justify 100 PSA 10's out of 100 cards, they will. There's no rationing of grades based on the overall outcome of an order or anything of that nature that occurs. They just grade the cards, for better or worse, as they see them.


I hope this clears up some of the misunderstandings that exist in the graded card marketplace and helps put to rest some of the urban legends that still roam the hobby. For a more detailed breakdown of the grading process, please visit our website at www.psacard.com for our grading video demonstration.

Never Get Cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief


Joe Orlando has been an advanced collector of sportscards and memorabilia for over 25 years. Orlando attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California where he studied communications and was the starting catcher for the baseball team. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Orlando obtained a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School in Southern California in the spring of 1999. During the last fourteen years, Orlando has authored several collecting guides and dozens of articles for Collectors Universe, Inc. Orlando has also authored two books for Collectors Universe. Orlando's first book, The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby, was released in the summer of 2002. His second book, Collecting Sports Legends, was released in the summer of 2008. Orlando has appeared on several radio and television programs as a hobby expert including ESPN's award-winning program Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, as the featured guest. Currently, Orlando is the President of PSA and PSA/DNA, the largest trading card and sports memorabilia authentication services in the hobby. He is also Editor of the company's nationally distributed Sports Market Report, which under Orlando's direction has developed into a leading resource in the market. Orlando also contributed the foreword and last chapter to The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, a 2010 release, and to The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, a 2013 release.