Hosted by Red Sox Hall of Famer Rico Petrocelli and collectibles author Tom Zappala, and produced by XM Sirius Sports radio personality Lou Blasi.
PSA Photograde provides a general, visual illustration of the differences between each PSA grade. Of course, in reality, there are so many variables when it comes to card characteristics and defects that no two PSA EX 5s, for example, look exactly the same. That said, the purpose of this section is to help educate collectors about what the basic differences look like. Like the PSA Grading Standards themselves, this is by no means all-inclusive (listing every possible combination of potential defects) but it will provide some general guidelines.
In addition, please keep in mind that while the scans can be magnified on your computer screen, the scanning process does not always pick up every detail or defect on the cards. This would, of course, include defects found on the reverse of the card, especially when it comes to the lower grades on the PSA scale.
The following chart shows actual PSA graded 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #149 cards in every whole and one half grade on the PSA grading scale, from 1 to 8.5. Each image can be enlarged on your computer screen for a better view.
PSA Photograde™ Online is also available for the following key card issues:
This is the finest known example in the hobby, with no unqualified PSA Mint 9s or Gem Mint 10s listed in the PSA Population Report. While the example listed below (the PSA NM-MT 8) is an outstanding card, this particular example has superior eye-appeal. What is most noticeable about this card is the booming red color in the background, which dominates the design. Absent of any obvious flaws, this card shows just a hint of wear at the tips of just a couple of the corners, preventing it from achieving the PSA Mint 9 grade. In addition, while very minor, you may also notice a tiny print line in the right border. It appears right next to the Big League Chewing Gum box near the bottom but it does not affect the exceptional eye-appeal of this stunning card.
Like the PSA NM-MT + 8.5 pictured above, this fantastic example exhibits very bold red color and is well centered for this issue. The difference between grades, or half-grades in this matter, can be very subtle. While certainly acceptable for the grade, this card does suffer from a few more print defects than the example pictured above. You may notice them near Ruth's face and hat, as well as other spots on the card. This card also shows just a little more wear to the tips of the corners, well within the range for a PSA 8, but slightly more noticeable than the PSA 8.5.
Like the T206 Ty Cobb Red Portrait, this Goudey Ruth card may possess color that ranges from bright red to an almost orange color. The background here shows a color that is sort of a hybrid between red and orange as you can see tones of each color along the face of the card. The variation in color will not hinder the grade in most cases, unless considered an eye-sore and outside of the acceptable range for the issue, since that is how the card was manufactured. The corners, while still relatively square, do clearly show more wear than the 8 or 8.5 examples. In particular, the upper right shows slightly more "rubbing" to the tip, which has caused the corner to start losing its original, square appearance and it shows a slight loss of paper.
This PSA EX-MT 6 example is centered low but still within the tolerance for the grade without receiving a qualifier (OC). The other clear difference between this card and the PSA NM 7 pictured above is the degree and type of wear at the corners. More specifically, the top two corners show light folds or bends on the paper, just off the corners. The corners themselves do exhibit more advanced wear and are starting to possess a frayed look. Often times, the difference between a PSA 7 and a PSA 6 is the level of corner wear. One interesting thing to note is the presence of the exact same tiny print line seen on the 8.5 example, near the bottom right. On a positive note, this PSA 6 does possess very nice color for the issue, resulting in nice eye-appeal despite the expected condition defects.
One difference between this PSA 5 and the PSA 4 below is the overall eye-appeal of the card. It is subtle but the image is more vibrant and crisp here than seen on the PSA 4 example. Despite being centered somewhat low on the front, the corners (while certainly exhibiting wear) are not quite as worn as the corners are on the PSA 4 pictured. In addition, there is clearly not as much speckling in the red background in comparison but there are some print defects present. Finally, there is no noticeable bleeding on the reverse, which is very apparent on the PSA 4 example.
This example exhibits the type of general wear corner commonly found within the PSA 4 grade. The corners are starting to lose a square appearance but they are not quite rounded. You may also notice a fairly substantial amount of white speckling (in the form of print defects) in the red background. Finally, the reverse of the card exhibits obvious bleeding. Bleeding occurs when the sheets of cards were laid on top of each other prior to the ink being completely dry. As a result, the color from the card underneath would often bleed onto the back of the card above it, creating the colored imprint on the reverse. It is not uncommon to see this defect on Goudey cards but it does range from light to severe.
This is what most people would describe as a classic looking, problem-free PSA VG 3. Now you are probably wondering how someone could call a PSA 3 "problem-free" when, by definition, a PSA 3 is far from Mint condition. What that usually means is that there are no real surprises in the form of hard-to-see defects or, conversely, that the card does not possess any defects that are extremely damaging to the eye-appeal of the card. Here, we have a card that has fairly even rounding to all four corners, which is fairly typical for the grade, in addition to some damage to the upper border. On the other hand, the card does actually possess nice eye-appeal outside of the obvious corner wear. There is a minor print mark, near the side of Ruth's head in the upper right region, but that lone defect is the only noteworthy blemish on the face of the card.
At first glance, this card appears to be in much better shape than the PSA grade would indicate. It does possess corner wear and some paper loss to more than one of them, especially the upper right. The card also shows some damage to the red background, to the left of Ruth, that causes some eye-appeal problems. That said; it still has the look of a card that might grade 2-3 grades higher. So, why did the card only receive a PSA 2? If you blow up the image, take a very close look at the right-side of Ruth's uniform near the right border. You will notice a discoloration that is a result of a stain, one that covers a good portion of the card on both the front and back. This is the defect, along with multiple paper wrinkles on the reverse, which caused such a dramatic downfall in the PSA grade.
This is a card that exhibits heavy creasing and wear, which is typical of most PSA 1 examples. The basic difference between most PSA 1 and PSA 2 examples is that PSA 1s often have the appearance of a card that has been abused, not just handled. Here, the corners are not merely worn, they are severely rounded. In addition, there is a light surface tear that extends from the top edge on the front into the center of Ruth's image. That tear, if more severe, may cause the card to receive a "grade" of just "authentic" instead of a number but the graders felt that the card still remained mostly intact.
We hope the PSA Photograde™ Online feature is helpful in illustrating the general differences found between PSA grades. Keep in mind that no two cards are exactly the same as different appearances or characteristics can be found on examples within the same grade. These variances become more noticeable the lower you go on the grading scale.
For more information about how to get your prized trading cards graded by PSA, please visit our homepage at www.psacard.com or call customer service toll-free at (800) 325-1121.
A PSA Gem Mint 10 card is a virtually perfect card. Attributes include four perfectly sharp corners, sharp focus and full original gloss. A PSA Gem Mint 10 card must be free of staining of any kind, but an allowance may be made for a slight printing imperfection if it doesn't impair the overall appeal of the card. The image must be centered on the card within a tolerance not to exceed approximately 55/45 to 60/40 percent on the front, and 75/25 percent on the reverse.
A PSA Mint 9 is a superb-condition card that exhibits only one of the following minor flaws: a very slight wax stain on reverse, a minor printing imperfection or slightly off-white borders. Centering must be approximately 60/40 to 65/35 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse.
A PSA 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.
A PSA 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.
A PSA EX-MT 6 card may have visible surface wear or a printing defect that 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.
On PSA 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.
A PSA 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. Centering must be 85/15 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.
A PSA 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. Centering must be 90/10 or better on the front and back.
A PSA 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. Centering must be 90/10 or better on the front and back.
A PSA 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. The centering must be approximately 90/10 or better on the front and back.
A PSA 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 makes 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.
Cards that exhibit high-end qualities within each particular grade, between PSA Good 2 and PSA Mint 9, may achieve a half-point increase. While PSA graders will evaluate all of the attributes possessed by a card in order to determine if the card may be eligible, there will be a clear focus on centering.
Generally speaking, a card must exhibit centering that is 5-10% better, at minimum, than the lowest % allowed within a particular grade. It is important to note that there may be cases where the overall strength of the card, such as the quality of the corners and print, will give the card the edge it needs despite the fact that it may exhibit only marginal centering for the grade. This is especially true for cards that find themselves within the bottom half of the PSA 1-10 scale.