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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 1952 Topps Mickey Mantles in every whole grade on the PSA grading scale, from 1-10. Each image can be enlarged on your computer screen for a better view. This chart does not include half-point grades, cards that exhibit premium quality, or high-end examples within a particular grade.
PSA Photograde™ Online is also available for the following key card issues:
This remarkable example is considered the finest in the hobby. The card exhibits incredible corners, superb eye appeal and is well-centered. One thing to note under the PSA Gem Mint 10 grade is that the card does not have to be "perfect" in order to achieve "10" status but it does have to be virtually perfect. There is some leeway given to centering, for example, within the grading standards. Often times, the difference between a PSA Gem Mint 10 and a PSA Mint 9 is exceptional eye appeal since they are both extraordinary (Mint) cards. Other times, the difference in grade might result from something more technical, like a slight difference in centering.
Here is another stellar example of this classic card. While the card is, without question, in Mint condition, there are some very subtle differences between this example and the PSA Gem Mint 10... namely in the eye-appeal department. You will notice, when comparing most PSA Mint 9s to PSA Gem Mint 10s, that they are often separated by eye-appeal issues such as centering, color or registration.
At the high end of the PSA scale, like most other collectible fields, the differences can be very hard to detect to the naked eye but the slightest difference or defect can result in a drop of one or more grades. The PSA NM-MT 8 grade, depending on the card, can provide a great example of that. Here, the card appears Mint at arm's length. Upon closer inspection, very light touches can be seen at the tips of some of the corners. Otherwise, the card possesses excellent centering and overall eye appeal, making it one of the finest examples in the hobby.
The difference between most PSA NM-MT 8s and PSA NM 7s usually comes down to either the type or severity of corner wear, slight differences in centering or the presence of PD (Print Defects) that hinder the eye appeal of the card. Once again, vintage trading cards found in this grade are considered high-end and this particular example is no exception. You can see, upon close inspection, that there is slight damage to the top layer of paper in the upper right corner... a very slight defect but one that often distinguishes between an "8" corner and a "7" corner.
When you start to go down below the PSA NM 7 grade, often times you will notice an increase in general wear at the corners. A PSA EX-MT 6, however, is a very presentable card and still possesses good overall eye appeal despite the elevation in wear. Here, you may notice some spots of minor surface wear along with a very tiny bend in the upper right corner (corner bends are commonly seen in this grade). The presence of a very light paper wrinkle may be found (usually on the reverse) within this grade as well.
This card, in comparison to the card in the previous illustration (PSA EX-MT 6) exhibits very slight advances in overall wear and it has started to lose slight luster in the eye-appeal department. You will notice a slightly duller look to the card here, including the white borders (which have now started to become slightly toned or off-white). You will also notice slightly advanced "rubbing" to the corners. In particular, the bottom right corner contains a few light wrinkles as a result of a bend. The card remains free of any major creasing or severe eye-appeal issues.
Here, you can start to see continued advancing of wear at the corners, particularly on the bottom two corners which now have begun to lose their square appearance. You will also notice some more severe signs of surface wear. In fact, very tiny paper loss is present at the corners and in isolated spots on the face of the card. Sometimes, you will see a card that appears much stronger at the corners (at a distance) within this grade, which usually means there is slight creasing along the front or back.
This particular card shows the graduation of wear usually seen between a PSA VG-EX 4 and a PSA VG 3. The corner wear has accelerated here to the point where they have become rounded in form versus a semi-square appearance. This example also happens to be off-center quite a bit, but even if the card exhibited 50/50 centering, the card would still fall into the PSA VG 3 range due to the other defects found on the card. In the addition to the above-mentioned defects, this card shows areas of wear along the surface. One key point to note is that the card is free from any major creasing despite the obvious wear. If the card did show signs of clear creasing to go along with the other defects, it would likely fall into the PSA Good 2 range.
As mentioned earlier in this chart, the further you go down the grading scale, the greater the variation in card appearance. Here is an example of a PSA Good 2 where technical flaws caused the card to be downgraded but the overall eye-appeal is still very good for the grade. Along with general wear along the edges and corners, the card suffers from multiple surface creases/wrinkles. They are very hard to detect in the digital image, even when the image is enlarged, but you can spot several of them in person. The card, while certainly nowhere near perfect, is not abused by any means and it still possesses a nice look overall due to solid centering and strong color.
The PSA Poor 1 grade is the lowest possible numerical grade on the PSA scale and this image provides a classic example of what a card in this grade often looks like. The card shows signs of severe handling, including multiple creases that go through the front and back of the card resulting from the card being folded repeatedly. The card also shows general wear along the edges and corners. The card is still able to achieve a numerical grade, versus "Authentic," since the card still remains intact despite the obvious signs of abuse. That said, by the time a card reaches or plummets to this grade, severe eye-appeal issues have become apparent.
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.