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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 1954 Topps Hank Aaron #128 cards in every whole and one half grade on the PSA grading scale, from 1 to 10. 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 spectacular example is one of only two PSA Gem Mint 10s in the hobby. The centering and corners are exceptional on the card but what is most apparent is the fantastic eye-appeal. The colors are very bright and the picture is so crisp and fresh looking that you would think it was just pulled from an unopened pack. In fact, if you enlarge the image and look at the orange background, you will notice that the print quality is just incredible. On a card that is almost always found with at least some minor print defects in the background, you would be hard-pressed to find even the tiniest speck. The left and right edges have a light rough-cut, which is typical of many 1954 Topps card and this type of cut will not affect the grade in most cases unless the cut damages the corners in some fashion.
While not quite as nice as the PSA 10 above, this PSA 9 remains one of the finest Aaron rookies known. The brilliant color and corners on this card are almost identical to the PSA 10 card pictured; however, there are some very subtle differences. The centering is not quite as strong here as it is on the PSA 10 card. If you focus on the right border, you will notice a slight tilt as you continue down the edge. The worst point of the centering is near the top right, which is where the graders measure from. You may also notice some minor print defects, some are in the chin area of Aaron's face as well as a minor print dot on Aaron's cap, neither of which is enough to downgrade the card since the overall eye-appeal is still terrific.
This card is an example of an extremely sharp PSA 8 with very crisp, pointed corners that are considered high-end for the grade. It exhibits bright color and white borders. The card, while centered a bit to the left, is still within the tolerance for the grade. The light rough-cut along the left and right edge is very typical of the issue and does not detract from the grade in any way. There are some scattered print defects in the facial region. Most noticeably, there is a small print defect (which many hobbyists refer to as a "fish eye") on Aaron's cheek.
Here is an example of a card that is exceptional for the grade, resulting in the half-point premium. From a technical grading standpoint, it is not quite nice enough to be a PSA 8 but the overall eye-appeal separates the card from an average PSA 7 due to the exceptional color and solid centering. The card also has strong Near Mint corners. There is a slight print defect (stray blue print) in right edge but it is far away from Aaron's face and a very light impression on left edge, which is a little more than halfway up the card and very hard to see in the digital image. You can also see the reverse of the card, which is very clean and absent any significant chipping along the fragile green edge.
This PSA 7 is a very nice looking card overall but it suffers from the following defects. First, the card has a very slight tilt. As a result, the graders would measure the card near the bottom right, which is the worst point of the centering. In addition, the card has fairly typical corners for a PSA 7 with the upper right showing the most wear compared to the other three corners. It has started to lose its pointed appearance and now appears to have a blunt look from rubbing near the tip. Finally, to the left of Aaron's face, there appears to be some minor discoloration in the orange background. Keep in mind, once again, the light rough-cut seen on both edges is not considered a detractor from the overall grade since it is typical of the issue and does not affect the eye-appeal of the card.
This is what might be best described as a standard looking PSA 6. Other than typical corner wear, the type commonly found within this PSA grade, the card is relatively problem-free. The card, while there are a few light print defects, has very nice eye-appeal. The color is strong and the borders are free of any noticeable toning. The top edge has a few very tiny areas of chipping, which is most likely a result of the cut, but none of the chips are large enough to detract from the nice overall look of the card. The card is centered a hair low but still well within the tolerance for the grade. This is a case where the corners and the corners alone prevented the card from reaching a higher grade.
This is considered a very standard looking PSA 5 with decent eye-appeal for the grade. There is a slight tilt to the card as the centering (left to right) near the top of the card is marginal. The card also has typical corner wear for a PSA 5, with the top left corner exhibiting the most obvious wear. An impression can be seen in top edge, which also affects the grade. Finally, there are what hobbyists refer to as "fish eyes" (print defects) in Aaron's hat region and a slight blue print defect in left edge. All in all, this is a typical PSA EX 5 with expected condition issues.
This PSA 4 suffers from a few more noticeable condition problems than the PSA 5 above. You may notice the heavy stain on the bottom left corner, one that actually touches the smaller image of Aaron on the card. There is also a very noticeable print defect extending from Aaron's face into the right edge (blue/green color). On the left edge and more significant, in the upper portion across from the Indian (Brave) artwork, there is a deep buckle that creates a visible ridge in the paper. You can really see this in the enlarged image. This would not be described as a typical PSA 4 since the corners appear more like PSA 5 or 6 corners and the card is free of any obvious creasing.
The first thing you may notice about this card is that the PSA label contains the MK (Mark) qualifier. Here, from a condition perspective, the card would grade a PSA 3 regardless of the existence of an additional mark on the card – front or back. You cannot see the mark in the digital image because it appears on the reverse of the card. The card exhibits fraying at the corners from consistent friction. In fact, the bottom two corners in particular have begun to take on a round shape as a result of repeated rubbing. In addition, there is some minor damage in small spots along the right edge and the card appears to be crease-free. It is also fairly well-centered for the grade. This is a classic PSA 3 with or without the MK qualifier.
Here is a great example of a card that has several condition defects; however, the image remains relatively unscathed, resulting in a grade of PSA 2 versus PSA 1. There is heavy wear at the corners, with some of them almost having a "chewed" appearance as a result of the worn down paper. There is also some creasing, especially near the top portion of the card, with multiple small folds in the upper left region. A few gouges and surface abrasions can be seen, mostly on or near the right edge. Once again, despite the problems found on the card, it still retains some measure of eye-appeal in the center of the image, preventing it from plummeting to the lowest possible grade.
This card is a classic example of a PSA 1. There is heavy creasing and surface wear throughout as the card has been folded many times during handling. You can actually see the severity of the creasing through the front and back of the card, which is clearly visible on the back image shown here. In fact, tiny spots of paper have been lost on the front in some areas. There is also some major peeling in the upper right corner. A gouge can be seen in right border towards the bottom and that area has become noticeably discolored (brown) over time. Finally, an indentation exists along the top edge. Each of these defects points more towards abuse than simple wear due to handling, resulting in a PSA 1 grade.
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.