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 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente #164 cards in every whole and one half grade on the PSA grading scale, from 2 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 example is considered the finest in the hobby and it is the lone copy to ever reach PSA 10 status. Fantastic centering, sharp corners, beautiful color and excellent print quality are all features of this vintage gem. The card also exhibits a bright look, with white borders and exceptional eye-appeal. This particular card is often found with toning and/or a dull look on both the front and back but that is clearly not the case here. In addition, none of the pesky print defects, which are often found on this card, are present.
This well preserved example is one of the best copies known, however, there are a couple of minor differences between it and the Gem Mint 10 copy above. First of all, the card is centered just slightly to left (looking at the card horizontally). The card is still well within the centering standard for a Mint 9 but it is slightly worse than the PSA 10 copy. In addition, there are some very minor print defects scattered in the green background, particularly near his helmet. Once again, the print problems are clearly acceptable within the Mint 9 standard but it is another way to distinguish between the PSA 9 and 10 copies. This is a great illustration of how the difference between grades can often be very subtle.
This is a tremendous example of a high-end card within the grade. From an eye-appeal perspective, the card has a great deal going for it. Compared to most average PSA 8s, this card stands out. The corners are high-end for the grade, as is the color. The card is centered a little low towards the "Roberto" in the name box just under his image but well within the standard. This is a nice example of a PSA 8.5, an outstanding grade for this classic rookie card.
This card exhibits four relatively sharp corners, with only slight touches apparent on a couple of corners, and nice overall centering. One clear difference between this example and the ones above is the color of the borders and general eye-appeal of the card. As mentioned earlier, this card is often found with varying degrees of toning along the edges and here is a copy which helps show some signs of just that, resulting in off-white borders. It is certainly acceptable for the grade but it separates the PSA 8 from the 8.5 above. All in all, this is a very standard looking PSA 8 Clemente rookie.
This card is a very attractive overall example but a few minor defects have prevented the card from achieving a higher PSA grade. The corners, the two positioned to the left of Clemente's headshot to be more specific, have slightly more wear at the tips compared to the PSA 8 copies shown above. In addition, there is some scattered print "snow" all around his face and head region. The print is not too distracting but it is certainly a little more noticeable than the light print visible on the copies above. The card, while well within the PSA 7 standard, is centered slightly low near the information box on the card.
This card is very well-centered but it exhibits a few defects that have prevented the card from reaching a higher PSA grade. The corner wear has become slightly more advanced compared to the PSA 7 copy shown above. In particular, you will notice a higher degree of fraying or rubbing near the tips which has caused the corners to lose a truly square appearance. It is most noticeable on the bottom right corner. There are also some visible print lines in the facial region of Clemente. These light colored lines appear to run vertically through his helmet and face. This is a very standard looking PSA 6.
Often times, the difference between the PSA 5 and 6 grades is extremely subtle and that is the case here. The one visible difference between the two cards, while small, is the type of wear found at the corners. Here, the corners have begun to lose a bit a surface paper near the tips. It is most apparent on both the top right and bottom right corners. While the card is centered a little low and there are some scattered print defects (minor) along the front, it is the degree of wear at the corners which has resulted in the PSA 5 grade. This copy provides a nice illustration of what PSA 5 corners often look like, absent a light crease or paper wrinkle.
At first glace, this card appears to be in better condition than it actually is. There is a crease that travels up the center of the card, which may be hard to detect in the digital image. There are also some print defects in the green background and a tiny line that goes across Clemente's face, detracting from the eye-appeal of the card. The corners, on the surface, appear to be more inline with corners usually found within the PSA EX 5 or PSA EX-MT 6 grade. There is, however, a slight bend near the bottom left corner that goes through the back of the card. It is hard to see in the scan but, if you look hard enough, you will notice that the bottom left bends towards the back.
This Clemente rookie card has a few advanced signs of wear throughout. While very tough to see in the scan, the entire top edge (viewing the card horizontally) is buckled, leaving a light ridge or line in the paper stock. There are also visible bends at a few corners that go through the front and back of the card. The two right corners, top and bottom, are bent towards the front while the bottom left corner is actually bent towards the back of the card. In addition, there is a minor crease on the front that can also be detected on the reverse. Furthermore, to the left of Clemente's helmet are a couple of blue print defects. Despite the noted defects, this card actually possesses decent overall eye-appeal since some of the defects are tough to see.
This example has multiple condition defects and the combination prevents the card from achieving a higher grade. There is a visible stain in the lower left of card near "Roberto" in the nameplate area. Perhaps even more noticeable are the heavy, white print defects along face, which cover a substantial area of the card. There are bends at multiple corners and some creasing near the bottom right corner and other areas of the card. In addition, there is damage to bottom edge below the name, position and team bar. The back of the card has visible staining in various areas, most noticeable in the statistics boxes. There is enough eye-appeal here to warrant a PSA 2 grade versus a 1.5 or 1 grade since the card does not appear to be abused.
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.