PSA Grading Standards

PSA Card Grading Standards

PSA Photograde™ Online - Take a visual tour of the PSA Card Grading Standards.

Half-Point Grades:

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.

Finally, keep in mind that qualifiers will not apply to grades that achieve the half-point increase since, by definition, these cards have to exhibit high-end qualities within the grade in order to warrant consideration. For example, there will not be cards graded PSA NM-MT-Plus 8.5 OC or PSA EX-MT-Plus 6.5 PD since the half-point is reserved for high-end cards within each grade.

At this time, only cards qualify for half-point grades. Coins, pins, tickets and packs will not receive half-point grades.

QUALIFIERS:

PSA will grade nearly every card submitted. Cards having significant flaws will receive "qualified" grades as follows:

The Grading of Hand-Cut Cards

PSA will grade virtually any card that has been hand-cut off of a panel, box, etc. (Post Cereal, Hostess, Bazooka, Strip cards, etc.) keeping the following information in mind. This service does not include traditional sheet-cut cards. PSA will not grade cards cut from sheets that can be obtained in a normal fashion. For example, PSA will not grade a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky card cut from a sheet because that card was issued in non-sheet form. On the other hand, PSA will grade a 1959 Bazooka or 1961 Post Cereal Mickey Mantle because those cards could only be obtained in one fashion - removed by hand from a box or panel.

In order for PSA to actually assign a grade to any of the cards that possess visible/defined borders on all four sides, evidence of that border must be present or the card must exhibit virtually-full borders based on the design of the specific issue. If the cut exceeds the visible border for the card in question, PSA will encapsulate the card as "Authentic" only. If the card is severely undersized and suffers in overall eye appeal, the graders may deem the card not suitable for authentication or reject the card as minimum-sized altogether.

Keep in mind that, for cards that do not possess visible/defined borders, the cards must still fall within a certain size requirement for that particular issue in order to qualify for an actual grade. In other words, the borders must be virtually full in order for a grade to be rendered. Otherwise, as stated above, a label of "Authentic" will be assigned or, in some cases, the cards may fall short of the size requirement altogether. This is not an exact science. PSA will do its best to provide consistent guidelines for these types of cards.

In addition, PSA will allow cards that have had a coupon or tab removed from the original card to be submitted under this service. For example, if a 1952 Red Man Tobacco card is cut at or outside of the established tab line, the card would be eligible to receive a numerical grade. On the other hand, if the 1952 Red Man Tobacco card is cut inside of the line (the line where the tab meets the interior of the card), then the PSA graders will be precluded from entering a numerical grade. Cards that are cut within the limits established for a particular issue will be encapsulated and designated as "authentic" by PSA. All of the cards eligible for this service will be designated as "Hand-Cut" on the PSA label to distinguish them from the intact, "with tab" or "with coupon" examples.

PSA suggests that, in order to achieve the highest grades, the cuts of the cards should be relatively close to the visible borders without exceeding the limit. Cards that exhibit a clean, accurate and properly shaped cut have the best chance at achieving the highest grades. Eye appeal is very important. When it comes to excess paper or cardboard around the edges of the visible borders, the graders will place significant importance on overall eye appeal. Keep in mind that all cards of this type will be designated as "Hand-Cut" on the PSA label for accuracy. In addition, if the customer chooses, PSA will grade and encapsulate entire panels if those panels will fit in any of our current PSA holders. With the exception of the aforementioned items, normal grading criteria will apply.

The Grading Approach to Pins/Coins

The grading of pins or coins often comes down to the strength or weakness of the eye appeal since the material in question is far less susceptible to wear than cardboard or paper. The areas/defects that PSA graders focus on include but are not limited to: scratches, dents, severity of rust (if present), centering of the picture (obverse and reverse), compression of the pin/coin, the overall condition of the paper (if present) on the reverse and overall print quality. Since collectible coins/pins often differ in their makeup, sometimes greatly, it is very difficult to apply one uniform grading standard to all collectibles that fall into this category. The factors above represent the basic, key elements in the PSA grading approach. At this time, pins and coins will not receive half-point grades.

No Grade Definitions

If the grade of your card is available and is listed with one of the following grades, this card was determined to be ungradable for the following reasons.

The Importance of Eye Appeal and Subjectivity in Grading

Over the years, more and more collectors have come to understand the basic guidelines behind PSA grading. After grading for well over a decade, PSA grading standards have truly become the official standard for the most valuable cards in the hobby. That being said, there are a host of grading questions that arise and the one basic question that comes up the most has to do with eye appeal and centering.

While it's true that a large part of grading is objective (locating print defects, staining, surface wrinkles, measuring centering, etc.), the other component of grading is somewhat subjective. The best way to define the subjective element is to do so by posing a question: What will the market accept for this particular issue?

Again, the vast majority of grading is applied with a basic, objective standard but no one can ignore the small (yet sometimes significant) subjective element. This issue will usually arise when centering and/or eye appeal are in question. For example, while most cards fall clearly within the centering guidelines for a particular grade, some cards fall either just within or just outside the printed centering standards. The key point to remember is that the graders reserve the right, based on the strength or weakness of the eye appeal, to make a judgment call on the grade of a particular card.

What does this mean exactly?

Well, take this example. Let's say you have a 1955 Topps Sandy Koufax rookie card that is right on the edge of the acceptable guidelines for centering in a particular grade. The 1955 Koufax card has a yellow background that tends to blend with the border of the card. In other words, the contrast isn't great, so poor centering may not be much of an eyesore – the borders are not clearly defined. In this case, if the card exhibits extremely strong characteristics in other areas (color, corners, etc.), an exception may be made to allow an otherwise slightly off-center card to fall within an unqualified grade (no OC qualifier). This is a rare occurrence but it does happen.

On the other hand, there are cards that technically fall within the printed PSA Grading Standards that may be prevented from reaching a particular unqualified grade because the eye appeal becomes an issue. For example, a 1957 Topps Sandy Koufax card has great contrast between the white borders and the picture because the background is very dark. It is possible that a 1957 Topps Sandy Koufax, one that technically measures for a particular grade – let's say 70/30, may be prevented from reaching that unqualified grade because the market would view that card as off-center – based on eye appeal issues. Again, this is a rare occurrence but it does happen from time to time when a judgment call has to be made on a card that pushes the limits for centering.

In conclusion, the issues discussed do not apply to the vast majority of cards that filter through the PSA grading process each day but this is an issue that needed some clarification in the marketplace. The bottom line is that there are times when a PSA grader must make a call on a card that falls on the line between two grades and that final determination is made based on experience, eye appeal and market acceptability.


PSA Ticket Grading Standards

Full Tickets

STUBS: The same basic criteria (as for full tickets) apply to stubs, with the additional tearing/removal factor of the "audit stub" (by the gate attendant) or, in some cases, a "fan stub." The shape and severity of the tear/removal of the stub, with all other condition qualities being equal, may affect the final grade of a stub. As expected, the more severe and less defined the tear/removal, the lower the grade of the stub. In some cases, no excess tearing (beyond the acceptable limits for a stub) will be allowed within a particular grade. For example, a PSA Gem Mint 10 "fan stub" may not exhibit any evidence of excess tearing at all. Submitters will have the option of choosing not to have a grade assigned to the tickets and, instead, merely have the tickets authenticated and encapsulated. Those tickets will be labeled "AUTHENTIC." Graders also reserve the right, based on eye appeal, not to render a grade on a severely damaged ticket stub and, instead, apply the "AUTHENTIC" label. That way, the ticket is authenticated and protected in the PSA holder – it simply is void of a specific grade.

QUALIFIERS

PSA will grade nearly every authentic ticket submitted. Tickets having significant flaws will receive a "qualified" grade as follows:

A Note About Ticket Grading
Keep in mind that ticket grading is based, in part, on eye appeal. That being said, there is some degree of subjectivity applied to the ticket grading process based on the strength or weakness of the overall eye appeal. At this time, tickets will not receive half-point grades.

A Note About the PSA Ticket Price Guide
All listed prices are for Season tickets, unless otherwise specifically noted. Box office and third-party issued tickets are generally of less value and, in some cases, significantly less value.


PSA Pack Grading Standards

At this time, packs will not receive half-point grades.

The PSA Unopened Pack Grading Approach

First and foremost, authentication is the most crucial step to the PSA grading process. With the prices generated by unopened packs in the marketplace, most notably in relation to vintage material, resealing and the outright counterfeiting of packs have been major industry problems. PSA will not grade any pack that has been deemed by the experts to be resealed, repaired or altered in any way. If a pack cannot pass this first step in the PSA process, the packs will not be eligible for encapsulation.

The Importance of Eye Appeal

The eye appeal factor is virtually as important to pack grading as it is to the approach used in trading card grading. There are, however, some unique condition obstacles that many packs are subject to. These include but are not limited to obstacles such as gum and/or wax residue that can alter the overall freshness of a pack and, in turn, hinder the grade. The presence of defects like mildew staining and gum or wax bleeding can lower the technical grade and detract from the overall eye appeal, depending on the severity.

In addition, while the centering of a pack wrapper is important, the pack grading approach does not view wrap centering in terms of percentages. The key factor, regardless of the technical measurement of the centering, is whether or not the centering (or lack thereof) of the wrap affects the overall eye appeal.

There are instances where wrapper centering issues are the norm. Packs found from the 1977 Topps football issue provide great examples of this frequently seen problem. The wrappers designed for that product clearly do not fit the way that most factory wrappers should. So, in a case like this, the pack graders will take that particular year into consideration before rendering their opinion. As long as the wrapper isn't a complete miswrap or entirely defective, then the centering of a wax wrapper should not hinder the grade substantially unless it affects the overall eye appeal.