Taking My Hacks

A Few More Grading Tips

Joe Orlando


Each week, I deal with customers who have questions about their orders. Most of the time, they are curious about their grading results. The conversations are usually pleasant but, on occasion, they are not. Emotions seem to run very, very high in this business as much of our business and interest is based on an emotional link to the items hobbyists collect.

For some submitters, they become frustrated because they may not be able to see a subtle defect in the paper stock of a card. What may look like a PSA NM-MT 8 at first glance may, in fact, be a PSA EX-MT 6. Usually, by the end of the conversation, the submitter feels better about the process because they will now look for certain defects prior to sending in their next batch of cards.

While we have covered this topic and even some of these exact tips before, it is always good to revisit them from time to time. The PSA grading standards provide a nice overview but they do not contain every possible flaw that a grader may consider when rendering a final grade. As a submitter, it is always good to know what the graders are looking for. It will increase your chances for success in the future.

The following three tips may be useful in improving your grading score with PSA.

1. The Wrinkle – This is one pesky flaw. It is not quite a full crease, but a wrinkle in the paper stock on either the front or back. Generally speaking, a front wrinkle will drop a card to a PSA EX 5 and a back wrinkle will drop a card to a PSA EX-MT 6 no matter how nice the rest of the card is. Severity can also be a factor but this is the general rule. It is a flaw that causes more NM-MT cards to drop into the mid-grades than any other defect.

2. The Glue/Tape Stain – When this particular flaw is present, the card will drop into the PSA Good 2 range regardless of the other attributes of the card. The card may grade slightly higher if the face of the card exhibits strong eye-appeal. Often times, you will see a card that appears to be a PSA EX-MT 6 or better on the front but the reverse stain provides the kiss of death. In these cases, it is possible for the card to achieve a higher grade but only slightly higher.

3. The Corner Flip – In my experience, this specific flaw is responsible for more otherwise NM-MT or Mint cards dropping to a grade of PSA NM 7 than any other flaw I can think of. Whether it was caused by a corner colliding with the side of a shoebox or just the way the card came from the factory, the corner flip is a killer.

Often times, corner flips have been pushed backed down either by hand or as a result of being placed in an old screwdown. This is not considered a form of alteration of the cardboard or card doctoring by PSA unless it appears as if someone intentionally tried to remove the flip in an aggressive manner. The problem is, even if the corner flip is pushed back down gently, it often leaves a line that runs through the cardboard. If that line is present, even if it is tough to see, the card will usually grade no greater than a PSA NM 7.

We hope these three grading tips can improve your understanding of the grading approach and your experience with PSA.


Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief