Third-party authentication and grading emerged as a result of industry conflicts dating back to the hobby explosion of the 1980s. Prior to the advent of third-party services, the seller (the person who had a financial interest in the sale of the item) was acting as the authenticator/grader during hobby transactions.
This conflict of interest made it difficult for the buyers. They were put in a situation where they had to simply take the word of the seller. The seller was acting as the authenticator, representing that the item was authentic, and the grader, rating the quality of an item. Even if the intentions of the seller were good, the inherent conflict of interest remained.
In 1991, PSA opened its doors. At the time, the concept of third-party grading was radical but it was sorely needed since the opinion about the collectible was now being rendered by someone who did not have a financial interest in the sale. PSA began by grading trading cards. It took some time but, by the late-1990s, the concept was finally embraced as both buyers and sellers realized the benefits the service could provide. In 1998, PSA graded its 1,000,000th card after seven years in the business. From 1999 to the present, PSA has averaged over 1,000,000 submissions per year!
Over the years, PSA added to its stable of services by hiring a variety of experts so hobbyists with various collectible interests could be served. The following paragraphs provide a brief explanation of what authentication and grading are about within each respective service. For a more detailed explanation, just click on the links at the beginning of each summary.
Trading Card Grading
Trading cards of all genres, both sports and non-sports, can be submitted to PSA. Once the card graders have determined the card to be genuine, they are then asked to determine whether or not the card shows evidence of doctoring. Doctoring is best described as the attempt to enhance the condition of a card by altering the condition, such as re-coloring or trimming.
Finally, assuming the card passes the first two stages, the experts are asked to grade the condition of the card on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best. Once the grade is rendered, the card is then placed in a tamper-evident case which contains all the pertinent information on the label, including the unique certification number. A similar procedure is also used for collectible coins and pins.
Tickets from various events, from Super Bowl games to concerts, can be submitted to PSA. Like trading cards, the experts first determine whether or not the ticket is authentic and then, if requested, the experts are asked to grade the tickets on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best. Once the grade is rendered, the ticket is then placed in a tamper-evident case that contains all the pertinent information on the label, including the unique certification number.
This includes information such as the result of a game, the highlights or the significance of the event like a record-breaking performance or noteworthy milestone. Unlike trading cards, where the vast majority of the cards are both authenticated and graded for quality, many tickets are submitted for authentication only since tickets were often handled, over the years, resulting in very low grades.
Unopened Pack Grading
Unopened packs of trading cards, both sports and non-sports, can be submitted to PSA. First, our experts must determine whether or not the pack is genuine. Second, the experts must determine whether or not the pack was tampered with in any way. For example, some people may open and reseal a pack, switching the contents inside. If the pack passes the first two steps, then the pack is graded for quality on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best. Once the grade is rendered, the pack is then placed in a tamper-evident case that contains all the pertinent information on the label, including the unique certification number.
Sports, entertainment and historical autographs can be submitted to PSA/DNA. From Babe Ruth to Marilyn Monroe to Abraham Lincoln, PSA/DNA can handle a variety of autographs and employs experts with a diverse knowledge base to meet your autograph authentication needs. After reviewing the signature or signatures, the experts render an opinion about the authenticity of the autographs submitted based on their knowledge and analysis. A certificate (COA) or letter of authenticity (LOA) is generated if the item passes inspection. In addition, the item is tagged with synthetic DNA that is unique to our company, a unique certification number is generated and the information is stored in our database.
After an autograph passes PSA/DNA authentication, it is then eligible for grading. The experts are simply grading the condition of the autograph. They are not grading the penmanship or legibility of the signature; they are grading the quality of the autograph in context, based on the writing habits of the signer. The autographs are graded on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best. This service is available for items signed on any medium; however, signed baseballs have a different grading standard.
Autographed Baseball Grading
After an autographed baseball passes PSA/DNA authentication, it is then eligible for grading. Here, unlike regular autograph grading, the medium as well as the autograph are graded on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best, resulting in an overall grade for the item. For example, the grade of the autograph may be "9" and the grade of the baseball may be "7," resulting in an overall grade of "8."
Professional Glove Authentication
Gloves manufactured for professional game use can be submitted to PSA/DNA. There are several ways that professional Gloves can be distinguished from all other types of gloves, such as Professional Model Glove and Pro/Stock Glove. The experts, by analyzing things such as the labeling that appear on the glove, the ordering/shipping records, the material, the labeling period, etc. can determine whether or not the glove was made for and/or ordered by MLB players throughout history.
Professional Bat Authentication
Bats manufactured for professional game use can be submitted to PSA/DNA. There are several ways that professional model bats can be distinguished from all other types of bats, such as store model, commemorative and amateur/youth league wood bats. The experts, by analyzing things such as the labeling that appear on the bat, the ordering/shipping records, the wood quality, etc. can determine whether or not the bat was made for and/or ordered by MLB players throughout history.
Professional Bat Grading
After a professional model bat has been authenticated, it is then eligible for grading. Here, the grading is very different from all other types of grading performed by PSA. With collectibles such as cards and autographs, the item is graded solely on condition. That is not how professional model bats are graded. Bats are graded on the likelihood of use by the player whose name appears on the label. Experts analyze the game-use characteristics that appear on the bat, to help determine whether or not they believe the use is consistent with the habits of the particular player. This can be in the form of specific handle preparation like the use of a unique taping method or pine tar pattern as well as many other things. The bats are graded on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best.
Original Photo Authentication
Both signed and unsigned photographs can be submitted to PSA. The system used for photo authentication is unique to this service. After analysis by the experts, each photo is given a classification from Type 1 to Type 4 with Type 1 being the best. The photograph is not, in any way, graded on condition; it is given the Type classification based on the estimated date that the photo was actually printed. The closer the photo was printed to the time it was taken, the better. For example, if a photograph was taken in 1920 and printed around the same time, at least within two years, the photo can qualify for Type 1 classification.
Autographs that are signed and submitted to PSA/DNA before the beginning of the athlete's second full season in their respective sport are eligible for this special service. The concept here is to give the submitter a chance to document autographs signed very early in an athlete's career since autographs signed earlier are often valued much higher than ones signed later or after one's career. If the autograph passes PSA/DNA authentication, items such as baseballs, basketballs and footballs are given the RookieBall designation while all other mediums receive the RookieGraph designation.
PSA/DNA offers a special autograph authentication service where our representatives are present during signings. It is the highest form of authentication since the items do not require expert opinion; the autographs are absolutely guaranteed. This service is available to dealers and show promoters who perform private or public signings. It is also available to collectors who attend conventions where we offer the service in the autograph pavilion. The certificate of authenticity (COA) differs slightly from the regular PSA/DNA COA since the autograph was signed in the presence of our staff.
For items that have not yet been authenticated by PSA/DNA, our company offers a service where hobbyists can have our experts review autographed items found in any online auction for only $15 ($10 for eBay auctions only). The experts will return an opinion of either "Likely Genuine" or "Not Likely Genuine" so that potential bidders will have a better idea of whether the autograph will pass PSA/DNA if they should win the item and submit it for authentication.
PSA/DNA Pre-Certified - Autographs
As a hobbyist, you may see the PSA/DNA Pre-Certified logo in various auction house catalogues or online. It is a service unique to auctions and to autographs found within. The purpose of the service is to let the prospective bidders know whether an autographed auction item will pass PSA/DNA should that person win the item and want to send it in for authentication immediately after the auction closes. If you see the Pre-Certified logo, it means the item has been reviewed by our experts and is absolutely guaranteed to pass.