Sports Collectible Grading Tutorial


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Each collectible niche such as coins, comics, and currency creates its own grading terminology and sports collectibles are no exception. The main criterion for determining the value of a collectible is condition, and the better the condition of the item, the more valuable it is. Condition grading can be subjective and many collectors differ on the strictness of their grading. But with the evolution of grading services in the industry over the past decade, much of the subjectiveness has been reduced and most have adopted the following standards.

Typical Grading Standards for Cards

*When using these standards, remember that no allowance is made for age. An 1887 Allen & Ginter is graded on the same scale as a 1987 Topps card.

Fair (F) to Poor (P): The card's corners will show extreme wear, with many major imperfections. Surface of card will show advanced stages of wear, including scuffing, scratching, pitting, chipping and staining. Picture will possibly be quite out of register and borders may have become brown and dirty. May have one or more heavy creases or tearing. Card may show noticeable warping. Fair or Poor cards are usually valued at approximately 5% of the Near Mint price.

Good (G): A good card's corners show accelerated rounding and surface wear is starting to become obvious. The card may have scratching, scuffing, light staining, or chipping of enamel on obverse. There may be several creases, discoloration, and original gloss may be completely absent. Good cards are usually valued at approximately 5%-10% of the Near Mint price.

Very Good (VG): The card reveals obvious handling and some rounding of the corners, though not extreme. Some surface wear will be apparent, along with possible light scuffing or light scratches. A VG card may have a crease and original gloss is most likely lost. VG cards are usually valued at approximately 15% of the Near Mint price.

Very Good-Excellent (VG-EX): Corners may be slightly rounded. Surface wear is noticeable but modest. 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. VG-EX Cards are usually valued at approximately 20% of the Near Mint price.

Excellent (EX): 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. EX cards are usually valued at approximately 30% of the Near Mint price.

Excellent-Mint (EX-MT): 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. EX-MT cards are usually valued at approximately 45% of the Near Mint price.

Near Mint (NM): A near-perfect card with perhaps one minor imperfection, such as one blunt corner. No stains or scratches on face and no visible wear. Slight wax staining is acceptable on the back of the card only. Most of the original gloss is retained. Most NM cards are the standard for which other grades are usually gauged. Centering must be approximately 70/30 to 75/25 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.

Near Mint-Mint (NM-MT): A high-end card that appears Mint 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.

Mint (MT): A superb condition card that exhibits four sharp corners, no imperfections or signs of wear. Cards straight out of the pack are not always considered Mint, they must still be reviewed for any imperfections such as centering, wax staining, or print flaws. Centering must be approximately 60/40 to 65/35 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse.

Gem Mint (Gem): A virtually "flawless" card with sharp focus, four sharp corners, free of stains, no breaks in surface gloss, no print or refractor lines, and no visible wear. A slight print spot visible under close scrutiny is allowable if it does not detract from the aesthetics of the card. The card must be centered within a tolerance not to exceed approximately 55/45 to 60/40 percent on the front, and 75/25 percent on the reverse.

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