PSA card ratings are the condition grades cards receive when submitted for evaluation to Professional Sports Authenticator. These ratings range from 1, where the card is rated as being in poor condition to 10, where it is rated as “gem mint.”
Card Rating System
Most baseball card rating systems range from 1-10. Each professional service has its own unique rating system, but for the most part, these ratings top out at “gem mint” or perfect/flawless, and can move all the way down to good, fair, poor, and more.
If you’re new to the hobby, the idea of baseball card ratings is something you probably hear a lot about, but even so, are probably left more and more confused the more you hear about it.
First of all, part of the confusion might stem from the fact that these “ratings” being discussed refer to the activity of grading cards. So, when you submit a card to a company like PSA or BGS, you’re paying for their grading service, not rating service.
Perhaps it’s due to a game of telephone, or that some just prefer to use the term “rating” instead of “grade” or “grading” but the majority of the hobby will refer to this activity as grading.
All of that said, no matter what you call it now or plan to call it in the future, let’s discuss what is actually meant by a baseball card rating.
One thing to watch for:
A BCCG 10 is only “mint or better” and not a “gem” or “pristine” grade. Also, a SGC “A” does not mean “A” as in a great letter-grade on an A-F scale. It actually stands for “Authentic” and there is more to know, so be sure to read this for a better understanding.
What Determines PSA Card Ratings?
PSA looks at four main factors when determining a card’s overall rating or grade:
Corners: Most cards will have four corners given their rectangular shape (some cards are “die-cut” or even rounded, and thus have more or less than four corners, or are even rounded). So, the sharper the corners, the better the rating, and, the softer the corners, the worse the rating.
Centering: Centering refers to how evenly proportioned a card’s photo and design fit within its rectangular boundaries. If you’re a hobby newcomer, you might not have ever given centering any special consideration, or, you just assumed because cards were cut by machines, they’d all be perfect. However, most cards do not have perfect centering, meaning the photo or design of the card might skew too much in one direction, either top or bottom, or left or right.
Surface: Another rating factor is the surface of the card. Are there scratches or dimples on the card that made their way to a card from mishandling or improper storage? Perhaps there are printed defects or lines that came straight from the manufacturer? Any visible imperfection to the surface of the card will decrease its overall rating.
Edges: Last, and similar to the corners mentioned above, a card’s edges play a part in determining its overall rating. If you examine your cards closely, you’ll notice some have clean and smooth edges while others have rough and frayed edges. As you might have guessed, the smoother the edges, the better.