How PSA Card Grading Works [According to an Expert]

Ryan Barone
(@ballcardgenius, Card Expert) is a lifelong member of the hobby. He has been quoted in PSA Magazine, and his content has regularly been mentioned in “Quick Rips” (the Topps RIPPED Newsletter) and across other hobby publications. hello@ballcardgenius.com; Last Time Ago LLC dba Ballcard Genius.

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The way PSA card grading works is you fill out a submission form by choosing your service level (turnaround time) and adding your card’s details. You then package and mail your card to PSA. Once the card is received, PSA begins processing 2-3 days later. From there, the card goes through a handful of grading stages including grading, assembly, and QA. Once the process is complete, the card is mailed back.

Is that it? Well, regardless of industry, sometimes the simple answers elude us. We don’t always need all of the ins and outs of something unknown. Just a little peak behind the curtain to quench our thirst for knowledge. Then, when we are ready, we will dive into the heavy stuff.

PSA card grading is a lot like that.

I just submitted two more cards for grading, and it couldn’t have been easier. It wasn’t scary or overwhelming. It took 10 minutes. I’ve done it before, and have a pretty good handle on how it all goes down. I’ll now wait per the description above.

That said, I know there are some lingering questions, and roadblocks that prevent people from grading cards because they don’t have the answers.

What is being graded?

Card grading accomplishes two things. It ensures the card is authentic, which is more or less table stakes, but then it also assigns it a condition grade.

This grade is determined by the card’s corners (how sharp they are), edges (how clean are they), surface (are there any blemishes), and centering (is the card shifted to the left or right, or up or down)?

What is a service level?

The service level is one of the main decisions you’ll make when choosing to grade your cards. It’s essentially the price you’ll pay to grade each card, and how quickly you can expect the card to be graded. With PSA, the service levels include:

Service Level Name Price Per Card Declared Value Turnaround Time
Value Bulk $10 N/A 20 business days
Value $20 Under $500 20 business days
Value Plus $25 Under $1,000 15 business days
Regular $50 Under $2,500 10-15 business days
Express $100 Under $5,000 5 business days
Super Express $200 Under $25,000 2 business days
Walkthrough $600 Unlimited 1 business day

What is declared value?

Declared value is an owner’s estimated worth of a card after it has been authenticated and graded by PSA. It’s a reflection of the potential value of a card based on its condition, rarity, and market demand.

Owners declare their perceived value of the card as a means of insurance against any loss or damage that may occur during the grading and encapsulation process.

So, while it might be tempting to declare a lower value, the card may not be adequately insured against loss or damage during the shipping and handling process.

Not to mention that if you submit a card at, for example, the value level which is a declared value of less than $500, but the actual value is much greater, you can be upcharged to the next service level. I’m also assuming you’d have to pay more in shipping insurance, but I’m not entirely sure on that piece.

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