I’ve been writing about PSA and BGS for a long time. Years, even, and across a number of card grading topics. But, surprisingly, I’ve never done a head-to-head comparison of the two titans of the grading world.
First, though, let me be clear: there is no “best” grading company. Meaning, the choice between PSA, BGS, or any other option is highly personal and depends on your individual circumstances, preferences, and goals for your cards. I say this a lot about different things here and there in cards, and I feel it to be true.
That said, there are differences between PSA and BGS, and if you want to talk about what the market tends to favor, it’s PSA, both in terms of the number of cards graded and resale value.
Psa 10 has 3× the value a Bgs 9.5😬 @CardPurchaser pic.twitter.com/hPYG53DRO2— Robert Dov (@DovReuven) June 24, 2022
So, this article will examine and compare the two grading companies in detail.
But before we dive into the nitty-gritty of grading criteria, pricing, definitions, and turnaround times, let’s briefly go over why sports card grading matters and why companies like PSA and BGS are so important to collectors and investors.
General Grading Info & TLDR Snapshot
To set the stage (and to give you the lowdown if you don’t want to read the whole post) sports card grading has become an essential part of the hobby for collectors and investors alike. Some love grading, others hate it, but those who like it feel that it allows for a uniform standard of condition assessment, helps preserve card condition, and protects buyers and sellers from fraudulent activities.
Grading companies like PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) and BGS (Beckett Grading Services) have carved themselves out among the leaders in the industry, providing collectors with what is perceived to be reliable and accurate services.
March ’23 Grading Recap— GemRate (@gemrate) April 2, 2023
Overall grading activity was up 19% vs Feb
— PSA graded 1.22m cards (+22% vs Feb)
— SGC graded 121k cards (+31%)
— CGC graded 84k cards (-17%)
— Beckett graded 71k cards (+11%)
— CSG pop report is still under maintenance#sportscards #tradingcards pic.twitter.com/1yCCxzbuQO
(As you can see here from GemRate, PSA graded 1.22m cards in March 2023, compared to 7k by Beckett.)
We will talk about grading scales more in a bit, but both companies use a scale of 1-10 to evaluate a card’s condition, with 10 being the best possible grade. Most grading options follow this standard, including many of the new grading companies trying to make a name for themselves.
That said, a “10” in PSA terms is different than a 10 in BGS terms. Again, details are to come, but a BGS 9.5 is considered “gem mint” and a BGS 10 could either be “pristine” or can earn the “black label” for subgrades of “10” for each of the four major grading factors.
As for the process, those four main aspects are:
Grading involves a thorough examination of the card in regards to these four factors, which includes identifying any defects, scratches, or damage that may affect its condition.
When grading is completed, the cards are encapsulated in what is referred to as a “slab” where it is placed into a tamper-evident case that prevents the card from being damaged or altered after grading.
As you can see below, the slabs differ between the two companies, with PSA (left) being a bit slimmer and with a label that doesn’t display subgrades) and BGS (right) being thicker and with a label that includes subgrades.
So, with all of this, why go through the trouble?
The importance of PSA and Beckett services cannot be overstated. A graded card from a reputable grading company typically adds value to a card and increases its marketability. This is especially true for rare or high-end cards that collectors and investors seek to add to their collections and portfolios.
With modern cards, take a look at the difference between a raw card and a PSA 9 and PSA 10 of that same card:
How often does this hold true? It’s going to differ between every card and will vary depending on time of year and other factors.
So, the best thing you can do is to look at eBay completed sales to get a sense for what a card in a particular PSA grade has sold for compared to its raw counterpart, or more to the point of this article, compared to its BGS counterpart.
(Just to tie off this point, here is what that same Curry Upper Deck rookie card has sold for recently in a BGS slab:)
As an important note, a BGS 10 Black Label is far more elusive than a PSA 10. Thus, when comparing top grades of “gem mint,” most will do so between a PSA 10 and a BGS 9.5. You can see that reflected above, and here below:
- Raw: $149.99
- PSA 9: $250
- BGS 9.5: $318
- BGS 10: $731
- PSA 10: $806
- BGS Black: $3,550
Another interesting note is that it’s more common to see a PSA 10 than a BGS 10, probably due to the fact that BGS awards the 9.5 half-grade and PSA doesn’t. But, from the above and at least in this case, a PSA 10 might be worth the same if not more valuable in some cases. We have more comparisons below.
Look good? Need more details? Let’s go!
PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) was founded in 1991 by a group of collectors who wanted a more consistent and objective way to grade and authenticate sports cards. Part of Collectors Universe, the company went private when it was acquired in 2021 by a group of investors led by Nat Turner.
Since its inception, PSA has become one of the most widely recognized and respected grading companies in the hobby. The company has also expanded its services beyond sports cards to include autographs, tickets, packs, and more.
PSA’s grading scale ranges from 1 to 10, with half-grads included for added precision (just not including 9.5). The scale is as follows:
- PSA 1 Poor
- PSA 1.5 Fair
- PSA 2 Good
- PSA 2.5 Good+
- PSA 3 Very Good
- PSA 3.5 Very Good+
- PSA 4 Excellent
- PSA 4.5 Excellent+
- PSA 5 EX (Excellent)
- PSA 6 EX-MT (Excellent-Mint)
- PSA 7 NM (Near Mint)
- PSA 8 NM-MT (Near Mint-Mint)
- PSA 9 MINT
- PSA 10 GEM MINT
In terms of what this means, and the differences between the grading levels (like a PSA 10 vs a BGS 9.5):
PSA 1 (Poor)
A PSA 1 card is a card that’s had a rough go, like a rodeo bull rider (I mean, it’s not unheard of for vintage cards to be stuck in bike spokes for a day’s fun). The card has been heavily creased, water-damaged, or otherwise destroyed, leaving it in less-than-ideal condition.
PSA 2 (Fair)
A PSA 2 card is like a contestant on one of those daring reality TV shows—it’s been through the wringer, but it’s still hanging on. It’s heavily worn with major creases and other defects, but its image and text are still visible.
PSA 3 (Very Good)
A PSA 3 card is like a loyal companion that’s seen better days. Perhaps it’s one that you stuck in your pocket as a kid, and it shows. It’s visibly worn, but the card’s image and text are still easily legible. The card may have some discoloration, minor stains, or light creases.
PSA 4 (Very Good-Excellent)
A PSA 4 card is like a vintage car that’s been driven and enjoyed but is still in great condition. You can tell it’s old, but it also hasn’t been neglected. Sure it has some wear, but the card’s image and text are still clear and easy to read. The card may have minor surface scratches, minor corner wear, or a small amount of discoloration.
PSA 5 (Excellent)
A PSA 5 card is like a well-loved book that’s been flipped through multiple times, but is still in good condition. You can tell it has been enjoyed, but only has some minor wear, and the card’s image and text are still sharp and easily readable. The card may have minor surface wear, slightly rounded corners, or some printing imperfections.
PSA 6 (Excellent-Mint)
A PSA 6 card is like a well-worn leather jacket that’s still in great condition. It may have a few scuffs and creases, but it’s been well cared for and still looks great. The card’s image may be slightly off-center, or there may be some minor printing imperfections, but it still has a lot of character and appeal.
PSA 7 (Near Mint)
A PSA 7 card is like a sleek sports car with only minor blemishes. If it’s vintage, it’s probably a high-end card with minor wear, visible only upon close inspection. The card may have some minor surface wear or a slightly off-center image, but it still has a great overall appearance.
PSA 8 (Near Mint-Mint)
A PSA 8 card is like a rare vintage wine that’s been aged to perfection. It may have some minor flaws or imperfections, but they only add to its charm and character. The card’s corners may be slightly soft, or there may be some minor print defects, but it still has a great overall appearance and commands a high value.
PSA 9 (Mint)
A PSA 9 card is like a flawless diamond that’s only visible under a microscope. It’s a nearly perfect card that has only minor flaws not visible to the naked eye. The card may have slightly off-center images or minor print defects.
PSA 10 (Gem Mint)
A PSA 10 card is like a perfectly executed dive in the Olympics. The card is flawless in every way, with no signs of damage or wear. It’s like a diver who nails the landing, with perfect form and grace. The card’s edges are sharp, its surface is clean, and its centering is impeccable. It’s a rare and remarkable achievement that’s highly coveted by collectors, just like an Olympic gold medal.
Here you can see the progression from worst to best, a PSA 10 1952 Mickey Mantle with photos pulled from psacard.com.
Understanding the grading scale is important as it helps collectors determine the value of their cards. By knowing the condition of a card, collectors can make informed decisions when buying or selling.
Fees & Turnaround Times
PSA offers a range of services that cater to collectors and dealers alike. Whether you’re looking to grade a single card or submit a large collection, PSA has options. Each service level comes with its own set of benefits, turnaround times, and fees, so let’s take a look at how much it costs to grade a card with PSA.
Collectors Club Exclusive – Value Bulk
This service level is designed for collectors who have a large number of items they want to get graded. The cost is $19 per card, and the card must have a declared value of $499 or less. The estimated turnaround time for this service level is 65 days. There is a 20-card minimum for each era, which is 1980-present and 1979-older.
This service level is ideal for collectors who have items they want to get graded but aren’t in a hurry to receive them back. The cost is $25 per card, and the card must have a declared value of $499 or less. The estimated turnaround time for this service level is 65 days.
This service level is designed for collectors who want a faster turnaround time than the Value service level. The cost is $40 per card, and the card must have a declared value of $499 or less. The estimated turnaround time for this service level is 20 days.
This service level is ideal for collectors who want a faster turnaround time than the Value Plus service level. The cost is $75 per card, and the card must have a declared value of $1,499 or less. The estimated turnaround time for this service level is 10 days.
This service level is designed for collectors who need their items back quickly. The cost is $150 per card, and the card must have a declared value of $2,499 or less. The estimated turnaround time for this service level is 5 days.
This service level is ideal for collectors who need their items back extremely quickly. The cost is $300 per card, and the card must have a declared value of $4,999 or less. The estimated turnaround time for this service level is 3 days.
This service level is designed for collectors who need their items back immediately and prefer to grade in-person. The cost is $600 per card, and the card must have a declared value of $9,999 or less. The estimated turnaround time for this service level is 3 days.
|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|
It’s worth noting that PSA also offers additional services, such as reholdering for a fee and crossover. You can find more information on the links provided, but quickly, reholdering is the service if you want your PSA slab replaced, and a crossover is when you submit a card already graded by another company for grading bt PSA.
Beckett Grading Services, or BGS for short, is another well-respected grading company in the sports card industry. BGS was founded in 1999 and is a division of Beckett Media, a company that has been around since 1984 and is known for its various sports card price guides and publications.
BGS uses a similar grading scale to PSA, with a range of 1 to 10, with half-point increments. However, BGS also uses a subgrade system that grades the individual components of a card, including the centering, corners, edges, and surface. The subgrades are then averaged to determine the final overall grade of the card.
The BGS grading scale is as follows:
- Pristine 10
- Gem Mint 9.5
- Mint 9
- Near Mint/Mint 8
- Near Mint 7
- Excellent Mint 6
- Excellent 5
- Very Good/Excellent 4
- Very Good 3
- Good 2
- Poor 1
Raw Card Review
The BGS grading process is also similar to PSA, with a multi-step process that includes authentication, grading, and encapsulation. However, BGS also offers a service called Raw Card Review (RCR), which allows collectors to have their raw, ungraded cards reviewed by BGS experts for a fee.
Why should you Raw Card Review before grading?— JB (@OldTownCards) December 14, 2022
The difference between a 9 and 10 can be huge. With Flair I saw $15 in a 9 vs $200 in a 10. By doing RCR I was able to 80%+ gem these cards and really do well with that set. pic.twitter.com/ddtU940zFI
The experts provide feedback on the condition of the card and offer grading estimates, which can help collectors decide whether or not to get the card graded.
Fees & Turnaround Times
In terms of fees and BGS turnaround times, Beckett offers various service levels with different pricing. The pricing varies based on the declared value of the card, with higher declared values costing more to grade. BGS also offers a bulk submission option for those with larger collections.
|Service Level Name||Price Per Card||Declared Value||Turnaround Time|
|Relabel||$10/card||$10/card without subgrades||10-15 business days|
|Collectors’ Special||$18/card||$16/card without subgrades||40-60 business days|
|Base||$22/card||$18/card without subgrades||40-60 business days|
|Standard||$40/card||$40/card without subgrades||10-20 business days|
|Priority||$140/card||$100/card without subgrades||2-5 business days|
|Next Day||$400/card||$400/card without subgrades||1 business day|
|Immediate||$500/card||$500/card without subgrades||Same day|
Overall, BGS is a popular choice for collectors who value the subgrade system and appreciate the additional service options offered by the company.
Last but not least, and an aspect many of you are probably interested in, the value comparison. How does PSA compare to BGS in terms of slab value?
Again, I’ll reiterate that comparisons are going to differ card by card, day by day. The best I can do is list out the information I’ve uncovered, but please take it with a grain of salt, and think through the time of year, player, type of card, and more. I’ll try my best to keep adding to this list, while attempting to include different types of cards, from vintage and modern, to vet and rookie.
This is not guidance, and the information here is solely for informational purposes. All I’m doing is pulling data from eBay completed sales so I encourage you to double-check for errors, etc. This eBay data comes from the last 365 days, and I’m only including the most recent sale I see, so obviously if a card was sold 364 days ago in a BGS slab, the value might be much different today regardless of what slab it is in.
TLDR, please draw your own conclusions!
|Card||PSA 10||PSA 9||BGS 10 Black||BGS 10||BGS 9.5||Raw||eBay|
|2009 Upper Deck Stephen Curry #234||$806.00||$250.00||$3,550.00||$731.00||$318.00||$149.99||Check eBay|
|1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. #1||$1,850.00||$209.99||NA||NA||$752.00||$45.00||Check eBay|
|1986 Topps Jerry Rice #161||NA||$2,600.00||NA||NA||$6,706.00||$42.00||Check eBay|
|2019 Select Premier Silver Ja Morant #120||$245.00||$144.19||NA||$650.00||$278.00||$142.51||Check eBay|
|2018 Bowman's Best Juan Soto #29||$40.00||$15.50||$460.00||NA||$20.50||$7.58||Check eBay|
|2018 Topps Chrome Ronald Acuna||$65.00||$38.00||$761.00||$147.50||$69.00||$25.00||Check eBay|
|2012 Prizm Silver Anthony Davis #236||$3,801.00||$504.00||$1,426.99||NA||$895.00||NA||Check eBay|
|2022 Donruss Marvels Tom Brady||NA||NA||NA||$1,200.00||NA||$276.00||Check eBay|
|2022 Topps Cosmic Chrome Julio Rodriguez #197||$142.50||$35.45||$965.00||NA||$139.75||$49.00||Check eBay|