Growing up with baseball cards, the word “mint” has a bit of nostalgia connected to it. Mint condition. A crisp, clean card with sharp corners, and so much more.
But if you didn’t grow up with baseball cards, or the previous time you’ve had in the hobby didn’t lead you down the path of really caring about card condition, then what does mint even mean? And now, in the world of grading cards, what does gem mint mean?
Gem Mint Definition & Meaning
Gem mint typically means flawless or perfect. So, in reference to cards, a gem mint card is one that is visually pleasing and without imperfections. It’s a common phrase used among different card grading companies when assigning a score or rating to a card being serviced.
All of that said, just like each grading company has its own costs to grade a card, each grading company also has its own definition of “gem mint,” with some using it as is mentioned above as the “best of the best” and others using it to describe a great grade, but not the absolute top tier.
And something important to know because you might see them around, a BCCG 10 is neither “gem mint” nor “pristine.” In fact, if you look at the label, a BCCG is “mint or better.” So, just a word of caution. (Here is more on BCCG vs. PSA.)
So, let’s take a look at what the term might describe for each of them and their customers.
“Attributes include four perfectly sharp corners, sharp focus and full original gloss. A PSA Gem Mint 10 card must be free of staining of any kind, but an allowance may be made for slight printing imperfection, if it doesn’t impair the overall appeal of the card. The image must be centered on the card within a tolerance not to exceed approximately 55/45 to 60/40 percent on the front and 75/25 percent on the reverse.”
Beckett’s (BGS) Definition
A specific definition of “gem mint” isn’t easily found at this time, but there is this mention from 2018:
“…the minimum requirement to receive a grade of Gem Mint is to have at least three grades of 9.5 and the fourth to be no less than a 9.”
This is in reference to Beckett’s four grading features of corners, edges, centering, and surface. It’s also worth noting that to Beckett, gem mint is not perfection—they also offer a “pristine” grade:
“A Pristine 10 with all four subgades of 10 is what is known as a BGS Black Label Pristine. This is the highest possible grade combination and is “holdered” with a black label with gold type.”
According to the SGC grading scale, “Gem” refers to:
“55/45 or better centering, 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.”
(And don’t confuse an SGC “A” for gem mint!)
Like Beckett, SGC also offers a pristine grade:
“A “virtually flawless” card. 50/50 centering, crisp focus, four sharp corners*, free of stains, no breaks in surface gloss, no print or refractor lines, and no visible wear under magnification.”
A GSC gem mint card is a 9.5, and is described as:
“A Gem Mint card is nearly flawless to the naked eye. Centering must be 50/50 one way and 55/45 the other. Corners must be Mint to the naked eye, but subtle wear is allowed under magnification. Edges must be original with only one minor flaw. A few extremely minor print spots that are detectable under magnification are allowed.”
Again, with a score of 9.5, gem mint here does not mean perfect—GSC offers a “pristine 10” and a “perfect 10” scoring possibility.
So, as you can see, no matter the definition, a “gem mint” card is one in really great condition. The only difference is that the specific term could mean perfect to some grading companies, while near perfect to others.