Card Grading Policy

Cards are graded based on these factors: Centering, Corners, Edges, and Surface. They give each attribute a grade of 1-10, then combine those to give the card a final grade of 1-10. Anything above a 9 is worth book value or greater, as BGS 9 (known as a “Mint 9”) is the condition expected of the card out of the pack. A grade of 9.5 is Gem-Mint, which is a card that is nearly flawless. This is the condition most collectors want. Then there is a “PRISTINE 10” which is the holy grail of cardboard. Pristine 10s are rarely handed out.

  1. Centering: Centering is basically the width of the border. Ideally, the border sizing should be equal on the left, right, top and bottom. Sometimes judging the centering won’t be as simple as looking for equal spaced borders. The bottom line is that the card should feel balanced. If a card appears lopsided, this means the centering is off.
  2. Corners: This is arguably the most important and most scrutinized of the grading attributes. A card with four sharp corners can alleviate other concerns, especially on older cards. Study all four corners looking at the front of the card first, then look at the back of the card. This is the best way to double-check. If a corner shows imperfections on both sides, it’s not your eyes playing tricks on you. Sometimes the ink, foil or other factors can create the illusion of a weak corner, so always be sure to check the back. If a corner or two is an eyesore to look at, your probably looking at a card that will grade under 8.5. Slight corner imperfections, such as barely visible white might be the difference between a BGS 9 and a BGS 9.5, but can also result in no change.
  3. Edges: The four edges of a card are important, as well. Some brands are notoriously terrible with edges, especially cards with dark or black borders. At the same time, less is expected from these, so lower your expectations. Graders also look at the back for this, too. Edges should be sharp and the color should be constant. Imperfect edges have dings, dents or subtle discolorations. As with corners, barely visible white isn’t the end of the world.
  4. Surface: Surface is the condition of the cardboard as a whole. With glossy cards such as Bowman Chrome, scratches on the surface can be an issue, as well as faded autographs. In addition, cards made with foil stock are prone to small pieces of foil coming off, leaving white specks on the card. With older cards, the main concern is creases and moisture damage. Many 1980s cards suffer from ink smearing and stamp marks that happen when the card goes through a print press. Many times a crease is hard to notice at first, as the picture on a card can hide one very well.