How to Get Higher Grades with PSA – 8 Proven Strategies

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You know that feeling when you’ve got that special card (or at least you think so) and you send it to PSA to have it graded, only for it to receive a grade that you don’t think is right?

It’s a common theme among sports card collectors.

It can be annoying, but did you know that you have at least some power to affect the scores of the cards you’re sending out?

If it’s your first time sending your cards to be graded to PSA, or you’re an avid collector who’s had numerous cards already graded, here are some proven strategies of how to get higher grades with PSA.

Tip #1 – Always Clean Your Cards

The number one tip is the one that should be straightforward for everyone, but one that way too many collectors miss out on – clean your cards!

You should do this before inspecting your cards and just before you send your cards out. This way, you’ll leave out any imperfections that you may have created, such as fingerprints or dirt stains – which are all visible through a magnifying lamp.

The way PSA grades their cards is through thorough inspection using either a jeweller’s loupe or a magnifying lamp.

And the first thing they’ll notice is whether the cards are clean. Now, it might not completely ruin your chances with one card but at least it shows that you care about the cards and that your card deserves only the best.

If you don’t know how to clean your card, it’s pretty simple: all you need is a microfibre cloth or cotton round wipes, some Windex, and ideally, a magnifying lamp to help you out.

We’ve prepared a full guide on how to clean sports cards here.

Tip #2 – Inspect Your Card with a Magnifying Lamp

If you’re serious about collecting cards and you really want to get the best grades possible, then you’ll want to have a magnifying lamp of some sort.

Now, you don’t need the best of the best – but having a quality lamp will help you get a better idea of what to expect with your cards.

The thing is, PSA uses magnifying lamps to spot imperfections and the quality of the cards. So if you can do the same, you’ll be able to at least expect what grade your card is going to get.

Some of the main things that you should look for include:

  • Scratching on the surface
  • Coloring quality and issues
  • Smudges and other small spots
  • Autographs and their authenticity
  • Edges and corners

If you don’t have a magnifying lamp yet but you would like to have one, then we recommend that you get one ASAP if you’re serious about collecting cards. Here are the best magnifying lamps for your purpose.

Tip #3: Use Brand-New Penny Sleeves and Holders

Here’s another tip that should be straightforward when you’re sending your cards out to be graded: always use new penny sleeves and cardholders.

Now, some people use older penny sleeves for sending their cards to be graded, but I call that lazy.

The reason is that old penny sleeves might leave stains on your cards and just the deteriorating look of a penny sleeve might be enough to decrease the quality of your card.

You should not be lazy about this because new penny sleeves are cheap and you can buy them in bulk, so always have them handy when you’re sending your cards out to PSA or another grading service.

Additionally, you should look into buying card holders that you can use to send your cards out to PSA. There are cardholders that are made specifically for this purpose, and you should use them in combination with new penny sleeves.

The type of penny sleeve you will use will depend on the kind of cards you have; you might have thick or thin cards, cards with patches, etc.

We’ve prepared a full guide on penny sleeves here.

Tip #4: Create a Distraction

So what do I mean by creating a distraction?

It’s simple: a good idea here is to put your lower graded cards or some dummy cards at the top of the pack. Why?

Because that might be a little mind trick to “force” the person grading to give the cards you have higher hopes for higher grades.

The way it works is that you should put the cards you think have a low chance of grading high before the cards that you think will get higher grades. In turn, this might cause the person grading to see the clear difference between the “bad” card and the “good” card, causing you to get a slightly higher grade for the card you want to grade higher.

Now, there’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet about this. Does it work?

It might – many people have reported it, too. So it might be worth trying. It might or might not work, but at least you’ll be able to see whether it works or not.

Also, you might want to consider throwing in a dummy card with a clear imperfection before your better cards, which might have a similar effect.

To do this, find a card that has an obvious flaw – such as bad centering, poor corners, or surface issues. Place it before a good card and let the grader see the clear differences – it might cause them to give the better card a higher grade.

Not 100% guaranteed, but it might work sometimes…

Tip #5: Organize Your Submission Form!

Organize your submission form!

This will take some time and patience, but if you’re already in the process of sending your cards and spending significant amounts of money to get them graded, then it’s worth the extra effort.

This way, you’ll make it easier for the person grading to not only get through your cards faster, but they’ll probably appreciate it. You’ll stand out from the rest and you might have a bit more mercy because of this.

What does organizing your form means, exactly?

First of all, your writing should be easily intelligible. Your information should be clear and succinct, and most importantly, correct.

Then, the cards.

You should declare your cards in a specific order. It’s best to have the same cards together, which will create an order that is easier for the person grading to follow.

Take your time, organize your cards and submission form, and you’ll likely see better results. It’s time-consuming but it works!

Tip #6: Package Your Cards Properly

When you’re sending out your cards to be graded by PSA, it’s not all about the cards themselves, but also the package.

And by package, I mean how well you keep the cards protected and how well you stick to the requirements put forth by PSA.

PSA recommends that you put your card into a flexible sleeve first and then into a more rigid sleeve to give it more stability. If you have several cards that you’re sending out, then you’ll want to place a piece of cardboard below the bottom card and above the top card.

You can stack your cards on top of each other as long as there is no risk of damage being done to the cards.

Important: make sure that you arrange the cards in the same order as they are on the submission form. This is very important because if you don’t do that, you’re risking PSA sending the cards right back to the sender.

You can also use bubble wrap to secure the cards. Furthermore, some people also like to use post-its on their cards which makes them easier to be removed.

Just take good care of your cards and show that you care about the quality of the package, and you’ll have a better chance of scoring better.

Tip #7: Embrace the Power of Eye Appeal

No matter how well you prepare your card and make it more appealing, there’s always that additional factor of mystery when it comes to PSA gradings: the power of subjectivity.

After all, all cards are graded by people. They’re human beings, meaning that they have their preferences and their standards when it comes to grading cards. This factor of subjectivity might well be the reason why some cards get a PSA 8 while others get a PSA 9.

To be more particular, it’s all about the eye appeal of the card, as PSA describes it on their website.

For example, even when one card isn’t perfectly centered or has perfect features, PSA will grade a card higher if it has better eye appeal and therefore, better potential to be sold on the market.

So even if a card sticks to the guidelines when it comes to centering – if it doesn’t look as appealing as another card, it might receive a lower grade than a card that does look more appealing from the standpoint of a buyer.

This is a factor you can’t really control, especially with old cards. With new cards, you won’t see this as much, but if you’re selling older cards, you should make sure that you show your card in an appealing manner (whenever possible).

Tip #8: The Early Bird Guts the Worm

It might seem counterintuitive to grade your cards as soon as you get them, but the earlier you have your card graded, the better the chance it will get a higher grade.

This means that once you receive some recent cards from this year’s or last year’s set, it’s generally a good idea to have them graded straight away.

Why?

Because the earlier cards tend to get a PSA 10 in most cases, and the longer you wait, the lower the possibility of you getting the top grade will be.

So the next time you buy a set or a card from a new set, it’s a good idea to have it graded straight away, which will give you a better chance of getting that desired PSA 10.

FAQ

Does PSA grade increase value?

Yes, in the vast majority of cases. A card that is graded by PSA is going to be more valuable than a card that’s not graded. The reason for this is that you’re sending a clear signal that your card is pristine and in great condition. It tells the buyer that your card is professionally graded and that they can rely on the quality of the card. On the other hand, buying ungraded cards comes with a risk, and that risk is increased when buying online, so it’s always better to buy graded cards rather than non-graded ones.

Can you fake PSA grading?

No, you can’t fake PSA grading. The reason for this is that every card that is graded by PSA gets a unique label at the top of the card with a code that can be scanned, which can be used to confirm the authenticity of the card. There have been attempts at this in the past but almost never were they successful.

How hard is it to get a PSA 10?

It’s hard to get a PSA 10 rating for your card. To get that rating, your card would have to be perfect in almost every regard when it comes to grading standards. This means that it would have to have perfect corners, centering, surface, and all other aspects also need to be perfected. All of this is really rare and hard to come by, and thus only the best cards get the PSA 10 rating. Even if you think that your card will get this rating, it’s rarely the case.