How to Grade Sports Cards at Home: A Beginner’s Guide

Sports card collecting is a popular hobby that has been enjoyed by many for decades. One of the most important aspects of collecting sports cards is grading them. Grading sports cards is a process of evaluating the condition of a card, which is important for determining its value.

While professional grading services are available, they can be expensive and time-consuming. Fortunately, it is possible to grade sports cards at home. By learning how to grade cards yourself, you can save money and gain a deeper understanding of the grading process.

There are several factors to consider when grading sports cards, including centering, corners, edges, and surface. Each factor is given a grade from 1 to 10, and these grades are combined to give the card a final grade. The higher the grade, the more valuable the card is likely to be.

Why Grade Sports Cards?

Grading sports cards has become increasingly popular among collectors, and for good reason. Here are a few reasons why grading sports cards is important:

Preserving Value

One of the main reasons collectors choose to grade their sports cards is to preserve their value. Grading companies, such as PSA and BGS, use a standardized grading system to evaluate the condition of a card. This grading system takes into account factors such as centering, corners, edges, and surface. By having a card professionally graded, collectors can ensure that they are purchasing a card that is in the condition advertised, and that its value is protected over time.


Another reason to grade sports cards is for authentication purposes. Unfortunately, there are many counterfeit sports cards on the market, and it can be difficult for collectors to determine whether a card is authentic or not. Grading companies thoroughly examine each card to ensure that it is not a fake. Once a card has been graded, it is sealed in a tamper-proof holder, which provides additional protection against fraud.

Condition Assessment

Grading sports cards also allows collectors to assess the condition of their cards. By having a card graded, collectors can get an objective evaluation of the card’s condition. This can be especially helpful for collectors who are new to the hobby and may not have the experience to evaluate a card’s condition on their own. Additionally, grading companies provide detailed reports on the condition of each card, which can be helpful for collectors who are looking to improve their collection.

Grading Criteria

When grading sports cards at home, it is important to consider several factors that can affect the overall condition and value of the card. The four main grading criteria are centering, corners, edges, and surface.


Centering refers to the position of the image on the card in relation to the borders. A card with good centering should have equal borders on all sides, with the image centered within those borders. Cards with off-center images, where one or more borders are noticeably larger or smaller than the others, will receive a lower grade.


Corners are one of the most important factors in grading sports cards. Cards with sharp, undamaged corners will receive a higher grade than those with rounded or damaged corners. When examining corners, look for any signs of bending, creasing, or wear.


The edges of a card are also important in determining its overall condition. Cards with smooth, unblemished edges will receive a higher grade than those with rough or frayed edges. When examining edges, look for any signs of chipping, dings, or other damage.


Finally, the surface of the card should be examined for any scratches, scuffs, or other blemishes. Cards with a clean, unblemished surface will receive a higher grade than those with visible damage. When examining the surface, look for any signs of print defects, staining, or other issues that can affect the card’s overall appearance.

Grading Scale

When it comes to grading sports cards, it’s important to understand the grading scale used by different grading companies. This will help you determine the condition of your cards and their potential value in the market. Here are the grading scales used by three of the most popular grading companies:

PSA Grading Scale

PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) grades cards on a scale of 1-10 with sub-grades (.5s). Cards are graded based on four factors: centering, corners, edges, and surface. A card that has been professionally graded at a 10 is worth many times more than a graded card at 3.5. Here’s a breakdown of the PSA grading scale:

Grade Description
10 Gem Mint
9 Mint
8 Near Mint-Mint
7 Near Mint
6 Excellent-Mint
5 Excellent
4 Very Good-Excellent
3 Very Good
2 Good
1 Poor

BGS Grading Scale

BGS (Beckett Grading Services) also grades cards on a scale of 1-10 with sub-grades (.5s). Cards are graded based on several key areas and assigned an overall grade. Here’s a breakdown of the BGS grading scale:

Grade Description
10 Pristine
9.5 Gem Mint+
9 Mint
8.5 Near Mint-Mint+
8 Near Mint
7.5 Excellent-Mint+
7 Excellent
6.5 Very Good-Excellent+
6 Very Good+
5.5 Very Good
5 Good
4.5 Fair-Poor
4 Fair
3.5 Poor+
3 Poor
2 Authentic
1 Pr

How to Grade Sports Cards at Home

Supplies Needed

To grade sports cards at home, you will need a few supplies:

  • Magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe
  • Sleeves and toploaders to protect the cards
  • Soft cloth or gloves to handle the cards
  • Grading checklist or guide

Step-by-Step Process

Follow these steps to grade your sports cards at home:

  1. Examine the card for any damage, such as creases, tears, or stains. Use a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe to check for any imperfections.
  2. Check the corners of the card. Ideally, the corners should be sharp and undamaged. Rounded or fuzzy corners can decrease the value of the card.
  3. Inspect the centering of the card. Cards that are off-center can be worth less than those that are centered correctly.
  4. Check the edges of the card for any chipping or wear. Cards with clean edges are worth more than those with rough edges.
  5. Examine the surface of the card for any scratches, scuffs, or print defects. A clean surface is important for a high-grade card.
  6. Use a grading checklist or guide to determine the overall grade of the card. Grading companies use a scale from 1-10 or a letter grade to rate the condition of the card.
  7. Place the graded card in a sleeve and toploader to protect it from damage.

Grading sports cards at home can be a fun and rewarding experience. By following these steps and using a grading checklist or guide, you can accurately grade your cards and potentially increase their value.


Grading sports cards at home can be a fun and rewarding experience for collectors. With the right tools and knowledge, anyone can accurately grade their own cards and potentially increase their value.

It is important to remember that grading is subjective and can vary between different grading companies and even between individual graders. Therefore, it is recommended to research and compare different grading standards before making any final decisions on a card’s grade.

When grading cards, it is crucial to handle them with care to avoid any damage or wear. Using a magnifying glass or loupe can help identify any imperfections that may affect a card’s grade.

Lastly, it is important to keep up with the latest trends and changes in the sports card industry to ensure that you are making informed decisions when it comes to grading and collecting. By staying informed and continuing to learn, collectors can enhance their grading skills and build a valuable collection.


  • Vince

    I'm a big time sports nerd, with soccer being my first true love. I've been collecting sports cards since I was a little kid, and now... well, not much has changed, but I write about it... and I have facial hair.

A note to our visitors

This website has updated its privacy policy in compliance with changes to European Union data protection law, for all members globally. We’ve also updated our Privacy Policy to give you more information about your rights and responsibilities with respect to your privacy and personal information. Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our updated privacy policy.