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How to Grade Pokémon Cards Like a Pro

Discover the value of your Pokémon cards! This guide reveals how to grade your Pokémon cards, identify potential treasures, navigate the grading process, and protect your collection.

We’ve all been there. 

That rush of excitement when you pull a rare Pokémon card from a fresh pack is unbeatable. 

But here’s the thing: that card’s condition can make all the difference. We’re talking about a difference between a couple of bucks and potentially thousands. That’s where grading comes in.

Getting your cards graded by professionals isn’t just about bragging rights (though, let’s be honest, that’s part of the fun). 

It’s about protecting your investment and understanding its true worth. A high grade can significantly boost a card’s value, especially if it’s a rare find. 

And with several reputable grading companies out there, each with its own strengths, navigating the world of Pokémon card grading can feel like a whole new game.

Sounds exciting, yeah? Then let’s begin!

Before You Grade: Essential Pre-Grading Steps

Alright, before you ship off your prized Charizard card, let’s take a breather. 

Knowing the ins and outs of the grading process can save you time, money, and potential heartache down the road.

Understanding the Grading Process

Think of card grading like a school report card, but instead of letters, we use numbers. 

Most grading companies, like PSA, Beckett Grading Services (BGS), and CGC Trading Cards, use a 10-point scale to grade Pokémon cards. To make things less complicated, we’ll focus on the PSA grading scale.

Note that CGC and BGS differ in how they word their grading scale, but it’s pretty much similar to this one:

  • PSA 1: Poor – Heavy damage, significant wear and tear. Probably best kept for sentimental value.
  • PSA 2: Fair – Shows noticeable wear, possible creases, and rounded corners.
  • PSA 3: Good – Visible signs of play, but overall structure is intact.
  • PSA 4: Very Good – Above-average condition, may have minor flaws like slight edge wear.
  • PSA 5: Excellent – Well-centered with sharp corners, but may have minor surface imperfections.
  • PSA 6: Excellent-Mint – A significant jump in quality. Almost perfect centering and corners, with minimal flaws.
  • PSA 7: Near Mint – The sweet spot for many collectors. Nearly pristine with only minor imperfections visible under close inspection.
  • PSA 8: Near Mint-Mint – Getting close to perfection! Centering and corners are almost flawless.
  • PSA 9: Mint – As close to perfect as a card can get from its production. A rare sight.
  • PSA 10: Gem Mint – The holy grail! Absolutely flawless in every way.

Now, BGS likes to add a little flair with sub-grades. They’ll give your card a separate grade for centering, corners, edges, and surface. 

These sub-grades can impact the overall value, especially for high-end cards.

Identifying Potential Value

Not every card needs to be sent off for grading. It’s all about finding that balance between potential value and the cost of grading. 

Generally, newer cards in excellent condition or older, rarer cards are your best bets. 

Remember, looking at your card’s condition is key! A common card in pristine condition might be worth more than a rare card with significant wear.

How to Self-Grade Your Pokémon Cards

Think of yourself as a Pokémon Professor, but instead of studying moves and abilities, we’re diving deep into the anatomy of a card. Let’s break down the four pillars of Pokémon card grading:

The Four Pillars of Pokémon Card Grading


Hold the card up and imagine a crosshair right in the middle. Is the artwork and border aligned perfectly within those lines, both on the front and back? The closer to dead-center, the better. Slight misalignments are common, but anything drastic can hurt the grade.


Corners on a Pokémon card are rounded. The more even those rounded corners are, the higher the grade. Unlike sports cards with their sharp corners, the rounded corners make Pokémon cards easier to grade, as those pointy edges can be tough to maintain.


Carefully examine the edges of the card for any whitening, chips, or rough spots. A well-defined, smooth edge is what you’re aiming for.


This is where things get really nitpicky. We’re talking about scratches, dents, print lines, and any other imperfections on the card’s surface. Use a bright light and tilt the card at different angles to catch even the smallest flaws.

Advanced Grading Considerations

Ready to level up your grading game? Let’s dive into some pro-level techniques that can help you spot those subtle flaws:

The Importance of Lighting and Magnification

Think of lighting as your secret weapon in the grading process. 

Natural daylight is great, but a daylight bulb or a lightbox can provide consistent illumination, revealing those hidden imperfections. 

And don’t underestimate the power of magnification! 

A jeweler’s loupe or a magnifying glass can turn you into a card-grading detective, allowing you to spot even the tiniest scratches or print defects.

Common Pokémon Card Flaws

Here’s the thing about Pokémon cards: even those fresh-out-of-the-pack beauties aren’t always perfect. 

Yep, you read that right. Those mischievous little print gremlins can strike at any time, leaving you with a card that’s less than pristine.

Here are some of the common card flaws that you might possibly encounter:

Whitening, those pesky white spots along the edges, is a common culprit, often caused by the cards shifting around in their packs over time. 

Holo scratches, those fine lines that disrupt the holographic pattern, can also occur during packaging or handling. 

And then we have print defects, like misaligned ink or missing foil, which happen during the printing process itself. Keep a lookout for these troublemakers!

Grading Holographic Cards

Those shimmering beauties add a whole new layer of complexity to grading. Not only do you have to assess the standard factors with these types of Pokémon cards, but you also need to inspect the holofoil itself. 

So look for scratches, fading, or any unevenness in the holographic pattern. A pristine holo can significantly boost a card’s grade, so pay close attention!

Choosing the Right Card Grading Company

So, you’ve inspected your cards under the brightest lights, you’ve channeled your inner Sherlock Holmes with that magnifying glass, and you’ve decided these babies are ready for the big leagues. 

But now comes the million-dollar question (or at least the potentially-hundreds-of-dollars question): Which grading company deserves the honor of encasing your precious Pokémon?

Comparison Between PSA, BGS, CGC Trading Cards

Let me introduce you to the titans of the trading card grading world:

  • PSA: The OG, the legend. PSA is known for its industry-leading population reports, fast turnaround times (though they can fluctuate), and iconic slab design. They’re often a top choice for vintage and high-value cards.
  • BGS: The detail-oriented grader. BGS is famous for its sub-grades, providing a separate score for centering, corners, edges, and surface. Their black label, signifying a pristine card with high sub-grades, is highly sought after.
  • CGC Trading Cards: The new kid on the block (relatively speaking). CGC has gained popularity for its competitive pricing, detailed grading reports, and unique slab design. They’re a solid option for collectors on a budget.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Grader

  • Budget: Grading fees vary significantly, so factor in your budget and the potential value increase of your cards.
  • Turnaround Time: Patience is a virtue, especially in the card-grading world. Turnaround times can range from weeks to months, depending on the company and service level.
  • Card Value: For high-end cards, it’s often worth going with a top-tier grader like PSA or BGS. For more common or modern cards, CGC can be a cost-effective choice.

Here’s a pro tip! “Grading for the slab” means choosing a grading company based on the aesthetics and popularity of their protective case (the “slab”)

While the grade is paramount, a visually appealing slab can enhance a card’s display value and marketability.

Know the Submission Process!

Alright, you’ve chosen your grading champion, and you’re ready to send your cards off to their destinies. But hold on… There’s something more you need to know! 

Before you slap a stamp on that envelope, let’s make sure your prized possessions are prepped and primed for their journey.

Preparing Your Cards for Submission

Think of this as the VIP treatment for your Pokémon cards before they head off to the grading spa:

  • Gentle Cleaning: A soft, lint-free cloth is your best friend here. Gently wipe away any dust or debris. And remember, harsh chemicals or abrasive materials are a big no-no!
  • Sleeves of Protection: Slide those beauties into archival-quality card sleeves. We’re not talking about those flimsy penny sleeves; we mean acid-free, non-PVC protection.
  • Semi-Rigid Holders for the Win: While top loaders are great for everyday storage, grading companies prefer cards submitted in semi-rigid card holders or Card Savers. These thinner plastic holders make it easier for the graders to safely remove and handle your cards during the process.

Understanding Submission Forms and Declared Values

Time for some paperwork (don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds). 

Each grading company has its own submission forms, so make sure you’re on the right website. 

Fill out the forms accurately, including the declared value of your cards. This is important for insurance purposes in case anything happens during transit.

Packaging and Shipping Your Treasures

We’re talking Fort Knox-level security here. Use a sturdy box, plenty of padding (bubble wrap is your best friend), and packing tape to seal the deal. 

And don’t forget to insure your package! It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Tracking Your Submission and Managing Expectations

Once you’ve shipped your cards, keep an eye on that tracking number like a hawk. 

Turnaround times can vary, so be sure to check the grading company’s website for estimated processing times. And remember, patience is a virtue! Those pristine slabs will be worth the wait.

What Do You Do with Your Graded Cards?

The moment of truth has arrived! 

You’ve patiently waited, tracked that package like a hawk, and now those beautiful, graded slabs are finally in your hands. 

But what’s next? Let’s explore the exciting possibilities:

Understanding Your Graded Card’s Value

That shiny new grade is more than just a number; it’s a key that unlocks a whole new world of value. 

But before you start dreaming of Lamborghinis, let’s do some research. 

Websites like eBay and PriceCharting are great resources for checking recent sales data for cards with the same grade and condition as yours. 

And don’t forget about those population reports! A low population count for a particular grade can significantly increase a card’s value.

Selling Your Graded Cards

So, you’ve decided to part ways with a few treasures? No judgment here! 

Whether you’re looking to reinvest in your collection or simply cash in on some profits, there are plenty of options:

  • Online Marketplaces: eBay and even Facebook groups dedicated to Pokémon cards can connect you with eager buyers worldwide.
  • Auction Houses: For high-end cards, consider reputable auction houses specializing in collectibles.
  • Local Card Shops: Sometimes, a good old-fashioned face-to-face transaction is the way to go.
  • Curacards: We don’t just sell Pokémon cards. We also buy them! Reach out to us if you’re selling one of your beloved Pokémon cards.

No matter which route you choose, remember to do your research, set realistic prices, and protect yourself from scams.

Protecting and Displaying Your Graded Collection

You’ve gone through the grading process, now it’s time to show off those pristine slabs! 

But remember, how you store and display your graded collection matters.

Forget about top loaders for your graded cards; they’re simply not designed for those precious slabs. 

Instead, consider these options:

  • Pelican Cases & Graded Card Storage Cases: These heavy-duty cases offer the ultimate protection from dust, moisture, and impact.
  • Card Guards: For extra peace of mind, slip those graded cards into card guards. These clear plastic sleeves provide an additional layer of protection against scratches and dings, especially if you’re prone to accidental drops.
  • Sleeves for UV Protection: Yes, even graded cards can benefit from sleeves! Opt for sleeves with UV protection to prevent fading and keep those colors vibrant.

And when it comes to displaying your collection, get creative! 

Invest in dedicated display cases designed specifically for graded cards, or think outside the box with shadow boxes or floating shelves. 

Let your collection reflect your passion and spark those exciting Pokémon conversations!

Final Words

So there you have it! Grading might seem like a whole new world, but with a little knowledge and a keen eye, you can unlock the true potential of your Pokémon card collection. 

Remember, whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting out, every card has a story to tell. And who knows, that story might just lead to a valuable treasure.

And hey, if you’re ever on the hunt for new additions to your collection, don’t forget to check out Curacards, your go-to source for all things Pokémon TCG in Australia! Check out our graded Pokémon card collection now.

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