So you’ve got all these old Pokémon cards from the 90s and 2000s when they were all the rage. And now they’re taking up space in your closet, packed away from the light where they remain until you either move or do a thorough house cleaning.
But before you throw them away, you might want to go through your collection for rare and valuable cards. Pokémon card collectors can pay quite a bit for their favorite mons in first editions and misprints. Look for rare holo cards and first editions for the most valuable cards in your Pokémon card collection.
Once you have your valuables, you have to determine their condition. Some collectors won’t care how much wear a card has suffered, while others will pay through the nose for a rare card in mint condition. Once you’ve separated the wheat from the chaff, you can consider getting your cards professionally rated.
What Is the PSA?
PSA stands for Professional Sports Authenticator, the premier graders of trading cards and sports memorabilia. They have the highest grading standards in the industry and are the go-to raters for collectors and sellers alike.
Rating cards are a pretty big business, and two other popular competitors are Beckett Grading Services (Beckett for short) and Certified Guaranty Company (CGS). PSA is considered the gold standard of the three major card rating companies.
That’s because the PSA grading system has much harsher standards and severe grading scales. There are many differences between a CGS 10 and a PSA Gem-Mint 10. Higher PSA numbers are far more valuable than similar numbers from other companies.
Of course, that also means your cards might not scale as high as you’d like with their strict standards. It’s up to you to determine if you’re cards are in good enough shape to send to the PSA or if you’d be better off having them graded at a less strict company.
A PSA rating is popular among Pokémon card collectors, both for their strictness and accuracy, so if you have cards that can rate highly with them, you should send them in to increase the value of your cards.
Why Have the PSA Rate Your Cards?
A good PSA rating can significantly increase the value of your cards. Many collectors will pay a premium to get the best cards possible. The price difference between a 10 Gem-Mint and a 9 Mint can be staggering.
For example, a Holo Rare First Edition Shadowless Charizard rated 10 Gem-Mint by the PSA from the 1999 Base Set was famously bought for over USD 420,000. Its superb condition and incredible rarity pushed this card’s value to heights most collectors can only dream of.
Given their difficult grading scale, 10 Gem-Mint cards are flawless pieces of cardboard perfection. They are cards with no wear and tear, are perfectly centered printing, and have no physical defects. A similar card rated 9 Mint by the PSA fetches around USD 30,000. Not chump change, but nowhere near the value of the highly prized Gem-Mint rating.
As you can see, you can exponentially increase the value of your cards if you have them rated by the PSA. However, you need to pick cards that are both rare and can make the grade.
Another good reason to grade your cards is their sentimental value. Maybe you’re the collectors who pride yourself in having great cards in great condition. Perhaps your collection is too nostalgic to part with, or you have some exceptional cards you’d like to hold on to.
Money isn’t the only reason to have your Pokémon cards rated. If you’re attached to your collection, have some cards near and dear to your heart, or want to keep your favorites around, you can have them rated and placed in unique sleeves to keep them from deteriorating.
Rating Your Cards
Before shipping all your best Pokémon cards to the PSA, you should examine them first. You should judge the condition of your cards, then send the ones in the best conditions that will make the grade at the PSA. After all, there’s no point in paying the PSA grading cost if you won’t score very high.
Magnifying lamps and jeweler’s loupes can help you closely inspect your cards if you want to get into the nitty gritty of grading them. However, if you hold the cards in good lighting and check them, you can get a good idea of their condition. Wash your hands and dry them thoroughly to prevent leaving skin oils on a card’s surface.
You want cards that have minor wear and tear. There should be few to no defects on the front and only one or two on the back. Corners should be tight, with no fraying, and there should be minimal amounts of white around the edges on the back of the card.
The card shouldn’t be faded, and the picture should be clear. Hold the card at an angle to the light to inspect for scratches and dents in the card, which can lower its value significantly. If the card has few defects, it can rate quite highly.
To get the coveted 10 Gem-Mint ratings, it has to be flawless in its condition and construction. That means the picture is perfectly centered, the borders are straight and within the margins, and there are no other printing errors with the card. Since you can’t control how the Pokémon Company made the card, it takes luck to get that rating and protect it as soon as it comes out of the foil.
The Benefits of PSA Grading Pokémon Cards
PSA-rated Pokémon cards are worth much more than unrated cards. PSA grades are highly trusted by the Pokémon card collecting community as the grading scale is so strict that they can be sure the cards are in the condition they say.
Moreover, with the guarantee of their condition, you also get a small placard and case that protects the cards from further deterioration. It keeps the card in the condition they were in when they were rated.
Moreover, they not only rate Pokémon cards but authenticate them. Given the number of fakes and how realistic they look, a PSA-rated card is not only a guarantee of quality but of authenticity. If the card appears to have been tampered with or restored, they refuse to rate the card and send it back to the owner stating the card has been disqualified from rating.
Between these three essential functions, the PSA does excellent work with the collecting community, and getting your cards rated by them is crucial for collectors and sellers alike. The other card grading companies aren’t as well trusted and have more card damage incidents than the PSA.
PSA is the gold standard in Pokémon card collecting, as they have strict standards, authenticating services, and excellent handling procedures and cases. They are the most used and accepted grading scale for Pokémon card collecting.
The Cons of PSA Grading Pokémon Cards
However, that doesn’t mean getting your cards rated by the PSA is always worth it. Their high standards and lengthy authenticating and grading procedures mean long wait times and high prices.
PSA grading costs can vary. You can expect to spend USD 30 with a turnover of 120 days for cards worth less than USD 500. It goes up to USD 300 for cards worth USD 5,000 or less with a week of wait time.
Given that card prices vary over time, you shouldn’t be planning to send your card in and get it back immediately for sale. Cheaper valuations require plenty of time, so you should send it in well ahead to get the most out of your card.
Next, you should only send valuable cards in good condition if you plan to profit from them. Given the high cost of grading, if you send in a card and get a lower grade than expected, you could end up at a loss. It doesn’t matter as much if you’re planning on grading your cards for personal reasons, but you should keep this cost in mind.
Finally, although rare, there’s still a chance your precious cards could be damaged in transit or during the grading process. Before sending them in, you should take pictures of your cards to prove their condition. However, if your cards are precious for personal reasons, it might be better not to send them in if you don’t want to risk it.
PSA-rated Pokémon Cards: Are They Worth It?
Getting a PSA rating on your rare cards can skyrocket their value if you sell them. However, the PSA grading cost can increase overhead quite a bit and come with some risks:
- You may get a lower rating than you’re expecting
- The card’s price may change while you’re waiting for its evaluation
- If worse comes to worst, it might be damaged in transit.
It’s up to you to decide whether your rare Pokémon cards are worth getting graded by the PSA. Do you want to increase their value? Preserve them for the future. Get the cases and cards to show your rare cards to the internet. While there are other options for grading, having the PSA rate your cards is the best way to authenticate your Pokémon card collection.