Bike Spokes and Shoeboxes (or What We Used to Do with Our Cards Before We Knew Better)


By now, everyone reading this blog should know that the last18 months have seen a tremendous growth explosion in the sports card collectingindustry. For newcomers to this awesome hobby though, one of the most importantrules about card collecting is that “condition is everything!” You may own therarest sports card in the world, but if it looks like it went through your bikespokes and then thrown into a shoebox, then it isn’t worth much. To preservethe conditions of their cards, one option collectors have is to get themprofessionally graded.

At the simplest level, card grading is based on fourcomponents: centering, corners, edges and surface. These are the specificguidelines and characteristics that are used to help determine a card’scondition. First, the centering of a card is very straightforward. Is thepicture centered left-to-right and top-to-bottom? A simple percentage isreferenced when determining how “off-center” a card is (for example, 70/30% left-to-right).Next, the corners of a card need to be sharp, not frayed or rounded. Then, the edges should be straight, with no chipping or layering. Last, the surface of the front and back of a card should be free any scratches, dents or dings. Cards must be the minimum standard height and width as well. Some collectors attempt to trim a rough card edge to make it clean and sharp. However, “trimming” isone of the most disapproved of actions in the entire industry – ISA measures allcards to ensure that they meet minimum size requirements and does not encapsulatethose that are trimmed or do not meet those requirements for other reasons. Finally,these four categories are then given a number grade from 1-10. The higher acard’s overall grade, the higher a card’s value. ‘Gem Mint 10’ rated cardsoften sell for several times the listed value of the same ungraded card.

To better answer the question of whether you should have yourcards graded, you need to ask yourself another question: what do you plan to dowith your cards? If you are a collector or dealer who buys and sells cards for profit,then grading your cards may be a good idea. Follow the basic stock marketprinciple: “buy low, sell high.” Buy raw or ungraded cards, submit them to agrading company, then turn around and sell the grade mint 9s and gem mint 10s formore than you bought them for. Do keep in mind that it does cost to have thecards graded in the first place. Individual card grading rates will varydepending on how many cards you send in at one time, as well as the turnaroundtime you would like your cards returned in.

Some collectors are player or team collectors, and there arethose who will simply never sell or get rid of their cards. If this describesyou, you may want to consider grading not so much for potential profit, butjust the safety and security of having your cards protected in encapsulatedplastic. Perhaps you have a vintage card that is in less than gem mintcondition, but you just want to protect and preserve the card as it is. Many times,vintage, valuable, and certain players’ cards are counterfeited, and you justwant to make sure your card is the real deal. The experts at ISA Grading will accuratelygrade and verify the authenticity of your cards, giving you peace of mind andthe ultimate protection for your collection.

Whether sports card collecting is a business or just a hobbyfor you, the staff at ISA will help make your card grading experience gratifyingin every way.

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