What’s good about grading and slabbing

From the posts I’ve read (and I read ’em all. It’s great being retired), more than a few members of this group don’t think much of card slabbing. I have plenty of ungraded cards, but I admit that I have my favorite sets encased in plastic by PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator, as I imagine most of you know). I don’t especially like how PSA dominates the grading market, but I do appreciate, as self-serving for PSA as it is, the set registry. You can list your cards, even your ungraded cards, by the way, on the registry for free, even if you are not one of the PSA “Collectors Club,” members.

The basic advantages, from my standpoint, of slabbing is preservation of condition,  a record of ownership (each card has a certification number) and, to a lesser degree, an assurance of quality — this applies mainly when you are buying a card. If you’re buying a card online, you’re trusting the seller’s description, no matter how good the scan looks. And I don’t find having the card in a plastic slab a distraction or detraction.

Is it worth it? That depends. If you submit cards directly, rather than through a dealer, you generally have to fork over $6 or more to get PSA to grade a card, and that’s if you use the changing offers of the Collectors Club ($100 or more year but with a few free gradings and a monthly magazine), often having to send in at least 25 cards at a time. And the return shipping charge starts at a minimum of $18. But I get most of my PSA cards on ebay or from dealers, which keeps me from going bankrupt.

When I submit cards to PSA, I’m often disappointed at the grades, although I have become better at knowing what will drag a grade level down. Honestly, it’s still hard for me to tell the difference between a PSA 8 and a PSA 10. I assume most of us here would consider an “EX 5”  to be a pretty nice card, too. I have a bunch of ’64 Topps that are 5s, and I’m perfectly happy with them. On the other hand, my 1984 Topps set, which ranks no. 2 on the registry, has only 9s and 10s. Once you get out of the ’70s, you probably would not want a slabbed card with a grade less than 9, although you should be able to get those lower grades for next to nothing.

I suppose there are people who view graded cards as an investment. (I’m not one of them.) Certainly, graded cards command higher prices than their ungraded equivalents.

I’m not trying to convince anybody to have his or her cards graded, but it’s good to keep an open mind about it. Collectors like me are glad there are collectors like everyone else with SABR who still loves baseball cards — slabbed or not.

Author: Andrew Sharp

I'm a retired daily newspaper journalist and life-long baseball fan. All of the post here are by me, unless otherwise attributed. As a SABR member, I write biographer of players when I can -- the King, Phillips and Ogden bios here are adapted from my contributions to the SABR Bio Project. Please feel free to offer suggestions for blog post about the Senators and Nationals.

2 thoughts on “What’s good about grading and slabbing”

  1. I used to not see the benefit of graded cards but now, with the proliferation of fake cards, I won’t buy a high dollar card from 1970 on back that isn’t graded.

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  2. Andrew! I agree with your comments regarding PSA grading of cards when it pertains to the difficulty of distinguishing between a professional card grade of an 8 versus a 9 versus a 10. Further, it is disappointing that PSA has essentially monopolized this piece of the card collectible marketplace and has left little credibility for its competition. The one positive upside that I see to the grading industry is that it takes the hobby we all have a passion for and elevates it to a higher social status by treating this important piece of American culture(cards) as cardboard art. I believe this will make all facets of the hobby stronger and help it endure in the popular and sophisticated culture.

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