Card Grading Companies

***If you came just for the list of companies, CLICK there (–>) for that link – Card Grading Company Master List***

Well, this has been a long time coming… After the recent explosion of sports cards during the pandemic the past 18 months, and people investing back into the industry of card collecting, all I was seeing and reading was information and questions about card grading companies. Is this one better that that one? Does this one do this? How long does it take to get a card graded? etc. etc. I will not answer all of those questions 🙂 I found that a basic Google search should answer all of those. But what I found lacking a bit was the question of, “How many grading companies are there?” and “What are some of the better ones?”

So I did some basic Google searches for grading companies, because like most people the past year, I was interested in buying more graded or “slabbed” cards; and boy there was a ton of different brands of graded cards out there to be bought. I came across one Google search where someone had made an initial list of graders out there. I wish I could find the original poster, so I could give him/her the credit for starting their list. But it was out of date… by like 8-10 years. So I wanted to create a more accurate list with Company names and Websites (If I could find them), and maybe a little note about those that I found worthy of having a little more detail about them.

So at the end of this article is a link to my list. It is its own webpage on my site, and hopefully will be around for a long time; so others can take advantage of it. It took me about 3 months to compile this list, edit websites, and add descriptions and find pictures for each of the graders. I think I found all but 3, for visual reference. And If you think I forgot one; and maybe one is off with the visual for I had found, please drop me a line and I will gladly update this list so that it is “THE” most accurate list of graders shown to all who are interested. (mr715 (at) hotmail.com)

One thing I did was to buy 8 Slabs or Cards for my PC, randomly off of eBay, to do my own personal review of the “Top 8” graders that are around right now, as of July 2021. Yes, your list could be different from my top 8, but I just looked at what was being bought the most on eBay the past few months, and wanted to find random Detroit slabbed cards from some of grading companies to be able to give my review and opinions from my master list.

So below is my review of 8 grading companies, in alphabetical order. And at the end I asked my wife, who has NO real card knowledge, except knowing that I spend way too much time and money on my hobby; “Which one looks and feels the best?” I was hoping for an “outsiders” point of view. Just a fun thing I wanted to see from someone who has no clue on what grading really means to most of us.

1st Graded

This company seems to be new, and I have seen a bunch of them on eBay lately, so I found a nice PC card to buy and gave it go.

Pros:
– Clean/Simple Label
– PSA-ish design
Cons:
– The card moved in the holder just a tiny bit
– With this being a “10”, I was/am able to see it not really centered perfectly. The right side looks to be 65/35ish.
– Wording, and more specifically the “Gem Mint 10” is a small font. Would like for it to be more pronounced.
– No Pop report.
Overall Opinion:
Would I buy another one of these slabs? Probably not, unless I was unable to find a specific PC that I was looking for, and needed it in a slab, and this was the only thing out there. With the centering being something easy to see, and the card moving a little bit in the slab, this would be something I may pass on.

BGS

One of the GOATs in the industry, Beckett has a few companies that grade under the Beckett name. Definitely considered to be one of the best or top 3 in the industry as of 2021.

Pros:
– Great resale value
– Slab feels sturdy and no movement of card
– Pretty consistent grading
– Pop report.
Cons:
– The BCCG part of their business seems a bit confusing and not as highly scrutinized. I try to stay away from BCCG items. Poor mans version of Beckett grading, in my opinion.
– As of 2021, a little pricey. But with the industry where it’s at, it is understandable.
Overall Opinion:
You can’t go wrong with one of the Top 3 graders in 2021, and with the name recognition of its slabs and other business practices Beckett engages in, it is a no-brainer if you are looking to send cards in, or buy slabs with their branding.

CSG

Another new company to add to the growing list of grading companies, CSG brings sports card grading to the mass market. They are a company that started grading in the Comic book market, and recently expanded to sports cards.

Pros:
– Their slabs seem to be the clearest and cleanest slabs I have ever seen. The slab is practically see-thru.
– The number grade is bold and stands out very easily. Some may like, some may hate, but it is eye catching.
Cons:
– New to the market. So not sure how they will stack up over time with their prices compared to the top 3.
– Not a whole bunch out there right now to choose from, but should change over time.
– No Pop report as of 7/21.
Overall Opinion:
If I was ranking this company and slab, it will definitely fall in the Top 5. I like the simple look of their labels, and the eye catching display of the number grade. I have not seen many 10’s on the market, which is good. Tells me they are not throwing 10’s out there, like some companies are. The absolute clean and clear slab itself, made me comment to myself when I got this card, how amazing it looked.

GMA

The second company I have ever sent to personally to get cards graded. This company has been around for a while, and was one that was cheap and timely in their grading practices.

Pros:
– Customer Support and E-mail response was excellent. I had questions before I sent in my order, and I was responded to very quickly. I sent in a few custom made cards, and they were able to grade them as well.
– One of the cheapest to grade on the market.
– Turnaround time was 30-40 days, so was quick in this time of the SLOW grading that is happening in 2020-21.
Cons:
– If you look online, there are alot of 10’s from this company. Now the one that I have pictured above, it does look like a 10. Everything seems to be legit, but it feels like there are alot out there on the market, which seems a little odd and may discourage people from buying.
– No Pop report.
– Cards seem to move a little in the slabs. Would really like for them to not move at all.
– Values of these cards are not as high as any of the Top 5 grading companies.
– Label shows their logo of a baseball player, so people that collect anything besides baseball cards will not really like the baseball logo on a basketball/football/hockey card.
Overall Opinion:
I don’t have anything really bad to say, even though there are cons relating to GMA. I loved the customer support and responses to e-mails. I do wish the cards didn’t move in their slabs, but there are a few companies I have run across this issue during their slabbing process. Their turnaround times seemed to be pretty good, and their prices seemed very good for the services they provide. People looking for best monetary value for their cards would need to look elsewhere, but if you would like some PC slabbed for long-term storage, you can’t go wrong with GMA.

HGA

One of newer companies in the grading business. It was opened by an entrepreneur who saw the industry needing another top tier grader and strives for great customer service and AI backed grading.

Pros:
– 1 Word, Labels! You either love them or hate them. I personally love them. I love the different options you can get added to your graded cards, when you order cards for grading.
– AI backed grading. Yes there is still some Human interaction that happens, but they claim to use Computer based grading/scanning to accurately grade the cards.
– Customer Service seems to be top notch. I see the owner posting on Facebook, doing YouTube chats, and personally responding to people complaints all the time. Maybe he is doing it because it is a new company, hopefully it will continue for a long time? Time will tell, but so far Service is king with HGA.
– Slabs seem sturdy and the layout of the labeling seems to work well.
– Pop report.
Cons:
– Hard to find 10’s. But is that really a con? With AI based grading, wouldn’t that make sense to bring down the 10 population? I am sure we’ll need to see some 10’s or people will seem like it is too strict. But the 9.5’s seem to be comparing themselves to alot of the 10’s from other companies.
– Printing mistakes, card damaging? Some people are reporting some damage to their cards, but I read customer support is handling those complaints. And the Printing mistakes seem to be a new company growing its legs, but it seems they are fixing all of these free of charge… just annoying to have to wait for your card to be reslabbed.
– Only taking a small amount of cards at a time right now. (As of 7/21) But that should open up and expand to more cards being allowed to be graded in the next year or so.
Overall Opinion:
This is probably one of the Top 5 companies now. Between their Customer Support being top notch, and their precise card grading, it has shown that a new company can make a stamp on the market when others shutdown or pause some of their services. Their turnaround time seems to be in line with what they publish, by a week or two. So no long wait times as of yet. Their pricing seems to be fair as well. Since they are a new company, time will tell how this plays out. But it is nice to see someone who is not throwing 10’s out there, and flooding the market, when there are defects in the card, and are rubber stamping a bunch of 10’s.

ISA

ISA mentions that they have been around for over 10 years. It wasn’t until this year I started to see more and more of them on eBay and online in general. Their slabs feel to be the thinnest I have handled. But that is not a bad thing, and just means more to store 🙂

Pros:
– I like how the card sits in the slab. It has a black rubber or foam that cradles the card itself. It keeps it from moving around. And that black border kinda makes the card pop a little, especially if it’s a white sports card.
– More and more are popping up on sites, for sale. So that means you may be able to find something for your PC.
– The case seems a bit thinner than some of the other grading companies, so not sure if that is a bad or good thing. But I guess in a box full on graded cards, maybe you’ll be able to hold 5 more.
Cons:
– Value of cards not as high as any of the Top 5 companies.
– No Pop report as of 7/21.
– Label seems Ok. Nothing special, but nothing to complain about really. Maybe not putting the company logo under the number on the label, would be something that would make it look a little better. It seems cramped.
Overall Opinion:
I didn’t dislike the slab at all. I looked for something wrong with my 10, but nothing stood out to me. So I guess it was a 9 to 10. The value of them are low, but that is good for us who want some PC slabbed and safe for long-term storage. The black border around the card to hold it in place, I really liked! 10 years already in the game, and this was the first time I had heard of them… that may mean not much room to become a big time player, like CSG and HGA are starting to show.

PSA

The GOAT of GOATs. This is the premier grading company and the one that all prices get based on. Yes there are some issues this past year (2020-21), but its hard to say “Slab” and not think of PSA 10 when you say it.

Pros:
– Best Value for your card grading slabs!
– Easy to find cards for your PC because this is by far the most used grading company.
– Cards seem to sit well in slabs, with no movement, and the labels seemed to have been mimicked by other grading companies.
– Pop report.
Cons:
– As of 2021, pricing is through the roof. Delays and turn-around times are taking many months if not a year.
– Many people are starting to find that there are a TON of 10’s on the market, and some would not pass as 10’s in this day of age in the more scrutinized grading process.
– Customer Service is nonexistent. People are hard to get a hold of. Obviously for the millions of cards backlog that they have, which is understandable. But still, people are spending their money, so they want answers.
– PSA may be in a lawsuit dealing with PWCC and others where they may have know about trimmed cards and graded them, etc. To be continued, but it is a noteworthy development.
– Being the GOAT, they still use Humans for grading, but computers and AI may need to be invested in.
Overall Opinion:
You CAN’T go wrong with a PSA graded card right now. Yes it might take you a year to get that card back, but if you buy one, you will pay a premium and it is usually considered the holy grail of card grading companies. It’s like when you say you are “Googling” something on the net, you are using Google to do a search. When you say grading, you usually are meaning PSA or PSA10 or going to send to PSA. But with the price increases and the grading services shutdown in 2021, there are places for others to step up and pull some of that PSA customer base to other graders. But as of 7/21, if you want the most bang for you grading buck, PSA is the ONE to submit to and buy.

SGC

And finally, but definitely not least is SGC. The final in the Top 3 grading companies in the industry today. Their labels and cases have changed a bunch over the past 20 or so years, but their stable grading practices and being known as the Vintage grader, make this company a great option when grading cards.

Pros:
– Consistent grading, and didn’t close down during the grading surge of 2021.
– Pop report.
– Labels have grown over time, to become a better looking label and more meaningful numbering system the past few years.
– I love the black sponge-y border around the card that keeps it in place.
– Market does not get over saturated with 100’s or 10’s by SGC, seems to be pretty fair.
Cons:
– The labels look plain, and are simple. Yes people like that, but some are wanting some flair, or some new ideas with their labels, in displaying their cards.
– The value of SGC slabbed cards don’t hold as much against a PSA rated the same. It’s about 80-85% value, which is good, but you as a collector want it to be the same, seeing that they don’t throw out alot of 10’s and seem to grade a bit harder.
Overall Opinion:
Consistency is the name I put on SGC. You don’t hear too many bad things about them, and you don’t hear too many good things either. I guess it’s good and bad. lol Which is why I think they are stuck at the 3rd position when it comes to the ranking of the grading companies. I have warmed up to SGC a bit more over the past year, and like the cards I have gotten off of eBay.

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So in conclusion I graded my top 8, from the cards I purchased on eBay and ranked them below. This is as of July 2021, and I reserve the right to change it in the future, if things change, which we know always does. I based my opinion on look, feel and overall durability of the slab itself. Obviously by price it would be a whole different order. But here we go:

  1. HGA – New is king, I love the color match labels.
  2. SGC – Love the black border around the card, and the slab feels sturdy.
  3. BGS – I really like the sub grades, and love the label on the slab. Seems regal.
  4. CSG – I do like the big Number on the label and the case is the clearest I have ever seen.
  5. ISA – I like the black border around the card itself, makes it pop a bit in the slab.
  6. PSA – ‘Ole tried and true. Looks good for what it needs to accomplish.
  7. GMA – The label should get an upgrade… but the price point is nice.
  8. Ist Graded – Plain, but didn’t like the smaller number with all that info on the label.

So one last thing I wanted to do before I close this out. I thought it would be fun to get my wife’s opinion on what she liked, being someone who does not know alot about sports cards and the grading market. So I gave her the 8 slabs and told her to rate her favorites in order. Here is a third party opinion from someone outside the card collecting world:

  1. HGA
  2. BGS
  3. GMA
  4. 1st Graded
  5. PSA
  6. CSG
  7. ISA
  8. SGC

Obviously she was all about the look, which I would guess most people outside our hobby would judge upon. But was fun to see what she thought.

So after 3 months of research and 2 weeks of writing this article up, here is where I am at. Hopefully this list can get updated with new additions and the such over the years. I really hope you enjoyed the reviews and let me know if I have anything wrong or misinterpreted. Send me an e-mail (mr715 (at) hotmail.com).

Card Grading Company Master List

Dave (Mr715)

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