Thursday, September 18, 2014

Process of a Card Going From Raw (ungraded) to Graded

I am smack in the middle of almost a month of BGS submission posts and I was asked by a couple of people inquiring about the process of getting a card graded from beginning to end. Some of you might have no interest in this but I decided to write up a post about it and what I personally do when I have decided to submit a card for grading whether that card is already in my collection or one I see on eBay that I intend to acquire and have graded.

There are two different ways that I use the BGS system. One is the raw grade review (RGR) and the full submission version. The RGR can be used as a stepping stone to the full submission or used to verify what you think your card would grade out to be. Some people actually use this procedure to get a gem mint grade then sell it like that on eBay as they have no intention to keep it in their own collection and want to make a quick buck instead. I personally don't do that but I do use it occasionally for cards that I don't think will grade out gem mint and want to see what a 3rd party thinks the condition is. A much cheaper way too as you do not pay the full submission price. The only issue with RGR is that BGS does not do these as often in my neck of the woods and I am in a big city so I can imagine if someone lives far from a metro city it doesn't happen at all. The two places I use are South Bay Sportscards which does a RGR event at least twice a year with BGS and then there is a submission booth at Frank and Sons in the City of Industry which is there twice a week.

For the sake of this exercise I am going to use my 2013 Topps Five Star Sandy Koufax card as it is one I did research on and it has an autograph on it which is another step in the process,

This card went through the RGR service as I just wanted make sure it would grade out to gem mint first so if it didn't  I would save me a some money on a full submission and then not be disappointed when it came back less than what I wanted.

I sold my signed ball of Koufax but had to have Sandy's autograph somewhere in my collection and my pursuit of that eventually led me to this card. On the computer screen the card appeared to be in terrific shape but considering the price for it (even though it was nothing out of pocket as the sale of the ball covered that) I had to make sure of the quality of it. First off was the autograph. BGS has a "policy" that if the autograph ends at the edge of card it almost always gets knocked down a grade from a 10 to a 9 on the autograph sub grade. Nothing is more frustrating than getting an overall gem mint card (9.5 or 10) and then have a 9 autograph attached to it. The other thing that BGS looks at on the autograph front is if the pen that was used to sign the card is streaky. If it is then chances are your autograph will probably be knocked down to a 9 as well. Again, it has happened to me.

Next thing you have to do is know your product. Some brands are known for centering issues (Topps/Bowman Chrome, Allen and Ginter) while some brands have edges and/or corner issues (Five Star). Knowing the history of Five Star (last year was an upgrade from previous years thankfully) I had to make sure that the corners were crisp with no issues. Edges and corners looked good on the computer screen but I contacted the seller about my concerns on the condition. Another side note is if you are buying on eBay a seller's history might come into affect as if they don't have a long and/or good history that might steer me away from buying even if it is a card I really want. It's all a gamble either way but a good history gives me a little more peace of mind. The seller responded promptly which is a plus and we went back and forth for a good hour as he described what he saw on the card. I had to trust he wasn't fibbing just to make a sale but at the end of the day it was my choice and I chose to acquire the card and had it in my hands in no time flat.

Now that I had it and could see the condition of the card first hand I could see for myself if there were any issues that might arise in the grading process. Since it was a Five Star card I looked at the corners first. I suggest you use a jeweler's loop for this, Mine is a 10x one and with the card in a plastic case I examined it. If just one corner is bent/rounded/frayed you can almost guarantee a 9 sub grade on that with a chance it might even earn an 8.5. The corners checked out as they were sharp and very pointy. Next up with the loop was the surface. Have to look for any machine marks or scratches or any other defect that might deface the card in anyway. That checked out as well. Next up were the edges which is always the easiest for me as long as there is no fraying I haven't had an issue. Last up is centering. When the card has a border it is easy to figure out what your card will earn. As long as it's no more than 55/45 on the front and 60/40 on the back you are good to go for a gem mint grade, Last but not least is the separate grade of the autograph. There were no streaking or at the edge issues on the card so I felt I was good to go on a gem mint grade. RGR was in town that weekend so I decided to go that route just in case it didn't go they way I expected and wanted it to.

BAM !!!
Gem mint baby.
This is how a RGR card will come back to you. The process takes about 2 hours if there is no wait or you are in front of the line. Obviously if there is no autograph on the card then that extra grade on the right is not there. Here is where you get to decide what to do with the card. If it is a card that is not up to par grade wise in your eyes (not the case here) you can just take it out of the flimsy protector and just put it back in your collection or sell it as I personally have done. Let's say a card comes back an 8.5, trying to sell it at that grade you probably won't get top dollar anywhere, but if you sell it ungraded and "raw" (and honestly not lie about the condition) then you probably make a few more dollars on your transaction.

Obviously with the gem mint grade that I wanted on the card it was now time to get it fully graded and encased by BGS. A side note on the RGR service, they do not give you sub grades so you don't know how close or how far you are/were from a lower or higher grade until you get it fully graded by shipping it to their headquarters. I usually don't care about the sub grades as long as the card earns a gem mint grade but it is always interesting to see what they are.

Now the card is fully realized as a gem mint card. While a plain old mint 9 can actually drive resale value down a little, a gem mint can drive it a lot higher in most cases. Hotter the player the higher the value. Kershaw cards are going through the roof right now and thankfully I have a few gem mints of Kid K.

Now you get to see the actual sub grades and seeing them come out this way reaffirms to me that my process of pre grading the card myself usually (not always) gets the grade I expect. At the same time that is why RGR is a nice option if you are unsure and don't want to waste more money and time.

As you can see here everything checked out to my expectations and in the case of the corners even more so. That is one thing I haven't fully figured out yet as I can tell a pointy card from a non pointy one but the difference from a 10 and a 9.5 still eludes me but either way its gem mint.

The all important 10 on autograph

So with that you now have a fully slabbed and graded card. The process from start to finish from a personal point of view. Again, if you don't want to go the RGR way you can just submit your card(s) and cross your fingers that you did your work and everything will come out OK. I personally will be doing a full submission in the coming weeks AND a RGR when BGS comes back to town in early October.

In the end, the best advice is to do your homework. Look over your card(s) thoroughly and know your product if it has history with some tendencies i.e. thick cards have corner issues and chromes have border issues. Hope this helps out anyone that might have had a question and if not thank you for reading through all of this anyways and have a great week.


  1. Replies
    1. I assume you mean the card and not my writing?
      That was the crown jewel I brought in when we met up there. Great day...

  2. Thanks for one of the most enlightening blog posts that I have read this year.

  3. Thanks for the great post. I have a few graded cards in my collection but never attempted to send one off on my own.

    1. Had to learn from trial and error but nothing like getting that gem mint return on a submission. Great luck to you if and when you submit your own. You have the national out in your area (east coast) every year so you can do the RGR or full there.