PSA Grading Standards and General Guidelines (Excerpted from PSA's website)
GEM-MT 10: Gem Mint.
A PSA Gem Mint 10 card is a virtually perfect card. Attributes include four perfectly sharp corners, sharp focus and full original gloss. A PSA Gem Mint 10 card must be free of staining of any kind, but an allowance may be made for a slight printing imperfection, if it doesn't impair the overall appeal of the card. The image must be centered on the card within a tolerance not to exceed approximately 55/45 to 60/40 percent on the front, and 75/25 percent on the reverse.
MINT 9: Mint.
A PSA Mint 9 is a superb condition card that exhibits only one of the following minor flaws: a very slight wax stain on reverse, a minor printing imperfection or slightly off-white borders. Centering must be approximately 60/40 to 65/35 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse.
NM-MT 8: Near Mint-Mint.
A PSA NM-MT 8 is a super high-end card that appears Mint 9 at first glance, but upon closer inspection, the card can exhibit the following: a very slight wax stain on reverse, slightest fraying at one or two corners, a minor printing imperfection, and/or slightly off-white borders. Centering must be approximately 65/35 to 70/30 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse.
NM 7: Near Mint.
A PSA NM 7 is a card with just a slight surface wear visible upon close inspection. There may be slight fraying on some corners. Picture focus may be slightly out-of-register. A minor printing blemish is acceptable. Slight wax staining is acceptable on the back of the card only. Most of the original gloss is retained. Centering must be approximately 70/30 to 75/25 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.
EX-MT 6: Excellent-Mint.
A PSA EX-MT 6 card may have visible surface wear or a printing defect which does not detract from its overall appeal. A very light scratch may be detected only upon close inspection. Corners may have slightly graduated fraying. Picture focus may be slightly out-of-register. Card may show some loss of original gloss, may have minor wax stain on reverse, may exhibit very slight notching on edges and may also show some off-whiteness on borders. Centering must be 80/20 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse.
EX 5: Excellent.
Excellent On PSA EX-5 cards, very minor rounding of the corners is becoming evident. Surface wear or printing defects are more visible. There may be minor chipping on edges. Loss of original gloss will be more apparent. Focus of picture may be slightly out-of-register. Several light scratches may be visible upon close inspection, but do not detract from the appeal of the card. Card may show some off-whiteness of borders. Centering must be 85/15 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.
VG-EX 4: Very Good-Excellent.
A PSA VG-EX 4 card's corners may be slightly rounded. Surface wear is noticeable but modest. The card may have light scuffing or light scratches. Some original gloss will be retained. Borders may be slightly off-white. A light crease may be visible. Centering must be 85/15 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.
VG 3: Very Good.
A PSA VG 3 card reveals some rounding of the corners, though not extreme. Some surface wear will be apparent, along with possible light scuffing or light scratches. Focus may be somewhat off-register and edges may exhibit noticeable wear. Much, but not all, of the card's original gloss will be lost. Borders may be somewhat yellowed and/or discolored. A crease may be visible. Printing defects are possible. Slight stain may show on obverse and wax staining on reverse may be more prominent. Centering must be 90/10 or better on the front and back.
GOOD 2: Good.
A PSA Good 2 card's corners show accelerated rounding and surface wear is starting to become obvious. A good card may have scratching, scuffing, light staining, or chipping of enamel on obverse. There may be several creases. Original gloss may be completely absent. Card may show considerable discoloration. Centering must be 90/10 or better on the front and back.
FR 1.5: Fair.
A PSA Fair 1.5 card's corners will show extreme wear, possibly affecting framing of the picture. The surface of the card will show advanced stages of wear, including scuffing, scratching, pitting, chipping and staining. The picture will possibly be quite out-of-register and the borders may have become brown and dirty. The card may have one or more heavy creases. In order to achieve a Fair grade, a card must be fully intact. Even though the card may be heavily worn, it cannot achieve this grade if it is missing solid pieces of the card as a result of a major tear, etc. This would include damage such as the removal of the back layer of the card or an entire corner. The centering must be approximately 90/10 or better on the front and back.
PR 1: Poor.
A PSA Poor 1 will exhibit many of the same qualities of a PSA Fair 1.5 but the defects may have advanced to such a serious stage that the eye-appeal of the card has nearly vanished in its entirety. A Poor card may be missing one or two small pieces, exhibit major creasing that nearly breaks through all the layers of cardboard or it may contain extreme discoloration or dirtiness throughout that may make it difficult to identify the issue or content of the card on either the front or back. A card of this nature may also show noticeable warping or another type of destructive defect.
Cards that exhibit high-end qualities within each particular grade, between PSA Good 2 and PSA Mint 9, may achieve a half-point increase. While PSA graders will evaluate all of the attributes possessed by a card in order to determine if the card may be eligible, there will be a clear focus on centering.
Generally speaking, a card must exhibit centering that is 5-10% better, at minimum, than the lowest % allowed within a particular grade. It is important to note that there may be cases where the overall strength of the card, such as the quality of the corners and print, will give the card the edge it needs despite the fact that it may exhibit only marginal centering for the grade. This is especially true for cards that find themselves within the bottom half of the PSA 1-10 scale.
Finally, keep in mind that qualifiers will not apply to grades that achieve the half-point increase since, by definition; these cards have to exhibit high-end qualities within the grade in order to warrant consideration. For example, there will not be cards graded PSA NM-MT-Plus 8.5 OC or PSA EX-MT-Plus 6.5 PD since the half-point is reserved for high-end cards within each grade.
At this time, only cards qualify for half-point grades. Coins, pins, tickets, and packs will not receive half-point grades.
PSA will grade nearly every card submitted. Cards having significant flaws will receive "qualified" grades as follows:
OC (Off Center):
When the centering of the card falls below the minimum standard for that grade will be designated "OC." PSA determines centering by comparing the measurements of the borders from left to right and top to bottom. The centering is designated as the percent of difference at the most off-center part of the card. A 5% leeway is given to the front centering minimum standards for cards which grade NM 7 or better. For example, a card which meets all of the other requirements for PSA MINT 9 and measures 60/40 off-center on the front automatically meets the PSA front centering standards for MINT 9. If a card meets all of the other requirements for PSA MINT 9 and measures 65/35 off-center on the front, it may be deemed to meet the PSA front centering standards for MINT 9 if the eye appeal of the card is good.
Cards with staining below the minimum standards for the grade will be designated "ST."
PD (Print Defect):
Cards with significant printing defects will be designated "PD."
OF (Out of Focus):
Cards with focus below the minimum standards for the grade will be designated "OF."
Cards with writing, ink marks, pencil marks, etc. will be designated "MK."
Cards that exhibit an atypical cut for the issue or ones that contain partial portions of more than one card will be designated "MC".
PSA will not grade cards which bear evidence of trimming, re-coloring, restoration, or any other forms of tampering, or are of questionable authenticity. In addition, PSA does not grade autographed cards dated earlier than 1998 or any cards manufactured by Star except Star Baseball & 1996 Star Topps (reprint) Basketball Cards; only factory imprint signatures can be graded.
Analyzing PSA's Grading Standards can take a lot of the guesswork out of determining the real condition of a sports card. Remember, when looking at auctions, 80% of sellers do not calculate a card's centering into the condition. As seen in the above standards, the centering is just as important as the corners, surface, and edges. In order to accurately apply these standards, it is recommended that you examine cards under at least 20x magnification (which will also allow you to detect counterfeit cards).
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