Buying ungraded cards and grading them

Hello all,

I’ve been wondering what your thoughts are on buying ungraded cards and getting them graded by PSA, planning to only buy from the older series produced by WOTC and perhaps Shining/Gold star.
I live in The Netherlands so it could be easier to buy ungraded NM cards compared to Americans who try to buy on Ebay but I’ve read that there’s not that many NM ungraded cards around anymore.

First of all I’m intending to only buy cards that at least look good on the front, especially if they’re stored in binders.
Then before submitting to PSA I need to ensure that they really look Mint, so also the back and scratches on the holofoil. If they fail the test but look Mint on the front and thus would be good for a binder, is there any way I could sell them for more value than a normal good-looking card?

Secondly, what would they be worth? From research I’ve done so far I concluded that a PSA 8 is not that hard to get if you are strict yourself and will get you your grading cost back, PSA 9 is also reasonable and will net you some profit and PSA 10 is where you will get $100 profit for non-special (so no Charizard, Blastoise, Venusaur, etc.) holo’s from the first sets. However getting a PSA 10 would be at odds roughly 10% of getting a PSA 9.

What would you advice me to do if I want to try this? I do not want to get terribly disappointed and for example only get PSA 5 and PSA 6 back, however I’m not expecting loads of money either, just enough for it to remain fun as a hobby.

Also I’ve seen that there’s still Booster Packs and Booster Boxes for sale of these old series, for example a Jungle pack could cost me 20 euro, but I’m cautious that it could be weighted, would it make sense to buy any of those and get an hopefully at least PSA 9+ card in every three packs on average? But what to do with the other Mint Rares/Uncommon/Commons? Getting them graded doesn’t seem to increase value.

Last question is what should I do if I find a NM card that’s not English, so could be Dutch, French, German, etc. Would it make sense getting that graded?

Lots of questions and I hope someone can give me a bit of their insight, perhaps someone who is also doing this as a hobby.

Just a heads up, other than English and Japanese psa will not grade any other language cards other than those from Base set.

The cards/sets you are looking for are typically very competitive and you will most likely see very small profits. PSA fees, ebay fees, finding the cards at a good price that can actually be graded.

In my experience most sellers don’t check cards thoroughly or grade NM with a ton of white. I get “straight from pack” cards with dents from binders, grime and dirt etc on them.

NM/Mint cards pop up from time to time, but more often than not they will be 7-8s, talking about the valuable WOTC 1st edition cards. 8s will most likely NOT get your money back, only in certain situations, example being 1st edition base.
9s will most likely get your money back at last and maybe profit depending on the set.
10s will obviously see the biggest profit depending on cards/sets (ex being 1st ed base, 1st ed fossil dragonite/gengar)

Boxes and packs can be risky, always buy from a reputable seller. Most holos will grade 8-9 pack fresh depending on the set, 10s can happen. Rares/commons/uncommons are typically useless depending on the set (1st ed base common/uncommon/rares will fetch a decent price in 10s, depending on the card).

Non-english or Japanese cards from base set are really the only cards I would grade.

Card conditions are card conditions, no one will pay substantially more for a binder card.

Most likely if you haven’t submitted to PSA before, you will miss things on cards and not profit. Even still, you are going to most likely break even unless you snag great deals on mint cards.

As it looks like you are just a buyer/seller and have not much interest in the cards themselves, I would advise you to not attempt it IMO.

1 Like

I would nearly always only buy a card if they have a good quality picture of the front and back of the card so you know what your getting. Also dont be afraid to ask questions! Often even if a card is listed as mint or pack fresh I will message the seller to confirm there is no damage or defects with the card. Look out for creases on a card, sometimes hard to spot and will instantly drop the cards grade down to a 5 or maybe even less. And buy from reputable sellers with really good feedback.

One small addition: I don’t want to sound like someone who is in here only for the profit.
While my post may not be that clear, I do enjoy the process! And have collected them in my youth as well, even got my youth collection around and now instead of selling it I end up buying more cards and then selling them again :stuck_out_tongue:

You are what’s considered a reseller, more so than a collector. Which is fine no need to worry about what people think.

Thanks a lot for your reply. (Also thanks to the others replying!)

I’ve got a few questions/responses however.

I don’t really see how the cards are competative, sure the Charizard etc. are also competitive on our local market, but I have no trouble buying collections of 20+ holos in binders for a reasonable price so that I can check them, and can resell them if needed.

You are correct that buying NM/M cards is an issue if you are looking for a single card, it’s probably still an issue if buying in a binder.

I was looking at the PSA population report a bit earlier, is it safe to assume that if there’s only an amount of PSA 10 cards of a specific card available that’s a single-digit number, that it’s then worth a lot?

Lastly, I see you’re saying that pack-fresh holos will only get a PSA 8 or 9 but are not guaranteed a 10, I assume this is because of centering of the card etc. Is there a way I can measure myself (on cards I’d be buying, not on unopened packs of course, or on cards I physically own) if it’s possible for a card to get a PSA 10? I’m aware there’s some guides about centering available, but none really give a clear-cut way of determining it yourself.

Being outside of the US, your grading costs will be greater. Shipping is significantly higher, and I believe you will pay customs duties as well (correct me if I am wrong Euro members).

Also, the closest guarantee in this hobby is an already graded card. Any ungraded or even sealed product does not guarantee a psa 10 example, sometimes not even a psa 9. There is inherent risk, and you can only lower that risk through experience. Don’t expect to hit home runs right out of the gate. Moreover, if you are in this for money, as most people are asking these sort of questions, remember that “risk” is businesses shadow. Most of the people in the hobby who consistently grade have been around a long time, ie. experience. Experience is your meal ticket. Try buying some auctions, grading cards you think are nm-mint, and get a feel for the standard. That is the real key to this, and perhaps any comparable situation.

1 Like

Ebay cards get sniped in minutes for good BIN deals. WOTC sets being the first sets, are highly collectible on the tier list of sets. They are out of print, so the pool of cards is only so large. Take out the EX condition and below cards and you have a smaller pool. Take out the cards that have been sold recently and graded or kept for a collection. The pool gets smaller everyday for raw cards. WOTC sets are very nostalgic for a lot of collectors as many have disposable income now and other non-collectors/businesses also notice this as a strong market to make some profits. This is where the competition comes from. Demand also plays a huge role per card, there really is no blanket statement that can cover it all, just know competition is high for most holos in WOTC sets (1st edition).

Binder cards IMO almost never produce 10s, only in very rare cases. Most people don’t store them correctly, cards get dented from being stored in the binders, shipping issues among other things. I view binders as ex condition on average most of the time, as my binder collections are similar to that. (usually some scratching and/or whitening on the back)

Pop reports don’t really show value as some cards are niche or just not graded much at all due to low demand, however it can help.

Pack fresh cards can get any grade, but more often than not 8/9s (I was mainly referring to WOTC Holos) As far as centering goes, there are different ways people tend to measure. Its very easy to see most of the time just by eyeing, anything over 60/40 is pretty easy to spot.

This is all my opinion and in my experience collecting and selling, which is trumped by many other collectors on here for sure. You will get lucky sometimes, hard work and luck can lead to some great scores.

1 Like

Thanks for all replies and concerns so far, I’m obviously trying to make it a success, but I understand that it is very difficult.

Are there any stories (if at all) around of people who succeed in getting cards graded by buying other peoples’ collections? If not, are then almost all PSA cards from booster packs?

Small addendum: Something I’ve been wondering for a while, how bad is it if a card is curved but no bend damage etc. How bad is it for grading, and could it be fixed somehow returning it to 100% original state?

I get all my cards almost exclusively as singles from ebay (I assume some are from collections), I don’t crack booster boxes or packs too often. All cards i’ve picked out from those purchases that I deem PSA worthy, receive 9 and 10s. The cards are out there, but getting minty cards at a reasonable price can be tough. I see full “mint” collections on ebay quite a bit, but in my mind its too big of a risk to buy and I am all about hedging because I like to spend as little as possible on my collection.

Oh wow, that is quite a difference from what you were saying earlier. At least I had assumed that you recommended against buying cards and getting them graded. I’m aware that there could be many pitfalls but I don’t know the pitfalls myself yet, but that’s something for me to learn if I decide to pursue this path.

What would you say is the possibility of the cards you have bought having come from a binder though? I just kind of doubt that anyone who buys booster boxes nowadays or took the time to store all of their cards in a toploader years ago would sell it on Ebay as opposed to getting it graded or something like that.

I’m aware that I can ask for pictures of the back side of cards being sold in binders, I’m just afraid that they will damage the cards! Might be wiser to buy it in that case and if it’s really not good enough just resell it again without profit.

Grading costs will indeed be higher, but I think they are not that bad.

I know that there are some people in the UK who will get your cards graded for $10, now I know that normally it costs $15 but with a membership it is somewhat cheaper and that there’s supposedly promotions for $6 per card as well if you are a member.

Shipping is expensive indeed but still affordable, I think the market price of PSA graded cards is also slightly higher on auctions in Europe, however the demand seems to be slightly less as well.

For the customs duties I’m not sure what you mean? From what I have researched so far the goods are effectively being “returned”, that is there has been no purchase, so no import taxes etc. on the European side. A customer representative from PSA has told me in mail that it might happen, but then I read on other forums from UK graders that it’s not an issue. The representative also mentions that getting the cards imported into the USA is not an issue.

If you go with japanese you can get alot of high end gold stars/ ex’s/ shinings ect in psa 10 condition ungraded if you try real hard, but if your going for engrish sets your gonna have to dig deap into messaging peeps on the ebays and getting good photos of minty fresh cards, and it is going to take some work, and you will be up against the like of @pokemonmaster556 and other master english snipers.

1 Like

Couldn’t tell ya where the cards came from, if binders or not. I did receive a few 1st ed base from a binder collection and they graded 9s, the only one I can 100% know it came from a binder. As for the buying without looking at backs, don’t. More often IMO the back is the problem area as the white shows easily on the back borders. Not to mention you will probably end up reselling it for the same price or close to what you paid, and on ebay with shipping and fees will most likely be a loss. Always get every bit of information you can unless its an insane deal.

Ah, I think that’s a part where Ebay vs Marktplaats (local Dutch site) differ, also Ebay is not used a whole lot in Europe, except buying stuff from China of course.
There’s no fees on Marktplaats, you do have shipping costs though, also there’s no buyer protection at all, most you can do is run an IBAN (bank) number through a check to see if that person got caught, it does work out 99% of the time, there’s still the trick of asking for name, phone number and address so that if needed you can go to the person and confront him/her. It does mean however that selling is a whole load easier.

Ideally for Dutch/European people would be buying on Ebay/USA then selling locally, too bad though that import taxes etc. prevent that, you could end up paying about 33-50% more for the same item. Mini-rant: I understand the concept of protecting local markets, however with Pokemon boosters that are sold around the world for a sort-of fixed price it’s already getting pretty nonsensical, let alone when buying items that have been out of print for well over a decade.

Gonna have to put you back here and say that the statement that ebay isn’t used much in Europe isnt true whatsoever, marketplaats is used only by belgian and dutch people from what i can see. Over here in the UK eBay is the main site for sales of cards by a long long way.

1 Like

eBay is not used much in Europe? I have more euro customers than USA.

1 Like

If your looking to complete psa collections you may be better off buying graded. Grading and shipping is expensive if you’e outside the US. I have quite a few cards i’d like to grade at some point but with the US dollar destroying AUD it’s just not worth it at the moment.

Scouring ebay for raw cards u can grade for reasonable profit usually takes hours.
My 2c

1 Like

Sorry, didn’t mean to offend anyone with my Ebay statement.

Mainly noticed that PSA graded Charizards from the Base Set (not 1st or shadowless) are sold a lot more from the US/rest of the world compared to from Europe.
Another one is searching for Auctions in Europe vs the US: It pulls up 1125 Pokemon auctions in Europe vs 13488 in the US.