How does PSA grading translate into real life?

I’ve never bought graded cards before. I read the description for grading on the PSA site, but it seems more geared towards sports cards.

I think I’d be happy with no visible chips (except maybe extremely unoticible ones without a super close up inspection) on the borders or frayed corners. What would this grade likely be?

I know quality per grade varies but can someone give me some real life experiences with their graded cards to show me what an average 7 and 8 can look like?? Just to help me have some realistic expectations.

Really tough to describe in a post. Best teacher is experience. Honestly, the fastest answer to your inquiry is just search ebay for different grades and zoom in to the pictures.

Anything with even a tiny crease is PSA 6 or lower. Below and above that marker is hard to describe concisely.


ok sounds good. That’s what I’ve been doing but inside the plastic cases with reflections and whatnot its a bit hard to tell in pictures what the actual edges really look like.

I knew it’d be a long shot but figured I’d ask

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Yeah like with no creases, the wear on the back and scratching on the holos can range from PSA 5 - 8 and describing it in words is very difficult to give a good depiction of what falls under what grade.

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I’m not a hard time grader but I can give you some insight on how I pre-grade my cards. First I check the back using a dark background like black construction paper and look for any whitening or chips on the corners. any large chipping or any more than just one drops it usually to a 9. then i check the surface using a bright white light looking for any scratches on the holo or surface. you can tell by the gleam of the card as you tilt the card with the light. if there are any scratches might drop a grade or might be a weak 9 depending on how bad the scratches can be. I usually drop it a grade to not get my hopes up. next i check centering which u can just check quickly with basic eye appeal of the card. I kind of add all these points up in my head or on paper to determine the best likely grade. Like mentioned above any creases or major chipping will drop the grade even more. I believe grading is like associating damage with point values and the severity of the damage will lower that point value. So cards that might have severe damage to the back but have a flawless front might put it somewhere in the middle pack while some other cards have medium damage overall with the same grade.

ie. if you’re looking for no visible chips but with some scratches on the holo or surface your best bet would be 8-9’s

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hmm ok that’s what I was assuming. Sounds like I wouldn’t be happy with less than an 8… that’s a little unfortunate haha. I seen some pictures on ebay as recommended above with some pretty obvious chipping around the edges graded at 7.

@kaiohsan, you can try looking through completed pwcc auctions on ebay. They post their photos with high res images and against a black background. It doesn’t really show any scratches on the holo but you can get a feel for things like whitening, edge/corner damage, and centering. If you’re really keen on it, you can even crack out cards from their slabs and see what they’re like without the slab. Doesn’t need to be expensive either as you’d be buying it for the grade to practice. Submitting your own cards is probably the best experience at the end of the day.

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interesting point. I never considered buying some cheaper graded cards for examples. I feel like with all the pressure to “buy before its too late” I’m just scrambling around.

Unfortunately I have no cards to send in for grading to get a good feel but I guess even if I did it sounds like there’s a crazy backlog.

If you want NM cards, stick with 8s, 9s, and 10s. Coming from MTG (which has much harsher grading standards for foils in particular), I was stunned at first by how poor condition 7s and 8s are. 7s, despite being called ‘NM’ by PSA, are actually closer to what I originally would’ve categorized as MP or HP. 8s are typically also pretty unimpressive condition cards. But the big difference is that 8s generally have very good eye appeal. While in the PSA slab, 8s usually look damn good. The whitening on the back is usually minimal, if even noticeable at all. For holos, the issue usually seems to be holo scratches and/or print lines, neither of which are generally that noticeable when the card is slabbed. And, on occasion, PSA 8s are just pack fresh cards with super giant print lines and/or terrible centering lol (neither of which bother me).

But, in all honesty, don’t bother with 7s if you want clean-looking cards. You will likely be disappointed. 9s are a safe bet, but 8s also generally look pretty good while slabbed.

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ok this is relatable. I also came from mtg and NM meant no noticeable chips or wear on the front or back of the card. Looking at PSA 7 pokemon cards I agree I would consider that MP or HP… so I guess if I wanted to match my mtg cards I’d want PSA 9… but since I can’t afford what I want in a 9 I have to cross my fingers and hope a reasonably priced 8 comes up… :S

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Yup, and in MTG a single crease or dent (even a tiny one) makes a card damaged or HP at best. In Pokemon, that card can still get a PSA 6 – EX-MT lol. I was (and still am) in a somewhat similar boat to you. My primary project is PSA ~9 quality binder sets, but the supply of raw NM cards dried up a ton starting in March/April. So I started cracking open PSA 8s for my sets. The quality of the cards made me wince, but I simply don’t have the endless funds that would be required to crack PSA 9s all day long. But, in all honesty, I’ve gotten used to the poor quality. Now PSA 8 quality cards have become mostly acceptable to me. So even if it feels bad at first, your expectations will naturally adapt over time.

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I just have a note: It is about the card and not the grade as much. I have plenty of 7’s that are truly NM or even better. The graders aren’t as consistent as you might hope. 7’s are perfectly fine… but on one condition. And that is that you get to see high quality scans or pictures of the card in the listing and confirm that it is a, shall we say, harsher grade. I am very pleased with many of my 7’s. They would easily be promoted or sold as STRONG, or possible regrade, just because they are so damn good. Clean, clean holos, no whitening. Very nice copies. Going in blind? Yes, 8’s or higher. But check out every single 7 you see. There are many that were just graded too harsh and are truly NM (if not NM-MT, seriously)


I have seen 7’s that are crap and not NM. I have also seen many 7’s where I wonder why they aren’t 8’s, and in some cases 9’s. I have submitted and gotten 9’s. I have opened packs and sent the cards in. I have a keen eye. I know what it should take to be a 7 or 8. Many people have sent in 8’s as regrades and gotten 9’s. That should never happen, and the fact that it does, shows you there is a common disparity between graders’ standards within their own company. As we all know, an 8 should be distinguishable from a 9. But sometimes all it takes for the harsh grader (unfairly I might add), is to get a pack fresh card with the wrong kind of cut on the corners straight out of the pack, or a print error, and they give it an 8. This is not right because any card out of an undamaged pack is MINT, and I don’t care what anyone says about that. A car off the lot is mint. A card out of a pack is mint. This is condition, not how perfect a print it is. Leave that to 10’s–a virtually perfect card. (The one exception is borders because they warn that that is a factor).

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yeah I’d probably be happy with a strong 7 as well. I think the issue I’ll have is trying to find a PSA 7 to buy for a decent price (strong or weak). If weak ones still sell for the same price because everyone is just buying grades, it becomes a race against time. Witing for that strong 7 could cost in a few weeks what an 8 costs now. So I guess starting at a higher grade might be a cost effective way to try and get the card you want. At the end of the day, as you said, its not the number I care about as much, just want to figure out what grade has the highest probability of being what I’m looking for :blush:

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Didn’t you get the memo? Everything gets a GUARANTEED PSA 10 :sunglasses:

This should be helpful:

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@voltagic oh thanks!

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even 7-8s look wonderful

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After looking more and some members here sending me examples it seems like 7s can look great, but some also not so much haha. I guess 8 average and probably 9 is what I’m used to having as NM in say an mtg card.

Thanks for all the replies so far and to the members who sent examples!

PSA 9/10 is what you’re used to for a NM MTG card. I’m saying this as someone who has cracked 150+ PSA 8s, so I would say I have a fairly good sense of what PSA 8s look like. If most of these PSA 8s were equivalent condition MTG cards that I had purchased as NM, I would return them. Not all PSA 8s, but most. Some PSA 8s (like those that received 8s because they are poorly centered) are fine as NM, but the vast majority of PSA 8s aren’t.

EDIT: here’s a quick example I already had photographed:

Here’s a literally damaged card that received PSA 8. I wouldn’t sell this as MP, let alone NM-MT…it has what is effectively creasing along the edges, the edgewear is that severe. If you want more examples, I could give more than 100. This is not an isolated occurrence. PSA 8s are generally not NM cards. I’ve adapted to them by necessity. Sometimes they are NM if they were graded harshly – it happens. But they usually aren’t NM.

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