Pack-Fresh Card Condition and Professional Grading: by FST

Hey guys, I’m FourthStarTCG on YouTube, I doubt many of you know me as I only have 115 subscribers. (Shameless plug) I do pretty awesome content, so check me out! Here’s an article I wrote about pack-fresh cards and their condition.

For those of you who aren’t aware of professional grading, here’s a crash course: many collectors will choose to have their cards graded by a private company. (PSA or BGS are the big ones) These companies look at the card and examine it for big things like scratches, edgewear, creases, and dents, and little things like centering and printing quality. After looking at all these aspects of a card, they grade it on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the worst (Poor) and 10 being the best. (Gem Mint for PSA or Pristine for BGS) The main reason collectors do this is to increase the value of their cards. One of the most expensive cards ever printed that I’m sure you all know of is the 1st Edition Base Set Charizard. An ungraded copy in near mint to mint condition will cost you up to $400. Send it to PSA and get a MINT 9, that card is now worth close to $1000. Bump that up to a GEM MT 10, you’re looking at a whopping $4,500+.

When a card can rise over ten times in value just because of its condition, it’s incredibly important what condition its in coming straight out of the pack. If I shell out over $150 for a 1st Edition Base Set pack, I want to know that the cards I’m getting will be in mint, if not gem mint, condition. For many, many Pokemon sets this was the case. However, around the introduction of Black & White, the quality of cards straight out of the pack started to go down. Almost all cards had slight edgewear and centering issues from the printing process. While this may not be a big deal to players and casual collectors, it’s a big issue to graders, where one little nick or off-center printing can mean the difference between making your money back on a booster box or being $50 in the hole.
I’ve opened up tons of packs over my somewhat short but informative lifetime, and here’s some simple odds. Any ex, ultra rare, or special card from Base Set through Black and White base has about a 35% chance of being gem mint straight out of the pack. That’s good, considering a gem mint card is virtually perfect. Some exceptions to this include the notoriously bad EX Deoxys, which had terrible holo warping and card quality, which of course served to skyrocket the prices of high-graded ultra rares. (Just look up PSA 10 Rayquaza Gold Star, it gives the Charizard a run for its money) Right around Noble Victories and Next Destinies, there was a significant drop. Card quality took a nosedive, meaning that there was a significant chance that any ultra/secret rare card you got out of a pack wouldn’t even receive a MINT 9 from PSA. GEM MT 10s were near impossible, driving the prices up like crazy for those who were lucky enough to get them. I’d say the odds dropped from 35% to a less than 10% chance of a GEM MT.

This lack of good-quality cards has plagued some of the best-looking and most sought after cards in the B&W and X&Y era. Take a look on eBay, try to find a Plasma Storm shiny Charizard that ISN’T seriously off center, with the bottom border much larger than the top. An epic card, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the fabled EX Dragon Frontiers, ruined by bad quality. Not one Plasma Storm Charizard has graded a 10 from PSA. That’s significant, considering the set has been out for close to two years, and Charizard is perhaps the most recognizable shiny Pokemon, and second most recognizable Pokemon overall. (next to Pikachu, of course) Some lesser-known cards with centering issues include the full art versions of Lugia, Deoxys, and Dragonite EX, from Plasma Storm, Plasma Freeze, and Furious Fists, respectively. The degradation of card quality came to a head in the wonderful yet frustrating set of XY: Flashfire. The Charizard hype was over the top, and graders began drooling on their PSA Submission sheets after seeing the seven (!!!) Charizard EX ultra rares in the set. Graders, who mainly finance their Pokemon hobby off of the selling of cards they pull and grade, were ecstatic. Charizards mean lots of cold hard cash, and many graders (like myself) were riding their pre-ordered boxes straight to the bank. However, once those boxes arrived, graders and players alike were frustrated with the wild pull rates, ranging anywhere from both megas, a full art, and more (PrimetimePokemon) to two Toxicroaks (one regular, one FA), a Magnezone, and a Stoke Charizard. (yours truly) Those who were lucky to pull the elusive Charizard EX Full Art jumped for joy until they looked at the back and discovered all of the nicks, dings and edgewear these cards had. As of writing this article, only one Full Art Charizard has been graded a PSA 10, owned by YouTuber Hisoka107, who I am personally subscribed to and encourage all of you to be as well.

However, there is a happy ending to all of this. All of the cards from the newest set, XY: Phantom Forces, look fantastic. Crisp edges, nice corners, and no edgewear! I was packing in for the long haul to get a gem mint Lysandre’s Our honorable president Card, but out of only 3 I purchased, 2 are mint and 1 is gem mint. Graders are one again eagerly anticipating the next sets, hoping that the quality stays on the increase.

Written and researched by FourthStarTCG. Please ask permission before use. Show your appreciation by checking out my YouTube channel! Prices are an average of current eBay prices as of 11/9/14.

First: Welcome to the forum.

Second: Lysandre’s Our honorable president Card is a Full Art supporter. If you read around this forum, you’ll find that discussion has been had many, many times. The Full Art supporters grade significantly better than the other cards in the set, so this is not necessarily indicative of any improvement in overall set quality. Anyone want to chime in with more information and other opinions on the quality of printing in the newer set? @frost, your box was still all miscut, wasn’t it?

@hisoka107 is a member here as well.

The four regular EX cards from my box were miscut, but my full art Manectric-EX was fine.

I bought all of the other chase cards from the set via second-hand sellers so it wouldn’t be fair for me to use them as an example of the print quality because I don’t know whether any corner dents/etc were from TPCi, Troll and Toad or shipping. But I also don’t do the professional grading thing so it’s not a concern to me.

@funmonkey54 Thanks! I was not aware of the Full Art Supporters grading better,but now that you mention that, it makes a lot of sense, both of the gem mint full arts I’ve pulled have been supporters. In making that judgement of improvement I was going off of eBay pictures which showed much better cards on the whole, personal experience with opening Phantom Forces, and YouTubers like @hisoka107 who, I believe, got some pretty nice cards out of his boxes. @frost, that seems to be a change from the usual trend over the past few sets. It stinks, but at least the full art was good!

That’s a very informative article. It’s true that cards took a dive in quality from WOTC to the ex series. Then they kept decline in quality up until phantom forces. I found plenty of good examples to send to psa. The only problem I see is the top border almost always being bigger.

A few things to correct would be the plasma storm charizard. There are currently 11 psa 10s. I know because I had 2. One I got graded a 10 and 1 I bought for a friend as a middleman.

The other thing that you missed was that even among the WOTC sets certain ones have better printing quality. Team rocket, both Gym sets, discovery, unlimited neo destiny. The harder ones to grade were base, base 2, Legendary Collection, jungle neo,1st ed Revelation and 1st ed Neo Destiny. All the first base cards had centering issues from what I’m aware of. @notzeldagilroy is the best subject matter expert on base. He could elaborate more on the printing quality and defects from those sets. Base 2 and Legendary Collection had factory scratches. Speaking with Ebirdman of ebay and a friend going after psa LC I’ve found the quality in LC wasn’t great. Hopefully this helps you.

In my personal experience it’s been closer to 50% gem mint from the ex series booster packs and bixes but that’s just me picking through the bad one. Of the 8 gold stars I’ve pulled 6 have gotten psa 10 with one that should have gotten a 10.


@hisoka107 Wow, I had no idea there were that many. Gives me hope though, they all don’t have horrible centering! I don’t have too much experience with the WOTC sets, but that information definitely helps.

I did too, after starting to purchase PSA cards and grade myself then I realized how much better Japanese is. I would have included it in my article but I mainly wanted to deal with the cards that had issues (namely, English)

My 1st ed destiny holos pretty much ALL have fresh cut silver edges, few also have a couple specks of foil showing through despite being fresh and cared for.

Yes I know. I said unlimited not 1st ed Neo Destiny was a better produced set. 1st ed jungle had the same problem. I opened a 1st ed Neo box and all the cards were off center with the silvering you mentioned.

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collect japanese cards, they are much better quality :stuck_out_tongue: