So, you’re collecting and battling in the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG)? Then you’ve probably heard of Pokémon card grading! Getting your best cards graded verifies their legitimacy and even helps to boost the price.
This guide will explain how Pokémon card grading works, why you should consider it, the best companies to use, and what price to expect.
And if you don’t have time to read our full-length epic guide, we’ve got a short TLDR section coming right up for you. You’re welcome!
TLDR; How Cards Are Graded and Why
Pokémon cards are graded just like any other collectible – it’s all about quality. Ranging from ‘mint’ or ‘new’ to ‘heavily used’ or ‘poor’, these grades tell potential buyers and collectors what condition the card is in.
- Grading looks at the physical quality of the card. It has nothing to do with the collectible value or rarity of the card. You can find both basic Magikarp and shiny Charizards graded 10!
- There are several companies that offer grading services, usually with discounts for bulk rates. The companies will check the quality and authenticity of the card, and often package it up securely and provide a certificate too.
- Getting cards graded is not cheap, so most people reserve it for rare cards that are worth a lot.
The advantages of getting your card (or cards) graded really come into play when you buy or sell cards. Pokémon cards that have been graded can fetch much higher prices than ungraded versions!
That being said, collectors tend to only appreciate official gradings from companies they know. Card grading companies that have a good reputation are brilliant… but companies with no reputation aren’t really worth sending cards to.
Why Pokémon Grading Matters
It really all comes down to one thing: trust.
When you have a card graded, you can trust that it’s authentic. You can trust that it really is in good condition. And you can trust that you’re paying a fair price for it.
Online, with so many cards selling on eBay with suspiciously poor-quality images, it can be hard to know whether you’re buying a legitimate card or not. But if the card is graded, then you can trust that you’re getting the real deal.
This is important for both buyers and sellers.
We recommend getting your Pokémon card graded if:
- It is very old – grading it authenticates it and also protects it from further damage.
- It is in perfect condition – getting it graded will preserve that condition and also raise the value.
- It is rare – whether it’s shiny, a promo, or even a printing error, getting it graded with authenticate and protect it while also raising the value if you decide to sell.
You’re Unlikely to Get a High Grade!
We can’t stress enough how difficult it is to find a grade 9 or 10 card. If there’s even slightly roughness to the card or whiteness at the edges, it quickly drops down to 8 or below.
That includes both the front and back of the card!
Most cards that are graded the highest grade will be removed from the package and instantly preserved for grading. The second you start to handle or play with cards, the value drops.
The Best Pokémon Card Grading Companies
Okay, so now that you’ve decided which cards you want to grade, it’s time to select a company. Here are the three big players in the industry. If you Google companies, you’ll find several more… but they don’t have the reputation these companies have.
Nonetheless, the real advantage of using lesser-known grading companies is that the price might be lower. You can find a list of alternate grading companies below.
PSA Grading Pokémon Cards
Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) grade playing cards, photos, autographs, tickets and more. They’ve been in the industry since 1991 and have processed over 75 million collectibles including 40 million playing cards.
PSA are really the leaders in this industry, so if you want the most reputable grading of all – send your cards to PSA.
Things PSA does:
- Checks the card for evidence of tampering, forgery, or doctoring to authenticate it.
- Grades the card based on the quality and condition (scale below).
- Puts the card in a tamper-proof, protective plastic case that’s sonically sealed.
- Labels the case with the details about the card, e.g., name, year of release, and expansion.
- Adds a barcode to the case to add inventory to the set registry.
- Marks the case with the grade and a unique certification number that anyone can verify online.
- Adds the PSA Lighthouse™ Security Label.
As for PSA’s grading system, it runs from 1 to 10 with the highest numbers signifying the highest quality. It will be displayed as ‘GEM-MT 10’ for example, meaning gem mint grade 10.
PSA charges based on the declared value of your card. For example, if your card is worth under $199 then you only need to pay $18 to get it graded. However, if you’ve landed a shining Charizard that’s worth almost $1,500 then you’ll need to pay $150 to get it graded by PSA.
Double check with Pokémon Wizard for an up-to-date card value, then double check with PSA for an up-to-date service charge. As always, prices tend to change over time so don’t take our word for anything!
CGC Grading Pokémon Cards
Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) grades pop culture collectibles, focusing more on comics, trading cards, and concert posters than autographs and sports tickets like PSA. They are actually more well-known for grading comics, which they’ve been doing for over 20 years. Cards have only been graded by CGC for the past few years or so.
Nonetheless, their history of grading comics means that they have a very good reputation and collectors trust Pokémon TCG cards that have been authenticated by CGC.
CGC’s process includes:
- Checks the card with microscopic processes to check for authenticity.
- Grades the card using a 10-point grading system.
- Awards sub-grades for centering, corners, edges, and surface (for an additional fee).
- Places the card in a protective, sealed plastic case.
- Prints on the grading details and card details (name, year, expansion pack, etc.) on the front.
- Prints on an identifying barcode and QR code on the back, with a unique certificate number.
- Adds the CGC holograph.
CGC are well-known for having a very tough grading system, so if you find a ’10 Perfect’ card, you know that you’ve hit the jackpot. Their grading system goes from 1 to 10, with half grades (e.g., 6.5) too.
Confusingly, there are two different 10 grades. 10 perfect means that it has been sub-graded, and each category was scored a 10. Meanwhile, 10 pristine means that it is gem mint condition but hasn’t necessarily been sub-graded.
When it comes to pricing, CGC is one of the cheaper options. At the time of writing, CGC charges between $15 and $150 depending on the value of your card. You’ve also got an additional charge for sub-grading, which is $15 too.
Check CGC’s pricing page for an up-to-date and more specific quote.
Beckett Grading Pokémon Cards
The last company that we’ll look at in detail is Beckett Grading Service (BGS). Since 2001, BGS has been grading cards, comics, and VHS tapes! They deal with a lot of vintage cards, including Pokémon cards, and actually started by publishing a Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guidebook in 1979.
They offer the same authenticating and grading services that PSA and CGC provide, with the sub-grading upgrade option too.
With Beckett, your cards go through this process:
- Authenticating the card, checking for signs of tampering, forgeries, etc.
- Grade on a 10-point scale, with the option for sub-grading (centering, corners, edges, surface).
- Seal in a protective plastic case.
- Card details (name, year, expansion pack, etc.) printed on the front.
- Identifying numbers, barcodes and QR codes for the certification too.
One feature that’s pretty unique to Beckett is their Vault and Collect service. These online services allow you to manage and track your card values digitally from your smartphone. With the rise of NFTs, it’s not surprising that some card grading companies are edging into the virtual collectibles industry.
Beckett pricing starts at $25 for a card without sub-grading, all the way up to $200 for a single card with very fast turn-around times. At the time of writing this article, the fastest turn-around time is 2 to 7 business days, but this changes regularly. Check the Beckett card grading page for more details.
Other Companies That Grade Pokémon Cards
There are several other grading companies, some that serve a specific country or region and others that are specific to Pokémon cards only.
Although not as trusted as the three companies above, you can still check them out!
- Pokémon Card Grading (PCG) – only grading cards in the US, this company began in 2009 and focused solely on PTCG items.
- Tree Frog Grading – a new grading company, operating in the UK, so Brits don’t need to ship their Pokémon cards across the pond to get them graded.
- Ace Grading – shatter-proof cases and high-quality services. Ace currently only operates in the UK but is expanding to the EU and US.
- The Grading Authority (TGA) – although their cases look lower quality than other grading companies, this US operation does a good job.
- Pokégrade – another UK company. This one isn’t overly reputable, but the price is super low so if you want affordable grading, this company will do.
Pokémon Card Grading Costs
Costs vary depending on the value of the card because some companies don’t want to take on the risk of shipping a high-value card without extra insurance!
You’ll also pay more or less depending on the turn-around time, e.g., how fast the card can be graded and returned to you.
For sub-grading, you may also need to pay more. This is not entirely necessary, but the most serious card collectors will want to see it. These are usually the buyers that have the most money to spend, so it’s worth it!
Let’s look at the price of grading a single card. We’ll use this common Squirtle from Team Magma vs. Team Aqua to compare. It’s currently worth around $8.
PSA: $18 for grading, no sub-grading available. Turn-around time is 120 days. You need to become a PSA collectors club member and send a minimum of 25 cards. For a single card, the price is $30.
CGC: $15 for grading, plus $5 handling fee. If you want sub-grading, that’s an additional $15. Just like with PSA, you need to send a minimum of $25 to get this price. For a single card, the price is $25.
BGS: $25 for 10-point grading or $35 for 10-point grading and sub-grading. There are additional costs for international shipping and other upgrades.
So, all in all, the three big Pokémon card grading companies charge around the same amount. However, CGC and BGS have a slight edge with their sub-grading options. Overall, we recommend CGC for cost. It’s the best value for money when you factor in sub-grading, and they have just a little bit more reputability than BGS.
Pokémon Card Grading Per Country
PSA, CGC and BGS all operate in the US and will require collectors from other countries to pay some high shipping fees!
So, here are some alternative options depending on your location.
In the UK, you can send your cards to UK-specific companies:
You can also find services that will send your cards to PSA for a lower price. They do this by combining orders from many different people, so they can get that bulk discount and share the price of international shipping. They then pass the saving on to you. Ludkins is one example.
In Canada, you also have a few Canada-specific companies to choose from:
Grades from these companies don’t hold anywhere near as much weight as the American PSA, CGC and BGS companies so you may want to consider stomaching the cost of shipping to the US.
Once again, you can find some Australia-specific card grading companies:
Furthermore, there are services that will ship your cards off for PSA grading with other customers for a discounted price, just like in the UK.
How does Pokémon card grading work?
Grading works by assessing the authenticity of a card, then analyzing the quality to give it a grade – usually a number out of 10. This gives the card a higher value.
Is it worth getting Pokémon card graded?
Due to the price of grading, it is only worth getting cards graded if they are in excellent condition, are very old, and/or are very rare.
Where to get my Pokémon cards graded?
PSA is the most well-known place to get your card graded. Other places (CGC and Beckett) are also reputable and offer sub-grading. There are other, smaller companies that offer grading however they are less reputable and not really worth it!
What’s the highest Pokémon card grade?
On a numerical scale, 10 is the highest grade. Some grading companies also give this grade a name, e.g., gem mint.
How much does it cost to get Pokémon cards graded?
Costs start at around $15 per card, but additional fees usually apply, and you’ll need to order in bulk to get this price. For very rare cards, you may need to pay several hundred dollars for authenticating and grading services.