This is a very sore subject,as it would appear that so many people do not know how to grade their cards.It's important to know just how to grade your cards when you trade.It becomes even more important when you come to buy and sell your cards.I am coming from the angle not just of a long term collector of TCG's but also having over 20 years experiance of cigarette cards,4 years of running a pokemon club and several more years dealing in trading cards both private and for several shops that used to be in the area where I lived.
Say you brought a first edition base shadowless charizard as mint for £250.00 from a dealer,then a few weeks later went to sell it on and found it was only graded as good.You would not be too happy about it especially when the value is reduced by any damage the card has.You investment then becomes more of a lead weight after loosing almost £200 of it's value.Rule 1,never never just rely on what people tell you,especially if you buy the cards or have to do a valuble swap.Only rely on your own judgement when it comes to grading.Be very strict both with your cards and your trading partners.Never overgrade a card,it's always safer to undergrade slightly if you are not sure.
The grading system I use is derived from the old SCRYE sytem.I will over the next few weeks when time allows place on here a break down of conditions most commonly encountered,how to check for those conditions and finally the grades which I use with the permitted amount of damage allowed for each.It will be far from a complete analysis but it will hopefully be of help to many people.I hope it will lead to some sort of standardisation across the board when trading.At the end of the day we all trade on here,so really we should all be using the same system as each other.
It is a pity we could not post pictures,as these would be a great way of showing certain damage.
Cardboard is a fairly soft material which can be marked quite easily when it comes into contact with a harder substance.These harder items may form a small groove or cut through the surface layer forming a scratch.Holo-foils are extreamly fragile and even a finger print may scratch the surface.
The biggest problem of a beginner in card collecting is being able to detect a scratch on a card.This is not as easy as it first sounds.Afterall the diffrance between mint and near mint is a single light scratch close to the edge of the card.These scratches cannot be seen if the card is resting on a table,in an album or sleeve,or generally held in the hand.
Light is the key to detecting scratches.This is how to check for them.This method will also pick up surface loss,creases,and many other faults which may remain hidden.
For this method you will need good natural light.Artificial light and overly strong light will be no good as it may blurr out what you are looking for.Simply stand back about 1 meter back from a window.Raise the card so that the light reflects off the cards surface.You may need to raise or lower the card accordingly to catch the light.Often the card is raised to just below eye level.Then gently tilt the card back and forth using the light on the cards surface to pick out the scratches.
The scratches themselves will usually appear as thin white streaks or thin black shadows or a combination of them.
Don't forget to rotate the card so that you check it along all four edges,then turn the card over and repeat.Take you time and if you see a possible scratch investigate it further.It's worth practicing this method as it is worth learning and put you on one step above many other people on the collecting ladder,and it will stop you getting caught out by bad cards that look better then they actually are.It's also something you don't learn from books or other card collecting guides.Basically it's a trade secret which I am giving you.It is surprising just how many scratches some cards have,and just how many so called mint cards are no longer seen as mint.You will also pick up dull patches which is surface loss,or other defects.We will talk about these at a later date.
Types of scratches.Yes there are various types of scratches.Verticle scratches are most often formed by sliding cards in or out of albums or deck protectors,sometimes these are caused through the manufacture of the cards.Horizontal scratches are sometimes called shuffle scratches and numerous scratches in the same direction indicates a played card.Ding scratches(tiny sharp edge scratches),sometimes can be very numerous is the result of coins being flipped and hitting the cards surface.Foils may show scuffs,which may be caused through someone simply wiping dust from the card with their fingers.Cards that have been just dumped or stored loose in a box or tin will show scratches going off in all directions.There are thousands of ways cards can be scratched but this is just a few that are the most common.
With foils take particular notice of the foil part of the design when checking for scratches.The non foil part may appear perfect,but as the foil itself is very soft it is more prone to scratching,and often shows scratching when the rest of the card has none at all.
Next time in part 2 we will look at surface loss.Please feel free to add any useful comments.
Surface loss is not something you will find in most grading guides but it is very important when it comes to the grading of your cards.
When new directly out of the booster or pack your cards will have a distinctive finish to its surface.In pokemon and magic the gathering this is more of a silky sheen,with topp's pokemon cards a high gloss,and with very old cigarette cards a matt surface.
Surface loss is simply the early stages of wear on the surface of the card caused through rubbing and handling of the card.In theory a brand new card will show no surface loss and an old played card will show quite a lot.Surface loss in its early stages will show itself as small dull patches if you use the method of reflecting light off the cards surface,(see part 1 for the method).A well used card will show quite a lot of dull patches covering it's surface.Eventually on a well used card surface loss will be so bad that the white of the card will show through the ink.By the time a card gets this bad it's little more then scrap.For those of you that have a stack of old cards give the light method of detecting damage a go.Check out two cards side by side,a brand new one and a well used card and you will see what I mean about the dull patches on the cards surface.
The only real way to stop this is to place your cards directly into a card album or sleeve,and handle as little as possible.
Surface loss can also indicate another very serious problem caused through high humidity,mould.Mould can rip through a collection very quickly in hot humid conditions.The spores are ever present in the air around us.Dull often blotchy patches on the cards surface and in the more advanced stages pinkish or off coloured blotches will appear actually in the cards surface itself.These coloured blotches are caused through the mould breaking down the card and feeding off the starch in the cardboard.Often the smell of mildew can indicate it's active even if you cannot see it.These cards are all considered in poor grade once the mould has been detected.prevention is better then the cure in this case.
As a collector the key is to look for cards with no surface wear which will usually indicate mint or near mint condition.One tiny spot and your card slips from near mint to fine.More then one tiny spot and your card is probably only in the good grade or less.
Endnote,Sometimes when an old collection is broken up many cards that have been kept in album pages all their lives may have developed a higher then normal sheen or gloss on their surface due to them being able to move a little and rub against the plastic.This is perfectly fine and cannot be avoided unless you use an inner sleeve to try to minimise movement.
I will add that for most card games produced by Bandai (Naruto, Dragonball, Digimon) the factory surface is what I call a Dull Gloss. It isn't quite as shiny as a Pokemon or Magic card, but it isn't the same as a old Baseball card either. They reflect some light but absorbs alot of it, making it easy to spot imperfections in the consistancy of the ink on the card.
I will try to chime in when I have something to add about the games I am herald for.
Hi,Thankyou that will be a great help.There is so much ground to cover,and I always forget something.
Something I did forget to mention in the last section was that oils from you hands can also damage the delicate surface of your cards.This is another good reason to use quality acid free deck protectors to protect your cards if you play any of the numerous card games.
Part 3.The cards edges.
This is a big subject as the edge of any trading card is also its most vulnerable part and can get damaged very easily.To examine the edge it is best to inspect it from the cards front,back and edge on.So in effect we are looking at it from three angles.
New cards will show a really crisp and clear razor sharp cut with sharp crisp corners.Under an eyelense with a times 15 magnification sometimes a slight lip or ridge can be seen running along the edge of the cut on one side of the card only.This was caused through the blades when they cut the cards.Often there is a little bit of card fluff still adhearing to the edge of the card.These features are all signs of a card straight from the booster in factory fresh condition.I will also mention here that if you inspect a pokemon or magic the gathering card edge on under magnification you will see that it has been constructed from three pieces,two thin pieces of white card with a thin black piece of paper sandwiched between them.This is to stop light showing through the other side of the card and makes it opaque.It's good to know as fake cards usually lack this black paper layer.(It will not help however to tell forged cards from geniune cards as forged cards are real cards that have been altered in an attempt to make them more valuble as compared to fakes which are usually made from scratch using poor card stock).
Chipping.This is where tiny angular pieces of the card is missing from around the edge.It is always easiest to see this on the backs of the cards or against solid blocks of colour.What we are looking for may just appear as if a tiny piece of ink has come away showing the card behind it along the edge.This is often very diffacult to see so close inspection is important.Even new cards can have a certain amount of chipping straight from it's pack or booster.Even a mint card may have one or two tiny spots of chipping as acceptable.It appears to be an inbuilt fault.Over time and use the chipping will give away to the classic wear which we call white edge.
White edge.This is caused through wear and tear and is mostly seen on played cards.For a collector any sign of white edge is not desirable and many cards will be rejected bacause of it,and may even be seen as untradable.Early stages of white edge will look like chipping.This will gradually become more joined and start to form a solid white edge along the cards edge.It is best seen by laying a card facedown on a dark surface,any white edge will clearly show.
There can not be any white edge showing on mint or near mint cards.
On a fine graded card white edge may be presant but it must only be on two edges of the card and less then one sixteenth of an inch wide at most.Any more then this then the card grades as good or less.A good grade card may have more then 2 edges showing white,but any more then one sixteenth of an inch and it downgrades to fair or poor.
Edge sharpness.We have already talked briefly about the crisp sharp fresh look of a new card.But edges do wear and become blunt and soft over time if rough handled.As a rule mint and near mint,fine,and good graded cards should show solid crisp sharp edges.Only fair or poor graded cards should show any softening of the edges or corners.So any soft/blunt edges really means a poor quality card that nobody will want.Sometimes a fine or near mint looking card will be found with a soft,blunt or battered top edge.This is still a fair or poor grade card no matter how good the rest of the card looks and should be treated as such.These are nearly always the result of a card being used in a deck protector over a long period of time and sliding out slightly when the deck is shuffled,or from cards stored stood up in trays which a heavy object has been placed on top of.
Edge knocks.These show as indentations along the edge of the card and often the card becomes splayed out at that point.Always accidental or caused through careless handling,often seen in cards that have been stored loosely dumped into boxes or tins.Sometimes when cards are stored strapped together with elastic bands.A single Minor edge knocks indicates a good or fair grade card whilst majour edge knocks a poor grade card.There must be no signs of any edge knocks in mint,near mint,or fine grade cards.
Discoloured edges.Caused through inground dirt and grease from handling.Often seen on the edge of old decks or cards that have been handled a lot.The discolouring of edges should not excist on cards in mint,near mint or fine grade.There may be light inground dirt or grease on the edges of a good grade card,if really noticable then we are looking at fair or poor grade.
Recut edges.This is rare but I have seen cards where some of the edges have been re-cut in an attempt to make them appear in a better grade.These are easy to detect as the cards are always smaller then a genuine untouched card,They may also have slightly sharper corners.Real cards do excist in pokemon with squared off corners but they will be exactly the same size as every other real card.As a rule any altered card made to decieve should not be graded and should be classed as scrap only.
That will do for tonight,my eyes are due to drop out with staring at the screen.If anybody has anything to add,or if you feel I have forgotten anything please feel free to post.
Next time in part 4 we will look at creases, folds,dents,buckled cards and natural curvature.
Part 4.Natural curvature,creases,folds and bent cards.
Hi all,sorry about the delay in posting.I had tried earlier but the post got lost somehow in the works and did not post to the forum for some reason.Most annoying.
Natural curvature.Natural curvature is where the card develops a curve rather like a humped back bridge.If the card is placed face down on a table on its edges it is easy to see.It is rarely mentioned in any of the grading guides.Holo-foils appear to be more affected by this curvature then non foil cards.It's not too bad in a collection and if cards are kept back to back in an album the cards may help to keep each other from curving too far.This is a big problem for the tornament player as anything that marks a card or its position in a deck may get removed from play.All I can suggest is to press the offending cards between some heavy books untill the curvature goes.This is not a fail safe method as soon as the pressure is released from the cards the curve may return.
Note.Pokemon,There was a period around team rocket returns and Deoxys where the foils curve in two ways in towards the front of the card along the side edges and the top and bottom edge.This gives the cards a shallow dish like appearance.This may of been temporary or trial card stock.
Unnatural.Once natural curvature has been seen it will be easy to identify any unnatural bend,or fold in the card.As a rule bent and buckled card are the same thing and show as gentle undulations in the cards surface but creased cards always show surface loss along the crease or in bad cases the surface of the card will be torn or broken.
Mint and near mint grade.No creases,buckles or folds.Slight natural curvature allowed.
Fine/excellent grade.Only a single very slight crease near the edge is allowed,but it must only be visible on very close inspection of the card.No buckling,or folds.Natural curvature expected.As a rule if it can be seen without effort it is not in this grade.
Good grade.Same as the fine/excellent grade althow you can allow now for a very slight hard to see corner crease.Still no buckling allowed.
Fair grade.Creases can be numerous but must be small(more then one allowed),light Slight buckling allowed.
Poor grade.Medium or heavy creases,any surface break.Unsightly looking cards.Cards that any buckling or creases detract from the overall appearance of the card.Any fold.Any card that can be seen to be a marked card in a tornament or in play.Any card that is seen fit for the bin.
Next time we will take a look at numerous other things that will have an inpact on grading cards from,bleached cards,water damage,holed,dirt,repaired cards,pen and pencil,and even a brief brush with fake and forged cards.So untill part 5 take care everyone.
A little more insight on natural curving. It was explained to me by a representative of Bandai that the reason foil cards curve is due to a difference in the humidity between where the cards were manufactured and where they are now. Basically the foil does not expand or contract from moisture, but the cardboard does, making the card bend since one layer changes in size and the other stays the same. Since almost no card games are printed in the united states (most are printed in china) there is a difference in humidity levels. Basically when the humidity is lower the cards curve in one direction, and if it is higher they curve in the opposite direction. But it varies based on the card stock which direction is which.
I would also like to suggest a small section on misprints in the next section.
Just a question- If you have lots of naturally curved cards in your deck (like 20+) can you be accused of card marking? I am currently working on a malefic deck, and since most of my monsters are secret rares this is a bit of a problem for me.
Just a question- If you have lots of naturally curved cards in your deck (like 20+) can you be accused of card marking? I am currently working on a malefic deck, and since most of my monsters are secret rares this is a bit of a problem for me.
Short answer yes, long answer:
It depends on the judge and level of the event. If you can tell looking at your deck if the top card is a certain rairity then it will probably be considered marked. Check with the judge for the event before the event starts to find out.
It is possible to counterbend a card, put the card in a semi-humid enviroment (like your average basement), place it in a holder. tape one end of the penny holder to a pop can and slowly bend the card around the can in the opposite direction of its natural curve then tape the other side to the can. leave it like that for 2-3 days and then bring it back to its normal enviroment. The inflicted counterbend will usually make the card flat when it starts to curve again. Be sure to practice on some cheap foils that are bending before using this method on expensive cards as when you are first learning the method the probability to damage your cards is high if you bend it to quickly.
You can also do it by hand by bending it across your pointer finger using yout thumb and middle finger but without ALOT of pactice the probability of damaging your cards is extremely high. practice it for along time using basic lands, energy cards or skull servants, bending them then removing the bend you put in it. If you crease or wrinkle it your putting to much pressure.
Part 5.This section is being done in smaller board postings due to limited time that I have at the moment.
In this section we will take a look at some of the other faults and quirks which will affect the grading of our cards.
Bleaching.This is where a card has been exposed to strong light and has become faded.Many cards left in shop windows or where strong light can get to them will fade with time.Some inks will fade quicker then others or even in some cases appear to change colour.A good example of bleaching can be obtained by putting a card in a window that catches strong sun light,but masking off half the card with cardboard so that any fading can be easily seen in the comparison of the two halves of the same card.One of our local shops used to have some real rare pokemon cards in their shop windows,but the cards edges had turned pink,instead of the usual yellow.All bleached cards are considered to grade poor and are class as major damage.
Water damage is harder to detect on a card.The usual signs are seperation of the card along the edges and a bubbled surface which is where the card has expanded slightly then contracted where it's dried out.This surface damage can easily be seen under an eyelense.Extreme long term water damage may show itself as coloured staining where mould and mildew will have started to take hold.Slight water damage caused through cleaning of a card may be seen as grading good only but if it is noticable or in the case of mildew and mould or the separation of the layers of the card it is automatically graded as poor.
Holed cards are simply that.Cards with holes in them.These may be through drawing pins or staples,or large like punched holes or mouse nibble marks.Slugs and snails can also eat through card as can many insects.Pin and staple holed cards can be kept as gap fillers but have no value unless they are of vital rarity as an extreme collectable.
All holed cards are graded as poor.Anything worse then a pin hole should not be graded and should be removed from circulation.
I will continue part 5 later in another posting later today with dirt,repaired cards,pen and pencil.
Dirty cards are not desirable and very often the dirt can detract from the cards overall appearance.Soft dirt can be carefully cleaned from a card but under the dirt there will always be a certain amount of surface loss.Cleaning cards do not alter the grade just the appearance as there will always be damage to the cards surface caused through the dirt itself or cleaning.It is simply a trade off.Perhaps we will cover cleaning cards in another thread.Dirt may be patchy,or hard rounded small blobs,dusty and grit like,or sticky.Dirty cards can be graded as good for very slight traces to poor.There can not be any dirt showing on the higher grade cards.Dirt can be detected either by the feel of the cards surface or by the light test used for checking for scratches.
Repaired cards are quite rare in trading card game cards.Mostly this happens with very rare baseball or cigarette cards.Grafting and rebuilding missing pieces,filling pin holes,even removing the damaged backs of cards and replacing them with a back from another card can be seen in old baseball cards.With single trading card game cards the main repair you will encounter is the repair of tiny tears around the edge or rejoining layers of the card that have become separated.Another trend in single expensive cards is inking in the edges to make them look less worn then what they actually are.Magic the gathering cards were prone to black marker pen touch ups and pokemon blue markers have been used to touch up any white showing through.If something looks odd take a closer look.I sometimes use a high powered eyepiece to check for repaired cards.Sometimes a UV lamp will help as some glues and many card and paper types have a different florescence under ultra violet light.Repaired cards however are usually quite scarce and most cards due to their low values won't even get a single glance.This mainly affects the ultra rare single card market.Cards that have been repaired to deceive and increase its value should not be graded at all once detected.However specialist conservation work carried out to stabilize and protect a card is another matter,but conservation rarely hides the actual damage that the card has.In this case the card should be graded normally taking into account any conservation work and downgrading to the appropriate grade it was before the work started.
Pen and pencil again is another big no no when it comes to grading cards.Even if the pen has been removed and the pencil erased there will be in many cases an impression of the writing left behind in the card.Pen and pencil are easy to see and even if removed the impression of where it once was can be seen by using the light method described in part 1 for checking for scratches.All cards that have come into contact with a pen,pencil,markers,felt tips,wax crayons etc are graded as poor.There are no exceptions.
In the next part we will take a brief look at printing flaws and error cards,misprints,fakes and forgeries.I was going to include them in this section,but I have covered enough ground for one day.
All cards that have come into contact with a pen,pencil,markers,felt tips,wax crayons etc are graded as poor.There are no exceptions.
Remeber this is true even for a signature. So then you may ask why are signed old cards so valuable versus unsigned mint cards. The answer is that almost the entire value for the card is in the value of the signature, not the value of the card. Though the card does add some to the value.
However, there are actually few very rare exceptions to this rule. They exist when the card is a promotional collectable where every copy in existance is signed. For instance, all copies of the alterante gold foil Naruto True Allies are signed by the creator Masashi Kishimoto as seen here: http://a1.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/61016_470996690347_127806705347_6565680_780631_n.jpg
These are all the copies of this card that exist and because of this the signature must be considered as part of the original design not a flaw.
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