1954 Topps #1 Ted Williams 1953 Bowman Color # Gus Zernial
"How do I grade my cards?" This is a very common question. So on this page I will attempt to help you grade your own cards. It is not difficult and by grading your own cards you not only will
save yourself money (sending cards to a reputable grading service will cost you roughly $8 to $10 dollars per card or more!) but also by determining a card's grade, you can also determine it's value
(important when buying or selling cards). So let's begin!
1948 Bowman lot of baseball cards in lesser grade (including
Johnny Mize and Pete Reiser).Note the tape stains, creasing, and
even a hole on one of the cards.
Baseball card collectors have their own lingo for grading. Basically there are different grades ranging from POOR (lowest grade) to MINT (highest grade a baseball card can attain). Most vintage cards
(pre-1980's) will rarely be in strict MINT condition. In fact, most vintage cards are usually found in mid to lower grades. The most common grades from lowest to highest would be POOR (PR), VERY
GOOD (VG), EXCELLENT (EX), NEAR MINT (NM). Like I stated before, most vintage cards will not be in MINT condition even right out of the pack! Why? There are numerous reasons. One, most
card manufacturers were not high on quality control. Many cards were cut off-center by the factory. Many were even mis-cut and printing defects are common also. A MINT card can have none of these
flaws. Plus the fact that most vintage cards were handled at some point (usually by kids), traded, flipped, etc. which resulted in normal wear and tear on a card. So vintage cards got off to a rough start
to begin with.
Being that each card is not exactly the same, there are in-between grades. For instance some cards might be not fall into the POOR category but would not grade as high as VERY GOOD (VG) either. So
what grade would you assign it? Fortunately this has already been worked out for you. So here are all the grades a typical vintage card would be assigned:
POOR (PR), FAIR (FR), GOOD (GD), VERY GOOD (VG), VERY GOOD TO EXCELLENT (VG-EX), EXCELLENT (EX), EXCELLENT TO MINT (EX-MT or EX/NM), NEAR MINT (NM),
and MINT (MT).
These grades are universally accepted as hobby "standards" of grading. They are listed in most hobby publications such as Becketts, or Sports Collectors Digest Standard Catalog of
Baseball Cards. In fact if you have not already done so, it would be wise to purchase a current copy of the SCD Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards (published yearly by Krause Publications) or
Beckett's yearly Baseball Card Price Guide. I prefer the SCD Catalog myself as #1) it lists more issues and is more comprehensive, and #2) the prices quoted in the SCD Catalog are a bit more realistic
than the prices listed by Becketts. You can buy this huge volume at the bookstore and they are also available online (Amazon.com, etc.) Retails for about $25. Are you with me so far? Good.
Let's get familiar with the price guide first. I am going to use my (outdated) 2006 Sports Collector's Digest Standard Catalog Of Baseball Cards for reference. The SCD Catalog lists cards in two
sections. The first section is Vintage cards (up to 1980), while the second half is dedicated to Modern baseball cards (1981 and up). The cards are first listed alphabetically, by ISSUE (or card
manufacturer). Ok so you have a card. Who made the card? Usually there will be some sort of identification on the card back. Topps baseball cards, for instance, have a T.C.C.G. or T.C.G.
(Topps Chewing Gum) identification on the card backs and sometimes by the card number you will see "Topps" as well. The number on the card back is also a helpful reference. Not only does it
identify the number of that series, you can use the number to easily look up the card in the price guide. For instance, say you have a wood bordered card (see below) and you don't know what year
it is. So you turn the card over and in small print it says "T.C.G. Printed In U.S.A." (Topps Chewing Gum). So you know you have a TOPPS card. Now what year is it? A good clue is to look at the
statistics. Look at the last year of statistics. In this case, the most current statistics are for the year "1961." Notice that while it does not mention "1961," it DOES show that Maris hit 61 home runs
(look under "HR" underneath "Major League Batting Record"). So is this a 1961 Topps card? NO. The cards are produced the following season so what you are looking at is a 1962 Topps card.
Let's say the card number is #1 and the player is Roger Maris. So let's check the SCD Catalog and see what it says. Ok, I found "Topps," went to "1962" and listed as the #1 card is ROGER
MARIS. So now I know this is a 1962 Topps #1 Roger Maris card. There is also a picture of a 1962 Topps card and it is similar to the Maris card so that checks. Underneath the card picture
is a detailed biography of the 1962 Topps cards. It will state the card size, features, and highlights of the set. Then it will list every card in numerical order. The SCD Catalog lists three different
prices for three different grades (NM, EX, VG). Let's check out the prices of the #1 Maris card. Ok,, the three prices are "NM $230.00, EX $75.00, and VG $40.00. So now you have to
determine condition. Here is an ungraded 1962 Topps #1 Roger Maris. Let's see if we can assign it a grade.
1962 Topps #1 Roger Maris (front)
1962 Topps #1 Roger Maris (back view). Note the "T.C.G. Printed In U.S.A." identification
(Topps Chewing Gum) above the "Major League Batting Record."
Ok, so here is our 1962 Topps #1 Roger Maris baseball card. Let's start with the front, which is really the most important part of the card. The card is intact. There are no pieces missing and I do not
see any tears or creasing. I DO notice right away there are a series of print lines (remember I talked about printing defects earlier?) on the front of the card to the left of Maris. This is a printing defect
and it does affect the value and grade of a card. So we have a print defect. Also you will notice the borders are not centered (very typical for this issue and for most Topps cards period). The border
on the left and bottom are much larger than the top and right borders. This is referred to as centering. This card is noticeably off-center. Now look at the corners. A new card will have four sharp
corners that come to points. This card has obviously been handled as the corners do not come to points, but are "rounded." You can see white on the ends of the corners and along the card edges. This
is from wear. A NEAR MINT (NM) 1962 Topps card will have minimal, if any, wear on the corners and edges. You won't see much white at all. Also I should mention that #1 cards (as well as the
last card in a set) usually were susceptible to the most wear. Why? Because back then kids would collect cards, sort them in number order, put a rubber band around them and stuff them in a shoe box.
So the card on top (usually card #1) and the last card in the set (bottom of the deck) would get the most wear. Ok, let's check out the card back. The back is intact, with no missing paper or creases.
Keep in mind that creases are sometimes hard to see. You may have to hold the card at an angle in good light to see any. Creases can range from "light" to "heavy." I see no creases. The centering is
actually better on the back of the card, but technically the centering on the front is the most important. So what grade am I going to assign this card? I am now going to refer to my handy dandy SCD
At the beginning of the book is a Chapter called "HOW TO USE THIS BOOK." Read it! It has some valuable information for you. But for now we are going to "GRADING." (Pg. 14 in the 2006
Edition). While the price guide part of the book lists just 3 typical grades (NM, EX, VG), the GRADING section lists all of the grades: Mint (MT), Near Mint/Mint (NM/M), Near Mint (NM), Excellent
(EX), Very Good (VG), Good (GD), Fair (F or Fr.), and POOR (P). It also mentions that there are intermediate grades (VG-EX, EX-MT, for example). It also lists a detailed explanation for each grade. For
instance, for the definition of an Excellent condition card, the SCD Catalog reads:
"Excellent (EX): Corners are still fairly sharp with only moderate wear. Card borders may be off-center as much as 80-20. No creases. May have very minor gum, wax, or
product stains, front or back. Surfaces may show slight loss of luster from rubbing across other cards."
Ok. I know this Maris card does not have fairly sharp corners. It is off centered and there are no creases. It also does show surface wear. So I know this card is not EX. So I need to go to the next
lower grade and read what it says:
"Very Good (VG): Show obvious handling. Corners rounded and/ or perhaps showing minor creases. Other minor creases may be visible. Surfaces may exhibit loss of
luster, but all printing is intact. May show major gum, wax, or other packaging stains. No major creases, tape marks, or extraneous markings or writing. All four borders
visible, though the ratio may be as poor as 95/5. Exhibits honest wear."
Well that definition seems to fit my Maris a bit better than the EX grade. The Maris card does not have any creases however, the centering is better than 95/5, and there is no staining. However there
is corner rounding and the card does exhibit honest wear. While it does not have any creases, it does have the print defect, which to me, is even more noticeable than a crease. As such I am
comfortable grading this card VERY GOOD (VG). To be sure let's go down one grade lower:
"Good (G): A well-worn cards, but exhibits no intentional damage or abuse. May have major or multiple creases and/or corners rounded well beyond the border. A Good
card will generally sell for about 50% the value of a card in Very Good condition." Keep in mind that the price guide lists prices for only NM, EX, and VG. So to figure the price of a
card graded GOOD you would take fifty percent of the VG price. In this case, the Maris lists at $40 in VG. So a Maris in GD condition would sell for approx. $20.
Now I think this Maris is better than GOOD and fits more in the VG category. To be safe I would call it "GD-VG" (Good to Very Good) but I would be comfortable assigning it a VG grade as well. If
the card had creases I would even lower it to GOOD (GD). But it's certainly not a POOR or FAIR card. And it's certainly not EX or better. Got it? It takes practice, but once you familiarize yourself with
the grading scale and familiarize yourself with the cards themselves you will be able to grade your own cards rather quickly.
Let's try some practice again. We will refer back to our first group of cards, the black and white cards at the top of this page:
Ok. Now I have put in the caption above that these are 1948 Bowman baseball cards. What if you didn't know? The backs of these cards have biographies but no statistics like the Topps cards. However on the card backs
there is a "BOWMAN GUM, INC. Copyright 1948." Does this help? It sure does. That line identifies the 1948 Bowman baseball cards. This was the first year Bowman produced baseball cards. They were the major competitor
for Topps when Topps started it's first major set in 1952. They are also easily recognizable as they are the only black & white issue besides the 1953 Bowman Black & White issue, which was a much larger issue than these
2-1/16" x 2-1/2" cards. To be sure, I am going to check the back of the Mize card, which is card #4. Then I am going to the SCD Catalog and look under "BOWMAN" and sure enough, the first year was 1948. There is a
card picture of a 1948 Bowman card and it sure looks like my cards. So I look at card #4 Johnny Mize and sure enough, it checks. So I have here, four cards from the 1948 Bowman set.
Now note the various conditions of the 4 cards. Obviously none of these cards are going to be MINT, NM, or even EX for that matter. The top left card has tape stains but no creasing, while the other three cards have noticeable
heavy creasing. The card on the bottom right has a small hole in it right above the player's wrist. So what would I grade these cards?
Let's start from left to right. I am only going to grade these based on the card fronts to simplify things. Plus the fronts are the most important anyway as they have the pictures of course!
Look at the Johnny Mize card (top left). What is the first thing you notice? For me, the first thing I notice is the picture or player and I happen to know that is Hall of Famer Johnny Mize. But almost as obvious are the scotch
tape stains. This card was probably pasted on a wall or scrapbook at some time. The tape probably came off easy with time; however it did leave heavy tape stains on the card front. The centering is off, but not that bad. Most
vintage cards are off center to some degree. There appears to be a slight or moderate crease in the upper right corner, but that isn't the big issue here. The tape stains are and would bring the card's grade down substantially. In
referring back to the GRADING section of the SCD Catalog, I know that card is not as bad as POOR ("A card that has been tortured to death"), but in reading the next grade up (FAIR) it reads: "evidence of having been
taped or pasted." There is our card right there. However the card does not exhibit some of the other characteristics of a FAIR card such as "heavy creases, minor writing, or missing small bits of paper." The next grade up
would be GOOD (GD). "A well-worn card, but exhibits no intentional damage or abuse. May have major or multiple creases and/or corners rounded well beyond the border." The card is at least
FAIR but no better than GOOD. So could this card fit into a FAIR/GOOD (FR-GD) category? I think so. But to be conservative, let's simply grade it "FAIR." So how much would the card be worth in FAIR condition? Well the VG
price for card #4 Johnny Mize is $27.50. It says under the GRADING section on page 14, that "FAIR cards are valued at about 50% of Good. Good condition cards are valued at about 50% of the VG price. So there is our
formula. So we take 50% of the VG price in the catalog or price guide ($27.50) and that will give us the GOOD price ($13.75). Fair cards are 50% of GOOD so that means our Mize is worth approx. $6.75. Which to me
seems very "fair" for this FAIR card! (oh brother).
Next, the card on the top right. It is Dodger great Pete Reiser, card #7 in the series. It also happens to be considered Reiser's rookie card AND it is a short printed card, which means there were less cards of Reiser printed than
other cards in the set. Flaws. Centering is noticeably off especially the top border. There is just a tiny border at the top. Also notice the heavy crease which runs horizontally through the card. It actually breaks the paper on the
card surface. Just as bad, there is a small pinhole under the bill of Reiser's cap. So we have a FAIR card at best. You could call it "POOR" but it certainly is nicer than the card below it so I am going to be call it FAIR. Value?
Again, a FAIR card is valued at approx. 50% of the GD price. Looking at card #7 Pete Reiser in the price guide I see that the "VG" price is $45. Half of that would be $22.50, so our Pete Reiser card in GOOD condition is
worth approx. $22.50. Half of that ($11.25) would be our FAIR price. Why is the Reiser card worth more than the Johnny Mize card, even though Mize is a Hall of Famer? Two letters: SP (Short print). The SCD Catalog makes
a notation (SP) for short printed cards. Rookie cards are in italics.
Quickly I am going to grade the bottom two cards. The card on the lower left- FAIR (FR). However the card on the bottom right has a small hole and as such could be graded no higher than POOR. POOR cards are easy to
grade. Just remember "A card that has been tortured to death." If it has holes, rips, tears, bite marks, pieces missing, you have a POOR condition card on your hands. I've seen worse. What are the prices for cards in the worst
conditions possible (POOR)? According to the SCD Catalog, "Cards in poor condition have little or no market value except in the cases of the rarest and most expensive cards. In such cases, value has to be negotiated
individually." In other words, the price is whatever someone is willing to pay for it. If you have a POOR condition T206 White Border Honus Wagner, you would certainly have no problems selling it for a good sum of
money. A very good deal of money indeed. Your best bet would be to put it in a reputable, well known auction house that specializes in rare cards. People see a T206 Wagner and even in poor condition watch them reach for
their wallet or checkbook. However if you have a POOR 1991 Fleer Rookie Sensations Phil Plantier card, good luck selling it. No one will buy it. Not even me. You might as well give it to a Red Sox fan or Phil Plantier
fan because my friend, you have worthless piece of cardboard on your hands.
Let's try another one:
1972 Topps #595 Nolan Ryan...NM???
I saw this card on eBay advertised as being "NM." Is it? What is important about grading is that a grade needs to be established to find a price. Are you comfortable calling this a NEAR MINT (NM) card? A NM 1972 Topps
#595 Nolan Ryan lists for $45.00, while one in EX lists for $22.50. Would you be comfortable paying $45.00 (retail) for this card? If you know something about grading you can save yourself some money. Just because a seller
advertises a card as "NM" or even "MINT" (which is thrown about quite loosely considering most vintage cards are rarely MINT to begin with) does not mean that the card is actually that grade. It could be lower (usually the
case), it could be higher (once in a blue moon). Here is another tip for you: GRADING IS SUBJECTIVE. It is debatable. So you have some leverage if you are knowledgeable. Let's get back to the card.
How did I know this is a 1972 Topps #595 Nolan Ryan? Well, I am familiar with vintage cards, so I automatically know what each card year looks like. I know the 1972 Topps cards have a "psychedelic look" to them. Ryan
was also one of my favorites so I am plenty familiar with Nolan Ryan cards. But let's assume I wasn't. So I have this card and it says "Nolan Ryan." So I turn the card over and I see the card number (#595). I also see the back
has the "T.C.G." copyright so I know this is a TOPPS card (keep in mind that TOPPS was the major producer of baseball cards from 1952 through 1980. So most vintage cards from the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's are most
likely TOPPS issues (there are some exceptions and we will touch on that later). Ok so this is a Topps #595 Nolan Ryan card. What year is it? Well in reading the statistics, I see the last year of statistics is from the year 1971.
Which means this is a 1972 Topps card. I check my SCD Catalog and sure enough, under "TOPPS," "1972," we see that card #595 is "Nolan Ryan." Check. We have a 1972 Topps #595 Nolan Ryan card. Values? NM
$45.00, EX $22.50, VG $13.50. Now we need to assign a grade. Do you feel this is a NM card as advertised? I don't. Again to simplify things I am going to grade the card based on the front; assuming that the back is
clean with no problems.
First thing I always notice is the picture. The image of Ryan is clear with no print problems. I do not see any creases. Next thing I see is the centering. The centering is very nice on this card; the borders are very close all the way
around. Upon closer inspection I see the card has a very slight "diamond" or "slant" cut. If you look at the borders on the left side of the card, it appears the borders are slightly wider near the bottom and near the top they
appear slightly narrower. Same on the right side, except reversed. The right side border is wider than the bottom. This is called a "diamond cut" or "slant cut." Depending on the severity of the cut, it could be called "off-center" or
worse, "miscut." In this case it is not that obvious (keep in mind the image is much larger than the actual card) and you probably would not have realized this had I not mentioned it. Overall the centering is nice, but I WOULD
mention to the seller that the card has a slight diamond cut and as such I would try and negotiate a lower cost. Ok, now to the corners. At first glance, you may say the corners are NM, but upon closer inspection I do not see the
corners coming to sharp points. The tips appear slightly "fuzzy" and if you were to magnify the corners you would definitely SEE fuzziness. This is slight wear on the corners. All four corners appear to have about the same amount
of wear. Which is ok, but for a NEAR MINT card? We'll find out in a moment. Now there are two other "flaws" I detect on this card. One is a tiny brown "blemish" near the top edge of the card, above the "A" in "Angels." I
have marked it so you can see it. Also I notice a very small bit of paper missing in one of the blue borders on the right side of the card. I have marked this one for you as well. Still think this is a NM card? Well let's read the
definition of a NEAR MINT (NM) card according to the Sports Collector's Digest Standard Catalog Of Baseball Cards. Again referring to my 2006 Edition, on page 14, under the heading "GRADING," a NM card is defined as:
"Near mint (NR MT or NM): At first glance, a Near Mint card appears perfect; upon closer inspection, however, a minor flaw will be discovered. On well-centered cards, at least two of the
four corners must be perfectly sharp; the others showing a minor imperfection upon close inspection. A slightly off-center card with one or more borders being noticeably unequal - no worse
than in a ratio of 70/30 S/S (side to side) or T/B (top to bottom) - would also fit this grade."
Ok, you may be asking, "what is this 70/30, 50/50 nonsense?" This refers to the centering ratio. A 50/50 ratio s/s means a card has even borders side to side. Each border is the same size. A 50/50 s/s AND t/b would be a
perfectly centered card, both side to side and top to bottom. A 70/30 s/s card would refer to a card that has 70% of it's border on one side, while only 30% on the other. There are ways to measure this but I won't get into that
here. All you need to know is that a NM card needs to have centering no worse than 70/30. If it does, it can not be considered a NM card. Our Ryan card has nice centering. Not perfect but it is nicer than 70/30. So do we
have a NM card? How about the corners? According to the NM definition, "on well-centered cards, at least two of the four corners must be perfectly sharp." Is this the case on our card? NO. All four of the
corners exhibit slight wear. None are perfectly sharp. So right away I know this card is less than NM condition. And we haven't even gotten to the slight blemish or small bit of missing paper! We learned earlier that a FAIR card
can be missing small bits of paper, though I do not think this Ryan is as bad as FAIR. It would be somewhere in-between FAIR and EXCELLENT. While the card does not have any creases, that small bit of paper can significantly
lower the grade. I think I good case could be made for VERY GOOD. There is a lot of leeway to grading this card. I know it is not as bad as FAIR as there are no creases, the card has good centering, and the corners show
slight to moderate wear. Not too bad. If not for the small bit of paper missing, even with the slight blemish, I would call this card EXCELLENT (EX). However the paper loss would bring it down to VG. I would grade this card VG.
So if the seller is asking $45 for this card, and you really want it, what would you offer? I would point out to the seller that while the card is nice, I would not grade it NM. Point out the wear on the corners, slight slant cut, small
blemish, and ESPECIALLY the small bit of paper loss. This is the big flaw. I would say that the paper loss lowers the grade to no better than VG and as such you would be willing to pay the VG price $13.50, but that you would
not pay $45 for it. Why should you? If you are going to get a lower grade card, are you going to pay a higher grade price? Of course not! It's YOUR MONEY! You can negotiate. You can say yes or no. The power is yours!
Also keep in mind that the 1972 Topps #595 Nolan Ryan card, while highly desirable, is by no means rare or hard to find. You can find a NM copy quite easily. So if the seller tells you that you are crazy and to get lost, don't
argue with him. Tell him thanks anyway, and find yourself another seller and card. That dealer can go rip off someone else. Please note: I am not saying the seller of this card is a ripoff. He might not even have noticed the flaws I
mentioned. In fact the seller of this card provided a large scan so I don't believe he was hiding anything. But don't think there aren't sellers who will try and put one over on you. YOU now have the knowledge to determine for
yourself whether a card is worth the price or not. Also keep in mind that price guides are just that... GUIDES. You don't have to sell your cards for that price nor do you have to buy cards at those prices. The price guides are just
a guide. The trick is to buy cards at LESS than retail (what a dealer sells a card for). The cheaper you can get a card for the better for you when you ever decide to sell it. Do you want to go buy a new car and pay full sticker
price? Hell no. You want to negotiate. If they don't want to negotiate, find another dealer who will.
P.S: I really love this 1972 Topps Ryan card. Note the cheap airbrush job Topps did on his Angels cap. Also note the pinstripes on Ryan's jersey- a dead giveaway that Topps "artists" airbrushed over a New York Mets cap
(remember Ryan was traded in 1972 to the Angels from the New York Mets. This is Ryan's first card as a Halo.
Now, let's look at some higher grade cards:
Blemish or slight stain>>>>>
<<<<<<< Tiny spot of paper missing
Ok, see if you can find out #1) who made this card, and #2) what grade is it? Let's start from scratch. Ok, so I turn the card over to the back side. I see "TOPPS" right above the card number (103)
in the top left corner. Also in the bottom right, underneath the statistics, I see "T.C.G. PRINTED IN U.S.A." So what card do I have here? TOPPS. What year was the card made? Ok, Iook at the last
year of statistics, and the last year is 1965. So this is a 1966 Topps card. Remember Topps produces their cards before baseball season, the following year. So what I have here is a 1966 (year)
Topps (manufacturer) #103 (card number in set) Dick Groat (player). 1966 Topps #103 Dick Groat. Now let's assign a grade. At first glance, this card looks almost perfect. The centering is
very nice, corners are sharp and so is the picture. Same on the back. No creases or major flaws that I can see. This card is a beauty! MINT perhaps? Remember a vintage card is seldom MINT,
even right out of a pack. So let's check out the card a bit more carefully. Looking at the front of the card, I see the card has a very slight "slant" or "diamond" cut. Notice the left and right borders
near the top of the card are almost the same, while near the bottom the right border appears larger than the left border. So it does have a slight "slant" cut, but remember this is an enlarged image
and it is easier to detect smaller flaws. The centering on the back is near perfect. What stands out to me is how "clean" the card appears. The white borders really stand out, especially on the back.
This card has not been handled much. Corners come to points, but on very close inspection I see there is a slight "touch" of wear on the upper left corner. You really can't detect it on my scan. But in
holding the card closely with good light, I can see it with the naked eye. So, is this card MINT? Let's see what the definition for a MINT card is according to the SCD Catalog. "Mint (MT): A
perfect card." While the catalog does go into more detail, essentially the ONLY flaw this card can have is being off-centered no worse than 60-40 side to side and top to bottom. Perfectly square
corners, no print problems or defects, even if right out of a pack. This card has minimal problems; only the very slight slant cut and the tiny bit of wear on the top left corner. So I am not going to call
this card MINT. However, the card is a good candidate for Near Mint/Mint (NM/M or NM-MT):
"A nearly perfect card. Well-centered, with at least three sharp, square corners....Generally, to be considered in NM/M condition, a card's borders must exist
in a ratio of no greater than 65/35 side to side and top to bottom."
That seems to fit our card to a "T." So I would grade this card as being NM-MT. Some dealers or collectors may call this card "MINT," but like I said, it is more likely a card right out of the pack
will be anywhere from EX (because of centering issues) to NM/MT at best. Also I tend to be a bit more conservative on the grading and I will rarely call a vintage ungraded card "MINT." It's safer
to say the card is NM-MT or even "NM-MT+" just to be safe. And I have yet to have a card returned because of over-grading. I don't like to be disappointed when I receive a card and neither do
you. When you get a MINT card, that card better be MINT. I have seen "MINT" cards graded by reputable grading services (see my PSA SUCKS PAGE!) and I would not grade them that high. But
also remember that I said that grading is subjective. Even though there is a grading scale, not everyone is going to agree on a cards grade. I called the card above "NM-MT" while another collector
might call it "MINT" or "NM." Grading services were supposed to eliminate this but they have just caused as much confusion as before in my opinion. But I am not going to talk about professional
grading services here. For more on that you can go to the WE GRADE THEM PAGE, where we grade the professional grading services.
Let's get back to the card. Now how much is this card worth? So I go back to the SCD Catalog, look under "TOPPS," "1966," and find the card number (103). Sure enough, card #103 is DIck
Groat. However the catalog lists two different Dick Groat cards. One is listed as "no trade statement," while the other has "with trade statement." This is called a "variation." Sometimes a card
manufacturer will make mistakes or corrections during the printing process. Sometimes all the cards are corrected and sometimes not. In 1966, Topps printed some cards with a statement that the
player was traded and some of the cards were printed this way (common) while others did not have the trade statement (scarce). Hence the scarcer cards will be more expensive. For instance, card
#103a Dick Groat (no trade statement) lists in NM for $20, EX $10, and VG $6, while card #103b (with trade statement) lists at NM $4, EX $2, and VG $1.25. So I look at the
back of the card and there is NO trade statement, so I have the more expensive variation. But my card is NM/MT. So this is worth more than the $20 for a NM card. How do I determine it's
value? This is where it gets a bit tricky. I know that the card is worth at least $20. But the price guide does not provide prices for vintage cards that are in better than NM condition. So what this
means is this. You can sell the card for really what you want for it. Of course if you ask something outrageous, say $500, you are not going to sell it. Your best bet is to see what dealers are asking
for similar cards. What I use is eBay. I will do an "advanced search" and type in a card under "completed" auctions or sales. This will give you good idea of what your card is selling for. So I go
to eBay, go to "Advanced Search," type in the search box "1966 Topps variation" and check the "Completed" box. I get one "hit." A Topps 1966 #62 Merritt Ranew No Trade VARIATION. It did
NOT sell for even $1.99. The reason it did not sell was the card was in lower grade, plus the seller wanted $6 to ship the card. So you would be paying essentially $8 ($2 + $6 shipping) for a
card that lists in the Catalog for $6 in VG condition (seller described the card as being in "fair to good" condition). A dealer may be asking even more but that is why he or she may have the card
unsold months later. So that does not really help me. So I am just going to hang onto this card until I find a similar example and how much it sells for. I do know at the VERY LEAST I would want $20
for it. But that is my decision. You can decide to ask $50 for it and you may or may not get it. A card is really worth "whatever someone is willing to pay for it." Price guides are just that. They give
you an "idea" about what a card is worth. Of course they cannot list every price for every grade scale. That would be an undertaking greater than the Holy Bible.
Post Script: I submitted the above 1966 Topps Dick Groat card to PSA for grading. What grade do you think PSA assigned it? PSA 8 NM-MT. So PSA agreed with my grade but I didn't get paid a
dime for it! Bastards! Let's look at another "raw" high grade card. ("Raw" refers to a card that has not been professionally slabbed and graded by a hopefully reputable grading service)
Here is a really sharp looking card featuring Billy "The Kid" Martin. So I flip the card over and I see on the bottom it reads "CARD #453," and also a copyright "SSPC 1975." NOTE: The
number "1" at the top left of the card is the player's uniform number in this set. So what do we have here? While these cards were printed in 1975, they were actually issued in 1976. But they
are listed in the SCD Catalog as being "1975 SSPC" cards. SSPC stands for "Sport Star Publishing Company." They are commonly referred to as "SSPC." So we have here a 1975 SSPC
#453 Billy Martin. Grade? The picture is beautiful. Snow white borders that look to be even side to side (s/s) and top to bottom (t/b). Corners come to sharp points. No print defects,
creases, stains, etc. Back is clean and nicely centered as well. Now this card is a strong candidate for MINT. Even close up, I see no flaws in this card and remember a true MINT card is
essentially "A perfect card." This card appears like it was just printed from the factory. So while I feel this is a MINT card, just to be safe I could call it "NM-MT" or even better, "NM-MT+."
Value? Well, again, the SCD Catalog only prices vintage cards (pre-1981) in grades NM, EX, and VG. In Near Mint condition, this card lists for .25 (2006 SCD Catalog). But I would have
no problem asking at least a buck for this card. Common, a vintage card of Billy Martin in MINT condition for a buck? Are you kidding me? I might even ask $2 or $3 for this card. However
I do know these cards are commonly found in high grades. You can find high graded examples on eBay quite easily and they sell for CHEAP!!!
Side note: The 1975 SSPC set is a terrific set! Many stars of the day are featured (Pete Rose, Nolan Ryan, Carl Yastrzemski, etc.), including "rookie" cards of George Brett and Robin Yount.
These are much cheaper than their 1975 Topps counterparts. So if you want to collect an affordable vintage 1970's set, you might want to look into the 1975 SSPC issue.
USE PROTECTION! It is important to keep your cards in the condition they are in, especially if they are valuable. The higher the condition, the higher the price. So if you have a NM 1963 Topps
#200 Mickey Mantle, you would not want to be handling it with out some kind of protective holder. There are many protective sleeves and pages to protect your cards from any further damage. I'll
never forget the time I was trading with this kid and he was stealing cards from me and putting them in his sock. Guess what that does to cards. It bends them and gives them creases, edge & corner
wear, etc. Not to mention stinking up my cards with greasy sweat. These card holders are very inexpensive. There are also special pages to put cards in so that you can put them in binders. This is
a convenient way to look through your collection. You can buy these supplies at a local card shop or show, online, etc. See pics above for examples.
OK, what next??? A good idea would be to inventory your collection. This is essential if you have a valuable collection, especially for insurance reasons. Most Home Insurance Policies do NOT
include coverage for sports cards. So you either need to add the cards to your policy or purchase separate insurance through a reputable Collectibles Insurance Agency. Back to inventory. An
inventory is also essential if you have a large collection. How do you know what you have? An inventory. It is easy and fun to do one. The way I do it is to list my collection on a Spread Sheet using
Microsoft Works. You can also use just a simple Word Processor document. I find the Spread Sheet is easier to manage as you can organize columns to make it easy to read. Here is the format I
use: I begin with the card manufacturer (Issue) in Alphabetical Order followed by year and card number in order. I have a space for Player Name, Notes (if any), Grade (my assigned grade),
Grade (if Professionally Graded), Serial Number, and price. I put the price I paid for the card so that way if I ever sell it I know I probably won't sell it for less than I paid for it unless I really need
the dough. So here is my sample Inventory:
ISSUE YEAR CARD# PLAYER NOTES GRADE GRADED CERT# PAID
Aamco Transmission 1967-68 NNO Roger Maris Advertising Postcard VG-EX $25.00
Bowman 1954 66b Jim Piersall EX-MT PSA 6 00000000 $35.00
Bowman 1954 210 Jim Piersall VG PSA 3 00000000 $9.99
Hostess Twinkies 1976 1 Fred Lynn Hand cut VG/EX SGC 50 000000-00 $4.99
Post Cereal 1962 6 Roger Maris Hand cut; BOX VG $6.00
Topps 1959 530 Wally Moon High# EX-MT+ Trade
Topps 1962 1 Roger Maris (Centered) EX PSA 5 000000-000 $65.00
Venezuela Topps 1962 90 Jim Piersall (Centered) EX $20.00
So this gives you an example of how I do mine. I listed all my vintage cards up to 1980. I have a separate list for Modern Cards (1981 and up). Then you can do your Basketball, Football,
Hockey, Boxing, Non-Sports Cards, etc. in the same way. You can customize yours to however you want to do it. I like it this way because it is easy to go thru hobby publications to find these
cards (and prices) as they have them listed by Sport, Issue, Year, Card number, and Player. Now while this may be a tedious task, the big plus is that you get to go through all your cards again! It's
fun! Once you finish, make sure you update the list every time you add or delete a card. This way it is constantly up to date. It is a good idea to print or download a copy and keep it in a separate
location (safe deposit box, family member, etc.). That way if something happens (like God forbid, an "Act Of God") you have a complete list to give the insurance company.
STORING YOUR CARDS. You need to store your cards in a safe place, especially if they are valuable. Some collectors use Safe Deposit Boxes, personal Home Safes, or the easiest way is to
simply purchase insurance. If your cards are professionally graded you really don't have to worry about storage and the cards are already protected EXCEPT for one thing. Cards, even in graded
holders do NOT protect the cards from the sun or sunlight, both direct and indirect. Sunlight will fade the cards. I've been to swap meets and seen unprotected cards right out there in the sun and
they get "bleached." It ruins them. So don't leave them out in sunlight. If your cards are unprotected, they need to be in place where they won't get sunlight, wet, etc. Card holders, mentioned above,
are so cheap it is definitely worth it to buy these and store your cards in them. You can even use the boxes they came in to store the cards. Shoeboxes are fine as long as the cards are in protective
sleeves or holders. And NO rubber bands please!
<<<<< "Fuzzy" corners (not coming to sharp points)
1970 Topps #464 Johnny Bench All Star
Would you call this 1970 Topps #464 Johnny Bench All Star card "MINT"? That is what a seller called this card recently on eBay. Now here is what you need to remember about
vintage cards: A vintage card is rarely in "MINT" condition, even right out of a pack. To begin with you had to contend with any printing problems, centering issues, packaging issues, etc., all
of which conspire to make a card not MINT. Take for instance the above card. Note the centering top to bottom; the bottom gray border is completely missing, hence this card is "MISCUT."
While the centering side to side is pretty good (about 40-60 left to right) it is also not perfect and hence not MINT. All corners show hints of wear, especially note the upper right corner which
is "dinged." So essentially what you have here is a low grade card. Even if the corners were perfect and razor sharp the centering kills the grade. Or if the centering was perfect the corners
would lower the grade. Either way you put it the card is definitely NOT MINT!
HOW TO GRADE YOUR OWN CARDS PAGE
Ok, what card do we have here (left)? It is obviously an early Nolan Ryan card as he is with the Mets. The card has black borders and the back has 1970
season statistics, is card number 513, and has a "T.C.G. Copyright." So what we have here is a 1971 Topps #513 Nolan Ryan card. Now we could get
technical and talk about the corner and surface wear, but what is blatantly obvious is the "framing" of the card. "METS" is cut off at the top, and you can see
part of another card at the bottom. Is this some sort of rare and expensive card? Rare, no. Expensive, no. While a 1971 Topps Nolan Ryan is generally an
expensive card (you can buy a PSA 7 NM graded example for around $110-$125) a miscut card, which is what this card is, would be considerably less.
There really is no grade for miscut cards, though I do now that PSA will grade a card with a "Miscut qualifier" (MC), which is the "Kiss of Death" to most
collectors. SGC might only assign an "Authentic" label to this card. These types of cards are printing errors from the factory and are not all that uncommon.
Miscut cards are generally not very well desired, though some collector's specialize in these sort of cards. But there is not set price for them. A miscut card is
"worth" whatever someone is willing to pay for it. While this particular card is an example of a severe miscut, the 1970 Topps Johnny Bench All Star card
(above) is also miscut but not to the same degree. It definitely has more "eye appeal" than the Ryan card. I wouldn't pay $110 for this Ryan card, nor would I
pay $11 dollars for it. But I wouldn't mind paying a few bucks for it to use as a "display." I love any Nolan Ryan card, regardless of condition, but I am not
going to overpay for one either. Now some collector who collects factory miscut cards, cards with wrong backs and other assorted printing errors that are not
catalogued, may pay more for it. It really doesn't matter. It's your money. But just don't get duped into thinking these sort of cards are "rare" and expensive,
because they aren't. And just because a card is not MINT, GEM MINT, or OUT OF THIS UNIVERSE PRISTINE MINT condition by no means that is junk either.
Baseball cards are a reminder of our youth, when baseball was a game, and we treasured these cards of our favorite heroes. So while our mothers may not
have appreciated our cards, we certainly did. Regardless of condition. Even the worst condition cards out there have still survived today and why? Because
someone cared enough to save them. So take the time to appreciate cards, in any condition, like little pieces of Americana. Which is what they are!
For more horrific & terrific old baseball cards, check out our "Baseball Card Atrocities Page!" We also have a GOOFS GAFFS & ERRERS PAGE. Check 'em
Most baseball cards you come across from the 1950s thru the 1970s are going to be by TOPPS Chewing Gum Incorporated. Bowman Gum (1948-1955) did have a few issues and you find
those quite a bit as well. But in general most cards you find from this time period are going to be Topps. But every once in awhile you may come across an issue that you may have never seen or
heard of before. Such is the case above. I saw a "1955 Pee Wee Reese" listed on eBay and checked it out. The seller stated that the card was "part of a game" but no other helpful information was
given. The card is larger than standard size cards, and a "Napoleon" figure is on the card front (above left). The card has some tabs and once the card is unfolded you have the Dodgers great
shortstop, Pee Wee Reese (above center). The only identifying mark on the card is "12. Pee Wee Reese - Famous Baseball Player." So what exactly is this card?
Well I looked in my SCD Catalog and there was no such cards listed. Interesting. So I did some online research. Turns out in 1955 a company called "Betty-E-B" produced a board game based on
a popular ABC Television Game show called "Masquerade Party." Celebrities would dress in costume and contestants would try and figure out who the celebrity was. The board game contains
numerous costumed cards and I saw a picture of the above card in a photo (see above right). So again I checked out the SCD Catalog under "1955" and "Masquerade Party" with no success. So
this is actually an uncatalogued issue. I sent the above photographs with information to the Editor of the SCD Catalog so possibly these cards will be included in future issues of the catalog. In the
meantime they are not. If they are included in future editions of the catalog, they will most likely be identified as "1955 Masquerade Party." I picked up the above Pee Wee Reese for $18 with
"Buy It Now" and also a complete game (not as nice as the one above; that one had a price tag of $250) for $25 plus shipping. While most of the cards are not sports related, there are 3 that are:
Pee Wee Reese, Leo Durocher (with wife, actress Laraine Day) and boxing great Jack Dempsey.
Pricing. So what would you price these cards at being that they are not catalogued? We now know the identification of the card, and we can assign a grade to that card (I am going to assign the
Pee Wee Reese card as being "VG-EX" because of a couple light creases). At this point the card is technically "worth" whatever someone is willing to pay for it. If I wanted to sell it, I could advertise
it as being a "Rare 1955 Masquerade Party #12 Pee Wee Reese" on eBay and see what someone would be willing to pay for it. I could put a reserve on it so as not to "give it away" as well. But
for starters I will see what a regular 1955 Bowman Gum Pee Wee Reese card would go for. I look in my catalog and a 1955 Bowman #37 Pee Wee Reese card lists for $50 in ungraded NM,
$25 in EX, and $15 in VG. So a VG-EX Reese would be priced somewhere about $20. So that would be my minimum price for my 1955 Masquerade Party Reese. I could set it even higher as this
Reese card is much more scarce than the Bowman card. Anyway in the meantime I am just going to hang on to it as I think it's a great card.
Ok, here is an ugly side of the hobby, counterfeit cards. Yes they are out there. This is especially true since the 1980's when the hobby exploded into a frenzy. Cards escalated in value
seemingly overnight and everyone wanted a piece of the pie. Cards like the T206 Honus Wagner, 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle, 1959 Fleer #68 Ted Signs For 1959, 1963 Topps
#537 Pete Rose rookie card, 1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan rookie, 1979 O-Pee-Chee and Topps #18 Wayne Gretzky rookie, all key cards in the hobby (and expensive), have been
counterfeited (illegally) and reprinted (legally). Sometimes several times over. Some are bad and some you would have a hard time telling the counterfeit from the real deal. Has it happened to
me? Sure, a couple times. Once I bought an ungraded 1934 Goudey Lou Gehrig in "low grade" and it turned out to be a reprint card that was made to look "vintage." It was very easy to see
once I got the card. Luckily the owner refunded my money. Another time I got a 1979 O-Pee-Chee #18 Wayne Gretzky as a present and it turned out to be a counterfeit. The seller was selling
fake Gretzky rookie cards on eBay for quite some time before he got caught. I have also bought cards that turned out to be trimmed or altered; some from "reputable" sellers even. To keep this
brief, if you are not familiar with cards and are considering purchasing an expensive card, it might be wise to buy one that has already been authenticated and graded by a REPUTABLE 3rd
party grading service (currently BGS, BVG (Beckett's Grading Service, Beckett's Vintage Grading only; NOT BCCG), PSA, or SGC). GAI cards for the most part are authentic but they are no
longer in business (Chapter 11). The above counterfeit 1963 Topps #537 Pete Rose Rookie card was heavily counterfeited; some were confiscated and stamped with "Original Reprint"
and "Counterfeit," which is fine. You know what you are getting. Reprint cards are an affordable alternative to some expensive cards in the hobby (who can afford a T206 Wagner, now
really?). Reprints are great because they are cheap and you can put them on display or whatever. Just don't try and sell them as being "original." That is a crime. In conclusion, be prudent. If
something seems "to good to be true" it probably is.
SUMMARY - You CAN grade your own cards! This is important as a grade needs to be assigned so that a price can be determined when buying or selling a card. Most vintage
cards are commonly found in grades of NM, EX, and VG. There are also in-between grades (VG-EX, EX-MT, etc,) that can be used to further define a card's grade. Most vintage
cards are rarely found in true MINT condition, even right out of a pack! There are many resources available including publications by Beckett's and Sports Collector's Digest.
Grading cards takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it is fun and you can save yourself a lot of money by doing it yourself. Look through the many pages on my
site and practice your grading skills, or better yet, go through your collection and start grading! To accesss our Table of Contents, click on the HOME link and scroll to the
bottom of the page.
1975 Topps #320 Pete Rose
Don't leave your cards out in the sun or even in indirect sunlight. This 1975 Topps #320 Pete Rose bubble gum card is an example of a card that was left out in the sun in a swap meet. What a
shame. So take care of your cards! Maybe they will take care of you!
1975 Topps #622 Rookie Outfielders Tim Pulcifer
Early Hobby Periodicals - "The Trader Speaks" (1968 - 1980s)
One of my first recollections of a hobby publication was "The Trader Speaks" in the early to mid-1970's. A friend in the neighborhood gave me an issue and I probably ended up subscribing to it at some point. "The
Trader Speaks" included articles on various card issues, both vintage and modern. So it was a terrific way for me to get familiar with cards from before I was born. There were also Classified Advertisements so you could
buy, trade or sell through the mail. Remember, this was before computers, eBay; even before the myriads of card shops that opened up in the hobby explosion of the mid-1980's. "The Trader Speaks" was later bought by
Sports Collector's Digest, which is similar in content and is still very affordable today. Check out the above "The Trader Speaks" from January 1974 (Features the "new" 1974 Topps cards) and the June 1979 which features
the 1947 Bond Bread Jackie Robinson cards (note how back then the cards were referred to by "Catalog" number, in this case "D - 302"). Most collector's today do not use "Catalog Numbers" to identify a particular issue,
but instead simply use the year and issuer of the card (for instance, "1968 Topps," or "1954 Bowman"). There are some exceptions such as some early Tobacco Cards ("T205, T206) and "W" cards (Strip cards; cards that
were issued in strips). To get familiar with older cards, or even newer ones, I recommend picking up a current copy of the "Sports Collector's Digest Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards (Krause Publications)." While Becketts
has a similar annual issue (Beckett's Almanac) and it is also useful in identifying issues, I don't really think Beckett's price guides are realistic. I'd go with the SCDA Catalog.
***Coming Soon! I will be adding a HOW TO COLLECT CARDS Page, which will also include information on selling your cards. Check back soon and thanks for visiting!