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Common Card Grading Terms

Updated: Mar 14

While each of the four major card grading companies uses similar scales, there are some unique components to each. 


Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) - Uses a 10 point grading scale without (.5) increments. You can view the grading scale here: 

Beckett Grading Services (BGS) - Uses a 10 point grading scale with (.5) increments and subgrading. You can view the grading scale here:

Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC) - Uses a 10 point grading scale with (.5) increments. You can view the grading scale here:

Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) - Uses a 10 point grading scale with (.5) increments. You can view the grading scale here:



  • All four companies use numeric grading scales from 1-10 to assess the condition  and quality of sports cards. 

  • They examine similar aspects of the cards like centering, edges, corners, surface  condition, color, focus.

  • They offer expedited services

  • Higher grades indicate better condition cards with 10 being gem mint/pristine.

  • Lower grades like 1-3 are for cards in poor condition. 

  • They all encase graded cards in plastic slabs with labels indicating the grade. 

  • They grade a variety of different sports cards and non-sport cards collectibles.

Key differences: 

  • BGS, SGC and CGC factor in (.5) increments for grading while PSA gives only  single digit grades. 

  • PSA, BGS, SGC are more established and reputable than the newer CGC for sports card grading. 

  • BGS offers subgrades

  • They have a variation of grading standards

  • They all have different price points and turnaround times.



Slab - a common term used to describe the plastic holder that grading companies use to encase a graded card. It will be sonically sealed with a label to describe the grade.

Baseball card showing variation from card

Variation - A card that is different – usually in small and subtle ways – from its common counterparts in the same set.

Parallel - a sports card that is identical to a base card in the same sports card offering. It may have a different color, texture, or gradient.

Close up showing where to find the card number

Card Number - specific set of letters, numbers, or a combination thereof that serve as a designator for the set or group of cards. It is most commonly found on the back of the card itself.

Grading - the process of submitting a card to a company that will assign an assessment to a sports card, non-sports card, ticket, photo, etc..

Raw - a card that has not been graded.

Short Print (SP) - A card that has a lower print run than other cards in the set.

Card protection storage

Top Loader - a rigid plastic sleeve that encloses the card and keeps it clean and protected while mitigating damage. Often used for storing cards for a prolonged amount of time.

Semi Rigid Top Loader - A more flexible plastic protective sleeve that provides an outer layer of protection thanks to a semi-rigid PVC construction. This sleeve is preferred when submitting cards for grading.

Ignacio Alvarez baseball card

Serial Number - often associated with the SP number stamped or printed on a card. It is usually designated with an (/) character. For example 1/25, 498/499.

Penny Sleeve - a thin plastic sleeve that serves as a barrier prior to inserting into a top loader or semi-rigid loader.

Compensation (Comps) - a term often used to determine the value of the card in relation to the current market.

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