Over the past 10 years or so, Pokemon collectors have been getting their valuable Pokemon cards graded with Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) and Beckett (BGS), but mostly with PSA.  PSA has dominated the Pokemon grading and resale market to be honest.  I would estimate 90% of the sales of graded Pokemon cards on eBay have been PSA graded cards.

2003 Pokemon Skyridge Holo Charizard #146 PSA 10 GEM MINT
2003 Pokemon Skyridge Holo Charizard #146 PSA 10 GEM MINT

It is almost the exact opposite for Magic: the Gathering cards though.  BGS has dominated the graded card scene for Magic (MTG).  BGS offers subgrades, which MTG players seem to prefer seeing in their card grades.  Subgrades break down the overall grade a little more to show grades for Centering, Corners, Edges and Surface.  

BGS MTG Beta Nightmare

Enter CGC

Professionally graded card sales skyrocketed in the Summer/Fall of 2020!  As more and more people were looking to get their cards graded, PSA and Beckett got absolutely slammed with tons of Pokemon, MTG, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Sport’s cards.  Couple that with COVID 19, and turnaround times for PSA and Beckett skyrocketed too.  The turnaround time is the time it takes to get your graded cards back to you after you submit them.  Turnaround times went from 1-2 months to 8-12 months, leaving many collectors and dealers disgruntled. 

Lugia
A CGC Graded Lugia card with subgrades

In the summer of 2020, a new player stepped into the Pokemon card grading arena – CGC (Certified Guaranty Company)CGC has actually been around for over 20 years, and they are not new to grading or encasing collectibles.  They have been mostly known as a Comic Book Grading Company, and they just started grading Pokemon and MTG cards.

CGC Graded Hulk 181 – First Appearance of Wolverine

CGC is the big boy on the block when it comes to comic book grading.  They absolutely dominate the eBay resale market.  There are over 200,000 CGC graded comics for sale on eBay as I write this article.  

CGC has the fastest turnaround times right now, and are also the least expensive.  Whereas Beckett and PSA have turnaround times over 6 months.  CGC has been getting cards back to people in about 1-2 months.  They also offer subgrades on their cards like Beckett does.  

CGC & Beckett have more room on their labels than PSA for detailed card notes.  Here are some examples of the Ninetales Base Set error card that is missing its 80 Fire Blast damage.  PSA’s label does not have room for error details.  Let’s compare all 3 labels and see which you like better. 

PSA Ninetales, No Damage Error
PSA Ninetales, No Damage Error
Shadowless Ninetales were inadvertently printed without the “80” damage for Fire Blast.
CGC – Shadowless Ninetales were inadvertently printed without the “80” damage for Fire Blast.
BGS Nintetales Error Card
BGS Ninetales Error Card

A quick comparison of Card Grading Services Prices

I am only going to look at value pricing for this next comparison, as that is how most people get their cards graded.  You can spend up to $500 to get a single card graded quickly, but that’s not our target audience here.  😉

PSA – psacard.com

Value Pricing is $10/card.  The maximum declared value is $199/card.  And you must send in a minimum of 20 cards.  This price can go down to as little as $9/card if you catch the right quarterly special.  Subgrades are not offered. 

BGS beckett.com

Beckett Pricing is: $15/card for 1 to 50 cards; $12/card for 51-99 cards, and $10/card if you submit 100 cards or more.  Add $5 – $10 per card for subgrades.

CGCcgcomics.com 

Bulk Pricing for CGC is $8/card for a 50 card submittal.  Economy is $15/card (no minimum submittal).  Add $5/card for subgrades.

 Japanese Sword & Shield Charizard VMAX
CGC Japanese Sword & Shield Charizard VMAX

Realized Profits with PSA, BGS and CGC

I think many people have been fearful of getting their Pokemon cards graded with CGC.  CGC is an unknown commodity to many people unless you were already familiar with the comic book grading service.  Will your CGC graded cards sell for as much as PSA graded cards?  

If you wanted to resell your cards, then PSA was your “go-to” for realized profits (gains offset by grading costs). And BGS was a known commodity here too, especially for cards that were graded 9.0, 9.5 and Pristine 10.  A BGS Pristine 10 is considered the pinnacle grade by many collectors – due to those printed subgrades.  

But, as we mentioned above, turnaround times for both these companies got crazy long.  Who wanted to wait half a year or more to get their cards back?

Then, in July 2020, CGC stepped onto the battleground.  CGC was only well-known in the Comic Book community, but they came into the Pokemon arena with all guns blazing.  They offered was faster turnaround times to disgruntled collectors.  They offered cheaper prices.  And they offered subgrades.  pew pew

The thing that made me, and others, leery though was: “What will my realized profits be?  Will anyone buy CGC graded cards?  Will other collectors accept that blue label?  Is it really worth trying them out?”  

Well, people did start dipping their toes in the CGC water.  They didn’t want to 6+ months to get their cards back, so they gave CGC a try.  And CGC delivered.  Cards are actually coming back in less than a month for their Economy Service, and in less than 2 months for their Bulk Service.  

I have been keeping my eye on resale values and realized prices.  And for many months, PSA was still dominating the market, but lately, it seems that the Pokemon community has become more accepting of CGC graded cards.  CGC graded cards are now catching up in sales prices and Realized Profits.  

Let’s have a look at recent sales on eBay for Neo Genesis Lugia.  Here is a screen capture from November 26th, 2020 of recent sales of “sold” cards on eBay. All cards were 1st edition, and graded “9” by the 3 big boys of grading. 

cgc-catching-on
November 26th Lugia Sales on eBay

Every Lugia sale is right around $5,000!  From my personal research, things are really looking up for CGC on realized profits.

Final Thoughts

So, who should you use?  It might come down to your favorite label color, grading costs, speed of returns, or personal history. 

  • Some people might only collect PSA cards, and will stick with PSA for that reason. 
  • Some collectors like PSA’s red label over BGS’s black & silver label, and CGC’s blue label.  
  • Some people love subgrades, and are going to go with Beckett and CGC for that reason.
  • Some people might want their cards back as soon as possible, and will try CGC and see how it goes.  
  • Some folks might want to save money, and CGC is currently the least expensive option at the moment.
  • Some people think PSA doles out 10’s too easily.  Some people think a CGG 9.5 and a BGS 9.5 are roughly the same as PSA 10’s.  Grading is so very subjective, so who knows?  I have also heard that CGC uses computer imaging to assist with in their grading process.  

Me?  I like all 3 of these companies.  I trust all 3 companies with my cards, and I trust their grades.  I have used all 3 companies for grading. 

I was a PSA guy for my Pokemon cards in the past, and I have a bulk submittal currently awaiting grading as PSA.  But I have also dipped my toe in the CGC waters, and everything went very well.  I was already using CGC to grade my comic book collection and decided to try them out for my Pokemon cards as well.  Turnaround times are currently as fast as promised, and they are definitely less expensive.  If you join CGC as a Premium member, membership will cost you $149/year.  But you will also received $150 credit with CGC.  So you are Even Steven there. The Premium membership also gives you 10% off grading for comics and cards.  Bulk submittals of Pokemon cards will then only cost you $7.20/card. That’s pretty darn nice.  

Time will tell if collectors and resellers continue to use CGC for grading their Pokemon cards.  Can CGC keep their turnaround times low as the grow?  CGC is definitely a very strong contender right now.  

Side note: I know CCG Pokemon labels are pretty crammed right now, but it would be cool if CGC was able to license Pokemon characters on their labels, like they do for Marvel comics.  That would be some great icing on the cake.  They could move their subgrades to the back and maybe find room for a Pokéball, Ash, Charizard, or Pikachu on the front.  

CGC Marvel Labels
CGC Marvel Labels