Pojo Note: I revised this article on April 28, 2021. A lot has changed since I originally wrote this: Prices; Shutdowns; Turnaround Time; etc.
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.
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.
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.
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 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’s Card Labels
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.
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 $600 to get a single card graded quickly, but that’s not our target audience here. 😉
Pojo Note: I updated these prices April 28, 2021 to reflect recent price increases by all companies.
PSA – psacard.com
Value Pricing is $20/card. The maximum declared value is $499/card. And you must send in a minimum of 10 cards. Subgrades are not offered. PSA is currently not accepting any cards. PSA’s current turnaround time was greater than 8 months on Value Pricing, so they decided to shut down submissions so they could catch up on backlog.
BGS – beckett.com
Beckett Pricing is: $20/card. Add $15 per card for subgrades. This pricing is essentially the same as PSA, giving you an option for subgrades. Subgrades are worth it on valuable cards in my opinion. Beckett’s current turnaround time is sitting at around 11 months on Value Pricing.
CGC – cgcomics.com
Bulk Pricing for CGC is $15/card for a 50 card submittal. Add $10/card for subgrades. The coast for grading with CGC has essentially doubled in less than 1 year. CGC’s current turnaround time is 144 working days = 6+ months of real time. We expect that to increase in the near future, and wouldn’t be surprised if the stop accepting submissions for a few months to catch up on backlog.
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 7+ 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 2-3 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.
Every Lugia sale is right around $5,000! From my personal research, things are really looking up for CGC on realized profits.
So, who should you use? Well, times have changed quite a bit since I originally wrote this article in the fall of 2020. PSA is not accepting cards. Beckett’s turnaround times are close to a year. And CGC has just about doubled their prices, and turnaround times are over 6 months right now. It’s an absolute $h!t$t0rm out there!
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.
Time will tell if collectors and resellers continue to use CGC for grading their Pokemon cards. 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.