The Benefits and Drawbacks of Grading One-of-One Sports Cards

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The world of sports card collecting is vast and varied, filled with cards spanning decades, sports, and player careers. Among these, one-of-one (1/1) sports cards occupy a unique spot. As singular pieces in the vast landscape of sports card collecting, these 1/1 cards are often seen as treasures. 

One frequent question among collectors and investors is whether grading these unique sports cards is a beneficial practice. The process of grading, where sports cards are evaluated and encapsulated by professional graders, is a key aspect of the hobby. However, the applicability of grading for 1/1 cards can be both a boon and a bane, presenting both compelling advantages and potential downsides.

The Allure of 1/1 Sports Cards

Before delving into the pros and cons of grading, it’s important to understand why 1/1 cards are special. These cards are called 1/1 because they are literally one-of-a-kind – there’s only one such card produced. They often feature unique player photographs, signatures, or pieces of memorabilia that set them apart from standard issue cards.

Across different sports, from baseball and basketball to football and even racing, 1/1 cards capture memorable moments, player milestones, or standout features that are not replicated in any other card. These cards possess an exclusivity that makes them particularly appealing to collectors. They’re not just cards, but unique pieces of sports history that can’t be found elsewhere.

Advantages of Grading 1/1 Sports Cards: Authenticity, Condition, and Value

Grading 1/1 sports cards has certain undeniable benefits:

  • Authentication and Preservation: The grading process provides a form of authenticity to the card. This is particularly crucial for 1/1 cards where verification of genuineness is paramount. The card’s condition is also evaluated during grading, with the card subsequently protected in a tamper-evident case, thereby preserving its condition
  • Potential for Increased Market Value: A 1/1 card that has been graded and received a high score is typically more desirable on the market than a raw version. For instance, a scan of eBay sales data reveals that graded 1/1 cards often fetch higher prices than their ungraded counterparts, due to the added assurance of the card’s condition and authenticity. This transparency can translate to higher prices in the secondary market
  • Easier to Sell: Graded cards are often easier to sell, as their legitimacy has been verified 

The Potential Pitfalls of Grading 1/1 Sports Cards: Cost and Risk

Despite these advantages, grading 1/1 cards isn’t without potential drawbacks:

  • Financial Considerations: Grading isn’t free. The costs can be considerable, especially for expedited services. While grading might enhance the card’s resale value, there’s no guarantee that the costs of grading will be offset by a higher selling price.
  • Some Users Prefer Raw Cards
  • Risk of Devaluation: A lower-than-expected grade can negatively impact the perceived value of a 1/1 card. Given their unique status, the grade can significantly influence a 1/1 card’s market value.

The Less Famous: Grading 1/1 Cards of Lesser-Known Players

When it comes to 1/1 cards of lesser-known or less valuable players, the decision to grade can be even more nuanced. While the card’s uniqueness can add to its appeal, the player’s popularity and performance also play a significant role in its value. Grading might enhance the perceived value of the card, but it could still be hard to recoup the grading costs if the player isn’t widely sought after by collectors.

Check prices of 1-of-1 cards on eBay

The Aesthetic Appeal of Grading

Beyond monetary considerations, grading can also enhance the aesthetic appeal of a card. The protective casing of a graded card can make it more presentable and display-worthy. For many collectors, the joy of owning a 1/1 card isn’t just about its financial value, but also the pride of displaying a unique piece of sports memorabilia. In such cases, grading could be worth considering, despite the costs and risks.

Check prices of 1-of-1 cards on eBay

Weighing Your Options: To Grade or Not to Grade?

The decision to grade a 1/1 sports card hinges on multiple factors: your objectives as a collector or investor, the financial implications, the player’s popularity, and even the sentimental and aesthetic value of the card. Each card tells a unique story, and its journey – whether it leads to grading or not – should align with your vision and goals as a collector. As with many aspects of sports card collecting, the choice to grade 1/1 cards isn’t a definitive science, but rather a nuanced art. 

Check prices of 1-of-1 cards on eBay

Has there been an increase in 1/1 cards in recent years?

Yes. With the number of parallel boxes produced, there are numerous 1/1 cards for any rookie or player from sets released in recent years. For example, Panini Prizm also has Breakaway boxes, and there are different versions of the same player serialized as a one of one. Bear that in mind, as the cards aren’t always as unique as they appear to be at first glance. 

Check prices of 1-of-1 cards on eBay

Would we grade a 1/1 card?

Is there any real point to grading a 1/1 card? Sales data would suggest that it does make sense to send off high ticket items to the likes of PSA. Personally, I would send off almost any one of one card for grading, even if it’s just to ensure that it remains safe and secure in the long term. I might give it a miss if the card is obviously damaged, and is likely to receive a lower grade. 

Read More: How Much is a 1-of-1 Card Worth?

Published by James Milin-Ashmore

Journalism gradate, freelance writer. Sports, tech, online security, collectibles.

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