*We’ve taken the time to update our PSA vs BGS vs SGC comparison, with prices and stats that are correct as of October 2023.
PSA, BGS, or SGC? Who should you choose out of the three big collectible grading companies based in the United States?
If you’re holding onto a high ticket item, it makes sense to send your prized possession off to either PSA, Beckett, or SGC.
PSA, Beckett, and SGC all have various pros and cons that we’ll get into below, and we’ve also taken the time to give our thoughts on the current state of the card grading market.
Here’s everything you need to know about PSA, Beckett, and SGC, as the US grading giants are put to the test for everything from pricing to timescales.
PSA vs BGS vs SGC: What is Card Grading?
Card grading starts with a company like PSA authenticating an item, often under a microscope. Once it’s confirmed to be legit, it’ll be assigned a numerical grade at the next stage.
The numbers can range from 1-100, but graders typically use a 1-10 point scale.
The card will then be encapsulated in a secure slab, ensuring that it’ll be kept in pristine condition in the long-term.
There are normally four main factors to consider when a card is being graded.
How does the card’s image align, with respect to its four edges? Ideally, a card is centered from top to bottom and left to right. When centering is discussed, graders use percentages to describe how a card’s main design is oriented.
With rounded corners, sharp corners, soft corners and so on, there are many terms to describe the condition of corners, another crucial factor in determining trading card condition. A card can display great centering, but flawed corners can mean a big hit to a card’s grade.
The four edges of a card also play an important role in its grade. Are the edges rough and worn? Do they show dings, dents or other forms of damage? Are the edges black? Colored edges of any sort are notorious for showing wear and incurring chips, especially black edges.
From scratches to creases, “surface” refers to the condition of the cardboard that comprises the card. Some surfaces, like the reflective surfaces of Pokémon cards or certain modern sports cards like Bowman Chrome, are more apt to incur scratches. Vintage cards, meanwhile, are susceptible to condition issues such as the wearing of the gloss from the front of the cards. Creases can either be very light and touch just one surface of the card or much deeper and affect both surfaces.
Who is PSA?
In this PSA vs BGS vs SGC comparison, we’ll take you through what to expect from each service.
Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is the ‘largest and most trusted third-party trading card authentication and grading company in the world.’
“Since its inception in 1991, PSA has certified over 40 million cards and collectibles with a cumulative declared value of over a billion dollars.”
In the present, they’re a powerhouse within the hobby, which I personally see as the gold standard. In most cases, I would pick a PSA 10 graded card before any of the other equivalents.
However, they’re pricey, even if values for PSA 10 cards tend to be higher than BGS or SGC.
The PSA grading scale is simple, ranging from a mark between 1 and 10. A 1 grade is poor, while a 10 grade is pristine, or essentially flawless. Each grade has a range of rules, typically relating to eye-appeal and centering.
For example, a GEM-MT 10 (Gem Mint) is a virtually perfect card, from its four sharp corners and no creasing to its sharp focus and full original gloss intact. A card that earns this distinction must be free of any staining, though allowances are made for slight printing imperfections if they don’t impair the card’s overall appeal. The image must be centered on the card within a tolerance not to exceed 55/45 to 60/40 percent on the front and 75/25 percent on the reverse.
A NM 7 (Near Mint) is a card showing slight surface wear visible only upon close inspection. There may be slight fraying on some corners. Picture focus may be slightly out-of-register although a minor printing blemish is acceptable. Slight wax staining is acceptable on the back of the card only. Most of the original gloss is retained. Centering must be approximately 70/30 to 75/25 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse.
It’s fair, but it can be upsetting if you’re sure a card would have received a 9.5 grade elsewhere, and your prized piece only received a mint 9 grade. (On the other hand, it also helps to increase interest in PSA 10 copies, as it’s so difficult to earn the grade.)
In addition to a numerical grade, some PSA graded cards also carry a Qualifier to identify specific characteristics of the card. Following is a roundup of the six PSA qualifiers, 2 of which are required, and 4 that are optional.
- MK Marks – Required
- MC Miscut – Required
- OC Off Center – Optional
- ST Staining – Optional
- PD Print Defect – Optional
- OF Out of Focus – Optional
PSA Grading Pricing
*UPDATE, September 2023: PSA has announced the return of their Value service level, coming in at a price that works out to just $25 per card.
They’ve also brought back the $15/card TGC Bulk tier, although the card must have a declared value of $199 or less. Both are exclusive to PSA Collectors Club members, while the latter has a 20-card minimum.
With the addition of options at the lowest level, we can answer unreservedly; yes, PSA grading is definitely worth it right now.
As for pricier cards, this is where it gets a bit tricky.
A quick glance at the PSA website shows that they now have three grading options currently available.
- Regular: $75 per card
- Express: $150 per card
- Super Express: $300 per card
It’s worth mentioning that the Regular tier used to be $50 per card with a wait time of 25 business days.
PSA slabs are some of the finest you’ll find, with uniformity no matter which grade is achieved. The red and white sticker design is iconic, if a little dated compared to modern options.
They have a QR code on the reverse that can be scanned to ensure legitimacy.
However, PSA slabs are the thinnest and smallest of the trio. This is more apparent when they’re laid out side by side.
PSA Final Sales Prices
The service is always great if you’re looking for the highest final sale prices when it comes time to part with your cards. PSA 10 versions are highly respected. This has been the case for years, with values continuing to increase since I first wrote this comparison in 2021.
You can take a look at prices for PSA graded cards below.
PSA Current Timescales
You’ll be waiting for a while if you’re hoping to see cards returned for a budget fee. Value services come in at just $19 per card, with an average wait time of 65 days. If you’re willing to wait a few months, it’s a great deal.
PSA Pros and Cons
We’ve listed the main pros and cons seen with PSA below.
- Reputable name in the business
- The best final sales prices
- PSA tend to be sent copies of almost every card imaginable
- Lack of cheaper grading options
- No .5 grades
- Thin slabs
PSA is a great choice if you have a serious collection, or you’re aiming to make the most money when it comes time to sell. Normal services have now resumed, which is great news for owners of cards in the $50-$500 range. With a long list of grading options to choose from, it’s hard to find many faults with PSA.
Who is BGS?
Another strong contender for high-end collectors, ‘BGS operates with the same honesty, integrity and excellent hobby knowledge you have come to expect from Beckett. Reliability and consistency are the hallmarks of Beckett Grading Services.’
Among the features unique to Beckett Grading Services (BGS) is a Report Card providing specific grade details and leaving no confusion as to why your card received its grade. Cards will be graded on the four key categories: centering, corners, edges and surface.
They say that; ‘Beckett Grading Services is the first to use this unique system which assures accuracy in grading.’
Beckett Grading Services uses an ‘easy-to-understand 1 to 10-point grading scale, with descending increments of one-half point (for example 10, 9.5, 9, 8.5, etc.)’. Since you are provided with a detailed report on your card’s key attributes, there are no confusing qualifiers to decipher.
You’ll find a couple of examples in the image below.
For example, the Mbappe card seen on the right only earns a 9 grade, despite a trio of 9.5 subgrades on the Report Card. The sole 8.5 grade for the corners drags it down to a disappointing BGS 9.
They also offer a simplified grading service, without any sub-grades at a cheaper rate.
As BGS explains;
“The overall numerical grade is not a simple average of the four report card grades. Beckett Grading Services uses an algorithm which determines the final grade using the 4 sub grades on the front label of the card holder. The lowest overall grade is the first category to observe because it is the most obvious defect, and the lowest grade is the most heavily weighted in determining the overall grade.”
BGS Grading Pricing
BGS offers a range of grading levels and fees:
They currently have four grading services on offer;
|Standard – No Sub Grades||$30/card|
|Base – No Sub Grades||$18/card|
BGS slabs are my personal favourite of the trio, as the thickest and sturdiest. However, they’re not foolproof, and are brittle enough to crack and chip if you’re not too careful. (This will be due to user error, so the point is that they’re not indestructible.)
BGS Final Sales Prices
BGS cards can easily achieve records, especially when factoring in for their elusive 10 grades. PSA is often preferred for vintage cards, while many newer sets get sent in to Beckett for the subgrade treatment.
You can take a look at prices for the best BGS graded cards below.
Timescales are decent, with options split between 60+ days and 40+ days.
At a minimum price of $16 per card, it’s another company that also caters to cheaper cards, along with high-end releases.
BGS Pros and Cons
We’ve listed the main pros and cons seen with BGS below.
- Great for newer sets
- Uses a .5 grading system with Report Cards
- Sturdy slabs to keep your cards safe
- Lower sale prices
- Report Cards are twice as expensive
Beckett is another capable grading company, offering many of the perks of PSA along with a few improvements. BGS 10 cards are also few and far between, making them just as viable as their PSA equivalents. You can’t go wrong with buying BGS cards, but we’d advise to use it’s cheaper tiers if you’re planning to send off a large stack of the latest RCs.
Who is SGC?
Who is SGC grading? In their own words;
“Since 1998, SGC has been a well-established leader in the authentication and grading of trading cards. Our ability to provide accurate and consistent grades in a timely manner is a service that is unique to the card-collecting community and has made SGC one of the pillars of card grading for over 23 years. As our team continues to grow and our footprint continues to expand, our mission remains the same — to help build a better hobby for all collectors.”
They’re a strong third in terms of sale prices, but they also happen to be the most affordable option. Is it worth the trade-off to look at SGC cards?
“Today’s sophisticated sportscard market requires a specific grading scale. SGC uses a scale which eliminates the grades known as “tweeners”: no grading scale is more accurate or consistent. Many industry experts agree that accurate grades mean more accurate prices for your sportscards!”
In practice, they use the same numerical system as the others, with half points included too.
It’s a tried and tested system that works well, and it’s sure to avoid any confusion.
SGC Grading Pricing
What are the SGC grading fees?
SGC uses a sliding scale for pricing, based on the number of cards you’re sending over, and their declared value. However, it starts at just $15 per card, undercutting both of their competitors significantly. You’ll also have to pay for shipping, depending on the number of items you’re sending.
You can find out more by referring to the table below.
Remember, as well as the grading fee, you may have to pay for return shipping, and it’ll take up to 10 days with one of the cheaper deals.
SGC slabs are some of the nicest to hold in your hand, as they’re slightly bigger than BGS versions.
The large black border also helps the card to stand out, although it can loom over smaller stickers. Regardless, they’ve opted for a strong design, and it’s something different compared to PSA and BGS.
SGC Final Sales Prices
Final sale prices are where SGC is always going to struggle when compared to the likes of PSA and BGS. Unfortunately, they’re not as popular with collectors, who prefer the grading methods used by the others.
Nonetheless, they’re great if you want to pick up more affordable graded cards, and they’re likely to be close to a PSA/BGS equivalent.
You can take a look at prices for SGC graded cards below.
Starting from 5-10 business days at $15, SGC is the most affordable service to make the list by a country mile.
1-2 days is $40 per card, depending on the value of the card itself.
If you’re not planning on sending off the rarest parallels, it makes sense to send cards off to SGC for grading, even if they won’t sell for as much at auction. (Does the cost of grading outweigh the price of the card? SGC will be helpful if so.)
SGC Pros and Cons
We’ve listed the main pros and cons seen with SGC below.
- Large strong slabs with a unique style
- One of the cheapest services to grade cards at the moment
- Quick turnaround times
- The lowest final sale price overall on average
SGC grading is third overall in my estimations, but only just. They’ve continued to improve while BGS and PSA have lagged behind, and offer one of the easiest methods to get cards graded quickly and cheaply.
PSA vs BGS vs SGC: Other Grading Companies
There’s a plethora of smaller alternative grading companies that are hoping to snatch up a share of a considerable market. They’re popping up in regions such as Germany and the UK, with a duo of examples seen in the image below.
Majesty Grading Company and Get Graded are two examples, although prices currently fall short when compared to the biggest US companies. However, they could be a better option for collectors based in Europe or the UK, given the high cost of shipping. For now, the true competition is between PSA vs BGS vs SGC.
We’ve started picking up lesser known graded cards as a long term hold. We’ve also sent items off for review purposes.
PSA vs BGS vs SGC: Overall Winners
The main factor when dealing with any grading company is the final sale price.
- Grading winner: PSA – You can’t argue with the best in the business, but they’re pretty expensive for grading cheaper cards.
- Grading Pricing winner: SGC – The most affordable overall, without many compromises.
- Slab design winner: BGS – Robust slabs that will keep your cards safe.
- Final sales price winner: PSA – PSA versions tend to sell for higher prices, and they are preferred by many collectors.
- Timescale winner: SGC: Expect to be waiting a while no matter who you go to, but SGC for now. You can’t really argue with a $15/per card fee with a wait time of 5-10 days.
- Overall winner: PSA: If you’re aiming to make the most money from your collection, it’s probably best to wait for PSA’s cheaper tiers. PSA vs BGS vs SGC is a closer competition than it used to be.