Considering the sheer amount of interest in the collectible card hobby at the moment, it’s a shame that PSA are still suffering from a backlog that came to a head during lockdown last year.
What does this mean for the average UK collector, and what can be done if you’re desperate to get your cards graded in the meantime?
Here’s everything you need to know about PSA grading in the UK, updated for September 2021.
Who is PSA?
U.S. based Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is the ‘largest and most trusted third-party trading card authentication and grading company in the world’.
This means that they assign grades to trading cards of all kinds, whether it be Pokemon or soccer.
They use a 1-10 grading scale, with 10 being ‘gem mint’, or pristine. The scale is as follows;
- PR 1 (Poor)
- FR 1.5 (Fair)
- Good 2 (Good)
- VG 3 (Very Good)
- VG-EX 4 (Very Good-Excellent)
- EX 5 (Excellent)
- EX-MT 6 (Excellent-Mint)
- NM 7 (Near Mint)
- NM-MT 8 (Near Mint-Mint)
- Mint 9 (Mint)
- GEM-MT 10 (Gem Mint)
You can send your cards off to be slabbed, which means they’ll be wrapped in protective plastic to keep the card safe. The slab will also make a note of the grade the card has received on a label found at the top.
Along with BGS, PSA are seen as the leaders in the grading sector, and the prices their cards sell for are second to none.
This is one of the main reasons why there’s a large backlog, and why they’re currently holding off from taking new orders at cheaper tiers.
A quick glance at the PSA website shows that they only have two grading options currently available.
Express: $200 per card
Super Express: $300 per card
The temporary suspension of Value, Economy, and Regular services is still in effect, as they ‘concentrate our available capacity on those orders already in the system.’
For example, Value is priced at $10 per card, with a 20 card minimum. Meanwhile, Economy costs $20 per card, and Regular is $50 per card with a wait time of 25 business days.
PSA and the UK
In the UK, many collectors opt for a service which will insure and send your cards to the U.S. and back.
Ludkins is a prime example, although they haven’t accepted new orders since April 2021. As of now, they have no plans to do so ‘until further notice’.
Meanwhile, some users who have already sent cards to Ludkins over the past 12 months have reported problems, likely due to the PSA backlog.
Once again, unless you’re willing to pay for either Express or Super Express, you’re just going to have to wait if you want your cards graded by PSA.
Why is PSA not taking orders?
PSA were swamped during lockdown, to the point where former CEO Joe Orlando said;
“PSA was receiving more cards every five days (over 500,000 per business week) than what we used to receive every three months. Try processing that for a second. The incoming pace didn’t go up 50% or 2X-3X, it went up multiple times.”
Something had to give, so they’ve stopped all lower tiers for the time being, while attempting to hire new staff.
BGS has also had their own issues, while even newcomers SGC struggled with the weight of expectation, as they noted;
“Over just a 7 day period, our intake had increased 20x what it previously had been.”
If you’re still waiting to grade cards in September 2021, you’re far from the only one.
Beckett Grading Services is always great, but they too have a backlog to deal with. SGC starts at $30 per card, although final sale prices are slightly lower and you will have to export the cards to the U.S. and back.
Ideally, there would be a great UK alternative, as it’s expensive to send cards to PSA, especially when factoring in for shipping and extended wait times.
GetGraded is based in Leeds, and I’ve picked up a few of their cards over the last few weeks.
PokeGrade was established in November 2020, and as the name implies, it’s a Pokemon-only dedicated grading service.
Expect reviews of each service in the coming months as we send a few cards over to see what we can expect in terms of the overall service, including wait times and the slabs themselves.
Of course, consistency is going to be important, as well as realistic wait times and a fair fee for grading.
It’s also worth checking out sold prices on auction sites like eBay if you want to get a better idea of whether it’s worth trying out one of the newer UK graders.
PSA Grading in the UK: September 2021 Update
It’s been a long, unrelenting wait for UK collectors who want their cards graded, and the end isn’t in sight as of yet.
If you’re waiting with a stack of valuable RCs, it can be tempting to send them elsewhere, but there isn’t any service which can match up to PSA in terms of maximising potential profits in the long-term.
However, the influx of new grading companies isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if one of the UK-based services manages to provide consistent results and higher sale prices in the long run.
PSA should open the Regular service eventually, while they maintain that they’re getting through the backlog.
What has your experience been like grading with PSA in the UK?
Have you tried out any of the UK-based alternatives? Let us know in the comments!