Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) has been around since 1991, while Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC) (founded in 1998) helped to pick up the slack during lockdowns when larger grading companies closed their doors. What’s the difference, and which is better overall?
If you’re just starting out with card grading, it’s easy to assume that a PSA 9 is the same as an SGC 9, or even a BGS 9.
After all, they’ve received an equivalent grade, so surely they should have similar values when matched up against each other.
However, that’s not always the case, as we’ll get into below. Here’s what you need to know about PSA 9s vs SGC 9s, and what the main differences actually are.
PSA 9 vs SGC 9: Pros and Cons
PSA and SGC are both collectible card grading companies, but what makes them unique?
For example, everything from resale values to grading criteria can be entirely different.
If you don’t have time to read through the article for an in-depth explanation of the differences, here are the main pros and cons you can expect from PSA and SGC.
- Exceptionally high resale prices – generally worth more than an SGC 9 graded card
- Trusted brand within the hobby
- PSA grades the majority of popular card sets
- Easy to sell
- Recognizable slab, with QR tech to check out the card in-depth
- Expensive to send cards off for grading
- PSA 9’s can have worse centering (65/35) than SGC 9’s (60/40)
- Longer wait times for grading
- Slabs are slightly thinner and more brittle
- Thick, protective slab
- Experts with sports cards, will grade others like Pokemon
- Wait times are lower for grading cards with SGC
- Respected within the hobby, grading for over 20 years
- Lower final sale prices for cards that aren’t the rarest
- Smaller pop report than PSA, so they’ve graded fewer cards overall
- Tougher to sell
PSA 9 vs SGC 9: Grading
The grading scale is the most obvious place to start. The number is the same, but what about how they grade the cards?
A PSA 9 graded card conforms to the following criteria;
“A PSA Mint 9 is a superb condition card that exhibits only one of the following minor flaws: a very slight wax stain on reverse. a minor printing imperfection or slightly off-white borders. Centering must be approximately 60/40 to 65/35 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the reverse.”
As for an SGC 9 card;
“60/40 or better centering, sharp focus and four sharp corners*. A minor flaw may exist upon close examination. A minor flaw may be, but is not limited to: a slight nick to one corner, a small gloss break or surface scratch, a minor print line or minor refractor line, a minor focus or color imperfection, or a small print spot.”
It’s worth mentioning that SGC also uses a .5 grading system, so a 9.5 creates a bit of separation at the top.
For example, it’s either a PSA 9 or a PSA 10, while SGC has a little more leeway when giving their final grade. This makes a difference, especially as you won’t be looking at 10 grades.
(SGC used to use a 10-100 system, but switched to a more standardized 1-10 scale after redesigning their logo and slab in 2018.)
PSA 9 vs SGC 9: Values
Card values tend to be one of the most important factors for many collectors and investors.
(I don’t mind too much as I keep the majority of my slabs, but it makes sense to buy graded cards with the best potential prices in the future.)
PSA is the clear winner in this regard, especially if you’re solely looking at 9 grades. It’s true for many cards you’ll receive from the service, as they’re likely to sell for more in comparison.
We’ve taken a popular F1 option, using the 2020 Topps Chrome Formula 1 Sapphire Lewis Hamilton /70 card as an example.
An SGC 9 version sold for a flat $4,250 in May 2022, attracting 42 bids.
Then there’s PSA. Another 70th Anniversary parallel sold two days earlier, this time for $7,800.
Prices will vary depending on factors like rarity and how many graded versions exist, but it’s a good way of showing how PSA cards tend to sell for more money. This is true no matter the value of the card.
However, it’s worth mentioning that SGC built their reputation by grading older sports cards, and many have sold for vast sums. A T206 Honus Wagner which earned an SGC VG 3 sold for $6,606,000 in August 2021.
PSA 9 vs SGC 9: Saleability
PSA 9’s sell for higher prices than equivalent SGC 9 cards, but which is easier to sell? Once again, PSA is the clear winner in most scenarios.
For example, there are over ten times more PSA 9’s than SGC 9’s when searching for cards on platforms like eBay.
With way more cards to choose from, it’s a great example for showing just how popular PSA actually is. It’s not unheard of for collectors to stick with PSA exclusively, whether it be for sets or individual cards. (It’s easier to sell a set of PSA cards, rather than a mix.)
However, if it’s a rarer card or a one-of-one, collectors won’t have much choice if they really want to buy a card on the open market. (Think of the record-breaking T206 Honus Wagner card mentioned in the section above.)
There are more PSA graded copies of most cards, and there’s a larger market of buyers.
PSA 9 vs SGC 9: Slabs
The slabs are another obvious difference between the two companies. PSA has a tried and tested design that they’ve stuck with for years, including upgrades such as non-tamperable technology.
SGC has produced a sturdy slab which will be sure to protect the card inside. (We actually prefer the modern look of the SGC slab compared to the traditional PSA option.)
The SGC slabs are also slightly larger, adding a larger border around most modern cards and stickers.
However, modern PSA slabs come with a QR code on the reverse which can be scanned to check the legitimacy of the card contained inside.
It’s a nice added touch. In terms of the front of the card, PSA’s famous design has been replicated by many pretenders, and it’s synonymous with card collecting.
PSA 9 vs SGC 9: Reputation
If I had to choose between a PSA 9 and an SGC 9 card, I’d always go for the former. That’s the difference in reputation between the premier grading company in the world, and the third best.
That’s not to say that SGC cards aren’t worth collecting, in fact, they’re often in slightly better condition when holding them up side by side. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and PSA is generally preferred.
Consider; many sellers will include PSA in the title when selling raw cards, hoping to get more collectors to check out their cards. It’s a decent trick, and it will draw more eyes.
PSA 9 vs SGC 9: Final Thoughts
A PSA 9 is going to be worth more than an SGC 9 for the foreseeable future.
That doesn’t mean that SGC cards aren’t worth collecting; in fact, we see them as a great opportunity given their rising popularity.
We also like the feel of the SGC slabs, which do feel sturdier in comparison.
In my own experience, I’ve only ever received one cracked slab, which happened to be from PSA. However, many collectors prefer the more traditional option.