The Top Sports Card Grading Companies

mobile Top Trading Card Grading Companies
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

What are the top sports card grading companies?

Card collecting is in perhaps its most eventful and promising era to date. With Fanatics acquiring the rights to all three major American sports – football, basketball and baseball – our favorite hobby could be heading to new heights. Keeping that in mind, it’s important to analyze the companies and industry leaders that keep cards thriving. 

RELATED: The Most Valuable Sports Cards Ever Sold

In the last 20 years, the hobby has become increasingly more centered towards grading and its benefits. The premise is simple: you send your card(s) to a nationally recognized company, they examine the card for its authenticity and condition, they secure it into a plastic holder, and they assign it a grade (typically 1-10). When a higher grade is issued on a card, its value can grow exponentially, as illustrated on our list of most expensive cards ever sold.

There is no shortage of companies that offer this service. However, we will be breaking down the best of the best when it comes to grading. We will showcase the pros of each company, whether it be from a price, aesthetics, or resell value standpoint.

Without further ado, let’s begin: here are the top trading card grading companies you should know about!

1. Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA)

PSA Grading

In the current state of the hobby, PSA is undoubtedly the king of grading. They slabbed over 13 million cards in 2023, which is more than any other company. Furthermore, when the three Gem Mint grades (PSA 10, BGS 9.5, and SGC 9.5) of a given card are compared, the PSA 10 is consistently traded at a higher value.

Founded in 1991, Professional Sports Authority was one of the earliest groups to grade sports cards. Although it faced some strenuous years in the mid 1990s, the company has since evolved into a household name. 

Now owned by Collectors Universe Incorporated, PSA offers services at the $18, $30, $50, $100, $150, $300 and $600 levels. These newly refreshed levels are promising to see in the hobby, especially when grading had been halted for almost 18 months. The group also offers special discounts to its Collectors Club members. This includes value submissions for both sports cards and TCGs.

2. Beckett Grading Service (BGS)

BGS Beckett Grading

Beckett Grading Services (BGS) is another prominent name in card grading. Unlike PSA, Beckett uses intervals of .5 to pinpoint a card’s condition. Furthermore, BGS is the first grading company to integrate subgrades – centering, edges, corners, and surface – onto their label. This offers an additional level of transparency and objectivity for the buyer.

Beckett is also among the first to offer an autograph grade on the card as well. This provides an aesthetically pleasing look for signed cards like Bowman 1st Autos and National Treasures RPAs.

Lastly, Beckett is widely known for their BGS 10 “Black Label,” which occurs when all four subgrades receive a perfect 10 grade. This will make a card’s value jump astronomically, as they are seldom seen out in the wild.

While Beckett may not have the ubiquity of PSA right now, they are still a viable and reliable option in the grading world. 

3. Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC)

SGC Grading

To round off the Big 3, we have SGC, a group that has shown significant growth in the last 3 years. In addition to implementing affordable pricing during the pandemic, SGC’s label can be seen on the two most valuable cards ever sold. The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle SGC 9.5 and the 1909 Sweet Caporal T206 Honus Wagner SGC 3 are worth $12 million and $7 million respectively. 

Part of SGC’s success can be attributed to the rebranding of their slabs. Dubbed the “Black Tuxedo,” these new holders are much more sleek and modern than their previous ones. In turn, we have seen an influx of vintage and modern cards being graded by SGC.

SGC has also seen growth through their rapid turnaround times. The group offered a 7-day turnaround after the release of 2023 Topps Series 1. This enabled collectors to slab up their cards and have them on the market at a remarkable and affordable pace.

Other Names to Keep an Eye On

While PSA, BGS, and SGC are definitely the big players in grading, there are some other names worth mentioning. They are as follows:

4. Arena Club

arena club
Arena Club

A group partially founded by Derek Jeter will always be one to have on your radar. The Captain partnered with Brian Lee to create an all-in-one grading service and showroom. Their goal to digitize an all-encompassing card show, where collectors can buy, sell, trade, and grade their pieces. They offer a $15 grading service with the option to vault your card in the Arena Club showroom. As the hobby grows more and more mobile, Arena Club provides a multifaceted value.

5. TAG

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TAG Grading

TAG, which stands for Technical Authentication & Grading, brand itself as the future of trading card grading. The group offers a plethora of innovative services, such as submission kits and digital reports. The slab’s QR code actually shows the potential defects of a card, which is a very transparent and technologically-forward move. By using AI to analyze a card, TAG is able to take human error out of the grading equation. We will be following to see how the market responds to these new slabs.

6. CSG

CSG grading

While relatively new to sports card grading, CSG is part of a conglomerate that has been pivotal in alternative asset certification. Certified Collectibles Group currently grades video games, coins, paper money, comics, stamps, and of course, cards. 

The current CSG slab is an improved model of the first holder, and it utilizes rigid plastic to secure the card inside. They also integrate AI technology into their grading system, which takes human error and subjectivity out of the equation. While they may not have the prowess of the Big 3 quite yet, it will be interesting to see if they catch up in the future.

7. HGA

HGA grading

Hybrid Grading Approach (HGA) is another relative newcomer onto the grading scene, but they’ve introduced some unique concepts already. The group offers a level of personalization with each slab, as many of the labels are printed on a colorful and intricate background. They also tested a horizontal slab to accompany horizontal patch autographs. We will be on the lookout for more creativity from them in the coming years.

8. ISA

ISA grading

Next is ISA, a group that specializes in quick and efficient turnaround times. They also work to offer affordable rates for grading, which is a practical option for those looking to get a card slabbed without hurting their wallet.

9. GMA

GMA Grading

Finally, we have GMA, another inexpensive alternative in the grading market. They offer fast turnaround times and substantial bulk rates, so it’s a useful option if you want to get your cards slabbed for cheap.

Which grading company is your go-to? Let us know @CardTalkPod on Instagram and Twitter!

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