PSA Qualifiers: 6 Things You Need To Know

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Jason Koeppel/ONE37pm

So, you’ve gotten serious about trading cards? Good for you! As you may already know, sports cards can be a fun and lucrative alternative investment--if you do your RESEARCH. Educate yourself on the ins and outs of PSA qualifiers & how they can affect the value of a card with our breakdown of what you need to know. One of the ways that we’ve seen novice collectors get hurt on their early & initial purchases on eBay is not realizing the qualifier attached to the grade of the card they’re looking at. “Oh, I didn’t realize that was a thing” is something we never want to hear again!

Currently, PSA is the only grading company out of the three major ones (Beckett and SGC being the other two) that use qualifiers. Below we’ll talk about what qualifiers are and how they can affect a card’s value.

What is a PSA Qualifier?

PSA stands for Professional Sports Authenticator and the organization is the largest third-party sports authentication service in the world. A PSA qualifier is, in effect, a designation that decreases the value of your card. Therefore a card with a qualifier, according to PSA, is  “a card that meets all the criteria for a particular grade, but fails the standard in one area.”

So, a card could exhibit the qualities of an NM-MT 8 (that is, near mint 8), but also be 90/10 centered left to right. For that reason, this card would receive a grade of NM-MT 8oc; the "OC" meaning, off-center. This PSA 8 (OC) is far from the quality as a true PSA 8 grade & if moving fast, an easy thing to miss.

Here are some examples:

1. OC (Off-center)

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According to PSA, this card is considered off-center because the centering of the card falls below acceptable standards. Centering is quantified by comparing the measurements of the borders from top to bottom and left to right. A 5% leeway is given to cards with an NM7 or better.

2. ST (stain)

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Cards with stains also fall below acceptable standards. However, this is no exact formal nor definition as to what qualifies as acceptable. A stain can also be made from many different materials/spills etc and in some cases, wax stains have been known to be able to be cleaned off and pass the designation for not receiving the qualifier.

3. PD (Print Defect)

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Print defects also impact the quality of your card. Similar to stains, there is no standard as to what makes a print defect unacceptable.

Here are some examples of how print defects can affect the quality of the card you're looking to purchase.

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4. OF (Out of Focus)

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These cards have images that are significantly out of focus, although it is hard to determine what cards would receive this qualifier beyond extreme examples.

5. MK (Marks)

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A card with an MK qualifier means this card is defaced with writing in ink, pencil, marker, etc. and/or there is “evidence of the impression left from the act of writing.” Therefore, even if a card does not have visible ink or lead marks, it can still be designed with a qualifier if a grader believes there is an indentation of any such act.

These are a few examples of the price difference in this particular case.

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6. MC (Miscut)

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A miscut card is a card that hasn’t been properly cut by the printer.  This is usually a result of a factory error which can result in smaller borders or even portions of another card.

Check out the PSA website for more information about specific qualifiers and what to look for when collecting cards.

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