Grading Guide

What follows are the standards I use to grade my trading and tobacco cards, postcards and other vintage paper ephemera. When it comes to a grade every card is unique but the following text descriptions best describe how I generally will grade.

Following this text Grading Guide is a Grading Guide Gallery displaying several examples of what is described along with some outlier type cards which you may have otherwise found difficult to grade.

Feel free to use my Grading Guide to help in grading your own cards and collectibles as well.

Trading Card Grading Guide

MT (Mint) or 10/10: Right off the press and printed perfectly (including centering). No flaws whatsoever.

NM-MT (Near Mint to Mint) or 9/10: Very nearly perfect yet you know there's something holding it back. If perfection were common we'd have different standards and so the NM-MT to card is almost there but maybe there's a tiny dink at a corner tip; a tiny print dot; it's very slightly, almost imperceptibly off-center. Again, nearly perfect.

NM (Near Mint) or 8/10: Extremely strong grade. 60-40 centering or better. A minor, yet slightly worse defect than the NM-MT card; such as one of the following: Slight stronger versions of the defects above (print spots or lines). Two or three corners a little touched by wear or 3 sharp corners and 1 a little heavier dinged than it would be in the grade above.

EX-MT (Excellent to Mint) or 7/10: Still high-grade. 70-30 centering or better. A couple of the minor flaws of the NM card allowed rather than just one. Still no creasing or even any wrinkling.

EX+ (Excellent Plus) or 6/10: More mid-grade than high-grade at this point. Light wear (though not rounding) at 3 of the corners; off-center; print marks; maybe a couple of specks of soiling. Light visible wear at edges. Still a very nice card with no creasing or wrinkling.

EX (Excellent) or 5/10: 75-25 centering or better. All corners may have a little wear (though not rounding), the edges may show some wear. Still NO creases whatsoever allowed. The numerical grade is 5 out of 10, so think of it this way: not too bad, not too good.

VG-EX (Very Good to Excellent) or 4.5/10:  All bets are off on centering, though anything approaching 90-10 or worse should be mentioned after the grade. The corners may show some more wear, one of them may even be rounded. Slight edge wear. Faint soiling or toning. This grade exists for those cards lying somewhere between VG and EX. If you can't decide one way or another it's a good bet your grade lies here. May show faint corner indents.

VG (Very Good) or 4/10: All corners may be rounded, all edges may be rough, but still no true creases that break the paper. I allow for a single surface crease or wrinkle at this grade--short and light, no immediately recognizable with the naked eye. Faint age toning; soiling but not in overwhelming quantity. More recognizable corner indents possible as well.

G-VG (Good to Very Good) or 3.5/10: Now we're getting beat-up. Rounded corners, rough edges, poor centering, printing defects, either a multiple (though not overwhelming number) or surface creasing or a maximum of one short but true crease in the card. Some soiling; toning.

G (Good) or 3/10: Same as G-VG above but now multiple true creases (those which go through both sides of the card) are allowed. Still, not an overwhelming amount of creasing, nothing that's seen time on the bicycle spokes for instance. Rounded corners; deeper soiling; surface scuffs.

F-G (Fair to Good) or 2.5/10: Items that have seen time in the bicycle spokes are allowed here. This is a beat-up ugly card only worth having if you have to have it or are selecting it a a filler meant for later upgrade. Multiple heavy creases; slight back damage.

F (Fair) or 2/10: Take a nice MINT card or photo, crumple it up in you hand, use some sandpaper on the corners and edges, but allow it to come out of this intact...that's fair (and please don't do that to any collectibles!). Heavier back damage.

P-F (Poor to Fair) or 1.5/10: About as bad as you can get just falling short of missing pieces or other disfigurement such as deep scribbling.

P (Poor) or 1/10: Anything goes! The worst you can get. We're talking defaced cards; missing pieces; whatever.

Grading Gallery

Several examples follow of the various grades described above. Over time I will add more examples to this grading gallery to prove the rule that there are always exceptions and no two cards are alike!

Click any photo to enlarge--from there you can scroll through the entire collection enlarged at one time. Just use the arrows (<< and >>) at the bottom of the descriptions to scroll through. Enjoy!