A Critique of PSA

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As of right now, about half of my entire card collection has been graded by either PSA or BGS, and I’m sure this portion will only grow with time.  While these companies and their processes have flaws (inconsistent grading standards is a common complaint within the hobby community), for the most part I feel that encasing cards is a great way to add refinement and eloquence to a collection.  Additionally, grading companies help weed out counterfeit cards that have entered the hobby marketplace.  For these reasons (and others), grading companies have been a net plus for the hobby in my humble opinion.  If nothing else, it is great for collectors to have a choice: collecting raw cards has plusses and minuses, as does collecting graded cards.  I’m just a guy who really likes graded cards. 

That said, I’d briefly like to discuss an issue that I have with PSA.  But before we get to my complaint, let’s first take a look at PSA’s own description of the company’s standard of a PSA 10 card:


A PSA Gem Mint 10 is a virtually perfect card.

Attributes include four perfectly sharp corners, sharp focus and full original gloss.  A PSA Gem Mint 10 card must be free of staining of any kind, but an allowance may be made for a slight printing imperfection, if it doesn’t impair the overall appeal of the card.  The image must be centered on the card within a tolerance not to exceed approximately 55/45 to 60/40 percent on the front, and 75/25 percent on the reverse.


The fact that a card can be off-centered as much as 75/25 on the back and still receive a PSA 10 grade is outrageous.  Card centering is the attribute that matters most to me.  A well centered card, no matter how much damage it has received, is still aesthetically pleasing.  Just take a look as some heavily worn but perfectly centered vintage cards sometime.  These cards are absolutely gorgeous, even those in low grade.

fryarfrontNow consider a recent PSA 10 football card that I have added to my collection: 1985 Topps Irving Fryar.  This is a great card and I am glad that I own a PSA 10 copy, but the lack-of-centering on the card back is unsightly.  So here is my suggestion to PSA: use the same 55/45 to 60/40 percent tolerance on both card fronts and card backs.  fryarbackDoing so would raise the quality standards and consistency of your fine company.  There is a difference between a card that is 50/50 on both front and back vs. a card that is 50/50 on the front and 75/25 on the back.  I wish PSA grading would be sensitive to that reality.

Word of the Day

ennui – a lack of spirit, enthusiasm, or interest; he suffered from a general sense of ennui [=boredom]


  1. I agree. Psa should use the same centering standards on both front and back. If a card is marked or stained on the back, psa will downgrade it to the same degree a mark on the front would. It should be consistent with centering as well. Nice post!


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