is it worth getting my football cards graded
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Is It Worth Getting My Football Cards Graded?

If you’ve been an avid NFL trading card collector for a while, you’ve probably heard about graded cards and the crazy sums some of money people fetch at auctions. We can all recall the Tom Brady rookie card that sold for a whopping $2.25 million in 2021? Yes, that was a PSA Gem Mint 10 card – the highest possible grade.

Grading Your Football Cards: Is it Worth It?

What is Card Grading?

Card grading is the process of having a professional company objectively assess a card’s condition and authenticity, ultimately assigning it a numerical grade. The better the grade, the higher the card’s perceived value and liquidity in the market.

The question remains….. Is It Worth Getting My Football Cards Graded?

Let’s explore the pros and cons but I want to preface this by being clear that the best decision is ultimately up to you.

Benefits of Grading NFL Cards

Increased Value

The primary reason collectors get their cards graded is the potential for a significant increase in market value, especially for high-grade cards. For example, an ungraded Tom Brady 2000 Bowman rookie card might sell for around $500, but the same card graded as a PSA 9 (Mint condition) could fetch upwards of $10,000!

6 FREE Graded Card 300*250

The grading process is carried out by reputable companies like Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) and Beckett Grading Services (BGS), whose certifications are widely recognized and trusted in the hobby.

Authentication and Security

Grading serves as a vital authentication process, protecting collectors from purchasing counterfeit cards. With forgeries becoming increasingly sophisticated, having a card professionally verified and encapsulated (slabbed) in a tamper-evident case provides peace of mind for both buyers and sellers.

Improved Liquidity

Graded cards are generally easier and faster to sell compared to their raw (ungraded) counterparts. Many online marketplaces and auction houses prioritize listings for graded cards, as their certified condition and value are already established, streamlining transactions.

Investment Potential

While not a surefire investment strategy, graded cards – especially those of high-value players or rookies – can be considered long-term investments with the potential for significant appreciation over time, given their scarcity and demand.

1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski Rookie Card worth $750,000.

Drawbacks of Grading NFL Cards


Getting your cards professionally graded can be an expensive endeavor. Submission fees, grading fees per card, and potential return shipping costs can quickly add up, especially for higher-value cards. For example, grading a single card through PSA’s economy service could cost around $20, while their higher tiers (express, walkthrough) can reach hundreds of dollars per card.

Grading Time

Patience is key when submitting cards for grading. Depending on the service tier you choose, the turnaround time can range from several weeks to several months before you receive your graded cards back.

Risk of Lower Grade

There’s always a risk of your card receiving a lower grade than expected, which could negatively impact its value compared to your initial ungraded expectations. Minor imperfections, such as off-centering or slightly dinged corners, can knock a card down from a coveted Gem Mint 10 to a lesser grade.

Not All Cards Benefit Equally

Not all NFL cards will see a significant enough value increase to justify the grading costs. Generally, cards with a higher chance of achieving a high grade (such as mint condition rookies or rare inserts) tend to benefit more from grading than common base cards.

Making the Decision: To Grade or Not to Grade

Before deciding to have your NFL cards graded, consider the following factors:

  • Card’s Condition: Pay attention to centering, corners, edges, and surface quality. Only cards in excellent condition are likely to receive the highest grades.
  • Card’s Value: Research the current market value of similar graded cards to gauge if the potential value increase justifies the grading costs.
  • Player Potential: Rookie cards and those featuring star players or hall-of-famers are generally more desirable to collectors and have a higher chance of appreciating in value when graded.
  • Personal Collection Goals: If your goal is long-term investment, grading may be worthwhile. However, if you’re a casual collector who primarily enjoys the hobby, grading costs might outweigh the benefits.

The Final Verdict

While grading NFL trading cards can undoubtedly increase their value, authentication, liquidity, and investment potential, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. For collectors with high-value or potentially high-grade cards, especially of star players or rookies, grading can be a worthwhile investment. However, for those with common cards or a tighter budget, the costs and risks associated with grading might outweigh the benefits.

Ultimately, the decision to grade or not should be based on your specific collection, goals, and financial considerations. Do your research, weigh the pros and cons, and make an informed choice that aligns with your collecting priorities.