Graded cards demand a premium; almost every collector prefers them over raw ones. But there is more to the question: should you buy graded or raw sports cards? That said, there’s a question built into this statement: Is it better to buy graded cards, or will you profit more if you buy raw and send the cards in for grading yourself?
Graded vs. Raw Sports Cards: A Deep Comparison for New Collectors
This post will look at the differences in value between different grades and companies as we develop an optimal approach for grading cards.
Should you buy raw cards or graded cards? And which do you prefer, and what helps you make that decision? Let this article guide you into making the right choice.
We wrote out four use cases where why buying raw cards makes more sense than buying graded cards. However, there are also situations where it’s worth buying a graded card. Let’s go in-depth on all scenarios:
Our article goes in-depth on what criteria we use to help us decide on buying raw cards compared to graded cards. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Understanding The Value of Earning Different Grades
Most collectors prefer graded cards over raw cards; however, it all comes down to the following: You get what you pay for. And knowing the value of each card and what your budget or willingness to pay helps influence that decision.
Buying Raw vs. Graded Cards doesn’t need to be complicated. Our guide will simplify this for you.
4 Use Cases Why Buying Raw Cards vs. Graded Cards Makes More Sense
It depends on different circumstances and factors. Here are somewhere collectors make this decision:
1. Condition (Raw for Grading DIY Experience)
If the card is in mint condition and you can grade it yourself, there’s a more significant upside.
For example, if you buy a raw card for $12 with a mint condition autograph, sharp corners, and no surface or centering issues, it could be worth $250 after grading. Of course, grading a raw card will cost you around $18-40, but that investment makes a lot of sense.
2. Rarity (Raw for Saving on Costs)
If the card is scarce and difficult to obtain, it may be easier to buy a raw version than a graded card, as the graded card could be expensive.
3. Personal (Graded for Personal Collection)
If the card brings nostalgia or sentimental value, it may be worth buying a graded card as you want to encapsulate it.
If a card has positive results on all three of these, it’s worth investing in. For example, a card in mint condition, with a rarity due to having a serial number (low print) or autograph like a 1/1, holds a lot of sentimental value for you because it is your favorite player or celebrity. It’s worth buying. Even a low-grade card will still bring you happiness.
Analyze the Downside vs. Upside of Your Cards
Raw cards and graded cards are not equal or the same. You can’t compare them; it’s not apple to apple comparison. However, there are some cases where a raw card is the same value as a PSA 8-graded card.
For example, prices on ten last sold cards of Luka 2nd year Prizm Holo raw, from PSA 8, PSA 9, and PSA 10.
- Raw price = PSA 8 (roughly)
- PSA 9 = 1.5-2x PSA 8
- PSA 10 = 2.5-3x PSA 9
Always look up the value of a card sold via eBay before considering sending it for grading. It’s best practice to look up the worst-case PSA grade, like a PSA 8, and then the best-case PSA grade, like a 10. If you know there’s a market for the card, it may be worth taking the risk to get it graded, even at a low grade.
If you enjoy finding deals on raw cards for grading, you may also like our eCommerce store NowCollectibles – an online card shop connecting sports fans with their favorite teams and players.
Here are some quick key takeaways worth noting:
Takeaway 1: PSA Is More Valuable Than BGS Overall
When you compare PSA to BGS, equal grades typically sell for more in a PSA than in a BGS. Why is that? Beckett is naturally a tougher grader, and their color-coded slabs are more aesthetically pleasing, so it would make sense for BGS to sell for more.
However, collectors still preferred PSA because of its proven success and because PSA came first. With that in mind, note that the average PSA 9 sold for $1,073 while the average BGS 9 only did $765—a 30 percent difference for the same grade!
Takeaway 2: Unless Your Card Is a Grade 10
Here’s the catch: if your card has a chance at a 10, rolling the dice on a BGS grade could be worth it. According to our sample, BGS 10s sold for 2.5x more than PSA 10s.
That’s a significant difference. Sure, a $30,000 LeBron helped boost the total, but the numbers don’t lie. Across the board, the BGS 10s are significantly more valuable. However, remember that BGS 10s are rare and harder to get than PSA 10’s.
Takeaway 3: Remember the Half-Grades!
Grading only makes sense with PSA if you’re trying to get the most value from your card. That said, BGS offers half-grades (8.5 and 9.5, for example), compared to PSA only uses whole numbers.
For example, the BGS 9.5s usually sell between the price of a PSA 9 and PSA 10, falling closer to the price of a PSA 9.
Takeaway 4: Don’t Send Near-Mint Cards To BGS
One of the most surprising takeaways was that a Beckett 8 was worth less than the raw card. It shows modern cards to be somewhere around a 9, which means if you have doubts about how well your card will grade, BGS isn’t the service for you.
By knowing what a card could be worth, you can use that information to make the right choice. Take your time in making that decision; buying cards online can make things a bit tricky since you will know the actual condition of that card once you get it. However, you can decide once you have it in your hands.
Remember, even if you don’t get a card graded, you can put it into a nice magnetic one-touch, and it’ll still look amazing.
Sometimes a magnetic one-touch is enough to make the card look nice and readily displayed. Have you seen these one-touch protective cases that fit over the case and allow them to stand up automatically? Collect3d does a fantastic job at protecting your one-touch cards.
What Graded Cards to Buy
The number one rule is that graded cards are always preferable for high-dollar cards commonly forged. There would be nothing worse than buying a raw Jordan or LeBron rookie to find out it’s a fake… $5,000 later.
A card graded by PSA or BGS is stamped with the company’s approval of its authenticity, making it less likely to be forged. However, fake slabs are also a problem in the hobby.
A recent article explains the junk slab era, where the boom in grading cards has impacted slab card prices. See what implications can cause a decrease in card values.
Other than that, deciding whether to buy graded or raw cards depends on how much risk you want to assume.
For example, you can buy a PSA 10 for a premium or buy raw cards and hope to score a PSA 10. It goes back to knowing the deal’s upside and downside and how best to manage the risk.
We use the following criteria to help us determine what will make the most sense:
- How fast are cards selling? And at what grade?
- Will the card sell that fast a year from now? (Since grading a card can take a minimum of 3 months turnaround if you use their cheapest service line)
- Would you regret not sending this card into a grade? (Some cards like autographs and 1/1s are a must-grade because you want to preserve their condition for years)
If you can confidently say ‘yes’ to these questions or even 2 out of the 3, you’ll significantly reduce the downside of grading a card. We use this to determine whether a card is worth grading and how to get the most out of the cards we send in for grading.
It’s mainly a no-brainer when you have multiple copies of a card, and it would be good to send the second copy in to force its appreciation.
You are grading a card result from forcing it to appreciate faster than waiting multiple years. Take that into consideration when you get going.
What Cards to Buy Raw
With modern cards, buying raw and paying to get graded is popular. First, we’ll look at why.
But first, here are a couple of assumptions to make. PSA has postponed its $20 service due to its backlog, and BGS has inflated its economy service to $35. Let’s assume grading a card costs $20.
Looking at the selling prices for the PSA 10s compared to the raw cards, you could buy 2 or 4 raw cards to get them graded for one PSA 10 of the more high-end cards.
If you shop around and message the seller with questions about the condition, finding a PSA 10 in a handful of attempts should be possible.
Scenarios For Buying Graded or Raw Sports Cards
Here’s a hypothetical: You want a PSA 10 Luka Prizm Rookie to add to your Luka PC (personal collection). Every hobby collector knows that a card of this rarity is unique and one of a kind. However, there are a few ways this could play out.
Situation A) You buy a PSA 10 Luka Prizm Rookie.
Total Cost: $850, Total Resell Value: $850
Situation B) You buy three raw Luka Prizm rookies at $200.
Of course, only after asking the sellers for more pictures and their opinion about the condition. You grade all three at $20 a card. The results are PSA 8, PSA 9, and PSA 10.
Total Cost: $660, Total Resell Value: $1,365
In this situation, buying the raw and getting them graded is better. But in that same situation, even if your grades came back 8, 9, or 9, that’s an $815 resell value, so you still make money.
As noted above, it’s also fair to assume most modern cards should grade at around a PSA 9 unless they have surface damage, so if you ask enough questions (while being polite and not annoying), you should be able to find some PSA 9s—and even some 10s—just waiting to be submitted.
Bottomline On Buying Raw vs. Graded Cards
Our most recent PSA submission was 27 cards, and 13 returned as 10s. So that’s almost 50%, and while that’s a one-off example, there is a lot more money to make than if we were to buy those 13 cards in PSA 10 form.
Whether you buy graded or raw is up to you but consider these numbers before making your next slabbed purchase.
Ready to Dive into the World of Sports Card Collecting?
Start by exploring the raw cards available and find those hidden gems. Be bold and ask sellers for more information and pictures. Especially, when you are buying raw cards vs. graded cards know your values!
Once you’ve built your collection, you can decide whether to send them for grading or keep them as raw cards.
Our Facebook community is a great place to ask those questions safely and, in an environment, where everyone feels comfortable. Also, Discord communities have a lot of collectors willing to help.
Learn about how you can connect with other like-minded collectors in these sports card discord communities. Here’s 3 of the best card communities on discord at the moment.
Remember, the thrill of finding a gem and the potential for higher profits make raw cards an exciting choice for new collectors. Start your journey today and discover the joy of collecting sports cards!
Hunting for good deals and making smart moves with your cards is fun. Learn how to sell sports cards with an article we recently published.
Disclaimer: The data provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not taken as financial advice. Prices may vary based on market conditions and individual circumstances. Please conduct your research and consult with professionals before making any investment decisions.
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Sports card hobby enthusiast (originally from New York) who can’t resist ripping cards and eating donuts on the weekends. Passionate about all collecting, have been collecting football cards and other memorabilia for half a decade. Enjoys going to card shows, visiting card shops and getting to know other collectors. Owner of NOWCollectibles a collectible e-commerce business – online card shop for buying affordable cards helping connect sports fans with their favorite teams and players. Follow my personal IG to see PC: @NowCollects See my latest articles here: NowCollectibles Articles (thinksportscards.com)