PSA vs. BGS
VintageMagic.com is the clear choice when it comes to purchasing graded cards; however, when you’re ready to dust off those Alpha cards to get them graded, and encased for all times you really only have two options; BGS – Beckett Grading Services or PSA – Professional Sports Authenticators. There are a couple other grading companies but we won’t speak of them here. BGS and PSA are the most trusted, well respected, third party grading companies in the business, and they’re all VintageMagic.com deals with.
Let’s face it! Vintage Magic cards are getting extremely expensive. So much so they are untouchable for most MTG players and collectors. So, unless you’re “shuffling up, and dealing” in Vintage Magic tournaments, having your vintage collection tucked away in a binder, or worse yet, sitting in a box in the closet is an awful investment idea. We suggest you look into encapsulating these valuable cards, even if they’re not in Gem Mint condition. Grading and encapsulating not only protects your collection but it increases the value and secures your investment.
In this article we’ll look at the pros and cons of both grading companies. I may even help you decide in which company to trust your investments with, which company caters to your specific needs, and which company will make you the most return on your investment.
It’s as clear as mud…
PSA – Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is the largest and most trusted third-party grading and authentication company in the world. Cards and collectibles graded by PSA are worth considerably more than those that are not – and for good reason. As the grading standard of the industry, PSA is the preferred choice of collectors, dealers, and auction houses worldwide. Founded in 1991, PSA has processed over 20 million cards and collectibles with a cumulative declared value of over a billion dollars. Each month they process approximately 100,000 submissions from hobbyists who are serious about maximizing the value of their collections. By providing the advantage and protection of impartial, third-party grading, PSA has created a market in which collectors can participate with complete confidence and trust.
PSA 9 Alpha Black Lotus
PROs: PSA is a well-established company that has been around since 1991.
- PSA has a great track record when it comes to the handling of your valuables.a. I know it’s hard to slip that Alpha Black Lotus into a padded envelope and send it off with your fingers crossed, the rush is not for everyone, but we send our valuable cards via the U.S. Postal Service, and FedEx, and have never had a problem.
- PSA offers a great card registry
a. You can browse the different Magic sets under the ‘Non-Sports’ category, Sub-Categorized as ‘Company Sets’. They obviously start from 1993 on.
b. To begin the PSA registry experience you have to create an account.
i. Choose your user name wisely. This user name will be your label on all the sets you register. For example, if your user name is ‘Alpha Guy’ and you later start a Portal Three Kingdoms collection you may not be pleased.
ii. Once logged in you can scroll over the Set Registry and click on PSA Set Registry. Click on ‘My Set Registry’ and then ‘Add New Set’; add the certification number and click ‘Quick Add’. Yes, I agree, a tad bit confusing but worth it in the long run.
iii. Once you’ve added your set to the registry you can see how your collection stacks up. Click on ‘edit’ and use the ‘what if?’ function to see what cards carry the most weight (each card carries a value i.e. Black Lotus carries a higher weight than a Dark Ritual etc.) and allow you to move higher in the rankings.
c. As a collector being able to sit down and upload your collection, while time consuming, offers you the chance to simply be with your cards again. Like the time you first opened them and put them into sleeves or binders uploading your collection into a registry is simply a different format for enjoying time with your collectables again.
- PSA offers a PSA 10 Gem Mint grade.
a. I like and prefer the PSA 10 GEM MINT grade. PSA does not offer a 9.5 sub-grade and they only recently starting utilizing these sub-grades beginning at a PSA 8.5 Near Mint grade and going down.
i. In my personal opinion it is more difficult to get a PSA 10 Gem Mint card than a BGS 9.5 Gem Mint card. My justification for this is because of the BGS sub-grades you can receive a 9 sub-grade in one BGS category with 9.5’s in the rest and receive a 9.5 Gem Mint card whereas PSA would simply grade the card as a PSA 9 Mint due to the imperfection. In my opinion making PSA 10 Gem Mint harder to come by.
ii. Having the PSA 10 Gem Mint grade may offer more of return in the marketplace simply because collectors see that perfect grade.
- PSA offers a great case that keeps your cards safe
a. PSA cases are well constructed. They’re tough enough to withstand moderate strain. They repel moisture, smoke, and humidity. In most cases it’s even safe being submerged under water (but I wouldn’t try it).
b. PSA cases are molded so that when stacked they fit nicely together and don’t take up a lot of space.
i. Anyone with a significant other knows how irritated they get when you take up an entire closet with Magic cards.
CONs: PSA offers a great service and like any company anyone can find faults. My cons are merely subjective critiques that may not be your own.
- PSA doesn’t offer subgrades on their grading.
a. I like being able to see in what category my card was ‘dinged’ on.
i. When reselling your cards to some collectors it’s extremely important to know the sub-grades, and without them, unless it’s a PSA 10 Gem Mint, it may be a hard sell.
b. Only recently has PSA offered .5 grading levels but only from 8.5 on down. They don’t offer a 9.5 category.
- PSA has a generic looking case.
a. It’s not the most visually stunning case out there. Fairly vanilla.
- Label is a plain.
a. Label is somewhat cheap looking.
i. When you have a PSA 10 Gem Mint Black Lotus with a white vanilla tab it’s hard not to argue BGS has a better look.
- Card isn’t secure inside the case.
a. Card can shift around, though I’ve never seen damage to a card due to this.
- PSA registry difficult to navigate.
a. The PSA registry is a great tool but can be a little confusing at the beginning. It just takes a few minutes to get used to.
BGS – Beckett Grading Services – The first and last word when it comes to news and information on sports cards and memorabilia, Beckett Media has been the voice of record in the collectibles industry since its pioneering beginning in 1984.
BGS 9 Alpha Black Lotus
PROs: BGS is a well-established company that has been a leader in its field since 1984.
- BGS has a great track record when it comes to the handling of your valuables.c. I know it’s hard to slip that Beta Ancestral Recall into a padded envelope and send it off with your fingers crossed, the rush is not for everyone, but we send our valuable cards via the U.S. Postal Service, and FedEx, and have never had a problem.
- BGS offers the only 10 Pristine cards on the market.a. BGS 10 Pristine is extremely difficult to get and justly so. The Pristine grade is given to those lucky few who receive three (3) perfect 10 sub-grades and one (1) 9.5 sub-grade. BGS 10 Pristine cards bring a huge return, sometimes even one-hundred (100) times its Mint book value.i. I’ve seen a five (5) dollar Benalish Hero be valued at 300+ dollars! High Grade Magic puts their BGS 10 Pristine Lotus at one-hundred thousand (100,000) dollars.
- BGS cases are the perfect way to keep your high dollar collectables safe.a. BGS cases are second to none.
b. They are virtually indestructible.
c. Very well likely to survive the apocalypse.
d. Inside the case your card is actually slid inside a protective UV sleeve (much like the old deck protectors).
e. They are the perfect case I want for my high valued assets.
f. They simply look the best and present your cards like no other case on the market.
- BGS labels are what the standard should be.
a. Seeing the shiny metallic label above your prized Magic card is simply stunning.
5. BGS has finally developed a set registry.
1. BGS 10 Pristine cards are an extremely difficult grade to achieve.
a. If you’re thinking that raw card of yours is a BGS 10 Pristine, chances are, you’re wrong
2. BGS cases take up A LOT of space.
a. BGS card cases are thick. About a ¼ inch thick, and when you’re talking about a 302 cards in a set! All these stacked up will take a huge amount of space. We’re talking about six (6) feet of Magic cards.
In summary, both are great companies and both offer different products well-liked by millions of collectors. There certainly isn’t anything out there that says you have to choose only one but as a picky collector I myself like to have everything uniformed and nicely in its place. I choose PSA for my set collecting because I respect the PSA 10 Gem Mint grade and feel it’s harder to achieve than a BGS 9.5; also I like that PSA cases don’t take up a huge amount of space. I’ll add that for my power cards and duals I prefer them to be graded by BGS. The power cards just look so much better with that shiny gold label and solid case.
I like the PSA registry and the ability to contact new and old collectors; buy, sell, and trade off line and strike up new friendships from around the world. Some of these friendships have grown and even given me a place to stay while on my travels.
Well there you have it. As clear as mud.
Thanks for this article. I was worried about my alpha lotus because it is in a PSA case, and as the article mentions the cards are kind of loose in there, but it doesn't sound like it's much of a problem. I also handle it like a newborn whenever I take it out, so I guess I don't have much to worry about.
Does anyone have any experience with getting insurance on their collection? I hadn't checked prices in ages and was shocked how much power and stuff from the first three expansions had gone up, would be a gut punch to lose them in a fire or something, because I could never afford to replace them at this point.
I use Collectibles Insurance Services, LLC for my gaming collection and have found it just what I needed. I moved away from the personal articles policy offered as a rider to my homeowners as it was exceedingly stringent and CIS allows for automatic increases – and very generous allowances for a collection as a whole vs. individually documented. Like anything documentation, images and organization – take the time on your 100 most valuable items and then work on the rest as time allows…good luck.
After reading this article, I found my boxes of alpha & beta magic cards in my closet, most of them in sleeves. To grade or not to grade?
I made an impulse buy today, on a BGS black label pokemon card, I don't really have any idea whether it was a good move or one of those face palm go jump in the ocean moves, granted it was only a triple digit possible mistake, I feel good about it long term, but I fear that long term will be past my time, who knows, might buy my son a house one day, now to find every other one of those cards and destroy them!! I wonder if people really do that.
big dick says:
psa sucks. bgs overpriced
MTG Collecting & Investing: Introduction to PSA & BGS Grading Magic: The Gathering | i love 720p says:
[…] PSA vs. BGS […]
Dan P. says:
Great article! Really wish PSA casings offered as much protection as BGS's. I'd like to ask a question about your opinion though. If you have personal favorites, who would you send them to (regardless of market value)? Something you would likely not sell for a very long time and keep in your collection as memories?
Daniel great article, and also totally agree on it.
Also thanks as usual for helping others like me to improve the PSA collection 🙂
MTG Collecting & Investing: Introduction to PSA & BGS Grading Magic: The Gathering | AGameVideo says:
[…] PSA vs. BGS […]
Bob Kreider says:
Great article. I could not agree with you more.
The PSA case and label are too vanilla, but the PSA 10 is the sweet spot for collectors of full sets, difficult enough to make any set a challenge, and the defects(if any) of a PSA 10 are generally not visible to the naked eye under normal light (at least my old weak eyes). It is clear from the pop reports that BGS 9.5 with a 9 subgrade is a much more common grade than PSA ten, and my experience crossing over (both ways) confirms that. I think the market has now recognized that the BGS "quad 9.5"
is roughly equivalent to the PSA 10.
I did not follow your advice on picking my PSA name, but I am ok with it. Beta*Bob
Daniel Chang says:
Thanks for your comment. I’m going to dive much deeper here, but would love to feature your collection if you’re interested. Maybe an article with some pictures of your collection and artifacts? Email me to discuss!
Eric M. says:
Very interesting article, thanks for sharing! I am curious about your opinions on pricing and speed of the respective grading companies. Also, I've heard that you can get in-person PSA grading, is this smarter for high value cards?
Daniel Chang says:
I would recommend that for higher value cards. On their website they have on-site grading where you can submit. Feel free to email at email@example.com to discuss before you grade!
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