The grade of a baseball card expresses the card's relative condition and is always measured against perfection. A perfect card is said to be in mint condition, and you may also hear the term "gem mint" used to describe a card that is absolutely perfect in every way. The grade of a card determines its value, and it's a crucial skill for any would-be collector to master. Read on to learn how to grade your baseball cards.
Learn to spot a card in mint condition. Mint cards have absolutely no detectable flaws or damage, perfect edges and a perfect surface. Keep in mind that printing imperfections can cause a card to be downgraded even though its physical condition is flawless.
Grade a baseball card as near mint if it has a printing imperfection, such as an off-center picture on the front. Near mint cards will also have no more than one minor spot of damage, usually on the corner or edge. Other than a single small flaw, a near mint card is in perfect shape.
Consider your baseball card to be in excellent condition if it has more than one instance of very minor, superficial damage, such as a slightly bent edge, a frayed corner or if the card fails to lay perfectly flat.
Learn to spot an example of a card in very good condition. This card grade describes a baseball card that has one spot of significant damage, such as a crease or surface scratch. Some collectors might also consider a card with a large number of minor flaws to be in very good condition.
Inspect your collection for examples of cards that have one significant flaw as well as two or more minor flaws. The grade of such a card is usually described as good.
Avoid adding cards in fair or poor condition to your collection, as they generally don't retain nearly as much value over the long run. A card is in fair condition if it has two or more instances of major damage. Baseball cards in poor condition feature severe damage, such as water damage or deep creases.