Most card collectors will have heard of Beckett in some shape or form. Launched by James Beckett in the mid 1980’s, he was responsible for many of the early industry price guides from the 70’s, and his company eventually progressing into grading in 1999.
In the here and now, the Beckett Grading Service (BGS) is a leading name when it comes to the trading card business. It’s less subjective than heading into your local hobby store, and the BGS grade will give you a better idea of how much your prized cards are worth.
Here’s everything you need to know about their various services and prices, along with why it’s our top pick if you’re interested in getting your collection checked out.
Beckett: The Pros
There are a number of reasons why we’d recommend BGS over other similar services like PSA. We’ve listed some of the main pros to consider with Beckett’s service below.
Incredibly important to the majority of collectors and investors, the price is a major plus point for Beckett compared to the others. They have a trio of separate services to best suit your individual needs, which we’ll discuss in a later section.
As you can see from the table above, their estimates are easy to understand, and are split if you’d like to sell a large number of cards. They operate with an economy of scale, so it’s significantly cheaper if you decide to get a collection graded together rather than sending cards individually.
You’ll also have to factor in the price of insurance, as you’ll want to be covered in case anything happens during transit. It’s great even if you don’t want to sell the graded card/s, as you’ll have a better understanding of the perceived value and the overall condition of your collection.
Some collectors prefer to leave their cards ungraded, as the slabs do leave you removed to a degree. However, cards with higher ratings are typically more desirable, and they’re more valuable than non-graded options.
Authentication and Legitimacy
Authentication is also another big factor, as you’ll be able to ensure the legitimacy of any Beckett cards added to your collection. Given the amount of money at stake, it’s easy to see why a growing number of counterfeits have made it to market, and you can never be sure if you’re buying a cheap card from a random person online. Andy Broome, the Senior Vintage Card Grader with Beckett Grading Services noted that;
“Trimming may be the worst alteration we have to deal with in our hobby, no card is immune from it, from pre-war to the latest Bowman Chrome.”
As well as trimming, traditional restoration techniques include color touching, inpainting, and paper filling, and should be disclosed before you make a purchase. There’s always a chance that a forgery could make it’s way into your collection, especially if you’re buying from online auction sites where you don’t get to see the card in person.
An untampered Beckett sleeve should give you some peace of mind when making an expensive purchase, and you’ll have a better idea of the overall state of the card, as well as it’s perceived value compared to other copies in a similar condition.
Speed and Consistency
Investors are always interested in turnaround time, as it has the potential to eat into profit if you’re trying to make a quick buck or two by flipping cards quickly. That’s why Beckett makes a big deal about the speed at which they grade cards, aiming to get them back as quickly as possible with clear consistency across the board.
However, their service is often under strain due to the large number of cards and collectibles they’re sent each month, so there can be a substantial backlog if you’re waiting for the latest set of slabs to return from Beckett.
Their turnaround policy notes that “the deadline date is the date your order is scheduled to leave Beckett Grading Service. Beckett does not guarantee the actual delivery date.”
“Guaranteed deadline dates are valid on full priced, premium service levels only and are not valid with any orders containing discounts or promotions. Failure to meet deadlines on all full priced, premium leveled services will result in a full refund.”
They’ve been voted as the Industry’s Best Grading Service for 6 consecutive years, although it’s not exactly packed with competition aside from PSA. Regardless, BGS card grades tend to be consistent across the board, which is why they’re preferred by many collectors.
Preservation and Protection
Most importantly, they’ll be able to help ensure the preservation and protection of your collection because of the slab they use to encase cards.
Their slab is also easy on the eye, especially if you’ve lucked out and own one of the higher graded options. A gold label on the front of the cardholder signifies the highest graded cards (9.5-10). A silver label is for cards graded from 8.5 to 9. All others have the distinctive white label, making it easy to identify if you’re scanning through a collection.
Beckett guarantees that each card is protected by a “crystal clear archival inner sleeve” to prevent the holder itself from damaging the card. As well as being free of internal movement, the edges can be fully viewed from the side, which is an industry first.
They claim to have added UV-resistant material to their cases. But when asked how much, or to what level they protect the cards, the answer was “as much as we could add without yellowing the slab”.
While they obviously exaggerate their claims to some extent, there’s no denying that a Beckett sleeve will help to ensure that your card/s stay in better condition than without.
Beckett: The Cons
Nothing in life is perfect, and Beckett is no different! Here are a couple of cons to consider before sending off your collection to be graded by Beckett.
Guaranteed Turnaround Time
While they’re known for decent grading speeds, they announced that beginning February 19, 2020, submissions received will no longer have a guaranteed turnaround time.
They mentioned that the sheer “number of cards Beckett is receiving daily has begun to eclipse the volume our staff can properly handle with strict guarantees in place.” This has led to longer turnaround times on average, while the company has clearly struggled with some large orders.
Take this user from the Beckett forums, who waited over 13 months for a non-guaranteed order;
Poor communication from the company and long wait times will go some way to dissuading the average collector, especially if it’s the first time they’ve used Beckett like the example in the image above
They’ve now switched their turnaround times to estimated times, based on the service levels selected. It’s not ideal, especially as they take money up-front for their services. It’s one thing being patient, but it’s another to wait over a year for your items to return with a grade.
You’d think they would raise prices ever so slightly, or hire a few more graders to ensure that there’s a steady flow of collectibles coming in and out of their offices at any given time.
CEO Jeromy Murray released a statement explaining that;
“We truly wish it was that easy, but finding graders is a very difficult task. In my 20 years with the company, we have never stopped looking for people to help our team, and that includes graders. We are openly hiring so if you, or someone you know, want to work for Beckett at our headquarters in Dallas, please reach out to us.”
They’re clearly struggling to meet demand at this current time, while the Covid-19 outbreak will likely lead to longer wait times as staff are forced to take time off.
The Vintage Card Market
Beckett has a specialist service for older cards, appropriately known as Beckett Vintage Services (BVS). We’ve listed info about using BVS below, as well as the other options Beckett has to offer for anyone who wants to get a card graded.
BVS is slowly becoming more popular with vintage card collectors because of their stringent rules and guidelines for grading, but they still lag behind Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) in the eyes of many in the industry.
This is because PSA has the vintage market locked down for the time being, and most high-end cards are handled by their system. This means that the majority of expensive cards that make the news will be encased in a PSA sleeve, so there can be slight discrepancies in terms of pricing.
Most buyers will be more trusting when it comes to vintage PSA cards, although it’s more difficult to tamper with a BGS slab. Most of the time it’ll come down to personal preferences, but BVS is a good alternative service for cards released before 1981.
Beckett Card Grading Options
Beckett Grading Services use an easy-to-understand 1 to 10-point grading scale, with descending increments of one-half point (10, 9.5, 9, 8.5, etc.). Here’s the Grading Scale in full:
- 1 – Poor
- 1.5 Fair
- 2 – G (Good)
- 2.5 –G+
- 3 – VG (Very Good)
- 3.5 – VG+
- 4 – VG-EX (Very Good-Excellent)
- 4.5 VG-EX+ 5 – EX (Excellent)
- 5.5 – EX +
- 6 – EX-NM (Excellent-Near Mint)
- 6.5 – EX-NM+
- 7 – Near Mint
- 7.5 – Near Mint +
- 8 – Near Mint-Mint
- 8.5 – Near Mint-Mint +
- 9 – Mint
- 9.5 – Gem Mint
- 10 – Pristine
It’s reasonably extensive, and you’ll arguably have a better idea of the overall quality of the card compared to a PSA graded version. The terms help to give an accurate description of the condition of the card, with prices rising rapidly when you get to the 9.5 mark.
This means that a Pristine 10 rating can be worth many times the original amount, which is why collectors are always interested in rare, high-rated BGS cards when they hit the auction houses.
Take Lamar Jackson’s 2018 Contenders Rookie Ticket. An ungraded version sold for $1,300, while a BGS 10 went for just over $4,300. Higher grades are always worth it if you have a card which is in demand, or you’re sure that it’ll earn a high rating.
You’ll also receive a report card which provides specific grade details for the following criteria:
- Centering – This grade focuses on how the card fits on the base, and whether or not the borders are of equal size on the left, right, top and bottom. A well-balanced card will get higher grades, while a poorly centered one won’t be nice to look at.
- Corners – The condition of the corners of your card is assessed with this grade, and it’s often seen as one of the most important attributes. Sharper corners are preferable, which is another reason why you’ll need to keep an eye out for cards that have been trimmed to increase the overall value.
- Edges – The edges are also important for grading. Quality is somewhat dependent on the brand and the era, and this is especially important for cards with dark or black borders. (They tend to score lower on average, so keep an eye out for any dents or discolourations.) Otherwise, it’s fairly easy to check the edges yourself.
- Surface – The surface considers the overall condition of the card. They’ll look out for scratches on glossy options, as well as typical surface flaws like creases or blemishes.
- Final grade – The final grade is the score you see on the top right hand side, denoting the overall grade when considering the various factors discussed above. It’s not an average of the scores, as they use an algorithm to make the decision. They note; “The lowest overall grade is the first category to observe because it is the most obvious defect, and the lowest grade is the most heavily weighted in determining the overall grade.”
*Research into Beckett’s Black Box algorithm suggests that;
“In summary: Corners are punished hardest, Centering next, Surface/Edges the least. How much the overall grade is higher than the worst subgrade depends on which subgrade is the worst, and also depends on how much the other three subgrades are better than the worst subgrade, measured by (the differential in subgrades).”
(An attempt to work out the BGS algorithm)
- *Autographs – Beckett will also provide a grade for the autograph for any signed cards. It can be found on the right of the slab, and is numbered from one to ten. The cost for certified autograph grading is an additional $2 per card and is required for all cards with a signature.
Fees for BGS and BVG services will vary depending on the number of cards submitted and the desired turnaround time.
Understanding and checking the above criteria before you send your items will give you a better chance of working out the overall grade they’ll receive. You can also send PSA cards to be graded by Beckett. Here’s a link to their grading FAQ.
Beckett Grading Service (BGS)
“A high-quality sports card grading service for cards from 1981 to present.”
The original and the best known of their services, most modern cards will be encased in a BGS sleeve. Anything from 1981 onwards will be handled by BGS, so that’s the vast majority of anything you’ve seen over the past four decades, and some of the biggest names in sports.
BGS ratings are highly respected in the industry, and they’ll often sell for more than the PSA equivalent because of their unique grading algorithm and strict criteria.
We’d strongly recommend using BGS for a modern collection, or if you’ve managed to pull a rare parallel that would benefit from having a high grade attached.
Beckett Vintage Grade (BVG)
“Vintage cards deserve a vintage service. BVG allows for 1980 and prior sports cards to be graded with the respect and attention they deserve.”
As the name suggests, the Vintage Grade is a specialized service aimed at convincing collectors and investors to make the switch over from PSA and SGC. They’re making slow but steady progress in that regard, although they still lag behind the competition to an extent.
This is mainly due to reputation, so it’s going to take time for BGS to prove they have the know-how to accurately grade older cards to a similar standard as PSA. BVG grades could lead to lower selling prices as some collectors will avoid them if possible, but it’s still incredibly difficult to get a Pristine 10 grade.
In 2005, they announced they were going to convert BVG to a single grade system without subgrades. They argued that;
“On modern cards, a subgrade system is critical in determining the exact breakdown of a card’s highlights as well as its faults. It’s rare that a single subgrade be considerably lower than the other three on most modern cards. On a vintage card, a single fault in one area (highly off-center, heavy surface print defects, excessively rounded corners, etc.) is much more common.”
It’s another step they took in an attempt to achieve parity with the likes of PSA, and it does make sense for vintage versions.
Beckett Collectors Club Grading (BCCG)
“In an effort to reach our wider audience, BCCG was created as a high-volume grading service intended to provide collectors with an attractive and affordable alternative to other graded card products.”
Opinions differ as to whether it’s worth it compared to the other two, but Beckett Collectors Club Grading is another option for people who want to trade in higher volumes.
Framed as a cheaper option, BCCG cards come with a simplified 10-point grading scale, and no internal sleeve. It’s still sealed and protected in a clear plastic holder with a design based on the Beckett Grading Services (BGS) holder.
Of course, a BCCG 10 grade doesn’t mean that it’ll be matched with a high grade if you send it through BGS, so be wary.
They claim that “BCCG-graded cards provide an eye-catching secondary market alternative to other graded card products, reaching a wider audience of fans and collectors. It features a modified numerical grading scale, with each level representing a range of standard conditions (Mint or better, Near mint or better, Excellent or better, etc.).”
Meanwhile, for vintage cards (1980 and older) the book value (ungraded price based on the Beckett price guide) can not be more than $300 in value if you wish to have the card graded by BCCG.
BCCG is often used by trading card shops or small businesses with a large intake of cards, but we’d advise to go for BGS or BVG if you can.
The Single Grade Service
Beckett announced a single grade service in July 2016, where they reiterated that they wouldn’t be getting rid of their sub-grade system. Instead, they posited the service as “giving the customer the option to possibly save a little money on their grading fees” while getting a single overall grade.
It’s not going to be worth it if you’re sending over a range of expensive cards that could do with additional attention, but it’s another option nonetheless.
Contacting Beckett (BGS)
Generally, you’ll be able to contact Beckett via phone or email, while you can also pop into their Dallas office. Their contact details are as follows;
Address: Beckett Collectibles, LLC 4635 McEwen Road Dallas, Texas 75244
BGS/BAS/CBCS Dallas Office Hours of Operation For Drop-Off and Pick up: Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm CST
BGS/Beckett User Reviews
We’ve looked through the latest online user reviews to give you a better idea of what the general public think of Beckett and their assorted services.
Their Sitejabber profile (and subsequent rating) is unimpressive, with Beckett Media receiving an average consumer rating of 1.09 stars from 34 reviews “indicating that the majority of consumers are generally dissatisfied with their purchases.” Beckett Media also ranks 4th among Baseball Cards sites on their list, with the most common complaint relating to their customer service team.
It’s not a good score by any means, but users do tend to leave reviews after bad experiences, and it’s not Beckett’s fault that the user wasn’t sure about the various abbreviations. (In their defence, Beckett also has a full list of abbreviations on their website for new users, as seen below.)
Experiences will vary depending on the time of year, their current workload, and how many cards you’re planning to send over. In the interest of balance, it’s worth noting that Beckett is our preferred grading service, and the majority of users have no problems with multiple, repeat orders.
The Beckett Grading Service Process
If you’re wondering just what it is they do with your cards, here’s a breakdown of the process from start to finish.
After sending off your cards, each package is opened and logged into their system. The cards are then counted against the submission form to ensure everything matches up.
The package moves on to their invoicing department, where your order is calculated, the guaranteed turnaround time is established, and the due date is set. You’ll be sent an email to confirm the details, and invoiced orders will be transported to their vault.
It’s then taken to the verification team, who ensure that the card is identified properly. This includes data about the year of release if you’re not sure. The card will get a sticker which contains the unique submission number, a unique serial number for that card, a barcode, the due date and a place for graders to assign grades.
Personal information is then removed from the order to ensure anonymity, and they’re returned to the vault until the due date. When the time is up, they use a secured transport cabinet filled with the orders that are next in line for grading.
The grading staff examine each card individually, and they determine its authenticity and that it has not been altered. They state; If a card is deemed to be altered, the card will either be sent back to the customer with a note stating what the alteration is, or if the customer has chosen to have altered cards encapsulated, the card will be encapsulated and the label will read “Authentic- Altered”.
Afterwards, the card is graded and set in the appropriate slab by the labelling department. The shipping department will send your package back to you, hopefully around the estimated time of delivery.
Given the steps, it’s clear why they sometimes fall behind with order times, but it’s worth it to ensure that your cards are being graded properly.
Beckett Grading Service: Overall
Beckett are an established name in the industry for good reason, and it’s easy to see why they’re the optimal choice for many collectors. This is especially true if you’re interested in cards from 1981 onwards, such is their knowledge and expertise when it comes to grading collectibles from the modern era.
It’s hard to argue against their experience, and they’re regularly cited by the media whenever an expensive sale or a juicy story comes along. That’s not to say that the likes of PSA and SGC aren’t good options, but Beckett is our top pick overall if you want to get your collectible cards graded professionally.
Of course, their service isn’t perfect, and grading is far from an exact science, even if their system is based on algorithms. There’s a subjective aspect to card grading, in that you’ll never get the exact same opinion twice, but Beckett does do their best to identify the very best versions available, and their slab will raise the average price of your cards.
Typically, it’s probably not worth getting your collection graded by Beckett unless they’re high value items or vintage cards, but you could see great profits if you snag a 9.5 or two.
What are your experiences with the various Beckett grading services? Let us know below!