Centering is the most readily apparent condition attribute of a sports card, arguably making it the most important. Staring at a card to figure out how well it’s centered can make you bonkers, but thankfully there are some concrete methods you can utilize to help you evaluate centering.
This may not sound concrete, but it really is simple.
Take a look at the card images in this thread. Which one looks most like your card? You have your answer.
That might not feel very scientific, but this is how most buyers and graders will determine your centering. So even if the following methods produce a different result, you should respect the number that the eye test produced.
There are two ways to do this.
The GradeMaster Tool is a laminated template that looks far more difficult to use than it really is.
If you don’t already have one, pick up a digital caliper for less than $20 and do the following.
You’ll need a scan of the card or a properly squared-up photograph. If you have that, this is the most reliable way to measure card centering.
That’s a trick question. Neither is best, but they each have their benefits. Eventually, you’ll find the method you like and trust the most, but you may initially want to try all the methods. Getting multiple data points will give you more confidence in the result.
If you’re sending in the card to be graded by a third party like PSA or BGS, centering is a key consideration. PSA requires a 10 to have 60/40 centering or better. BGS will require nearly perfect centering to receive a centering subgrade of 10.
Knowing centering is important when selling your card as well. Consider measuring the centering and providing the results of your measurement to the buyer. For example, you could take a picture of the card with the GradeMaster tool on top of it and explain what that tool suggests the centering is.
Absolutely, centering on the back of the card is relevant, but generally buyers and grading companies are more lenient with the back of the card. For example, PSA will allow centering as bad as 75/25 on the back of a PSA 10.
Don’t overthink centering. While it’s numerically measurable, hobbyists and graders approximate. Arm yourself with the knowledge of the precise measurement when necessary, but otherwise embrace the subjective nature of it.