How To Measure Sports Card Centering Every Time

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.

Using the Eye Test To Measure Sports Card 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.

Physical Ways To Measure Sports Card Centering

There are two ways to do this.

1. The GradeMaster Card Centering Tool

The GradeMaster Tool is a laminated template that looks far more difficult to use than it really is.

  1. Line up the tool precisely over the card you are measuring.
  2. Choose the indicator that you will be using to determine centering – typically the edge of the photo.
  3. Note the number of the line on the GradeMaster Tool that indicator is closest to on each side. You may end up with a “4” on one side and a “3” on the other.
  4. Look up that number combination in the GradeMaster Table. You did it; that is your centering. In the case of 4-3, that’s 57-43.
  5. Repeat this process to measure Top-Bottom centering.
The GradeMaster is a laminated tool that helps you measure the centering of any card (picture taken from eBay).

2. Use a Digital Caliper To Measure Sports Card Centering 

If you don’t already have one, pick up a digital caliper for less than $20 and do the following.

  1. . Note this reading. In this example, let’s assume it’s the left side and it’s 5mm.
  2. Repeat step one on the other side of the card. For our example, we’ll say it is 7mm on the right side.
  3. Do the math. Divide one of the sides by the sum of the sides. In our example: 5 / (5+7) = 41.6. So the centering is 41.6 / 58.4.
  4. Repeat the process for Top Bottom centering.

3. Digitally Measure The Cards Centering

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.

  1. Download a pixel measuring tool such as PixelZoomer.
  2. Using the pixel measuring tool, precisely measure the number of pixels from the edge of the image to the edge of the card on the left side.
  3. Repeat step 2 for the right side.
  4. Do the math. If the left side is 48 and the right side is 39, your centering is: 48 / (48 + 39) = .552. We can safely call that 55/45.

 

A digital caliper allows you to measure the distance from the edge of the card to the edge of the picture (picture taken from eBay).

FAQ About Measuring Sports Card Centering

Which Centering Measuring Method Is Best?

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.

Why Would I Want To Know The Exact Centering?

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.

What About The Back Of The Card?

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.

What Else Should I Know?

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.

Rob Ireland

Rob Ireland

Rob is an avid collector of 1980s Milwaukee Brewers cards, low-grade vintage, and sealed material. He prefers his cheeseburgers like his finest collectibles: rare.