PSA and BGS have steadily increased their grading services’ prices, especially over the last two years.
The two companies raised their rates in the first quarter of 2021. For PSA, this was the third increase in two years. These were significant increases. Indeed, at many service levels, the prices have nearly doubled.
PSA’s price surge seems to be a move to distinguish itself as the high-end grader in the industry and curtail its massive backlog of submissions. However, whatever their reasoning, the action has shifted the grading landscape, and collectors should alter their behavior accordingly.
One result of the news changes is that the PSA Quarterly Grading Specials are more valuable now than before the rate hikes.
First and foremost, most PSA Quarterly Grading Specials are only available to members of the PSA Collectors Club. If you regularly submit cards to PSA, you are probably already a member. If you aren’t, get on it.
After the March 2021 price increases, the club has two levels (as opposed to three previously):
…But the gold is sold out and has been for all of 2021.
So, what do you get for trading a Ben Franklin for a silver membership? Two things: value pricing and quarterly grading specials.
Value pricing might be the best bargain PSA currently offers, even at the current $20/card now. However, today we’re going to focus on the quarterly grading specials.
As the name implies, the quarterly grading specials change four times a year. To find out what the current specials are, simply visit the Quarterly Grading Specials page.
Typically, there are four or five different specials offered every quarter, but they are not limited to grading cards (although if you’re reading this, you might prefer otherwise). Other offers can focus on sports memorabilia such as autographed items or game tickets.
To get a feel for the offers, let’s look at an example. The January 1, 2021, through March 31, 2021 options include:
Also, note that the first three offers are only available to Collector’s Club members. Everybody can take advantage of the other two specials.
The deals change every quarter, but they are all more or less along the same lines.
So, to quickly recap, if you’re only interested in the grading of your cards, there will probably only be one special (or maybe two if you’re really lucky) that scratches that itch every quarter. As you can see from the “The Swingin’ Sixties” example, the focus is on a particular card type.
But… is it worth it?
The 2021 January-March grading specials are almost past at the time of writing. But since they are reasonably representative, we can still use them as a reliable indicator of these offers’ value.
“The Swingin’ Sixties” discount is that all 1960’s baseball cards valued under $500 grade for $9.
As far as determining the quarterly special value, we can look at the question in two ways.
First is a simple calculation based on this question: how much money am I saving when I grade?
To determine that, let’s compare the $9 price to what they would grade for if they weren’t participating in the special.
If you wanted to grade a 1960’s baseball card and were NOT a member of the collector’s club, the cost would be $50 for “economy grading.”
If you wanted to grade a 1960’s baseball card and ARE a member of the collector’s club, the cost would be $20 for “value grading.”
So, if you are a member, the quarterly special will save you 55% on the grading cost of your 1960’s baseball card ($9 instead of $20). Examined this way, it is undoubtedly a good deal.
The other way to look at the value is by calculating how your return on investment (ROI). There are a lot of relevant factors, but this will significantly depend on several factors, including:
With so many factors at play, the best way to help you determine the ROI is simply providing a formula, which would look something like this:
For example, if you bought a card for $25 and sold it for $250 after grading…
From this hypothetical, you have a significantly improved ROI, but the difference in grading cost will impact the ROI less if the purchase price is higher.
Unfortunately, there are several unknowns here. For example, how much would the card sell for raw? How will PSA grade the card? But this formula does provide a general rule of the thumb.
While PSA raised prices for almost everything in March of 2021, the active grading specials’ price was one thing that didn’t change.
With that in mind, we can reason that the next grading special will probably not be quite as steep of a discount – if grading prices are going up, the specials’ price will probably go up, too.
But, even if the next grading special is something like, “1970’s basketball for $15/card,” that’s still 25% off the standard cost of value grading, so it might not be as great of a deal, but it’s still a deal worth taking using.
It is an open question if using PSA is still a good deal in the current market. However, if you use it, taking full advantage of any relevant quarterly specials is the way to go.