The Ups And Downs Of My PSA Submission — Was It Worth It?

I was recently looking to put together a PSA submission, and while I was reviewing potential price points and cards to submit, I decided to review one of my prior PSA subs.

In this case, these were part of a $12 Value Modern submission mailed to PSA in January of 2021…before the long shutdown and “the backlog” became a well-known hobby term.

Let’s take a look at what I subbed, why I subbed them, and the results of the submission. 

My general grading philosophy

I’m not subbing rare ultra-modern variations and parallels. I’m not subbing high-dollar raw vintage. A lot of what I sub falls somewhere in between, falling from the 1970s into the early 2000s. Typically speaking, they are cards I acquired with an eye towards subbing, but not always. 

My general approach is to identify cards that are low population and a bit under the radar, but that if they grade out will make intriguing collectibles. These types of cards only make sense to sub in a world of value-priced subs and quarterly specials

That is not to say that they don’t have value and add value to the card, but it’s all at a lower price point. These won’t make me rich but they’re fun and the profit potential is there. 

Also, I never submit a card that “needs” to come back a 10 to make it worthwhile. If a card looks perfect to me, I hope for a “9”. It comes back an 8? I figure I’ll make my PSA submission costs back. If I get a 10, it’s pure gravy. 

Of course, as with the two cards in this sub that aren’t PSA 9s or 10s, I occasionally sub a card I have in my collection that I want to be graded. Nothing wrong with that! 

When were these graded cards subbed?

These cards were mailed to PSA on 1/31/2021 and arrived at PSA on 2/8/2021. They were finally checked in on 4/3/2021. And they sat for a very long time. The cards arrived back to me on 5/2/2022…one day short of a year since they’d been checked in, and 16 months after they were mailed. 

Things are better now at PSA, although they’re still working through the last of the backlog that led to their shutdown. But this one feels like a trip in the “way back machine”. It’s a good thing I’m a “buy and hold” kind of collector.

What did the psa sub cost?

This submission was done as part of a Value Modern (1972- 2017) submission. Those submissions had a 20-card minimum, which a friend contributed some cards to meet. The grading cost was $12 per card, with my share of the shipping and insurance back from PSA setting me back another $6.50. I also had to pay shipping and insurance to PSA, which was less than $20. 

Does talk of $12 subs feel like ancient history or what? What a crazy few years it’s been in the hobby! 

The cards I subbed

Now, what cards did I submit and why, what was I expecting, and how’d I do? 

1997 Ultra David Ortiz

David Ortiz was just a Hall of Fame candidate to be when this submission was made, but this Red Sox fan was fairly confident that Ortiz would take his rightful place among the immortals in his first year on the ballot. 

We now know that he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

How it was acquired: I’ve had this card for a number of years, so exactly how and when it was acquired I can’t quite recall.
Acquisition cost: unknown
Why I subbed it: Ortiz was scheduled to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot, and high-grade copies were already out of my price range.
Grade Expectation:
I knew it wasn’t a 9 or 10. Was thinking a PSA 7 but hoping for a PSA 8.
Actual Grade:
PSA 7
PSA Total Pop: 647
PSA Pop for Grade: 68

The Verdict: I’m happy with this grade. I knew the card wasn’t mint, but figured that for a $12 submission fee having the card graded would add significantly more value than that. Raw copies are selling for between $30 and $50. The last PSA 7 copy to sell sold for $60. These peaked at about $150-180 back in February. 

1997 Ultra David Ortiz #518 PSA 7

1976 Topps George Brett

Brett is, of course, a Hall of Famer and an all-time great. This particular card is noted for being hard to find centered. This copy is no different. 

How it was acquired: While I don’t exactly recall the circumstances of this card coming into my collection, I believe I acquired it in a lot when I was building a 1976 Topps set several years back.
Acquisition cost: Unknown
Why I subbed it: This card is insanely expensive in high grade, so I figured I’d sub the raw copy I had and see how it goes.
Grade Expectation:
PSA 6 (OC) or PSA 7 (OC)
Actual Grade:
PSA 5
PSA Total Pop: 3,198
PSA Pop for Grade: 361

When I subbed this card, I asked for a qualifier. Since then, PSA stopped putting qualifiers on cards. So, this PSA 5 is probably a PSA 7(OC) equivalent.

PSA 5s are only selling for $25 of late, so while I made back my grading fee, I didn’t knock this one out of the park. And that’s OK. Sometimes you make a big score, but other times you simply protect a card and maybe gain a little value.

1976 Topps George Brett #19 PSA 5

1993 Fleer Procards Billy Wagner

Billy Wagner has been increasing his Hall of Fame vote total for the last few years, and it really looks like he will be the next reliever enshrined in Cooperstown. As you’ll see, I have a soft spot for minor league cards of potential future Hall of Famers. This is an excellent example. 

How it was acquired: In December of 2020, I purchased a complete sealed 1993 Procards Auburn Astros team set from eBay.
Acquisition cost: $9.31 ($5.36 plus $3.95 shipping).
Why I subbed it: The PSA pop of this card was only 3, making it a lot rarer than his 1994 rookie cards.
Grade Expectation: I was hoping for a PSA 9. If it came back PSA 8 I figured I’d break even when Wagner eventually is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Actual Grade: PSA 9
PSA Total Pop: 4
PSA Pop for Grade: 4

It’s hard to find a comp for a card with this low of a comp. There are 4 total of this card graded, and I subbed and own two of them. I’m happy with roughly $22 invested between the purchase price and the grading fee. 

1993 Procards Billy Wagner PSA 9

1989 Procards Ken Lofton

I’ve already mentioned my soft spot for minor league cards of future Hall of Famers. Well, while it may not be an entirely popular opinion, I think Kenny Lofton is a future Hall of Famer. This card is his second minor league card, and pre-dates his 1991 rookie cards by a couple of years. 

How it was acquired: Purchased in December of 2021 was a 1989 Procards complete Auburn Astros set
Acquisition cost: $8.95 ($7.95 plus $1 combined shipping)
Why I subbed it: I’m a Lofton fan and think he’s a future Hall of Famer. The PSA pop on this one is low, to boot.
Grade Expectation: PSA 9
Actual Grade: PSA 9
PSA Total Pop: 10
PSA Pop for Grade: 6

Another one that’s hard to comp, but a PSA 9 pre-rookie of a future Hall of Famer for around $22 total cost? I’ll take that all day long. Lofton for the HOF!

1989 Procards Kenny Lofton #2166 PSA 9

1988 Procards Kenny Lofton

This is Lofton’s first minor league card, although technically he appears on a few Arizona Wildcats college basketball cards prior to 1988. 

How it was acquired: I purchased a 1988 Procards Auburn Astros sealed team set in the same multi-item lot where I acquired the prior Lofton.
Acquisition cost: $8.95 ($7.95 plus $1 combined shipping)
Why I subbed it: Lofton. Hall of Fame. Minor league card. You know the drill by now.
Grade Expectation: PSA 9
Actual Grade: PSA 9
PSA Total Pop: 56
PSA Pop for Grade: 20

While this one is a higher population than the 1989 card, comps are still hard to come by. None have sold on eBay recently, but the one listed in PSA 9 is listed at $90. Even if the card is worth half of that, I’ve doubled my initial investment on this one. 

1988 Procards Kenny Lofton #1953 PSA 9

1988 Baseball America AA Top Prospects Omar Vizquel

This is probably the one I wish I had back. In January of 2021 Vizquel was coming off a nice jump in this Hall of Fame vote total and appeared primed for eventual election into the hall. Since that time, several allegations have been made against Vizquel and his Hall of Fame vote totals dropped significantly in the next election. 

How it was acquired: Purchased a factory-sealed 1988 Baseball America AA Top Prospects set off eBay in December of 2020.
Acquisition cost: $11.26 ($5.97 plus tax and shipping)
Why I subbed it: He looked like a strong Hall of Fame candidate. Sadly, that has changed.
Grade Expectation:
PSA 9
Actual Grade:
PSA 9
PSA Total Pop: 42
PSA Pop for Grade: 27

This one is probably a “break even if lucky” at this point. A PSA 9 sold for only $1.25 plus $5 shipping in February, although a PSA 10 then sold for over $100 in April. 

1988 Baseball America AA Top Prospects Omar Vizquel PSA 9

1994 Fleer Procards Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte has been on the Hall of Fame ballot four times now and is hovering around 10% of the vote. He has a lot of good on his resume, including 256 wins and five World Championships. He also had a 3.74 ERA (117 ERA+) and a connection to PEDs. 

How it was acquired: I purchased 1994 Fleer Procards Albany-Colonie Yankees sealed team set in the same multi-item lot mentioned earlier.
Acquisition cost: $7.95 ($6.95 plus $1 shipping)
Why I subbed it: Pettitte is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate
Grade Expectation:
PSA 9
Actual Grade:
PSA 10
PSA Total Pop: 19
PSA Pop for Grade: 18

The card is a PSA pop of only 19, but 18 are PSA 10s. There are not many recent comps or copies currently on eBay, but one PSA 10 copy did sell recently for $50. I have to imagine I recouped my investment on this one, plus some, especially if Pettitte eventually makes the Hall of Fame.

1994 Procards Andy Pettitte #1438 PSA 10

1999 Just Imagine CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia, like Pettitte, will be a Hall of Fame candidate when he becomes eligible. He’s got 274 career wins and a 2.74 career ERA (116 ERA+). Unlike Pettite, though, he does not have any PED clouds hanging over his head. Will that be enough for him to make a strong showing in the voting?

How it was acquired: I purchased a 1999 Just Minors Just Imagine Factory Sealed Box on eBay just over a week before sending in this sub (mid-January, 2021).
Acquisition cost: $17.60 ($8.50 plus shipping and tax)
Why I subbed it: Sabathia is another borderline Hall of Fame candidate
Grade Expectation:
PSA 9
Actual Grade:
PSA 10
PSA Total Pop: 8
PSA Pop for Grade: 1

With a PSA pop of only 8, and this being the only 10, comps again aren’t in the cards. But having the only PSA 10 version of a potential Hall of Famer’s pre-rookie card? Very good stuff! 

1999 Just Imagine CC Sabathia #134 PSA 10

2004 Grandstand Midwest League Prospects Joey Votto 

Joe Votto is still active, but already is a likely future Hall of Famer. If he can add another solid season or two to his resume, he’ll remove any doubt. 

How it was acquired: I bought a 2004 Midwest League Top Prospects factory sealed set on eBay in late December, 2020.
Acquisition cost: $10.99 ($9.99 plus $1 combined shipping)
Why I subbed it: Minor league card of a probable future Hall of Famer
Grade Expectation:
PSA 9
Actual Grade:
PSA 10
PSA Total Pop: 11
PSA Pop for Grade: 9

Another low-pop PSA 10, although 9 out of 11 of the copies of this card graded by PSA were 10s. No comps are available, but I can’t help but think I did quite well here. 

2004 Grandstand Midwest League Top Prospects Joey Votto PSA 10

1999 Grandstand Texas League Top Prospect Joe Nathan 

We talked about Billy Wagner above. I think he’s a Hall of Famer. But if Wagner is a Hall of Famer, is not the next reliever in line arguably Joe Nathan? Maybe it’s an under-the-radar pick or a lukewarm hot take, but I look at Nathan’s stats and see a Hall of Fame reliever. 

How it was acquired: I picked up a 1999 Texas League Top Prospects factory set in January of 2021.
Acquisition cost: $5.49 ($4.49 plus $1 combined shipping)
Why I subbed it: I think Nathan is a Hall of Famer someday, and PSA has never graded this card before
Grade Expectation: PSA 9
Actual Grade: PSA 10
PSA Total Pop: 1
PSA Pop for Grade: 1

How cool is a PSA 10 pop 1? The demand probably isn’t really there yet, but if Nathan’s Hall of Fame case catches fire, this card could be something special. Even if Nathan doesn’t get the spotlight, this card easily comps for more than the acquisition and grading cost.  

1999 Grandstand Texas League Top Prospects Joe Nathan PSA 10

A word on recouping some costs

Not that I’ve got a lot of money invested in this sub, but I do like to leverage my eBay store to recoup some of the costs. When I buy a minor league set and pull 1-2 cards out to get graded, I’ll list the other 25-30 cards in the set on eBay for $1.99 with free shipping via eBay standard envelope. If I bought multiple of a set, I’ll list 2-5 card lots for the same price.

The ebayfeescalculator.com tells me selling a card for $1.99 w/ free shipping via eBay standard envelope nets me a whopping 85 cents profit after shipping and fees. That’s not much, but it doesn’t take many sales to recoup the cost of a $9 set. 

Ortiz, Brett, and some PSA 9’s

Other paybacks

Is it worth the time and effort? Of course not…but that’s the very definition of a hobby…something you do that you enjoy that wouldn’t be worth the money you could earn doing it.  

Plus, I like to feel that I’m putting minor league cards into the hands of collectors that want them for a reasonable price. There’s something to be said about that. I’ve sold minor league cards to a friend of the player, family members, and even to one former major leaguer who was collecting cards of his minor league pitching coaches.

PSA 10’s

The final word on my recent PSA submission

Overall, I’m very pleased with this submission. The Brett and Ortiz weren’t going to be 9s or 10s, but they were graded fairly.

To then get four 9s and four 10s from the rest of the sub was just about the best I could have hoped for. Some value was created, and some fun cards got encased in low-pop PSA goodness. 

Mike D

Mike D

Mike D. has collected cards since he bought his first pack of Topps at the corner store in 1987. He has long been fascinated by the Baseball Hall of Fame, and of course cards of Hall of Famers, present and future.


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