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What Pokemon cards you shouldn’t be grading in the current market

Pokemon, Pokemon cards, Pokemon cards grading

During the late 2020 and early 2021 boom in the Pokemon card market, no card was safe from being slid into a penny sleeve, jammed into a Card Saver and sent off to your third-party grading company of choice with the hope of a profit on the back end.

Old Wizards of the Coast Commons and Uncommons, modern Ultra Rares (which really aren’t that rare at all), some modern reverse holos…you name it, and people were grading it.

Of course, anyone who had any semblance of experience in the Pokemon card market knew that this trend was going to be short-lived. Profiting off of PSA 7 Base Set Unlimited Charmanders was clearly not sustainable, and many found this out the hard way when they received their submissions back after a year and change.

To put it into perspective, things have become so dire that some people who erroneously threw everything but the kitchen sink at PSA a year-and-a-half ago are apparently abandoning their submissions that are still waiting at PSA facilities (this is for those who didn’t pay their grading fees up front).

For those who had the knowledge to see what was going on, this never became an issue, but newer businesses did not have the frame of reference to predict this outcome.

Here we are in late 2022, and the dynamics of the market have changed rather drastically over the last six to 12 months. Common graded cards are no longer commanding premiums on eBay, and some sellers who did get their submissions returned to them are actually operating at a loss. Those PSA 9 Base Set Unlimited Charmanders and Squirtles that were going for around $100 a little over a year ago? Yeah, those are now $20 cards. Take into account grading fees, shipping fees and eBay fees, and there is no money to be made there at all.

While your heart has to go out to those who bit off more than they could chew, things have absolutely returned to a healthier state as far as the market is concerned. Gone are the massive price spikes that defined late 2020 and the first half of 2021, and now present is more consistency and fluidity.

PSA has now reopened its bulk tier at $22 a card (which I talked about recently), so there are likely some folks who are debating which cards they should ultimately submit for grading (or if they want to submit any cards at all).

So, here are a few types of cards you should probably not be sending into PSA if your end game is to make some sort of profit. If you just want to send cards in to have for your collection, have at it. This is strictly aimed toward businesses and those looking to earn a buck.

3. Wizards of the Coast Non-Holo Pokemon Cards

There are some exceptions here, but like I have said in the past: the exception is not the rule.

Most non-holo cards (so Commons, Uncommons and Non-Holo Rares) from the vintage Wizards of the Coast era simply do not make sense at $22. Those Base Set Charmanders and Squirtles I mentioned earlier? They were selling for around $400-500 in a PSA 10 about two years ago. Now, they typically go for about $80. That’s obviously still a profit, but it’s not worth the risk when the PSA 9s are hitting $20-25 (and believe me: PSA 10s are absolutely not a guarantee for old cards like these).

Even most 1st Edition Base Set non-holos are not wise choices to send in at the current price point. I mean, yeah, if they get a PSA 10, great. But again, it is difficult to get 10s with vintage cards, and the 9s are simply not very profitable right now save for a few isolated examples. Keep in mind, you have the initial cost of acquisition, as well, and 1st Edition Base Set Commons and Uncommons are not cheap, even in raw ungraded form.

Whether it’s Base Set or Jungle or Neo Destiny or whatever, now is not the time to send any of these cards in to PSA for grading. The market isn’t in the right place for it. Not at $22 per card. Heck, even if the price were $10, many of these cards would still be disqualified because their PSA 9 price is simply not worth the risk.

Here is an important strategy to employ: even if your card looks completely flawless, always, always assume a PSA 9 and see if it’s still worth it. You’ll save yourself a lot of money over the long haul.

2. Wizards of the Coast Unlimited Holos

Not even vintage Unlimited (so non-1st Edition) holos are safe at the moment.

Let me preface this by saying that there are some obvious exceptions here. For example, Base Set holos like Charizard, Blastoise and Venusaur are undoubtedly okay to submit at $22. Most Neo Destiny holos fit that criteria, as well. But for the most part? The current cost of grading is too expensive for a large portion of Wizards of the Coast Unlimited holos.

When you see many of these cards selling for $40-50 in a PSA 9, it’s probably time to put whatever holos you were considering sending in back in the holster. Those with any experience in grading Wizards of the Coast holos understand just how difficult it is to score a PSA 10. Even 9s are remarkably difficult to get. So why take the chance of getting a PSA 8 (or worse) and losing money altogether?

I’ll reiterate that I think many people forget about cost of acquisition when it comes to selling graded cards. Even if you bought the card three or four years ago, you still spent money on it. Let’s say you got it for $10. You grade it for $22. That’s already $32. Throw in a $4 shipping fee and eBay fees, and you are barely profiting even if you manage to sell the card for $50. That’s a lot of time and effort for minimal profit, if you make any profit at all.

So keep your Jumpluffs and Kingdras and Muks for now. Once the price of grading drops, then maybe you can pull them back out of storage and send them off on a journey.

1. English Modern Pokemon Cards

This should be easy for most people, but in case there are some newer people entering the hobby who don’t have an understanding of this yet, allow me to enlighten you.

Most English modern cards are not worth grading at $22. Key word: most.

Sure, you have your big hitters from Evolving Skies and such, but the days of sending in normal Ultra Rare GXs or Ultra Rare Vs and expecting to make some money are long over. We even had people submitting regular holos and reverse holos over the last couple of years. In case you didn’t know, modern holos are not the same as vintage holos. Vintage holos were the chase cards in their respective sets. Modern holos are so far down the totem pole thanks to the fact that we now have 894 different rarities (okay, slight exaggeration, but you get the point) that they aren’t even worth a second thought when it comes to grading for resale.

Save yourself the money and the time by understanding that 99 percent of modern English cards are categorically not worth submitting to PSA or any grading company.