NBA Basketball cards: How to inspect and prepare a card for PSA grading

Panini Contenders Draft Picks First off the Line (photo courtesy of
Panini Contenders Draft Picks First off the Line (photo courtesy of /

Here’s how to inspect and prepare your basketball cards for grading

If you’ve pulled a major hit or bought an awesome card raw, congratulations! Collecting NBA basketball cards is fun, and can be a really great way to enhance the fan experience of following the NBA.

If you have pulled a good card, you are probably considering sending it in to get it graded by somewhere like PSA or Beckett. Grading a card is a great way to preserve the quality of your card and potentially add more value to it. If you’re wondering if you should get your card graded, we have an article detailing the pros and cons here. Ultimately, though, everyone gets cards graded for different reasons. It’s up to you!

Whether you’re getting a card graded because it’s a personal favorite or because you think it will be a hot sell in the future, here’s most of what you’ll need to know regarding inspecting and preparing your card for shipping.

A lot of the info in this post I learned from George Wiley. Here’s a video of a pretty comprehensive video detailing his process for inspecting/prepping cards:

How to get a PSA 10: Inspect the card’s centering and foil/shine

This is one of the biggest factors in getting or not getting a 10. If your card isn’t centered, you can bet you won’t be getting a 10.

A card might be obviously un-centered, but even if it looks to be pretty well-centered you might want to take a closer look. Does any foil or shine look misplaced? Are should-be symmetrical aspects of the card asymmetrical? Be sure to look at the horizontal centering but also the vertical centering, too.

If there are any stamps (numbered cards), stickers, etc. on the card, are those centered as well? Wiley has a good example in his video of a stamp that isn’t centered. If you’re really serious you can pull out a ruler, but you’ll be dealing with millimeters here, and more contact with the card risks damaging it.

Try not to overthink this part. Most centering issues should be pretty clear with a close look from the naked eye.

How to get a PSA 10: Inspect the card’s edges and corners

Outside of centering, edges and corners are the next culprits for knocking cards out of perfection. Are your edges and corners sharp? Has there been any damage or minuscule tearing to the cardboard from putting the card in sleeves or top loaders?

This is something Wiley hits on in his video — Take a look at the card from both sides. If a corner looks a little suspicious from the front, check the same corner from the back. Does it look off from both sides? In this case, it’s probably not a 10.

How to get a PSA 10: Inspect the card’s surface

Finally, take a look at the surface. As Wiley notes in his video, sometimes this is hard. You might be looking through a sleeve and the sleeve itself could be scratched or cloudy, not the card. He has a good example of how to inspect the card outside of the sleeve, but I’m not sure I have the steady hands required for it. Try it at your own peril.

How to prepare a card for PSA grading

Wiley’s video above talks about packaging and prepping your card for shipment at the 8:40 mark. He recommends putting the card in a penny sleeve and then a card saver, putting the entire package in a graded card bag. You’ll want to ship in a padded envelope at the very least to protect the card on the way.

To submit cards for PSA Grading, you can visit PSA’s online submission center. You’ll need to set up an account and fill out the information on the cards you want to send.

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