For as long as human civilization has existed, there have been those that love to gather collections. The contents of these collections have ranged from valuable trinkets to sentimental belongings. As the years progressed, the nature of collecting changed with the rise of new hobbies and obsessions. As pop culture became a driving force, new products became the most sought-after products at auctions and with resellers. Moreover, simple coins and other everyday elements of the past became valuable pieces.
Recently, pop culture fans have loved to add first-edition comics, trading cards, and other rare pieces to their collections. Discovering mint pieces from the past few decades brings excitement to these fans. They also treasure finding their favorite albums, videos, and other products with autographs from the creatives behind them.
Meanwhile, history buffs have enjoyed finding the simple things from years gone past. Often, a coin in circulation or a stamp is in deteriorating, terrible shape. However, there are a small group of rare pieces that have been kept in pristine shape. Thus, history fans love to add these pieces to their collections.
Using Professional Services to Improve the Value of Mint Collectibles
Even though these rare pieces are valuable on their own, there is a way to exponentially improve their value. For the select few pieces that are truly in mint condition, receiving a grade from a trusted service elevates them to new heights. With the protection and backing of a professional evaluation, mint collectibles easily can gain hundreds to thousands of dollars of value.
Likewise, any autograph becomes vastly more valuable with a certification from a professional authenticator. Unlike grading services, buyers often consider authenticating autographs as an essential step. Buyers want to feel safe in their purchases knowing they didn’t accidentally buy a forged autograph. Even genuine articles might not be a proper, genuine autographs since many celebrities, politicians and other public figures use stamps, printers, or even have secretaries sign items for them. With that in mind, a trusted authenticator removes the uncertainty and greatly elevates the value of collectibles.
However, owners should not rush to send in every single one of their collectibles to a grading service. Multiple variables would prevent a piece from gaining a significant boost in value.
Be Careful of Where You Send In Your Collectibles
Many companies offer opinions about the mint state and authenticity of collectibles. Unfortunately, the public and buyers do not trust just any company. There are even companies that have been caught up in claims of market manipulation. Even some previously trusted companies have fallen out of favor thanks to lawsuits and claims of unethical behavior.
So, we strongly encourage you to research the company to which you plan to send your collectibles. Check for red flags, such as claims of favoritism or under evaluations. In the worst cases, there are active lawsuits against the companies that indicate issues. If you feel uncomfortable at all with that company, you should look for another that guarantees fair, impartial services.
Pick the Right Collectibles and Autographs
Before you send your collectibles to a professional service, you need to carefully evaluate the item. Many collectors tend to send in any collectible to grading services and never profit from their decisions. Grading and authentication services are not cheap, so the bump in value needs to be significant for it to be worth it. Professional grading is not a quick simple process either, so collectors need to keep the time investment in mind.
To get a proper return on investment, you should have a product in excellent condition. All aspects of these products need to meet the grade, not just one element of it. Every bend, chip, scratch, wrinkle, and other distortion takes away from the final grade. Even products that recently came out of a factory can receive a low grade. However, with careful examination, you can feel secure in knowing that your collectible will gain value.
Larger toys and collectibles are also usually unfit for grading. While they may receive some value boost, their size increases the risk of damage during shipping. Even after they are sealed in a protective case, they can be damaged during shipping. That is why these products are usually not optimal for grading.
Likewise, not every autograph is a worthwhile investment. In many cases, autographs obtained at conventions and other gatherings may come from minor creatives. Even major players like Stan Le might not have a valuable autograph because their signature is commonly abundant. The right combination of product and autograph, on the other hand, will prove to be a worthwhile investment.
For a full breakdown of how to pick the right toys to send in for grading, check out our guide here.
Which Service is Best for My Collectibles?
There is a large range of professional services that verify the quality and authenticity of valuable collectibles. However, most of them specialize in certain products. Even if they are willing to give you a grade on your collectible, they might not be the most trusted or knowledgeable about the area. So, you should carefully pick the right company to send your collectibles to.
Moreover, you must not send a product to a grader when they instead require an authenticator. While the grading services are familiar with spotting damage in collectibles, they do not necessarily have the resources to verify whether a product is genuine. So, authentication hinges on how trusted the source are in the field.
The Collectible Grading Authority (CGA)
When it comes to grading toys and similar collectibles, there are few companies with the reputation of the Collectible Grading Authority (CGA). Through its subsidiaries, the Action Figure Authority (AFA), Collectible Doll Authority (CDA), Die-Cast Authority (DCA), and Video Game Authority (VGA), the company grades all manner of items.
Beyond grading services, the CGA also helps collectors preserve their collections with a large range of cases. For instance, they sell secured cases for comic books, even though they do not directly grade those products.
The Action Figure Authority (AFA)
As the name suggests, the AFA specializes in grading action figures and related accessories. They are well known in the G.I. Joe, He-Man, Transformers, and other toy communities. They grade loose, carded, and boxed toys.
The Die-Cast Authority (DCA)
Meanwhile, the DCA specifically focuses on small die-cast toys. While there are some action figures with die-cast in them, like some Transformers, these are not the toys for this part of the company. Instead, this part specializes in die-cast vehicles and playsets.
The Video Game Authority (VGA)
The company also provides professional grades on video games and video media through the VGA. While most of the products that receive grades from this organization are vintage games, it is also possible to get Betamax and VCR tapes graded.
Collector Archive Services (CAS)
There is more than one company that provides valuable professional grading services for toys and related collectibles. The Collector Archive Services (CAS) aims to provide accurate, impartial, third-party grading for these products. They also grade a wide variety of related collectibles including sports memorabilia, trading card packs, and video games.
Like the CGA, the CAS provides grades on 100 point scale. They make a point of providing true numeric grades that removes the confusion of grades like “high 85” and “low 85”. They also seal the collectibles that pass through their doors in protective cases to help preserve their quality.
While they are a trusted source of grades for toys, some collectors do not value their grades. So, it is not uncommon to receive a lesser price for a CAS-graded product than a similar AFA-graded product.
UK Graders (UKG)
Multiple grading services operate out of the United States. For instance, UK Graders (UKG) is the premier service for its region. Operating out of Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, this organization is ready to evaluate a wide range of action figures and die-cast figures. They are most well-known for their grades of Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers toys. However, they grade most toy lines from the 1980s, including Indiana Jones and WWF. Moreover, they have evaluated the mint condition of video games.
Unlike most grading metrics, the UKG provides their grades on a percentage scale, ranging from 0-100%. Aside from the % sign, this method works similarly to the 100-point and 10-point scales used by other services. Otherwise, they use the techniques that the other graders do, evaluating boxes, blisters, and figures accordingly.
Beyond their grading services, the UKG provides several products to help collectors maintain their collections. They have a wide range of protective poly bags and slide-bottom cases available for purchase. Similar to most grading companies, they also offer cleaning services before the toys are examined and graded. Unlike many other grading companies, the UKG will authenticate items and provide a letter of authenticity.
The Certified Guaranty Company (CGC)
Stationed out of Sarasota, Florida, the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) is one of the most trusted companies that grades comic books and other graphic novels. Like most companies, the CGC grades on a 10-point scale. The closer to 10, the more mint the comic book.
Notably, the comics that command the highest prices are rare and older. For instance, even a mid-tier original print of Mirage’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 can sell for a few thousand dollars. So, we suggest that collectors consider the age, rarity, and overall condition of their comics before having them graded.
Beyond grading comic books, the company also provides grades for other facets of pop culture like concert posters, magazines, trading cards, and video games. However, collectors should carefully consider their options when sending in these products. For some of these categories, other companies are more well-known and trusted. Then, there are other categories like posters that do not show any indications of commanding high prices.
Beckett Authentication Services
Many grading and authentication companies have gained prominence through a network of related companies. Beckett Authentication Services is one of those companies that aim to service all tiers of pop culture collectibles.
Beckett gained prominence through their Authentication Services, where they verify whether autographs and other pop culture products are genuine. Since 2016, they have accurately identified and authenticated autographs on albums, posters, sports memorabilia, and all other forms of pop culture collectibles. However, they also help collectors by grading their treasured products.
Beckett Grading Services
Understanding that fans often get their trading cards autographed, Beckett provides a grading service to help collectors ensure and preserve their collections. They have graded mostly sports cards from the 1880s to current. They also have evaluated cards from Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, Star Wars, and more.
Beyond cards, Beckett has expanded to cover a wide range of collectibles. Part of their site specializes in the grading of vintage VHS movies. They are also looking to expand their services to tickets for major sporting events and concerts. Moreover, a part of their company is specifically geared toward grading comic books.
Comic Book Certification Service (CBCS)
The Comic Book Certification Service (CBS) specializes in professionally certifying and grading comic books and graphic novels. The grades these comics receive are on a 10-point scale. Only the most mint of comics receive a 10.0. Meanwhile, near-mint copies can garner from a 9.1 to a 9.9. Still, a 7.5-graded comic would be in very fine condition according to their scaling.
The grades these collectibles receive are determined by the state of various parts of the book. From the spine to the bends of the pages, all parts of the comic are scrutinized. Thus, only the ones in the best condition receive a high grade.
Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA)
The Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is the most well-known name when it comes to graded trading and gaming cards. Since 1991, they have provided third-party evaluations of these precious collectibles. Since then, the company has evaluated tens of millions of cards, which has made them one of the most trusted in the business.
As one of the largest professional grading services, they have expanded to multiple countries. In the United States, they have offices in California and New Jersey. Meanwhile, they have international offices in Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo.
As with most grading services, they use a standardized 10-point scale to rate the mint state of collectibles. The products that pass through their doors also return in special cases to help preserve the integrity of those collectibles.
Aside from trading cards, the PSA grades Funko Pops!, original photographs, tickets, and other professional sports memorabilia. They also authenticate autographs, so collectors would not need to find another service.
Card Grading Australia
Multiple companies provide grading services across the globe. For trading-card lovers in Australia, there is Card Grading Australia for their region. Since 2012, this company has evaluated multiple types of gaming and trading cards, from sports to Yu-Gi-Oh. Unlike most grading companies, they use a 100-point scale, which easily converts to a 10-point scale.
They specifically keep to cards that are below 3.5 x 2.5 inches and less than 4 mm thick. Within this size category, they grade all types of cards, both sports and non-sports. In the gaming space, they grade Digimon, Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, and many more cards.
The Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC)
For lovers of coin collecting, there is no larger company than the Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) for professional grading. Since 1987, this company has provided professional services to coin collectors across the world. They accept all types of coins, from ones that never were in circulation to ancient currencies. Thus, they have easily graded more than 55 million coins over the years.
Besides coins from America, the NGC grades a wide range of products. For the American coins, they examine coins from the 1600s and newer. Meanwhile, they accept coins from as early as the 1300s from Western Europe. Otherwise, they provide grading services for ancient civilizations. Beyond coins, the NGC evaluates tokens and medals.
When they grade coins, they evaluate several elements, including the type of strike it was. For coins that were in circulation, their grades are in the Mint State, or MS, tier. Meanwhile, coins struck solely for collectors are graded in the Proof, of PF, tier. Meanwhile, there is a select type of coin that lies in between the two groups, Specimen or SP.
Coins that go through their grading process receive a score between 1 to 70. Every imperfection, from the surface characters to the sides, reduces the grade of these coins. Once the coins are graded, they are placed in a special protective case to help preserve their condition. The case includes a special padding plastic that specifically fits the coins.
In addition to grading, the NGC provides useful tools for collectors, like a price guide. Buyers could even verify the NGC certification on their website.
The Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS)
Aside from the NGC, the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) evaluates and grades coins and other currency. This group has been helping collectors grade and authenticate their rare coins since 1985. They understand that there are numerous counterfeits out there, so they help collectors know they have the genuine product with their evaluations.
For the most part, the PCGS keeps to American coins from the 1700s and newer. They even grade colonial and confederate coins. However, they are not the service to use if you have ancient coins that require grading.
Aside from coins, the PCGS grades and authenticates banknotes and other paper currency. These products are even more prone to counterfeits, so collectors need to authenticate their rare bills. In addition, they set the graded currency in protective cases that help protect it from the elements. Collectors could even get complete packs of banknotes graded here.
Like the NGC, coins are graded on multiple scales, Mint State (MS), Proof (PR), and Specimen (SP). They receive grades from 1-70, with 70 being the most pristine, clean version that could be pressed from the mint.
Collectors that choose their services may also register their coins to easily manage and get information about their coins. Otherwise, they provide a wide range of research and pricing guides.
The Philatelic Foundation
For stamp collectors, there is no organization more important than the Philatelic Foundation. Since 1945, this organization has helped collectors verify and research their stamps. They offer certificates to prove that their stamps are authentic.
Toting to have the largest collection of both United States and foreign stamps, the Philatelic Foundation aims to accurately identify these collectibles. They also have thousands of reference books to help back up their evaluations. So, no better service currently authenticates stamps.
James Spence Authentication (JSA)
Since 2005, James Spence Authentication (JSA) has provided a trusted evaluation of autographed collectibles. They travel to various conventions throughout the years, so collectors have the choice to either ship their items or meet up in person at an event. They even have the option to visit their office or even request a house call. So, this organization is happy to work with its customers.
After they evaluate autographed products, they provide a Letter of Authenticity. Otherwise, they return the products to their original owners with a letter explaining the inconsistencies and reasons that they failed. So, collectors can trust their evaluations.
They authenticate signatures from all aspects of pop culture. However, it is most common to find sports and movie memorabilia with their authentication.
Unfortunately, they do not offer any grading services. It is also up to collectors to protect their products, for they only offer a letter of authenticity.
Do you have old and used authenticated and/or graded collectibles?
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About the Author
Author: Chris Ingledue
Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!