There are many reasons to grade, or not grade, a card. It all depends on your personal objectives. With that, let’s drill down on some of the main factors you should consider.
Some collectors like the look and feel of slabbed cards. Others appreciate cards in raw form. There are over 50 different grading companies today, each with a particular value proposition. So if you like the look and feel of slabbed cards, then you should do your homework and find the slab design and quality that you love and makes your card shine. If you appreciate cards in raw form, then by all means, keep them in raw form, but make sure to protect them!
Protect + Preserve
Generally, encasing your card in a slab will provide the highest level of protection. Slabs are very difficult to damage or break, so once a card is in a slab, you can be confident that the condition of your card will be preserved over time. That said, you can probably achieve adequate protection using penny sleeves and top loaders/magnetic one touch cases and, more importantly, keeping your cards away from children and pets!
When you grade a card, the grading company will not only determine the condition of the card, but will also verify the authenticity of your card. This is particularly important for cards that suffer from counterfeits or alterations, and for after-market or in-person autographed cards. So if you have any questions about authenticity, grading your card can provide peace of mind.
A card’s value is a function of supply and demand. Demand is determined by how many collectors are interested in a particular card. Supply is determined by rarity. Rarity is a function of the print run of a particular design and the relative conditions of the cards in the batch. Generally speaking, it will be harder to find a mint condition card than an average condition card. So if you think your card is in very good condition, then grading your card has the potential to instantly increase the value of your card.
That said, if you want to maximize value, then you need to do your homework to make sure that the increase in value would be greater than the cost to grade your card. For example, a 2020 Panini Hoops Lamelo Ball #223 sells for about $1-3 in raw form and $35-40 in PSA 10 condition (as of Feb 2023). It would cost about $25-30 (including shipping and insurance) to grade this card, which means the increase in value is not much greater than the cost to grade the card. Not only that, there is no guarantee that you would get a 10. The same card in PSA 9 condition sells for about $5-10. You also need to figure out which company to grade your card. Generally speaking, as of Feb 2023, PSA graded cards have the highest resale value, with CSG, BGS and SGC rounding out the top 4.
There will always be an element of risk when figuring out whether and with whom to grade your cards. Card values can fluctuate widely depending on player performance, and there is no guarantee that PSA will maintain its market position for the highest resale values. So before you grade a card, make sure to understand why you want to grade the card and do your homework!