Beckett has long been a powerhouse in the media business.
It's monthly price guide magazines are synonymous with card collecting from the 80s and 90s.
Beckett Card Grading was launched back in 1999 and remains among the top tier of today's card grading companies.
In this piece, we review the history of Beckett Grading and explore some of the details of its different card grading options.
What's The Background Of Beckett Grading?
Beckett Media was launched in 1984 and started with a physical magazine price guide and corresponding annual price books.
If you grew up in the 80s, Beckett was synonymous with card prices. Beckett was the de-facto standard for determing card values at the time. I have fond memories of waiting for the next month's Beckett to arrive.
EVERYONE carried around their Beckett magazine at card shows.
Beckett decided to leverage their brand by launching a card grading business, Beckett Grading Services (or BGS) in 1999.
At the time, PSA was still the king of the sports card grading business and a new competitor (SGC) had launched only a year prior.
In 2001, Beckett also launched Beckett Vintage Grading (BVG) to create a separate grading entity devoted to cards dated from 1981 and prior.
Beckett should dump BVG and focus on one grading entity. To this day, collectors remain confused by the two different grading divisions.
Oh and then there is Beckett Collectors Club Grading (BCCG) which was launched as a low price, high volume grading service in comparison to both BGS and BVG. IT has however been recently shut down by Beckett.
In our sports grading tutorial, we discussed some of the differences between Beckett and PSA, but I'll review it again here.
So, as a recap, Beckett Grading is a subsidiary of Beckett Media.
Beckett Grading consists of...
Beckett Grading Services (BGS)
Becket's Largest and Most Popular Grading Division, Modern Cards Issued from 1981 to Present. Offered with and without subgrades.
Beckett Vintage Grading (BVG)
Beckett's Vintage Card Grading Division, For Cards Issued Prior to 1981. Does not offer subgrades
Beckett Collector Club Grading (BCCG)
Beckett's Lower Tier, High Volume Collector Grading Service
note this service was recently shut down by Beckett
How Does Beckett Grade Cards?
Beckett grades cards using a standard 1 to 10 point scale, with half grades included.
For BGS, Beckett offers card grading with subgrades or no subgrades.
Subgrades are the four part scoring system that Beckett uses to arrive at its final overall grade.
The four subgrades are: Centering, Corners, Edges and Surface.
Becketts scores each subgrade (from 1 through 10) and then derives an overall grade based on the four different subgrades.
The best possible overall card grade that BGS offers is a 10.
To make it even more confusing, Beckett offers two different 10 grades, Pristine 10 and 'Black Label' Pristine 10.
What Is The Difference Between BGS Pristine 10 and Black Label Pristine?
In 2014, Beckett introduced the 'Black Label' Pristine 10 grade, which is a card that scores a 10 on all four subgrades. According to Beckett's grading statistics, since their introduction, less than 1% of all cards graded have earned a Pristine, 'Black Label' grade.
A graded card can also achieve a Pristine 10 (with only a Gold label) which is a nearly flawless card that has achieved one non-10 subgrade.
Cards graded a BGS 9.5 (Gem Mint) or BGS 10 (Pristine) have a gold colored label.
Silver labels are affixed to cards graded either a BGS 8.5 or BGS 9, whereas the remainder of BGS graded cards have a white label.
Note there had been some speculation in the past that a former BGS employee was getting access to a large number of black label cards.
Beckett (BGS) Grading Scale
BGS 10 Pristine - Black Label
BGS 10 Pristine - Gold Label
BGS 9.5 (True Gem) - All 9.5 Subgrades
BGS 9.5 (Gem Mint)
BGS 9 (Mint)
BGS 8 (Near Mint-Mint)
BGS 7 (Near-Mint)
BGS 6 (EX-Mint)
BGS 5 (EX)
BGS 4 (VG-EX)
BGS 3 (VG)
BGS 2 (Good)
BGS 1 (Poor)
What's The Difference Between PSA and Beckett Grading System?
The major differences between Beckett and PSA are two fold.
First, PSA does not offer sub grades, as Beckett (and CSG) are the only two major graders to offer subgrades.
Second, PSA's top grade is Gem Mint (PSA 10). PSA does not distinguish between Pristine and Gem Mint cards the same way that Beckett does.
Recall that Beckett's Gem Mint grade is 9.5. The hobby has latched onto the 'True Gem Mint' Beckett 9.5 terminology, which is simply a BGS 9.5 with all 9.5 subgrades. Note 'True Gem' is not an official Beckett term.
PSA does allow cards that are slightly off-center to earn a PSA 10 grade but not to exceed 55/45 to 60/40 in the front or 75/25 on the reverse.
Thus, PSA 10 cards can sometimes be slightly off-center, which makes a black label Pristine card a differentiator for Beckett Grading.
Distinguishing between a PSA 10 and an equivalent Beckett BGS grade is a complicated task. In theory, a card with a PSA 10 grade could fit into any of the top four BGS card grades.
A PSA 10 that has flawless centering might very well be Black Label worthy. Or it might be slighly off center and equivalent to Beckett's Gem Mint (9.5 grade).
Typcially, it is up to the eye of the beholder to determine what a PSA 10 card is worth. Certainly, those that appear slightly off-center will not warrant any sort of secondary market premium.
How Much Does Beckett Card Grading Cost?
Similar to the other grading companies, Beckett was slammed with demand during the pandemic, forcing them to shut down their two lower priced (Economy and Standard) grading services.
Currently, Beckett is offering either Express or Premium grading.
The base pricing for the two grading services are as follows:
Express: $150 (or $100 with no subgrades)
Premium: $250 (or $125 with no subgrades)
Beckett Grading is also priced based on a declared value for the card, which determines the level of insurance needed.
In addition, to the insurance cost, there is a return shipping cost.
So for a card that is worth $1000 or less, the cheapest method of grading with Beckett (and with subgrades) will cost you close to $200.
This makes Beckett Grading highly prohibitive in terms of pricing for most collectors.
Evaluating Beckett Grading Prices vs PSA and SGC?
Beckett has not reopened its lower priced grading options (although that could change soon).
Thus, its pricing it most cases is cost prohibitive for collectors.
Beckett's Express grading ($100 with no subgrades) is now on par with PSA's lowest cost grading options.
To add subgrades on the Express level costs another $50. Beckett's subgrades do add a premium to the overall card's value, yet it truly depends on the overall value of the card.
Using our Sports Card Grading Calculator can provide an example of the pricing differences:
For a $2000 card, the costs breakdown as follows:
What Are Beckett Grading Turnaround Times?
Beckett has been notorious for very slow turnaround times, especially during the recent pandemic boom over the last few years. I've had reports from some collectors that are still awaiting shipment from orders sent in at the economy level over a year ago.
Beckett does have a card grading turnaround tracker listed on its website and the expected wait times as of this writing are as follows:
|Premium Submissions||Approximately 10-15 Business Days|
|Express Submissions||Approximately 15-20 Business Days|
For collector commentary, I also encourage you to check in on this running thread, where there are more frequent updates.
Does Beckett Grading Have A Population Report?
The search function on Beckett's pop report is abysmal. For example, if I type in 1980 Topps under basketball, nothing appears. You would have to enter 1980-81 Topps in order for anything to show up.
It is clear that Beckett has not invested much time or capital in the data part of its grading business. Something that PSA has excelled at.
How Do I Submit My Cards To Beckett Grading?
I must say that I've only submitted to Beckett once, but I did find their online submission form very confusing.
For some reason, when I search for a card, the page is all jumbled...here is an example...to select a card, you need to check off that checkbox...but on my screen it shows up in the wrong column. Not sure what's going on here.
To see how Beckett's online grading submission system is supposed to work, this is a good, quick review of the grading process.
How Do I Lookup A Beckett Grading Cert?
Collectors can look up the serial number on the front of the Beckett slab to help verify authenticity.
To see how this works, here is a 1961 Fleer Wilt card, graded by BVG (or Beckett Vintage Grading).
We can see that the serial number is 0005990997
By visiting this link here we get the following info, showing that this card was indeed graded by Beckett back in 2008. They have graded a total of 148 copies.
This on its own would not guarantee authenticity as crooks can certainly forge slabs and serial numbers, but it's certainly a good start.
Does Beckett Offer In Person Grading?
Beckett is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. Due to the pandemic, they did close down any drop ins or drop offs at their local offices.
This could change in the future, and I would recommend calling the BGS Sales Manager based in the Dallas office 972-448-9144 to see if they can arrange anything for you.
Beckett does set up at local card shows for in person grading. They provide an updated list of their scheduled show attendance on their website.
Is BVG A Good Option For Grading Vintage Cards?
Beckett Vintage Grading (BVG) launched in 2001, only two years after the launch of Beckett Grading Services (BGS).
The service was launched to create a separate and distinct grading company focused on older cards (pre 1981).
In 2005, BVG moved to a single grade system without subgrades. Beckett provides some intel for the reason behind the change:
While subgrades did point out the best aspects of a vintage card, many times they focused attention on that one critical flaw that stood out most glaringly on the Report Card. Moving to a single grade system will better allow a vintage card to stand on it's overall positive aesthetic merits instead of drawing excess attention to its lowest subgrade.
In terms of collector preference, BVG has long been considered a second tier player to both PSA and SGC. Many believe that BVG has long overgraded cards and while its not drastic, I have seen some instances where the grade was not very accurate.
This would not dissuade me from purchasing a card in a BVG holder, but for me personally, I prefer both PSA and SGC to BVG for grading vintage cards.
Can I Rely On BCCG Card Grades?
Beckett Collector Club Grading (BCCG) was launched as a low cost, high volume, low tier grading service.
BCCG graded cards are nearly always overgraded.
The good thing is that I have not to date observed a fake card in a BCCG slab.
What Is Beckett Raw Card Review?
Beckett provides what is known as a 'Raw Card Review' at sports card shows.
Cards are graded, inserted in a card saver, and then sealed with a Beckett sticker, estimated grade and serial number.
There are no guarantees that the card will warrant the same exact grade if you submit to Beckett for official grading. There is a good chance it will earn the same grade, but I've talked to card collectors that have seen a worse grade than expected.
Is Beckett Grading (BGS) Better Than PSA?
For a modern card, BGS is a very good grading option.
In some instances, BGS values are on par with PSA graded cards.
Yet, more often than not, PSA graded cards earn a premium in comparison to BGC or SGC graded cards.
Based on current costs, I would opt for SGC over BGS, since SGC is still offering standard level pricing.
Grading prices are always changing, so preference can vary, based on out-of-pocket costs.
Some collectors prefer Beckett because of subgrades andb I agree that it is an attractive feature.
Yet, be careful of grading backlogs and pay attention to recent collector discussions about wait times.
Beckett has improved operationally, but there have been a lot of stories of VERY long wait times.
What Is Beckett Authentication Services (BAS)?
Beckett Authentication Services (BAS) is Beckett's autograph authentication service and was launched in 2016.
Note that any after market autograph must be submitted to BAS and not BGS.
If the card is issued and certified by a manufacturer it can be submitted to BGS.
One of the best parts about BAS is their Signature Review. For $10, you can submit photos of your autographed item and BAS will provide a quick opinion.
If you want to then submit the card for authentication and encapsulation, there is usually an implicity guarantee that the card will be authenticated.