CSG Card Grading 2023 Update – Are They A Legit Contender?

September 3, 2023

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I wrote a piece on CSG Card grading in 2021 and there have been some requests for an update, given some of the changes at CSG.

The most significant change happened in 2022, with the launch of a new label and a revamped grading scale.

In my last article, I noted the following about CSG's slabs:

In a simple word--ugly.  This is where I wish they tried to survey the collecting world before pulling the trigger on a slab/flip design.  I have to admit, I don't like the design--it feels too busy and suited for a more modern day card.  

Well, maybe they were listening to me? Because they made a significant change.

Here was the slab before (that I was highly critical of):


And here is the new and improved CSG slab.

The most notable changes are the usage of black on the label, instead of that ugly green. A much cleaner label with a nice bold, black border. With the addition of a barcode on the front of the label.


The backs of the labels are super clean and helpful (see Doncic card below) with a QR code that allows you to look up the card in CSG's grading database

In addition to the new slab design, CGS also altered their grading scale. 

CSG replaced its 'CSG Pristine 10' grade with 'CSG Gem Mint 10', which gets the grading company more in line with the other larger competitors.  

They are leaving in place their 'CSG Perfect 10' grade which signifies a card that has 'flawless centering, corners, edges and surface'.

They are also discontinuing sub-grades for all grades, aside from Perfect 10 graded cards, which will receive sub-grading for free. 

Here is the updated CSG Grading Scale:

10Perfect 10: Flawless card with quad 10 grading criteria
Gem Mint: Overall 10 grade with one minor flaw
9.5Mint+: Nearly perfect card with minor wear and flawless surface
Mint: Sharp corners, only minor flaws
8.5+NM/Mint+: Smooth edges, smooth surface, and slight imperfections
NM/Mint: Touch of wear on corners, slightly rough edges
7.5Near Mint+: Wear on corners, rough edges, and minor flaws
Near Mint: Slight corner imperfections, print spots, and cut
6.5Ex/NM+: Acceptable imperfections, moderate cut, and staining
Ex/NM: Minor rounding, chipping, print spots, and flaws
5.5Excellent+: Minor rounding, chipping, print spots, and imperfections
Excellent: Rounded corners, surface flaws, and minor staining
4.5VG/EX+: Rounded corners, surface flaws, and some staining
VG/EX: Rounded corners, creases, scuffs, and wear
3Very Good: Rounded corners, creases, scuffs, and heavy wear
2.5Good+: Heavier creasing, surface damage, and miscuts
2Good: Heavier creasing, surface damage, and writing
1.5Fair: Catastrophic flaws such as creasing and surface damage
1Poor: Major surface damage, missing portions, and flaws

So now that CSG has made these changes, what do collectors think?

Overall the reception to the label and slab change has been quite good. Many like the looks of the new slabs and the grading scale changes get CSG in line with most of the other major grading companies. 

Here's one example of some collector feedback over at Net54:

I just purchased my first CSG slab recently. High grade, modern-ish basketball. I was impressed with the slab, and the accuracy of the grade. The cards cost about 20% of the same grade in a PSA holder.

In the interest of 'buy the card, not the holder', I've been adding CSG to my searches and would feel comfortable buying them. In my mind, if I can acquire cards I'm looking for at a significant discount, I'll certainly consider it.

The discount for CSG graded cards to PSA makes sense.  I wouldn't expect CSG to earn nearly the same premium as PSA, however it could be considered a good bet for buyers, looking to snag a desired card at a discount.

So does this discount hold true?  I looked around on eBay and found a few comparisons. Here are two listings, one for a PSA 2.5 Goudey Ruth selling for $20,300, and another CSG 2.5 Goudey Ruth selling for $13,999. The PSA copy looks slightly better centered, but overall probably not enough for a $4000+ difference,

And what about accuracy with grading?  Andy Broome at CSG has a good reputation and from what I've heard from most collectors, CSG has done a good job in terms of accuracy compared to PSA and SGC.

User snowman over at Net54 echoes this sentiment:

As far as accuracy goes, they're mostly on point. My pre-grades are almost always accurate with them with very few surprises. I've had about an equal number of cards come back that I felt were overgraded and undergraded, but nothing by more than 1 grade off. The same is true for my submissions with SGC. Both SGC and CSG are far more accurate and consistent than PSA these days. I have also cracked out and crossed over dozens of cards to CSG from PSA, SGC, and BGS.

Ultimately, i think CSG is on the right track. They have made the right changes and the reception from collectors has been positive.

Still, they are the so called new kid on the block and it will take time before collectors trust CSG as one of the premier graders

Based on the attractive slabs, the quick  turnaround times and low costs of grading at CSG, I would recommend it for anyone looking to grade cards in their collection that they aren't looking to turnaround to sell.  

This is especially true for any premier vintage cards that sell in the thousands. If you want to get the most return for your investment, unfortunately PSA will continue to be the way to go.

But, I'm glad that CSG has remained a fierce competitior and it appears that they are well on their way to future success in the hobby.

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