SGC Card Grading (A Collector’s Guide)

March 23, 2022

sgc-grading

PSA gets all the fanfare, but SGC is the second oldest grading company in the hobby. 

Launched in 1998, about seven years following the start of PSA, SGC has built a reputation as one of the most trustworthy and reliable card graders in the business. 

Unfortunately, PSA graded cards still sell at a sizeable premium to both SGC and Beckett graded cards. 

My hope is that at some point, SGC graded cards earn the due that they deserve. 

As follows is a full review on SGC.

Please let me know your thoughts on SGC in the comments section.

More...

What Does SGC Stand For?

SGC stands for Sportscard Guaranty Corporation.

The name of the company used to be prominently displayed on their logo and website.

sgc-old-logo

The old SGC logo prominently displays the full name 'Sportscard Guaranty LLC" or Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC)

However, the full name of the company is now nowhere to be found.

I am guessing that SGC wanted to move away from the 'Guaranty' word in their brand. In fact they did in recent years undergo a full rebranding campaign.  

Thus, today, they are only known as SGC. Even the Better Business Bureau (BBB) lists the company as 'New SGC LLC".

sgc

What's The Background Of SGC Grading?

SGC was launched in 1998 and acquired at some point between 2003-2004 by current owner and CEO Dave Forman

Like all card grading companies, there has been no shortage of controversy.

Here is an old Net54 Forum post where the owner of Clean Sweep Auctions alleges that Forman was a 'pioneer when it comes to trimming and restoring cards'.

Some even say Forman has a collection of 'overgraded' cards from SGC with help submitting by his brother

And as with PSA and BGS, there have been several instances of SGC grading clearly trimmed cards

I don't personally know Dave. I have tried to reach out to SGC for an interview with Dave and I'm hoping to follow up on some of the past history of SGC.

Who Owns SGC Grading?

SGC is a privately held company. SGC is currently owned by Dave Forman, who acquired the company only a few years after it launched in 1998. 

Is SGC A Credible Grading Company?

Despite some of the past controversies, SGC is still viewed in the hobby as one of the top grading companies. The top three card grading companies today are considered PSA, SGC, and Beckett Grading Service (BGS)

In terms of accuracy, SGC finished second in our collector survey, behind only PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator).

SGC also won our award for Best Overall Value. Currently, SGC offers the lowest pricing among all of the mainstream graders.

sgc-value

SGC was awarded 'Best Overall Value' among the major vintage card graders in our collector's survey.

One thing I like about SGC is its transparency.

Here's a recent example where they went public with a few mistakes they made in erroneously grading some Pokemon cards:


How Does SGC Grade Cards?

Similar to PSA and Beckett, SGC grades cards using a 1 to 10 scale

SGC used to grade cards on a 1 to 100 scale, but in 2018, SGC moved to the industry standard 1 thru 10 grading scale. 

sgc-russell-rc

A Bill Russell 1957 Topps Rookie card with an old SGC Flip

SGC used to include a 1-10 grade on their old labels, but it was always super confusing. 

Today, SGC now has a new logo and new style flip (label) a black colored label.

new-sgc-flip

An example of a new SGC slab

One solid addition that SGC has made of late is the addition of publicly available card images for each graded card.  

For example, using the serial number on the SGC label shown above. If we go to SGC's cert lookup we can drill into high resolution images. This is a great addition to help in examining a card of questionable authenticity. 

sgc-lookup

SGC Cert Lookup Ability to See High Resolution Images

Does SGC Use Gloves When Grading?

SGC Grading Scale 

SGC 10 Pristine - Gold Label
SGC 10 Gem Mint
SGC 9.5 (Mint+)
SGC 9 (Mint)
SGC 8 (Near Mint-Mint)
SGC 7 (Near-Mint)
SGC 6 (EX-Mint)
SGC 5 (EX)
SGC 4 (VG-EX)
SGC 3 (VG)
SGC 2 (Good)
SGC 1 (Poor)

see more at the SGC website

SGC Gold Label Pristine 10 vs SGC Gem Mint 10. What's The Difference?

According to SGC, a Pristine 10 (abbreviated PRI on the label) is the perfect condition card. 

A "virtually flawless" card. 50/50 centering, crisp focus, four sharp corners*, free of stains, no breaks in surface gloss, no print or refractor lines, and no visible wear under magnification.
acuna-pristine

An SGC 10 Pristine Gold Label Ron Acuna baseball card.

A step down from the Pristine, is the 10 Gem Mint (abbreviated GM on the label). 

According to SGC, there is a minor off-centering allowance (and a small print spot allowance) as compared to a Pristine 10. 

55/45 or better centering, sharp focus, four sharp corners*, free of stains, no breaks in surface gloss, no print or refractor lines, and no visible wear. A slight print spot visible under close scrutiny is allowable if it does not detract from the aesthetics of the card.
tom-brady-gem

A Tom Brady SGC 10 Gem Mint card

SGC Gold Label 10 vs BGS Pristine 10?

I would consider the SGC Pristine Gold Label 10 and the BGS Pristine Gold Label 10 as equivalent grades. According to both grading companies, a card only earns a 'Pristine' grade if it is 'virtually flawless' with perfect 50/50 centering. 

Note, Beckett offers two different 10 grades, Pristine 10 'Gold Label' and 'Black Label' Pristine 10.

What Is The Difference Between BGS Pristine 10 and Black Label Pristine?

https://www.blowoutforums.com/showthread.php?t=1473099&highlight=forman

What's The Difference Between SGC, PSA and Beckett?

Becket is the only grading company between SGC, PSA and BGS that offers sub grades on its cards. 

Beckett and SGC both offer a 'Pristine' grade 10 card, which is a flawless card, with perfect centering and no flaws. PSA does not have a 'Pristine' grade. PSA's top grade is PSA 10 or GEM-Mint.

To confuse everything, BGS has two Pristine 10 grades - Pristine Black Label (perfect condition), and Pristine 10 Gold Label, which has one subgrade at a 9.5 (with three 10's). 

yzerman-rc-black-label

BGS Black Label Steve Yzerman rookie card

acuna-pristine

An SGC 10 Pristine Gold Label Ron Acuna card.

Making Sense Out Of The Top Grades

BGC Black Label (Pristine) 10 > SGC Gold Label (Pristine) 10 

 PSA 10 GEM Mint > BGS Gold Label Pristine > SGC 10 GEM Mint > BGS 9.5 GEM Mint

tom-brady-gem

A Tom Brady SGC 10 Gem Mint card

A PSA 10 Walter Payton RC  

lebron-pristine

A Lebron card with a Pristine 10 grade from BGS

bgs9.5-jordan

BGS 9.5 Michael Jordan Anticipation card (Gem Mint)

Beckett's Gem Mint grade is a 9.5, SGC's Gem Mint grade is 10, and PSA's Gem Mint grade is 10. 

Wow this is confusing.

This is the easiest way for me to explain it. 

PSA's definition of Gem-Mint does allow cards to be slightly off-center.

A card can earn a PSA 10 grade if it is slightly off center on the front (no worse than 55/45).

Thus, PSA 10 cards can sometimes be slightly off-center...even though it is PSA's top grade.

This helps both SGC and BGS differentiate themselves, by creating an upper tier grade which only allows cards in perfect condition, with perfect centering. 

Note that some folks on the Blowout forum did evaluate modern card sales of the top grades among the big three grading companies. 

The results showed that BGS Black Label Pristine's typically sell for the most of all top graded cards.

I've also noticed for modern cards that the Beckett Pristine Gold 10 tends to sell for more than PSA 10 cards, but it defeinitely depends on the card in question.  

How Much Does SGC Card Grading Cost?

SGC was impacted by the pandemic, but seemingly it was the one card grading company that kept most of its lower priced grading options mostly intact. 

SGC currently has the lowest base grading rate, with its standard base grading rate starting at only $30.  This compares very favorably to PSA Grading and Beckett, which still have grading rates starting at $100. 

sgc-card-pricing

SGC Card Grading Rates

SGC's grading costs depend on: your desired turnaround time, the declared value of the card, and your shipping provider choice. 

For a card worth $1500 or less, it will cost you $45 (this includes return shipping) for a standard 20-25 business day turnaround.

Evaluating SGC Grading Prices vs Beckett and PSA

Whereas PSA and Beckett have shut down low cost grading options, SGC has been the one company that has not.

Using our Sports Card Grading Calculator can provide an example of the pricing differences:

For a $1000 card, the costs breakdown as follows (note costs can vary based on your choice and speed of return shipping)

PSA: $149
SGC: $95
BGS: $189

Thus, SGC remains the lower cost grader amongst the big three grading companies.

Of course, we must consider that SGC graded cards still sell at a discount to PSA graded cards.

SGC Estimated Turnaround Times

Like any grading company, SGC turnaround times were impacted by peak demand during the pandemic. Yet, card collectors recently have reported more consistent turnaround times at SGC.

I have submitted to SGC several times over the past year, and I had a great experience. A 20-25 business day submission was returned within the alloted time frame in each instance. 

There is an SGC Collector's Group on Facebook which provides more collective feedback on SGC Turnaround times and also a few plugs there for SGC Bulk Submission groups which allow for cheaper grading rates.

Worth checking out if you are looking to send cards to SGC.

Does SGC Have A Population Report?

SGC does have a population report which you can find here.

Unfortunately, SGC's pop report is not on the same level as PSA.

I've discovered many instances in SGC's database where the same exact card is recorded in different rows in their database. The reason?

SGC often recorded the same card, yet with different names on the label, thus there was a lack of consistency.

This has improved, but their past data records are a bit scattered. 

Here's an example. I typed in 1909 T206. The returned data shows that SGC in the past has recorded T206 cards as both '1909' and '1909-11', thus this leads to identical cards with completely different records in SGC's population report.

sgc-pop-report

How Do I Submit My Cards To SGC?

SGC offers an online grading submission portal. SGC has improved its online submission system, and the interface is clean and easy to use.

SGC's online grading system is on par with PSA in my opinion. The search function is intuitive and works well.

Both SGC and PSA are far and beyond what Beckett offers, which could definitely use an upgrade.  

SGC's online submission system starts with you searching for your card.

sgc-submission

Here I've entered '1986 Fleer Michael Jordan' and the search results show the available options. I select the #57 Michael Jordan Fleer card. 

Next, you must enter a declared value. This will determine the base grading cost for your card.

From SGC:

The declared value you stated on the front of this form is for estimating the insurance coverage only, and the fair market value of the item may be less than your declared value. 

Some grading companies will upcharge if you underestimate the declared value, but it typically depends on the magnitude of difference.

I enter a declared value of $4000. The form automatically fills in the $250 grading fee for that declared value. 

What Should I Enter For A Declared Value?

As noted, a declared value is used for the grading company to determine the appropriate insurance needed for when they ship your card back to you. 

The declared value also determines the cost to grade a specific card. The higher the declared value, the higher the cost to grade.

I recommend trying to guesstimate the grade of the card and then from there attempt to estimate the potential value, if graded.  

From there, SGC will ask you to choose your return shipper, either USPS or Fedex. USPS is a bit cheaper.  Once you have paid for your order, you will then need to ship your cards to SGC.

Send your cards to SGC at:

SGC
951 Yamato Rd, Suite 110
Boca Raton, FL 33431

For more help in shipping your cards to SGC, we created this guide to safely package and ship your cards.

How Do I Lookup A SGC Grading Cert?

Collectors can look up the serial number on the front of an SGC label to help verify authenticity. 

Can I Rely On SGC Card Grades?

SGC has a good reputation in the hobby and is one of the longest tenured grading companies. 

There are past concerns and controversies, but SGC would not have made it 20+ years if they weren't providing a good service

My experience with SGC has been positive. Some of the cards I've sent received lower grades than I anticipated. 

While this, for me, wasn't a great result, the facts are that SGC is a strict grading company. 

In my opinion, SGC is one of the most reliable and trustworthy grading companies in the hobby.

Is SGC Better Than PSA?

PSA graded cards earn a premium over SGC graded cards. So, if I had to choose one grading company, it would be PSA for this fact alone. (see below for the pricing difference on PSA 7 vs SGC 7 Jordan rookie cards).

sgc7-jordan

But, considering costs, SGC certainly offers fantastic value. I hope that the spread can narrow between PSA and SGC graded cards over time.

This also does create some opportunities for buyers. Be on the lookout for SGC cards selling at a discount. You might just find a great buy. 

Does SGC Grading Offer Promo Codes?

SGC has occasionally offered some discounts in the past, but it is not a normal occurrence, similar to what PSA has done with its Collector's Club.

I encourage collectors to follow the SGC page on Facebook, as this would be the first place collectors would be made aware of any discounts. 

Is SGC Authentic Still In Business?

SGC used to have an autograph authentication business -SGC Authentic.

They shut down the business in 2019, but they had a good reputation.  

There are some rumors that it was shut down following the discovery that they had authenticated some forged T206 cards.

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