How to Grade Magic The Gathering Cards

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Magic the Gathering is a collectable card game that has been around since the early 1990s getting its starts around 1993-1994. The card game combines strategy and roleplaying in order to create a fun experience. The cards are very collectable but telling the difference between cards as well as being able to grade them responsibly can be a difficult process. This article will show you how to identify and grade Magic the Gathering Cards.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • A good eye
  • References
  • Cards to Grade

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    Identifying Magic Cards

  1. 1

    Determine the set that the cards come from. The majority of Magic cards come with symbols on the front of the card which make them easy to identify. Older cards like Alpha, Beta, 4th, 5th, Unlimited and Revised do not have symbols.

  2. 2

    Determine if the card is Alpha or Beta by first looking at the corners. Alpha cards have hard rounded edges while Beta cards are more rounded. Alpha cards represent the first printing of the cards for mass release and came with many misprints and errors that were corrected in the Beta version. There are 295 cards in the Alpha set and 302 in Beta. These two sets are also black-bordered.

  3. 3

    Determine if the card is Unlimited or Revised by looking at the edge around the artwork. Revised cards have a black line around the image but Unlimited has a bevelled edge. The revised edition is also "washed out" in the printing of the graphics and Unlimited also looks darker. Unlimited and revised represent the first printing of a white border. Unlimited was released with the same amount of cards as Beta, however Revised instituted "core rotation" where cards were cycled out and new ones were added.

  4. 4

    Determine if the cards are from 4th or 5th edition by looking at the copyright date. 4th Edition cards are copyright 1994 whereas 5th Edition is copyrighted 1997.

    Spotting Fake and Ultra Rare Cards

  1. 1

    Determine if the card is Collector's Edition by first looking at the edges. If they edges are completely square it is from the collector's edition set. Turn the card over and if the border is gold it is also a collector's edition card. Though still highly collectable they are not tournament legal.

  2. 2

    Determine if your cards are "Summer Magic" cards by closely examining the front of the cards. The card looks like a 4th Edition card, however the set was a botched reprinting of Revised so the 1994 copyright appears on the bottom of the card. The "tapping" symbol is also a crooked "T" instead of the curved arrow. If you have a booster pack that is unopened there will be a letter "E" stamped on it.

  3. 3

    Determine a fake card by first looking at the edges. If they are square, but the back has no gold, it is a fake. Many people will try to sell these fakes as Alpha cards when they are collector's edition cards on a cheap card backing.

  4. 4

    Making a Summer Magic fake is less as hard because the real ones look fake. Many people will use playing card style paper to make Summer Magic fakes so look for feel because it will be glossy as well as shiny.

    Grading Your Magic Cards

  1. 1

    Look at the card thoroughly. Smell the card and hold it up to the light.

  2. 2

    Determine if the card is mint by any imperfections. If the card is just removed from a pack and placed inside a protective sleeve or case it is most likely mint.

  3. 3

    Determine a card as near mint if it has mild wear along the edges identifying it is as slightly played or it got damaged while the pack was being opened. A small curvature can also denote the card as near mint.

  4. 4

    Classify a card as Very Good condition by the edges being more worn and dented and the face and back of the card as scuffed.

  5. 5

    Determine a card to be good by more surface wear becoming more easily recognisable.

  6. 6

    Determine a card to be of Fair condition by its obvious wear, scuff marks, stains and creases.

  7. 7

    Determine a card to be of Poor condition is there are multiple creases, the card is flimsy to the touch and edges are chewed up. Paint will also be lighter or simply missing. Scratches and blatant creases as well.

Tips and warnings

  • Summer Magic cards are more rare than many of the "Power 9" cards.
  • Always check and double check your research when looking at cards to determine their value.
  • Rare cards do not like to be handled and as such usually can only be graded based on surface wear.
  • when buying any collectable card try to find cards already graded by the PSA.
  • Be warned - many people try to pass off newer cards as older so be certain you know the difference.
  • Some great fakes exist - sometime the only way to tell is if you know what the old cards are supposed to look like or by ripping them in half.

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