Professional Sports Authenticator, or PSA, has set the standard for evaluating sports and trading cards.
As such, when you want to sell a trading card, one of the best ways to get it evaluated is to undergo PSA grading.
However, when taking it to an appraiser, you’ll quickly discover that PSA grading services can be quite expensive.
Considering that other grading methods are cheaper, you may wonder what it is about PSA grading that makes it so expensive.
Why Is PSA Grading So Expensive? (10 Reasons)
PSA grading services can be as cheap as $18 a card, but they can also be as expensive as $600 a card.
Due to the trading card boom, fast turnaround times, and a backed-up inventory, PSA grading services have become very expensive.
Let’s look at these reasons in more detail.
1. Turnaround Times
PSA grading is expensive if you want a fast turnaround time.
If you don’t mind waiting, then you can choose a more affordable option.
The cheapest service, which typically costs about $18 an hour, has a turnaround time of up to 120 days.
That means you’re going to be waiting a few months to get your card.
The fastest turnaround time is part of its walk-through service.
It costs you $600, but you can expect your card in three days.
The other services have the following turnaround times:
- $30: 90-120 Days
- $50: 45-90 Days
- $100: 15-30 Days
- $150: 14 Days
- $300: 7 Days
Keep in mind that these prices are per card.
If you have several cards that need PSA grading, then you can expect to pay that amount each time.
The exception is if you run a business where you acquire trading cards regularly.
You might be able to get a discount if you send cards to them in bulk.
Essentially, this means that if you want a fast turnaround time for your PSA grading service, then you’ll need to be willing to pay the price.
It makes the service more convenient for people who know that their cards have a high value.
They may be in a rush to sell while the market is hot for that particular card.
Since they’re in a rush and they want the best graders in the industry to grade the card, PSA will charge more for the expedited service.
PSA grading is expensive when you want your cards graded fast.
2. Association Brings Value To Cards
Another reason PSA grading is expensive is that the company brings some value to the cards, themselves.
PSA is practically the gold standard when it comes to grading cards.
They set the standard for grading.
When a buyer sees that a card has received grading from PSA, then they find the card more valuable.
In many cases, a card that received a grade from PSA is going to be more valuable than a card that did not receive a grade from PSA.
That’s because people in the industry trust the PSA grading system.
It also usually means that the seller paid a good deal of money to ensure the card is valid.
There are always scammers and fakes in the trading card industry.
Having a card graded by the PSA gives the buyer some insurance that the card is the real deal.
Some buyers are willing to pay more for that sort of insurance.
Sellers know this, which is why they price cards that have received a grade from the PSA higher than ones that haven’t.
Not only does it help them cover the cost of getting it graded, but it’s also just a more valuable card.
It’s less risky for buyers to bid on it since they know it’s authentic.
It also means that the new buyer won’t have to get it graded by PSA themself.
The seller has already done that.
That saves the buyer money in the long run.
PSA grading services are expensive because the simple act of getting graded by the PSA adds value to the card.
3. Higher-End Brand
A lot of people consider PSA to be the Rolls-Royce of card graders.
They usually only handle expensive cards.
Rolls-Royce is expensive because it only produces luxury cars.
The company may make a cheaper car now and then, but its chosen clientele is those with high incomes.
PSA grading has the same sort of focus.
They have services available for amateur collectors, but their main target audience is those trading in cards that are valued at several thousand dollars.
You can almost consider them a luxury brand of card graders.
Since they’re primarily focused on grading expensive cards, they know that their clients can easily afford their grading services.
When a card you have is worth $10,000 or more, paying $600 to get it graded isn’t going to seem like much.
It’s the card collectors and traders who don’t have $10,000 cards who find PSA grading expensive.
PSA is a higher-end brand.
Like all higher-end brands, their prices lean toward the expensive side.
In return, you get high-quality services.
However, because they’re a higher-end brand, they’re not very accessible to those with smaller or even average household incomes.
PSA grading is expensive because they’re a high-end brand targeting card traders whose cards are worth several thousand dollars.
4. California-Based Company
PSA is located in California.
Doing business in California is quite expensive.
California is also known for instituting experimental regulations that it expects businesses to follow.
One of those regulations is the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018.
It basically requires all businesses operating in California to protect consumer data.
While the regulations aren’t necessarily a bad thing, they can make doing business in California a bit more complicated.
Using the act above as an example, PSA would need to spend money to ensure it’s able to protect its customer’s data.
This is especially true since PSA handles a lot of money and private information.
If that information were to get leaked, then hackers could steal customers’ identities or discover their locations.
They could then sell that information to the highest bidder.
There’s a chance that, from there, the card could even get stolen from the customer.
That’s just one regulatory measure that PSA needs to comply with.
California also regularly sets parameters for how much businesses need to pay workers.
They also have strict regulations on carbon emissions.
All these factors mean that PSA has to spend money to comply with those regulations.
If they don’t comply, then they could face a large fine.
They might even get shut down by the state if they continue to refuse to comply.
This makes PSA expensive because they have to cover those costs by making their services more expensive.
The high prices ensure that they’re able to afford California’s expensive regulations.
Another aspect of doing business in California is the taxes that a business must pay to the state.
California has different tax requirements based on the business type.
A corporation, for example, gets taxed differently than an LLC.
California tends to have higher business taxes than other states.
Since PSA has to pay those higher taxes, they need to charge higher prices to ensure they still have enough money to make a profit.
PSA grading is expensive because doing business in California is expensive.
5. Backed Up Grading
One reason that PSA is expensive is that it has a backlog of grading inventory.
The trading card industry has boomed in recent years.
Everyone is looking to get their cards graded.
The faster that a card gets graded, the faster it can be sold on the market.
The problem is that a lot of the cards that people are trying to sell aren’t worth that much.
Card dealers were submitting cards in bulk to PSA with the expectation of them being worth only a couple hundred dollars.
Since there’s a larger number of common cards than rare cards, PSA quickly found itself backlogged.
This problem became even worse during COVID-19.
The company had to temporarily shut down since they weren’t able to do business under the lockdowns.
Yet, clients kept submitting cards.
With the economy at a standstill, a lot of collectors took to buying and selling cards to keep up with their finances.
The sellers needed their cards graded to make money.
With a mountain of work waiting for them, PSA had to raise its prices.
This deterred a lot of people from getting their cheaper cards graded since the cost wouldn’t be worth it.
It’s enabled PSA to refocus on the clients that they want to do business with—those with high-paying cards.
PSA is expensive because of how backed up they are with low-value cards.
Another big cost that PSA has to pay is insurance.
PSA handles items that are sometimes worth over $10,000.
If something happens to that card when in their possession, they could face a serious lawsuit.
Even if the card isn’t lost or stolen, damage to the card could also result in an expensive lawsuit.
That’s because the client submits the card to the business with the expectation that they’re going to take care of it.
They’re relying on PSA to use good judgment and sense to keep their card protected.
Accidents can happen, however.
To ensure PSA is able to survive a lawsuit, they have an expensive insurance policy.
The insurance policy can help pay for any damages that a card undergoes while under PSA’s care.
It might also help cushion some of the legal expenses that PSA may need to pay if they’re brought to court.
That sort of insurance policy is going to be expensive.
Since PSA deals with expensive cards, the insurance company needs to earn as much money as possible so they can afford to help PSA if needed.
That pool of money is helpful for covering expenses and also earning the insurance company a profit.
Since PSA has to pay high monthly insurance payments, they need to cover those costs with expensive prices.
PSA is expensive because it has an expensive insurance policy for protection.
7. 10-Point Grading Process
PSA grading is expensive because they use a 10-point grading process to grade and value cards.
Not every grading company has such an extensive grading process.
Since PSA does, it makes its services a bit more expensive.
One of the reasons is that it adds legitimacy to the evaluation of a card.
The more involved the process is, the more trustworthy it’s deemed.
Secondly, it means PSA has to spend more time on each card.
It isn’t as simple as taking a quick look over the card and giving it a grade.
PSA might spend a few days examining a single card.
They have to run through each checkpoint on their list to give it a proper grade.
To ensure they’re not mistaken, they take time with the process.
Time equals money.
The longer it takes to grade a card, the more expensive the process is going to be.
Finally, PSA has to use expert graders.
They need to understand the 10-point process that PSA uses.
They also need to have a good understanding of what makes a card valuable.
Only those experienced in the field can grade a card to PSA’s standards.
As such, they likely pay their employees a decent salary.
That adds cost to the business which they need to cover with high prices on their services.
PSA is expensive because of its extensive 10-point grading process.
8. Little Competition
In the world of trading card grading, there is really no competition for PSA grading.
While there are technically other businesses that offer grading services, they don’t have the following or expertise that PSA grading does.
It’s not unlike the luxury car comparison.
There are many luxury car companies, but there’s only one Rolls-Royce.
The same is true of PSA.
When there isn’t much competition in your space, it means you’re able to set whatever price you want.
There isn’t another company looking to steal your clients by offering lower prices.
As such, you can keep your prices high.
PSA has a monopoly on high-quality and high-end grading services.
That allows it to set expensive prices.
Another reason PSA grading is expensive is because of its reputation.
PSA has been around for several years.
It’s developed a reputation for itself in that time for providing accurate and thorough grading services.
When people want a card to receive the best grading service possible, they take it to PSA.
That reputation allows PSA to set high prices for its services.
For one, people expect higher prices because PSA is the gold standard.
Secondly, the business has worked hard to develop a reputation that they’re trustworthy and accurate.
People are more willing to pay PSA’s high prices because they know they’re going to get excellent service.
PSA is expensive because of its solid reputation as a high-end card grader.
10. Trading Card Boom
A final reason PSA is expensive is because of the recent trading card boom.
The pandemic is largely to blame for the explosion in interest in trading cards.
However, traders are still doing business with each other even though the economy has opened back up.
This boom has made PSA increase its prices because there’s more demand for its services.
When demand is high and supply is low, the price of the service increases.
Even if PSA were to hire more workers, they still wouldn’t be able to keep up with the number of requests they receive to grade cards.
As such, PSA grading is expensive because of the increased interest in trading cards.
PSA is a reliable, high-end grader of trading cards.
Its extensive grading process, reputation, and high costs of business make it an expensive place to get a card graded.