If you're like me, you have a fairly decent collection of cards from the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG). Some of your cards might be common, some of them valuable, or some of them meaningful to you in some other sense.
At some point in time you might decide that you want your cards to be locked in a graded slab. There are many reasons why you might want to do this. Maybe you want to make sure your card is authentic, maybe you want to know the condition of the card through grading, or maybe you just want it preserved in a solid slab for the end of time.
All are great reasons!
So how do you get your cards graded and more importantly how do you send them in correctly so they aren't lost, damaged, or incorrectly evaluated? In this article, we're going to look into the process for using the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) to submit our cards for grading.
In case this is your first time hearing about the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), it is one of the many trading card grading services available. However, many might recognize CGC as CGC Comics because they are the most well known when it comes to comic books. I've personally had more than one hundred (100) Pokémon TCG cards graded with CGC and the cases, which we'll call slabs, make the cards look beautiful!
So let's start walking through each of the steps. The more cards you have, the more time consuming this process will become.
Estimating the Value of Your Pokémon TCG Cards
Before you go to the CGC website to start an online submission, you're going to want to find the value of your trading cards. This is for shipping insurance purposes and the grading tier that you'll need to purchase from CGC. The more valuable the card, the more expensive it will be to grade and insure.
It's best you get this step correct to avoid overpaying or causing delays in your submission return.
For this example, we're going to use the following cards:
- Reshiram & Charizard GX [Unbroken Bonds]
- Blastoise & Piplup GX [Cosmic Eclipse]
- Venusaur & Snivy GX [Cosmic Eclipse]
So how do we properly appraise these cards for accuracy in the CGC submission process?
There are a few things you can do and there isn't a one size fits all solution. You're going to have to use your best judgement as you continue with this article.
The first thing you can do to find the value of your cards is to visit TCGplayer. While a marketplace for buying singles, TCGplayer is a great way to find the market price for the cards you already have.
According to TCGplayer, each of the cards we're using are valued at the following:
- Reshiram & Charizard GX [$11.05]
- Blastoise & Piplup GX [$9.18]
- Venusaur & Snivy GX [$3.36]
We can't rely completely on this data because there is no way to determine the card's grade on TCGplayer. We have quality indicators, but not a specific grade. As much as everyone would like to assume their near mint condition card will grade a ten (10), the reality is that most will not.
Let's further validate the value of our three cards.
The next step is to search eBay for previously sold graded cards that match a grade that we think ours will achieve. Remember, don't assume your card will get a perfect score.
When searching eBay, don't look for graded cards currently being sold. eBay has a search filter that lets you search specifically for sold items. This is valuable because you get to see what people paid for your card recently.
Using this information, we can find the following values for our cards on eBay:
As you can see in the above appraisals, I assumed each of the cards would receive a CGC 8.5 grade. These are not the most expensive cards and the value doesn't change much for them between grading numbers. However, some cards are incredibly valuable and the prices vary significantly between grades. This is where you'll have to use your best judgement again.
Now that we have the approximate values, we can continue to the next step.
Creating a Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) Online Submission
Submitting Pokémon TCG cards to CGC is not difficult, but it can be time consuming depending on how many cards you have. However, if you've already priced all your cards before reaching this step, things should be easier and quicker.
Go to CGC Comics website and create a new account if you don't already have one. When you sign up you'll be prompted to choose a membership tier. The better the membership tier, the more perks you'll get such as discounts. It's up to you what you want to do.
Once you have everything set up in terms of an account, you'll want to create a new submission using the Online Form for trading cards.
There are a lot of things you can do with an online submission, but specifically we're going to want the following:
- Trading Card
- Mail-in to Headquarters
The next step is where you're going to input your card information. The good news is that CGC tracks all of its submissions and uses the information to help you autocomplete the form.
Make sure to use your best judgement on the value of your card based on what eBay and TCGplayer told you. You're going to need to repeat this process for each of your cards, adding them to the cart as you progress.
As you enter your cards, you're going to need to figure out if you want a total grade or if you want sub-grades. The choice is yours. You're also going to want to choose a grading tier based on the value of your card.
Remember how I said you didn't want to miss-value your card and over pay? This is where you could potentially over pay if you do too much guessing.
Once you've added all your cards, complete the submission process by choosing a shipping vendor.
The shipping vendor is for the return shipment, not the shipment to CGC. If you want to ship to CGC using FedEx, but you want CGC to return the shipment with USPS, that is completely up to you.
When you have your completed submission invoice, pay attention to the order of the cards listed because it will be important when it comes to shipping them.
Packaging and Preparing Your Submission for Safe Shipment
To ship your cards to the Certified Guaranty Company, there are a few routes you can go. For example, if you're in the United States you can use USPS, UPS, and FedEx.
I've personally not chosen to use UPS because the rates are significantly more expensive than the other services. For FedEx, it's relatively inexpensive to ship, but they can only insure your cards up to a certain value. This makes USPS a better choice if you have expensive cards.
To be honest, I've had the best experience with USPS for a number of reasons:
- USPS is cheap to send flat rate packages.
- You can have boxes and shipping supplies shipped to you for free. You don't have to pay for the shipping or the product to receive these supplies.
- You can schedule USPS to pick up the package at your door so you never have to leave your home.
It's ultimately up to you which shipping courier you want to use.
The important step is properly packaging your submission. You'll not only need to secure your cards, but you'll also need to include the appropriate CGC paperwork and everything in the correct physical order.
Here are the things you'll need to ship to the Certified Guaranty Company:
- A box (USPS will ship you one for free)
- Packing tape
- A printer for your packing slips and labels
- Card Saver 1 cases and penny sleeves
- Extra cardboard
- Bubble wrap or bubble bags
Depending on the value of your cards, you may want to take the supplies to another level for safety.
Each of your cards needs to go into a penny sleeve and then into a semi-rigid case like the Card Saver 1 or the Ultra PRO alternative. I believe CGC will accept top loaders, but the preferred grading case is the Card Saver 1.
When the cards are in their appropriate cases, you're going to want to sandwich them in between two pieces of cardboard. You're doing this to keep the contents of your box from bending when tossed around by the shipping courier. Many will recommend stiff cardboard, but I just use excess cardboard from my Amazon deliveries. Once sandwiched together, secure the cardboard with tape or rubber bands to prevent the cards from falling out.
The order of your cards matters. Check your submission invoice to find out which order your cards should be placed in the cardboard.
When you have a cardboard sandwich, wrap it in bubble wrap and insert into your box.
Before you seal your box, print out the CGC submission invoice and insert it into the box. You'll likely be including two copies of the invoice because they will both be used for different stages of the grading process.
Going back to the shipping side of things. It's up to you which shipping courier you want to use. Don't forget to insure your package using the total value you determined your cards to be worth.
I'm hoping that this article made you feel a little more confident when it comes to sending your Pokémon cards to the Certified Guaranty Company (CGC). I know the first time I sent my cards I was very nervous, but everything I sent came back fine.
If you're still stuck, I recorded a video where I chose a few nice cards and walked through the process for determining their value, starting the CGC submission process, and packaging them to be shipped. You can find the video below.