What is Objective Grading, and why should it matter to you?

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Daniel Clarke

3 minute read

After using over a dozen grading services over the last 30 years, I’ve long since determined that there are significant opportunities for improvement. In this article I’ll go over what I think those opportunities are and one of the reasons why Ambr Grading is so different from all other grading services.

The roller coaster of the current grading environment

On this blog, Ambr Grading is usually mentioned only at the end of an article, as our primary goal here is to educate, entertain, and inform. That’s not possible with this topic; the reason will become crystal clear soon.

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https://www.reddit.com/r/PokemonTCG/comments/r8zc40/quite_possibly_the_worst_psa_10_base_set/

Retrieved on 2023-01-10 from: https://www.reddit.com/r/PokemonTCG/comments/r8zc40/quite_possibly_the_worst_psa_10_base_set/

Non-objective grading (if you’ve graded with other companies before, this is almost certainly what you’ve experienced) involves a “knowledgeable expert” looking at the card as a whole and providing a final grade based on what is essentially their intuition.

Objective Grading (OG) evaluates each aspect of a card independently against defined, quantifiable criteria to derive a numerical sub-score and then uses those sub-scores as inputs to an algorithm that determines a final score. More simply, it's looking at each component of the card: each corner, edge, surface, and centering, and comparing it to objective definitions of a score from 1-10, then calculating four sub-scores and the final score from there.

To maximize the effectiveness of OG and ensure the process is followed to the letter, it’s vital to have all work double-checked. Any individual grader can make a mistake and miss something, which is why double-grading (a key component of OG) drastically improves the consistency of OG. 

Does every grading company use Objective Grading?

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https://www.reddit.com/r/PokemonTCG/comments/104czce/my_boy_returns_after_being_cracked_and_resubbed/

Retrieved on 2023-01-10 from: https://www.reddit.com/r/PokemonTCG/comments/104czce/my_boy_returns_after_being_cracked_and_resubbed/


While using OG, significant swings in a card's score are unlikely. But, amazingly, most grading services don’t use OG. If you’ve spent time on Reddit, Twitter, or Instagram, reading posts about people’s experiences with grading services, you know this is true. If not, the plentiful online posts and testimonials by customers who have submitted cards to a particular service multiple times and received different (often higher) scores each time will prove it to you.

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https://www.reddit.com/r/PokemonTCG/comments/ybz6gg/does_psa_really_grade_cards_without_looking_at/

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In some cases, the score can increase by four whole grades! I have seen cards with grades as low as a six come back as a 10- from the same company. I, and the Ambr Grading team, believe that "reputable" grading companies should improve their systems and provide their customers with consistent, reliable, and fair services.

Submitting a card and paying for a service should not feel like gambling, and a reliable and objective grading method should be transparent to a collector. I am not here to tear down the industry "leaders," but If a company does not use a systematic approach with defined criteria to determine subgrades, it is unlikely that its customers will receive reliable final grades. And that isn’t right.

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https://www.reddit.com/r/PokemonTCG/comments/zl0uc7/is_this_really_a_psa_10_zeraora/

Retrieved on 2023-01-10 from: https://www.reddit.com/r/PokemonTCG/comments/zl0uc7/is_this_really_a_psa_10_zeraora/

After nearly two years of building and testing a criteria-based grading algorithm, a proper Objective Grading system is possible- we’ve done it for Ambr Grading. We’re not ready to do so, but Ambr Grading will release an open-source grading calculator.

Why? Two main reasons:

  1. So you, our customer, know exactly what we look for and how we calculate your card’s grade.
  2. To try and force the rest of the grading industry to be better.

Our process begins with a comprehensive, evidence-based authentication program. After several pieces of verifying information are collected and stored, a card starts the grading process with data from an established "source of truth." A source of truth is critical in maintaining consistency in the information displayed on the case and in the digital report.

From there, Ambr Grading personnel assess and record 18 independent data points and feed this data into our proprietary algorithm. This last step is repeated a second time (by a second grader), and then both results are compared to determine accuracy. Once the card is finished with its review, its data is sent to our printing staff and staged for the digital report. Before any card leaves our custody, it is reviewed for accuracy and (case) imperfections. 

One Last Thing

If your goal is to get a "10" at the top of your case, regardless of the card's actual condition, Ambr Grading is not the service for you. Ambr Grading does not split "10"s, and its staff is trained in the same methods using the same criteria to evaluate every card. If you receive a score from Ambr Grading, you can be confident that your card is authentic and scored impartially. We believe transparency and consistency MUST be at the core of a grading service. Without it, you are not getting what you pay for.

If you're interested in a TCG grading service that uses Objective Grading, checkout ambrgrading.com

As always, if you have any questions, please send them to hello@ambrgrading.com