Card Grading Qualifiers & Errors

Card Grading Qualifiers & Errors

What happens when you have a card that has an error right out of the pack and you want to grade it? That is where qualifiers and error designations come in. Both PSA and CGC will grade cards with errors or as a designated 'qualifier'. Each company handles them a little differently so let's run through the most common errors and how they might show up as part of the grading process.

Qualifiers and Errors

What is a qualifier? When it comes to card grading, qualifiers are issues that prevented a card from getting a higher grade and are often printed on the label in addition to the grade. PSA uses the term Qualifier and CGC lists them as "Errors". PSA prints the letter code for the qualifier next to the assigned grade signifying that the card would have received that grade (or higher) if not for the qualifier (e.g., Mint 9 (OC)). CGC adds "Error" to the grade portion of the label with a greater explanation of the error on the back of the label. Let's look at the most common qualifiers/errors.

Off-Center (OC)

As discussed above, a Gem-mint 10 centering is either 50/50 or 60/40 (depending on the grading company) and sometimes the centering is dramatically off resulting in an Off-Center (OC) designation on the label when graded with PSA.

Miscut (MC)

A miscut card is the result of some sort of issue during the manufacturing process, specifically when the card was cut from the sheet of cards it was originally printed on. This generally presents itself as an extremely off-center card with a lot of border on one side, and none on the other for example. It can also result in portions of the card being cut off or even more than one card being visible.

CGC ranks miscuts into three categories: minor miscut, miscut, and major miscut. A minor miscut includes at least a partial alignment dot in a corner (used to cut the sheet of cards) or the card is missing some of its design but does not show the design of its neighbor. A miscut includes at least part of one other card and a major miscut shows part of at least two other cards. 

Marks (MK)

Marks are any writing, ink marks, or anything resembling writing on the card. You might see this on cards that were meant to be written on such as cards that included a checklist or from intentional or unintentional marking on the card.

CGC refers to this error as "Extra Ink" and can be a byproduct of extra ink on the rollers during the printing process.

Staining (ST)

Cards with any kind of staining will be marked ST. The stain could be naturally occurring due to issues in the manufacturing process or from exposure to other substances over time according to PSA.

Print Defect (PD)

Print Defects are issues with the card's appearance due to the printing process itself when graded with PSA. This could be dots or lines that are not meant to be part of the card's design or artwork. 

CGC expands the number of print defects considerably to also include things like double or triple printing, missing back, double stamps or missing stamps, holo printing issues (double, incomplete, or missing), incomplete print layer or texture, and things like insufficient ink. Essentially printing extra information or pattern on the card or not printing what is supposed to be there.

Out of Focus (OF)

Cards that are printed 'out of focus' essentially have issues with the registration of the printing plates for the different layers and have a blurry, out of focus quality to them. Both PSA and CGC grade these cards. CGC refers to this as a misaligned print layer. 

Corner and Packaging Issues

Pokemon cards traditionally have die-cut (rounded corners) but occasionally the corners are square cut at the factory for some or all of the corners. CGC also grades these as error cards. And another popular error that some collectors collect are cards that have crimp marks on them as a result of the packaging of the cards in foil packs and the card gets caught in the crimper (sealing process).

Grading Error Cards

When you submit a card to grading with PSA, they will automatically assess and designate any Mark (MK) and Miscut (MC) qualifiers to the card's final grade. Their other qualifiers (OC, ST, PD, and OF) are optional and you can choose during the submission process where to have the grade include that as a qualifier. 

CGC gives the option for an Error designation on the graded label for an additional $5 per card. You can find a full list of all the errors that CGC currently grades on their Error Card List. Their list is extensive and more nuanced than PSA's and may be a better option if you have an unusual error. 

Here are examples from both PSA and CGC of how the label designation looks for their qualifiers/errors:

PSA Error label example

CGC Error Card Example

Are Error Cards Collectible?

 Error cards can be very collectible but the value of the cards can vary greatly. Some of the collectibility comes from collectors that are interested in specific errors such as off center cards or only double holo patterns. There are also errors that are valuable due to their rarity such as the test print Blastoise with a Magic the Gathering back. A CGC 6.5 sold on Heritage Auctions in 2021 for $216,000 but don't expect your average error to fetch that kind of money. 

Blastoise test card with Magic the Gathering back

Errors that are related to printing issues such as missing or incorrect text or symbols fall into two categories generally: corrected and uncorrected. A corrected error means that someone at Pokemon spotted the error and it was fixed in future printing of the card. An uncorrected error means that the error was never corrected in the printing process and cards continued to be printed that way. The corrected errors tend to be more collectible simply because they were only in production for a shorter period of time meaning that there are fewer cards out there with the error. Errors that are the result of bizarre or unusual situations in the printing setup or cutting, are usually one of a kind and can hold more value to collectors that are specifically interested in errors. Regardless of value, error cards are fun to find, especially when pulled out of a pack and grading them is a great way to preserve the card and officially document the error. 

Going Twice is a Certified CGC Dealer and we can help you with your card grading. Check out the details on our Grading page

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