The grading of Magic cards may create friction between buyers and sellers because grading is not an exact science. Someone may consider a card to be Near Mint, while another may believe it to be in excellent condition. To some degree, these disputes are unavoidable, but we have put up a guide to help you grade your cards properly and avoid misunderstandings.
Magic’s current rating system was inspired by baseball card grading. As early as 1995, the Inquest Gamer magazine used the Baseball card grading system for Magic cards. Mint, Near Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor were the recognized grades. Magic’s grading system has changed throughout time to meet the demands of Magic players. The wide range of grades was gradually replaced by fewer grades, particularly at the lower end. The six ratings from Excellent to Fair were reduced into Slightly Played and Played in the most severe instances.
In Europe, the terms Played, Slightly Played, and Heavily Played are seldom used, but they have become the usual categorizing cards in the United States. The grading system in Europe is essentially a continuation of the PSA grading system for baseball cards, but the titles have altered somewhat. Fair and Very good are two ratings that are only used seldom nowadays. The Cardmarket grading system utilizes Mint, Near Mint, Excellent, Good, Light Played, Played, and Poor to represent how cards are typically rated in Europe.
Because “a picture is worth a thousand words,” we have included some example photos to assist you in figuring out what condition your card is in.
There are no excuses for a mint card; it is in excellent shape. This indicates that the front is in excellent shape, that the surface is free of scratches, and that the surface is spotless. The reverse of the card shows that it is indistinguishable from cards from a recently opened booster. Even if the card material is in Mint condition, a card with a signature or a Grand Prix stamp cannot be rated Mint.
In most instances, grading a card as Mint makes little sense. A Mint card is worth approximately the same as a Near Mint card for in-print cards, but the grading requirements are much higher. On the other hand, really old cards (1993-94) may fetch a high price if they are in Mint condition. As a result, ‘Mint’ is primarily a grade for cards with a high collectors’ interest. A Near Mint grade is typically sufficient for cards that are sold primarily for playing purposes.
A card in Near Mint condition seems to have never been played without sleeves. Small concessions may be made, but the card, in general, shows no signs of wear.
Tiny white stains on the NM card’s border are allowed, but they must be few and small. The card’s surface must usually look clean when examined in broad daylight. It may have a few minor blemishes, but no scratches are permitted on NM cards.
A Near Mint card is usually in a state that would render it unmarked if it were played in an unsleeved deck.
Near Mint generally implies Near Mint or better (similar to the American NM/M grade) since the Mint grade is seldom applied for cards from later expansions.