How to Grade Cards
We must pay homage to Beckett for finally displaying how they arrived at a grade and listing the criteria they observed. For quite some time, collectors were completely perplexed on how such a great looking card they submitted for grading received a 6! Although each company may deduct imperfections by slightly different methods; for the most part, they are all looking at 4 core pieces of criteria which are displayed on the David Justice card below.
Surface: Deductions can be caused be surface wrinkles, creases, print defects (fish eyes, snow, etc.), picture registration, scuffing, gouges, etc.
As you can see with the Mantle, it has some minor print defects that are barely even visible which are circled. Also, above the "i" of "Mickey," there is a small yellow dot that shouldn't be there (it is a minor print defect). The face of the card on the back is also free game for graders to deduct.
Edges: This refers to the vertical and horizontal edges of the card. Edges can get damaged when the card was taken out of the pack, a card gets dropped, putting the card in a protective sleeve, and numerous others ways.
As far as this Mantle is concerned, the edges are very clean.There are some very minor edge damage at the top of the card but it is nearly microscopic.
Corners: The corners refer to the...well, corners of the baseball card. Aside from a card's centering, corners are typically the first thing that catches your eye and is typically the first thing a collector examines. The corners of the Mantle are highlighted using the red boxes below. Corners can be damaged by a number of factors including dropping the card, putting it in a protective sleeve and dinging the card, etc. This Mantle exhibits excellent corners for the grade. The corners strongly resemble what you would expect from a 6.5 or even 7.
Centering: Centering refers to the ratio of the borders/frame of the card from left to right and top to bottom. Centering is arguably the most important aspect of a card's marketability and eye-appeal. Many collectors will take a nearly perfectly centered card with a dinged corner or two over a off-centered card with perfect corners and edges. Typically, collectors put more weight on the centering of the frame of the card from left to right. However, the top to bottom ratio of centering is also important and something the graders examine. 50/50 centering is obviously perfect but 45-55 is still elite centering. The modern cards produced today typically have amazing centering due to the evolution of technology. However, the cuts of vintage cards were rarely perfectly centered so a nicely centered card is fairly rare and commands a premium.
This Mantle has nice, not perfect centering. From left to right, the card's ratio is about 63/37 and from top to bottom, it is very close to 50/50. Overall, the centering of this card creates great eye-appeal.