Grading and Cleaning Pokémon Cards
Have you recently bought a bunch of Pokémon cards from eBay, and then when they arrived you found that their condition was not quite what you expected? Or have you got a pile of base set uncommons lying around that you could sell for a couple of bucks? Or perhaps your personal collection could just do with a bit of cleaning up. Whatever the case, taking a few spots of dirt off a card could up its condition by a whole grade. Take a look at this guide below to see what condition your cards are in, and then read on to learn how to make them sparkle, in some cases, almost like new.
Gem Mint: This term is used to describe a card that is completely flawless. The card has no visible wear whatsoever, is free of printing flaws and has its original gloss. There is not a single spot or stain on the card and the corners and edges are crisp and free of scuffs.
Mint: A Mint card has very little visible wear. The corners and edges are crisp and free of scuffs. There may be a tiny nick on a corner or a break in the gloss, or a small printing flaw that can only be seen under close inspection.
Near Mint: As the name suggests, a card that is not quite in Mint condition. A small surface scratch, a scuff to one corner or edge, a printing flaw or slight discolouration may be visible upon close inspection.
Excellent: There may be minor wear on the surface such as a hairline crease, and the corners and edges may be slightly scuffed or worn. There may be a visible printing flaw such as a spot that doesn’t come off or the picture may not be perfectly centered.
Very Good: There may be a tiny bend in one corner or a hairline crease on the surface. Edges and corners may have a few minor scuffs and the surface might have a small spot or stain. There may be a visible printing flaw such as a spot that doesn’t come off or the picture may not be perfectly centred.
Good: This card may have a heavy crease on one corner or edge, and edges and corners may have a few scuffs. There is a lack of original gloss and there may be a few scratches on the surface. There may be discolouration or visible printing flaws.
Fair: This card may be heavily scuffed and show general signs of wear. There may be a few creases and corners and edges are no longer sharp. There is little or none of the original gloss left and there may be visible printing flaws. There may be scratches or pencil/ink marks or indents on the surface.
Poor: The card is no longer worth much, if anything at all. There are many creases and scuffs, marks and spots, dents and scratches and perhaps even a tear. This is an example of a card that was left in your pocket and had been through the wash.
The idea of collecting Pokémon cards is that when a collection is complete, it not only gives a great sense of satisfaction but it is pleasing to look at. Keeping cards clean and in the best possible condition is very important to all serious collectors, especially if they are planning to sell their collections later on. Here are some imperfections that are commonly found on cards that can, in most cases, be fixed, or at least improved.
General dust and dirt is quite easy to remove. I recommend using a serviette, as tissues are too soft and they break away leaving annoying little fibres on the surface. Dampen it ever so slightly. Too much water will, obviously, ruin the card. Gently work away at the surface, removing any spots that will easily come up. For tougher spots, see the next section.
If there’s something caked onto your card that won’t come off with a gentle wipe, you may need to be more assertive with it. Use a slightly dampened cotton-tipped swab to gently work at it until it comes off. This may ruin the gloss a little, but it’s better than having something stuck on your card. If it isn’t coming off easily, you can gently pick at it with a fingernail (make sure your fingernail is clean and not too sharp).
Sticky spots left from food or tape can easily be removed. Use a mild oil like eucalyptus or baby oil. Avoid cooking and vegetable oils as they will leave your card feeling greasy. Dip a cotton-tipped swab in a tiny bit of oil and gently wipe it off.
For pencil marks, use a soft, clean eraser to gently remove the markings. Do not put too much pressure or rub vigorously, and do not use textured or hard erasers or ones that tend to smudge. For pen and ink marks, dampen a cotton-tipped swab with nail polish remover. You only need a tiny, tiny bit; too much will completely wreck the card. Gently work at the markings until they fade. You may not be able to completely remove some ink markings, but you should still be able to fade them enough to be not as noticeable.
Please take note that nail polish remover might make the spot you used it on turn a slightly different
Creases and bends:
There isn’t really anything you can do to get rid of creases. You can lessen the severity by gently bending the crease in the opposite direction (but don’t bend it too far). You can try to flatten raised creases with a fingernail (however if too much pressure is applied it can make it worse).
It should be noted that shiny cards commonly "curl" when kept in a cold place due to the foil inside them. A warped card can easily be flattened again by placing it under a heavy book for a while. To prevent curling/warping, keep cards at room temperature where they will not be directly exposed to sunlight or heat.
Sometimes discolouration may be due to a printing flaw, and this is perfectly fine. However, cards can become discoloured by being left out in the sun. Although not much can be done for discoloured cards, it's important to know how to store your cards properly to avoid further damage. See preventing imperfections.
Dents, holes and tears
Really, trying to fix these with sticky tape just looks tacky. Bend the card back into shape as best you can, and prevent any further damage to it.
If you've still got imperfections after trying everything above, you may need to take more drastic measurements. You can attempt to remore tough stains with nail polish remover or bleach, but as I mentioned before this could fade/ discolour the card. Always take care when using these chemicals; use them in a well ventilared room, do not breathe in the fumes and try not to get too much on your skin. For serious discolouration you could even try to touch up the card with some markers, but if you don't have the right colour this could look bad. If the stain is on the back, keep your collection in a folder and place cards back-to-back in the sleeves. Alternatively, you could just buy a new card.
You can prevent all these things by keeping your cards in a safe place and handling them with care when you’re holding them (or better still, don’t hold them at all). A binder or folder is the most ideal place to keep cards. One binder page can hold up to 18 cards and the clear plastic sleeves means you can look at your cards close up without touching or damaging them. Single card sleeves are also good but it will be harder to keep all your cards in one place. But on the plus side, there are many Pokémon themed single sleeve sets that players use to protect their cards when they’re using them in a deck! Keeping your collection in a cool, dry place out of reach from small children and stupid friends who may damage them will ensure your cards stay pretty forever ^v^