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What You Need To Know About The Merger Of CGC Trading Cards And CSG

cgc grading merges with CSG

On June 20, CGC/CSG Cards announced, “In July, CCG will combine CGC Trading Cards® and Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG) into CGC Cards, solidifying its position as one of the world’s largest and most prominent card grading services.”

Indeed, after this merger, the newly empowered CGC brand will be the world’s second-biggest card grading company after PSA. CGC is the parent company of CSG, which it launched to great fanfare in 2021.

Now the newly united CGC is bringing in a new grading scale and a new label. They are also unifying and simplifying the submission process. Will this allow them to make a charge at PSA? Read our overview of the CGC Trading Cards and CSG merger to find out.

However, the element the CSG holder collectors are most critical of will apparently remain. The holders have an inner sleeve that can sometimes bunch up. The smaller the card is, the bigger the problem.

But oversized cards get it, too, if they are bigger than 2.5 by 3.5. inches. So, it is a serious eyesore for some of those pre-war cards, though standard cards are affected too. It sometimes looks plain ugly and ruins otherwise good-looking cards.

The news of the CGC tradomg cards and CSG merger

Steven R. Eichenbaum, the CEO of CCG, promised, “The card market needs strong competition because competition makes us better, and that’s good for collectors and dealers. CGC Cards will win by providing best-in-class grading services with fast turnaround times, affordable prices, and strong prices realized.”

Many things will change regarding the services of both CCG and CGC. In this article, we will report the announced changes in detail. However, it is worth noting that the press release promises pricing changes.

It says: “CGC Cards services and fees will be announced soon. Collectors and dealers will benefit from simple, transparent, affordable pricing.”

That likely means that some of the many categories and sub-categories these companies have for submission will disappear and be united under one rubric. But whether prices will rise or fall is, as of yet, unknown.

The new cards and their fancy schmancy labels will be unveiled at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, July 26-30. We expect the new launch to be one of the more prominent attractions at the National

. However, we do have some previews for now. Any thoughts? They look too much like the previous ones, which never caught my fancy.

Why did the CGS/CGC merger occur?

CGC explains, “The name CGC Cards represents that virtually all TCGs, sports cards, and non-sports cards will be accepted by CGC Cards. In addition, the CGC brand is known the world over as the leader in pop culture collectibles certification. Immediately recognized by collectors and dealers, CGC signifies best-in-class grading services and strong prices realized.”

When CGC launched CSG, they had hoped to use their brand recognition and strong position in the comic book grading space to enter the sports world. And indeed, CGC is a massive player. Established in 2000 in Sarasota, Florida, it has since graded more than 10 million items.

While CGC is framing this as a rebranding triumph, it is hard to see it that way. The third change of a label in two years and the essential eradication of a brand they launched just recently indicate, at best, a course correction. At worst, an admission of defeat.

What goes the CGC/CGS merger mean?

CSG was launched to compete with the big boys in the sports card grading space. However, that hasn’t entirely worked out as hoped. It has made little headway as sports collectors prefer PSA and, to a lesser extent, SGC and BGS.

Indeed, this is the third time it has changed its label since its launch two and a half years ago. That is a surefire sign that the brand has never indeed found its way.

As we all know, CGC is not a particularly large player in the sports card world. Let’s not get too mean towards them. They did reach one million submissions more quickly than the other grading companies. But they are far behind their competition in sports. For most sports collectors, they are the fourth option, if that.

Certainly not in comparison with the massive PSA. However, they dominate several fields of collectibles.

As the press release announcing the merger noted: “CGC Cards leverages the strength of the renowned Certified Guaranty Company (CGC) brand, which was established in 2000 and has become the undisputed leader in pop culture collectibles grading, with more than 10 million collectibles certified. The CCG companies, which have graded over 75 million collectibles since 1987, also include the world’s largest grading services for coins, paper money, and stamps. CGC Cards will build upon this legacy of success.

Changes to the CGC grading scale?

The grading scale of CGC is significantly different from the standard in the sports card world. While a 10 is a Gem Mint, like anywhere else, that is where the similarity ends. Below the 10, there is a point scale but an incomplete one. Here is the current scale:

Gem Mint 10The highest grade assigned. The collectible must have no evidence of any manufacturing or handling defects.
Mint 9.9The collectible is nearly indistinguishable from a 10.0 but will have a very minor manufacturing defect. It will not have any evidence of handling defects.
NM/M 9.8A nearly perfect collectible with negligible handling or manufacturing defects.
NM+ 9.6A very well-preserved collectible with several minor manufacturing or handling defects.
NM 9.4A very well-preserved collectible with minor wear and small manufacturing or handling defects.
NM- 9.2A very well-preserved collectible with some wear and small manufacturing or handling defects.
VF/NM 9.0A very well-preserved collectible with good eye appeal. There will be a number of minor handling and/or manufacturing defects.
VF+ 8.5An attractive collectible with a moderate defect or a number of small defects.
VF 8.0An attractive collectible with a moderate defect or an accumulation of small defects.
VF- 7.5An above-average collectible with a moderate defect or an accumulation of small defects.
FN/VF 7.0An above-average collectible with a major defect or an accumulation of small defects.
FN+ 6.5An above-average collectible with a major defect or an accumulation of small defects.
FN 6.0An above-average collectible with a major defect or an accumulation of small defects.
FN- 5.5A slightly above-average collectible with a major defect and some smaller defects, or a significant accumulation of small defects.
VG/FN 5.0A slightly above-average collectible with several moderate defects.  
VG+ 4.5An average collectible with several moderate defects.
VG 4.0A slightly below-average collectible with multiple moderate defects.
VG- 3.5A below-average collectible with multiple moderate defects.
G/VG 3.0A collectible that shows significant evidence of handling with several moderate-to-major defects.
G 2.5A collectible that shows extensive evidence of handling with multiple moderate-to-major defects.
G 2.0A collectible that shows extensive evidence of handling with numerous moderate-to-major defects.
G- 1.8A collectible that shows extensive evidence of handling with numerous major defects.
Fa/G 1.5A collectible that shows extensive evidence of handling with a heavy accumulation of major defects.
Fa 1.0A very poorly handled collectible with a heavy accumulation of major defects.
Poor 0.5A heavily defaced collectible with a number major defects. Some pieces will also be missing.

The coming changes to the CGS grading scale

Until now, CGC hardly gave out the perfect 10 grade. They saw it as something about gem mint. Kind of an aspirational grade. But that will be changing now.

According to the press release: “CGC Cards will use an industry-standard 10-point grading scale topped by a Gem Mint 10 and, for the best of the best, a Pristine 10. Cards previously graded Gem Mint 9.5 are precisely equivalent to Gem Mint 10 under the updated grading scale. They will soon be reflected in the CGC Cards Certification Verification, Population Report, and Registry resources under the Gem Mint 10 grade without any action needing to be taken by collectors and dealers. The Perfect 10 grade, which was seldom used, will no longer be assigned. However, it will be supported by all of CGC Cards’ online tools.”

The reasons for the change

Why did the company make this decision? They say, “The Perfect 10 grade, which was seldom used, will no longer be assigned. Most survey and focus group respondents stated that there would be too many of three 10 grades (Perfect 10, Pristine 10, and Gem Mint 10). After careful consideration, CGC Cards decided to make the top grade Pristine 10 over Perfect 10 because a significantly greater number of Pristine 10 cards have been certified compared to Perfect 10 cards.”

However, while the 10 will no longer need to be perfect, CGC plans to snazz it up. This is coming as part of their effort to improve the label, as will be described below.

The company explained, “With the label upgrade, CGC Cards is also thrilled to introduce the ultra-special CGC Cards Pristine 10 label. In CGC Cards’ focus groups, a resounding request among collectors and dealers was for a special label for the highest grade, and CGC Cards is happy to deliver with a lux, gold label worthy of the chase grade — Pristine 10.”

Removing subgrades

In addition, CGC will be removing subgrades due to a lack of popularity. The company explained, “Sub-Grades will also no longer be offered. While Sub-Grades have a small group of loyal fans, they have become far less popular with submitters. In recent months, fewer than 5% of submissions included a request for Sub-Grades. CGC Cards looks forward to providing collectors and dealers with other, more innovative ways to learn how and why their cards received the grades that they did.”

Basically, it sounds like CGC will be scrapping its unique grading system and copying the PSA system. It is not too surprising, considering that SGC and BGS have made steps to harmonize their grades with what has become the industry standard.

The New Label Changes

CGC is proud of its labels and claims, “It offers superior display, crystal-clear optics, and numerous security features, and few who see it in hand dispute that it is the industry’s best.”

But despite having what they consider the best label ever, changes are coming. Which raises the question, if it’s the industry standard, why revamp it? But anyway, changes are coming.

What will the new label look like? According to CGC, they are introducing: “a sleek new label that puts the spotlight where it should be — on the cards. Without distracting colors or design elements, the label provides a detailed description of the card, along with its grade, its unique CGC certification number, and a QR code to facilitate quick verification.”

What Cards Will Be Accepted Now?

CGC currently has a pretty limited range of cards that it accepts. They accepted most Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Marvel cards, and a few other mainstream TCG stuff. But they would not take some basic non-sports and TCG sets.

According to the company, that will change as part of the merger: “CGC Cards will grade virtually all TCGs, sports cards, and non-sports cards, sized 2-5/8″ x 3-3/4″ (6.6cm x 9.5cm) or smaller. Cards may be up to 7.25mm thick. With the merger, all non-sports cards will be eligible for grading, including many series that were not accepted previously, such as Garbage Pail Kids, Mars Attacks, Wacky Packages, Star Trek, and many more, from 1879 to today!”

What happens to your old CGC And CSG cards?

If you want to keep your older cards in their existing holders, they will still be compatible with the company database and fully searchable. They will also still be backed by the comprehensive CGC Cards Guarantee of authenticity and grade.

That will hold equally for older CGC Trading Cards and CSG cards. Therefore, the cards will be viewable through the CGC Cards Population Report and eligible for the CGC Cards Registry. If you have older Gem Mint 9.5 cards, they will automatically be updated as Gem Mint 10 in the database.

What if you want to re-holder your older CGC And CSG cards?

You can do so if you like the new holder or want your Gem Mint 9.5 to have a Pristine 10 label. There is a short window where you can do it at a reduced price. You can do so for $5 until September 30, 2023, as long as the cards are valued at under $10,000.

Changes to paid membership

Submitting collectibles to CGC has long required a membership. The lowest tier allowing submissions costs $25 a year. However, there are more expensive tiers, namely Premium for $149 and Elite for $299.

“With the official launch of CGC Cards, collectors will no longer need a paid membership to submit cards for grading! All it takes is a free account that can be set up in seconds. Meanwhile, paid members will pay lower grading fees and get other exclusive benefits. Memberships with additional privileges start at just $25 per year.”

Changes to the submission process

Because CGC specializes in grading collectibles other than cards, the submission process for the company is a bit more involved than, say, PSA or BGS. Right now, there are three tracks for submissions, involving a different process and the submission of various forms:

  • Trading cards
  • Video games
  • Home videos
  • Coins
  • Comics
  • Magazines
  • Concert Posters
  • Lobby cards

But even the submission of cards was complicated by different processes and forms. Needlessly so, if you ask me, once the merger goes through in July, there will be one streamlined process for all of these items.

According to the press release: “In the coming months, CGCcards.com will have just one online submission form for all TCGs, sports cards, and non-sports cards graded by CGC Cards. In the meantime, there will be a submission form for TCGs and non-sports cards and a submission form for sports cards, but CGC Cards will waive the $5 handling fee for sports card submissions, so card submitters are no longer required to pay the fee twice, and submitters are encouraged to send in all cards in one box.”

So How Will You Submit Cards To CGC Now?

The entire system will transfer to the new united CGC and CSG system in mid-July, on a date yet to be announced. According to their press release, “all card submissions — TCGs, sports cards, and non-sports cards — will be graded under CGC Cards, with the new grading scale and a new label.

To submit now, fill out the online submission form for TCGs and non-sports cards and the online submission form for sports cards, and send your submission in one box to CGC Cards, with both packing slips.”

What should you do if you have a current submission to CGC Trading Cards and CSG

If you have a submission currently in process at either of the companies involved in the merger, you have two options. First and most accessible, just let them process it, and it will be treated like any submission has been until now. But you can also do that if you prefer to have your items graded with the new process and using the updated labels.

Here is how: “To have a current submission to CGC Trading Cards or CSG held for CGC Cards, please contact CGC Cards Customer Service at Service@CGCcards.com or (+1) 855-GRADE10 (855-472-3310).

We will make every effort to accommodate requests to transfer submissions to CGC Cards. Still, depending on the submission status, we cannot guarantee that every transfer will be possible.”

How is the CGC and CSG merger being received?

Mostly the news has been greeted with a collective yawn from the sports end of the hobby. That is probably because CSG never really caught on among sports people. So, the coverage so far has been pretty neutral and factual.

But those who do have familiarity with the brand have mocked the merger. One comment on Blowout Forums summed up the feeling:

“It took three years, but they finally did what probably any focus group would have told them to do when they first kicked off.

Let’s take a second to count all the dumb missteps that this company has made since its launch.

1) Ugly blue labels for TCG.
2) Ugly green labels for sports.
3) Ugly gold font for pristine grades for TCG.
4) Ridiculously tough grading in both divisions at launch.
5) Offering subgrades only to remove the option.
6) Grading scale change at CSG.
7) Grading scale change (now) at CGC.
8) Pricing (on the TCG side) that would only be attractive to someone who’s completely innumerate.

Good stuff, chaps.”

But really, the primary adjustment will be for TCG collectors. They have gotten used to the CGC label and grading scale. They will now find themselves dealing with a more sports card-oriented approach from the parent company. However, CGC market research suggests that this is also what TCG collectors want. So, hopefully, they know what they are doing.

The final word on the CGC trading cards and CSG merger

Everything CGC is doing here makes perfect sense. Subgrades have clearly become obsolete, and collectors no longer want them. The market has had trouble giving a dollar value to them, and grading has become almost wholly value-oriented.

Meanwhile, the premium on a 10 is too high to have it be a theoretical possibility. No one wants to submit their cards to a grader when there is no chance at all of getting a 10. Finally, the CGC submission process was far too complicated.

Not only did you have to pay for membership, but there were different forms and regulations. It was too much of a headache compared to the straightforward SGC and PSA procedures. It is also great news that you can now get your 9.5 grades upgraded to 10 for just 5$.

I don’t really get how this label is notably better than the previous one. It still remains visually less appealing than the competition, at least in my opinion. And the unseemly inner sleeve does not appear to have been removed. That was, without a doubt, the least appealing part of the CGC holder.  

However, despite these generally positive changes, I don’t think we will see CGC become significantly more popular in sports. They are not in most sports collectors’ minds when considering a submission. 0

The real question is, will making the process more straightforward lure more TCG submissions away from PSA? We will follow that closely in our grading reports over the next few months.

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is the emeritus editor of Cardlines. He continues to write for several hobby outlets, including this one and Cardbase. He collects primarily vintage baseball and soccer and has a weird obsession with 1971 Topps.

In his spare time, Shaiel is sobbing into his bourbon when the Mets lose and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a past life, Dr. Ben-Ephraim was a political science professor, journalist, and diplomat. But cards are more fun.
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