How to Judge the Condition of Your Pokémon Cards

Published 10th October 2021

This guide will help you through the difficult process of judging the condition of your Pokémon card. If you aren’t sure whether your card is in Near Mint or Moderately Played condition, then keep reading for all the tools you will need to decide.

If you are looking for information about Grading your Pokémon Cards, click here.

Categorising Card Condition

First of all, let’s go through the different categories used to classify a card’s condition. On we use the following categories, ordered from best to worst condition:

  • Mint
  • Near Mint
  • Lightly Played
  • Moderately Played
  • Heavily Played
  • Damaged

Every card should fit into one of these categories.

Secondly, card condition is subjective. What is Near Mint to one person may be Lightly Played to another. Of course some cards are very clear as to what condition category they fall under, though others can be more difficult and will require you to take a closer look at the card.

What should You be Looking out for when Judging Card Condition?

The three factors you can use to judge card condition are:

  • Whitening around the edges
  • Surface scratches
  • Creases and/or folds

Each of these factors can be considered as being on a scale. For example, if a card has whitening on the edges, it could be Near Mint, but it could also be Heavily Played, or anything in between, depending on the severity of the whitening.

A card can show none, some, or all of these factors. If there are none present, the card may be in Mint condition, but if one or more are present on a card, it will at the very least be considered Near Mint, or possibly lower. These factors are also not considered equally. Many collectors will consider any card with a crease, no matter how small, to be in Moderately Played condition or lower. Whereas cards with light scratching or minor whitening can still be considered Near Mint.

Card Condition factors in more detail

Surface scratches

Surface scratches are the most likely damage to occur on any card. As Pokémon cards are essentially paper and foil, they are not very scratch resistant. Some scratches are extremely fine and very difficult to see with the naked eye. If there are no easily visible scratches on the front or back of the card, it will likely be in near mint condition. To avoid surface scratches, keep your cards in a protective sleeve as soon as you get it or pull it from a pack.

Edge Whitening

Edge whitening is where you can see the white paper that is under the layer of blue that covers the back of a card. It doesn’t often show on the front of a card, but that doesn’t mean this is impossible. Edge whitening will occur on the edges and can be as little as a speck of white on one of the corners, to white on all four edges of the card. Keeping cards in a sleeve is a great way to prevent edge whitening as it usually occurs from cards being handled and moved in and out of folders while not in a sleeve.

Creases and/or Folds

Crease and folds are usually very easy to spot as they are often fairly severe imperfections on the front and/or back of the card. Some are difficult to spot when on full art cards that are textured as the creases will blend in with the texture of the card. To spot a crease or fold, the easiest way is to look at a card from each of the four sides while holding it horizontally. You will be able to spot it because the card will not be perfectly straight and likely have a sharp deviation from the horizontal line.

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