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Different countries use different grading standards. In the US, PSA grading is common. You will find an explanation of PSA grades here.
In the UK, the CSGB uses the following grades for cards: (for silk grading, click here).
MINT The cards must give the appearance of never having been handled, i.e. be in the condition in which they would have come from the printers. Imperfections in the printing process would not affect this (e.g. cards cut slightly off-centre, differences in intensity of ink, marks caused by defective printing plates).
EXCELLENT Cards have been handled but only to a minimum extent and with extreme care, allowing no blemishes.
VERY GOOD Cards completely clean back and front, with no damage. In particular corners would be untouched, but edges might show slight signs of wear.
GOOD Minor blemishes might be visible, due to handling or age, and there could be slight damage to corners. No creases or stains visible.
FAIR Showing signs of considerable handling and consequential corner or edge damage, or a card from one of the above categories with one defect, such as a crack, foxing, dirty mark.
POOR A card that is soiled, damaged or badly worn, or with a serious defect,
such as back missing or badly cut down in size.
You might like to compare this grading scheme with the one suggested in the December 1941 issue of Cigarette Card News:
THE Cartophilic Society of Great Britain announce that they are going to attempt to standardize cartophilic terms and with this end in view have called an ordinary meeting for 13th December, 1941. To assist in the preparation of a satisfactory nomenclature, and one acceptable to all, members have been invited to exhibit specimens which they consider as falling into the following groups:—
" A.''—Brilliant. Superb in every sense of the word.
" B."—Fine. Mostly applicable to older issues. Corners or edges undamaged. Fronts and backs unsoiled, not faded and edges clean.
" C."—Undamaged. Cleaned cards of older issues. Not marked or noticeably defaced. Edges reasonably clean, and not sandpapered.
" D."—Selected. Cleaned cards, freed from obvious blemishes and other defects. Edges cleaned by sandpaper or other cleansing material.
" E."—Mixed. A series containing some superb and some fine, undamaged or selected cards.
" F."—Seconds. Face of cards slightly marked, rubbed or scratched through mounting. Card having any obvious minor defect.
It is stated that the above terms are only a suggestion and circulated as a basis. It will be most interesting to watch the outcome of what, at the present time, is a most controversial subject.
MINT CONDITION The silk and any backing/folder is in 'as issued' condition without any defect other than those caused in the manufacturing process. Minor protrusion of loose strands at a perimeter edge due to unclean cut from sheet in manufacture should not affect this grading.
EXCELLENT CONDITION The silk and/or backing/folder shows very minimal signs of handling, is completely clean with no discoloration, has no foxing or marking, no creases or fraying, no trimming and no splitting. Backing/folder to be undamaged with sharp edges.
VERY GOOD CONDITION The silk and/or backing/folder shows some increased signs of handling, is clean with no notable discoloration, has no foxing, marking, splitting or fraying, no signs of trimming. May have very light crease(s) to silk and very minimal corner rounding to any backing/folder
GOOD CONDITION The silk and/or backing/folder shows more signs of wear through handling, is reasonably clean with minor blemishes or discolorations visible due to handling, storage or age. Silks may have very light foxing, some slight creasing and/or minimal fraying but with no trimming from the issued size. Some corner rounding to any backing/folder, with very minor splits or creases and very light foxing.
FAIR CONDITION The silk and/or backing/folder show signs of wear through excessive handling, may be slightly grubby in appearance through handling, storage or age, with a limited level of light foxing or marking, notable creasing, some fraying and minimal trimming. Corner rounding on any backing/ folder and/or slight splitting of the folder.
POOR CONDITION The silk and backing/folder has one major or several minor flaws including a very grubby appearance, markings or discolorations, a heavy level of foxing, heavy creasing, splitting, serious fraying and trimming to a reduced size. Corners rounded on any backing or folder with a greater degree of splitting on the latter.
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