Card Condition

The grading of trading cards sometimes leads to conflict among buyers and sellers, mainly because grading is not an exact science. One person might consider a card to be still Near Mint while the next one thinks it is in Excellent condition. To some extent these conflicts are inevitable, but to help minimize the chance for misunderstandings we have put together a guide to help you grade your cards correctly.

Card Condition Icons

As "a picture is worth a thousand words", we provide also some sample pictures that can help you identify the right condition for your card.

Additional Information

Altered cards

Altered cards are cards whose design has been changed for artistic purposes. Often the artwork is extended past the border, but there are few limits to how a card might be altered by an artist. An altered card should only be put up for sale alongside an image of the modified card.

American Grading System

Americans use a different grading terminology than PSA and Cardmarket these days. Different stores have different techniques, but it generally comes to down to something like Mint/Near Mint (M/NM) being the best followed by Slightly Played (SP), and Played (PL), Heavily Played (HP), and finally Poor. Refer to the explanations of our gradings for a rough translation.


A card is bent if the structure of the paper has been damaged due to excessive bending.

Blackened Borders

Tampering with the border of a card will always result in a card that is in Poor condition. Blackening the borders of a card is mainly an action of destroying its value in an attempt to improve its looks. However, precisely for that reason it is also done to sell a card for more than its inherent, remaining value. This is considered fraud, and will lead to exclusion from Cardmarket. If a card's borders have been altered ALWAYS make sure to offer it as Poor. This is particularly important for Unlimited cards that have a blackened border. Offering these as Beta cards is a fraud attempt and might lead to legal consequences including criminal prosecution. Don't do it!


A card that is clouded looks dull although no major damage can be observed in the clouded spots. Clouding is basically an effect of microscopical damage to the card surface, that might add up over time to produce this dull effect. Visible clouding precludes a card from being Near Mint.


The same principles as outlined above apply for foil cards. However, when grading foil cards, you might want to take into account, that foil cards are not only playing cards, but always collectors items as well. After all the customer pays extra to get this version of the card. That means that somebody buying a foil card is probably even less inclined to look over an a-bit-too-liberal grading of a card. When grading foil cards take special care to look for creasings and clouding on the front of the card. On nonfoil cards these damages make the card appear uglier, but the effect is compounded for foils.

Gem Mint

This grade is sometimes used in the description of trading cards. It is supposed to be better than Mint. How can a card be in better condition then Mint? The idea is that when a card is described as Mint then it is assumed that it is perfectly preserved, however it may have a few very minor printing imperfections such as being imperfectly centered or the horizontal lines that sometimes appear on Unlimited Edition cards. A Gem Mint card has none of these. It is perfect in every way.

We don't support grading cards as Gem Mint. Cardmarket is a platform where the vast majority of customers are players, and players are usually satisfied with Near Mint cards. Advertising a card as Mint basically means that it satisifies collectors' criteria. In these cases a scan says more than an additional distinction of Mint and Gem Mint. Nothing stops you from placing a comment that says 'Gem Mint', though.


A card is considered inked when the borders of the cards have been "improved" with the help of a pen (p.e. fine liner) to make them look better. Cards that have undergone this kind of treatment are always considered to be in Poor condition.

Old cards

The process of grading of old cards is in no way different from that of grading new cards. No allowance is made for the card being old. A 20 years old card has to adhere to the same criteria as a 2 days old card.

Partial Grades

Sometimes cards are offered with a comment like NM- or EX+. This is supposed to mean that the card is at the lower end of the Near Mint spectrum (NM-) or respectively at the higher end of the Excellent spectrum (EX+). We don't support this kind of grading, but taking into account that a grade always represents a spectrum of possible conditions it makes some sense. Please just make sure, that when you grade a card NM- you can justify calling it Near Mint. This is not an excuse for selling cards in Excellent condition as Near Mint. Grades like GD+ work in an analogous way, however it usually only makes sense between Near Mint and Excellent, as nobody really cares if a card is LP+ or LP-. Generally we recommend to NOT USE partial grades.


Sometimes a card is not flat when put onto the table. It may either appear a little concave or convex. Both is fine for cards that are not graded Mint. However, if the card has been deformed so strongly and lastingly that it might not be tournament legal any more, then it has to be graded Played.


Abbreviation for Professional Sports Authenticator. This is a large third-party authentication and card condition grading service. Occasionally you will find something like PSA 8.5 in the description of a card. That means, that the card has been authenticated and graded by PSA. Their grading scale ranges from 1 / Poor to 10 / Gem Mint.


If a card has scratches on the surface, this makes the card GOOD at best. Scratches are mostly important for Foil cards as the Foil surface is much more sensitive to scratches.


A card can be marked as signed on Cardmarket if it has a signature of either the artist or Richard Garfield. In some cases where a very close connection between a celebrity and the given card is apparent the card can also be marked as signed. For example a Jon Finkel signed Shadowmage Infiltrator will do. However, when you go ahead and sign your White Knights they may not be considered a signed card. Instead they must be graded Poor.

Stamped cards

A card obtained in the Limited portion of a Pro Tour or the second day of a Grand Prix usually has a stamp. While a stamp may come with some memories for the player who got the card originally it is mostly an unwanted alteration of the card to everybody else. For the classic GP/PT stamps this is not so bad as they are small and unobstructive, however for the modern European GP stamps that is a different matter as they disfigure the artwork. Even if a GP stamped card looks like it's great condition, they must be graded as Poor.

Water damage

Cards with water damage should be graded Light Played to Poor depending on the severity of the damage. The best guideline would be that a damaged card that is clearly still tournament legal should be graded Light Played, and one clearly not tournament legal would be Poor. Something in between is Played. Make sure to point out the damage in your description of the card.

Whitened Borders

Cards with whitened borders have to be offered on Cardmarket as Poor. However, compared to cards with blackened borders there is way less incentive to try any shenanigans here. Just don't offer them pretending to sell some kind of ultra-rare misprint.

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