Hey everyone! StarCityGames.com® has always been on the forefront of accurate card grading for the Magic industry. Years ago, we made the change from grading on the Comic Book/Baseball card scale (NM/VF/F/VG/GD/FR/PR) to a more self-explanatory, intuitive grading scale – NM/SP/MP/HP (Near Mint/Slightly Played/Moderately Played/Heavily Played). This scale has been adopted as the industry standard. Today's article is about some changes we are making to this scale and why we are making them.
I've been with SCG for nearly fifteen years, and I've gotten to see the buying habits and grading concerns of our customers firsthand. The vast majority of people who are purchasing singles from us (99%+) fall into one of three categories:
1. People who want a Near Mint card (NM) because they want a card that has little-to-no play wear on it. People who want this grade of card generally care about the condition a great deal: they want the card as a collectible, as an investment (in the case of higher-grade Power), or because they know they are getting a card that is pretty much in "new" condition. For this customer, the condition of the card is the most important factor in determining their purchase.
2. People who want a card that is sleeve-playable, as long as it has the cheapest price tag. This is a person who wants to purchase an MP (Moderately Played) card when possible, for the main reason that it is the cheapest version of that card. In this case, the price of the card is the most important factor in determining their purchase.
3. People who want a specific version of a specific card. This is someone who wants to foil out their entire deck, so they are happy to buy the specific foil version that is most aesthetically pleasing to them. They want to buy the German Captain Sisay because they are building a German Commander deck. In this case, the availability of the card is the most important factor in determining their purchase.
If you notice, two of these three categories of customers aren't really using condition as their primary concern for purchasing a card. The person who does care is the person who wants a Near Mint card. But if someone orders a Slightly Played card, they want to get a Slightly Played card, and we have always done our best to make sure that customer gets an accurately graded card.
After evaluating customer ordering habits, we concluded that the time was right to further simplify our grading system. On this Wednesday (September 20th), we are switching to a three-condition grading scale: Near Mint / Played / Heavily Played (NM/PL/HP). Let's go over the grading changes!
Near Mint (NM)
We are making no changes to our Near Mint (NM) condition grading. If you've previously ordered a Near Mint card from us, you should notice no difference in these cards going forward.
Played condition will encompass the entirety of the previous Slightly Played (SP) condition, plus the top third of Moderately Played (MP) condition. If you've ordered SP cards from us in the past, you will see a slightly higher tolerance for play wear (slightly more whitening allowed on the borders/corners, a very minor tolerance for shuffle creasing). All of these cards are sleeve-playable, and none of these cards exhibit major wear.
Heavily Played (HP)
Heavily Played condition will encompass the bottom two-thirds of the previous Moderately Played (MP) condition, plus all of the previous Heavily Played (HP) condition cards. This condition is for cards that have major wear, creasing, inking, or (in extreme cases) are not sleeve-playable.
We don't just want to make these changes for the sake of making changes. Here is what these changes mean, in practical terms, for you!
- We are lowering our sell prices on Played cards relative to the previous Slightly Played condition. While Near Mint prices will generally be staying the same, the percentage we deduct when we go down a grade is going to be higher, so you'll be paying less for Played cards than you have in the past!
- We are raising our buy prices on both Near Mint and Played cards. Even though sell prices are dropping on Played cards (relative to Slightly Played), we are raising our buy prices on these cards! We are also giving a bump to our Near Mint buy prices as well.
To sum up: Moving to a three-grade scale will allow us to make our internal processes much more efficient. We will be able to offer newly acquired inventory for sale more quickly than before. In turn, we will be able to pass the savings along to you, the customer!
We will continue to sell Near Mint and Played cards on the website. We will only offer Heavily Played cards on the website if a card reaches a certain dollar threshold, or as part of an HP Collection. When we list a Heavily Played card on the website, it will be guaranteed to be tournament-legal in a sleeve. In addition, all cards over a certain dollar threshold receive actual scans. If you're buying a Mox, we want you to be able to see high-resolution scans of both sides of the cards before you decide to make the purchase.
All other Heavily Played cards will be sold one of two ways: at our SCG Tour® Sales Booth or at our Ding-and-Dent sales at the SCG Game Center. We want our customers to be able to see the wear on these cards before purchasing, so we bring them only to places where they can be physically inspected before purchase.
Here's the recap:
- We are changing to a three-condition grading system: Near Mint, Played, and Heavily Played (NM/PL/HP).
- Near Mint cards are not changing at all.
- Played Cards will be all of the previous Slightly Played, plus the top third of the previous Moderately Played.
- Heavily Played cards will be the bottom two-thirds of the previous Moderately Played, plus all of the previous Heavily Played.
- We will be selling Played condition cards for less than we previously sold Slightly Played condition cards.
- We will be paying more for Played cards than we previously paid for Slightly Played condition cards.
- The only Heavily Played cards on the website will be higher-dollar cards, and all of the HP cards listed on the website will be sleeve-playable/tournament-legal.
- All other Heavily Played cards will be sold in-person at SCG events.
- Your order history will reflect the new card conditions (PL instead of SP, HP instead of MP).
These changes will be implemented on Wednesday, September 20th. We will not be regrading our Moderately Played inventory until after the Ixalan release – we will simply be deactivating the condition on Wednesday. If you've ordered a Moderately Played card prior to this change (for instance, on Tuesday the 19th, or with an Ixalan preorder), you'll still get a card graded in our previous Moderately Played condition once your order ships. It will display as Heavily Played on your invoice, but we will ensure it falls under the previous definition of Moderately Played!
Thank you for reading this article! If you have any questions, please feel free to post in the comments section of this article, or e-mail me directly at Ben@starcitygames.com.
- General Manager, StarCityGames.com®