What Does 'Qualified' Mean in Trading Card Grading?

Posted on 2/24/2023

Qualified grading allows collectors to submit a wider variety of trading cards while ensuring CGC Trading Cards' commitment to high certification standards.

“Qualified” is a term that Certified Guaranty Company® (CGC®) uses to refer to collectibles that have significant defects or alterations, which require a specific description on the certification label, or to note an unwitnessed signature (one that was not witnessed by CGC).

For example, a comic book with a missing coupon that otherwise would receive a grade of CGC 6.0 may receive a Qualified grade. The Qualified grade allows CGC to indicate that the coupon is missing without being forced to lower the overall grade of the comic book. CGC would give the comic a Qualified grade of CGC 6.0 and a notation on the label: “COUPON MISSING FROM PAGE 10, DOES NOT AFFECT STORY.”

CGC Trading Cards® uses Qualified grading in a similar manner. A card certified by CGC Trading Cards may receive a Qualified grade if there is a significant defect or alteration, evidence of restoration or an unauthorized signature.

Cards with significant defects or alterations

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Trading cards with significant defects or alterations that warrant an explanation or note are encapsulated with a green Qualified label. For example, this Magikarp Pokémon card was painted over on the front, with the addition of even another Magikarp! The alteration is charming but changes the card significantly. CGC Trading Cards did not witness the act of altering the card, so it was given a green Qualified label.

The altered Magikarp (left) and the original Magikarp artwork from Hidden Fates (right).
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Cards with evidence of restoration

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It’s not unusual for trading cards to show signs of wear over time. The most common signs of wear include roughed-up edges, card whitening and holofoil scratching. Some collectors may attempt to restore their cards by physically altering them.

For example, this Charizard Pokémon card had some wear on the back of the card. Someone attempted to color in the damage with a marker or other tool in an attempt to hide the wear, resulting in CGC Trading Cards giving the Charizard a grade of CGC 8 and a green Qualified Label, with “Inked” noted on the back.

Cards with unwitnessed signatures

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Collectors often want to have their cards signed by influencers, voice actors, artists and other creators. Other times, pre-release cards or trading cards that are part of a special set may come pre-signed by artists or developers. However, unless CGC Trading Cards is present to witness the signature being applied to the card, the signature cannot be authenticated.

For example, this Mickey Mouse – Brave Little Tailor Disney Lorcana promo is autographed by one of the game’s creators. Limited quantities of autographed cards were distributed at the 2022 D23 Expo. Since CGC Trading Cards did not witness the signature, the card received a green Qualified label with “Unwitnessed Signature” noted on the back.

CGC Trading Cards wants collectors to have options in the certification process, and offering Qualified grading is one way to do that. Regardless of defects, restoration or unwitnessed signatures, Qualified grading allows collectors to submit their cards while ensuring CGC Trading Cards' commitment to high certification standards.

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