Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Video Game Grading (VGA) Pros and Cons

Graded video games are becoming more and more common. When a game is graded, it is evaluated on the conditions of the box, cellophane, price stickers, and circulation status. The actual contents, inserts, and video game cartridge or disc are usually exempt as they cannot be accessed and inspected on sealed games. After it is inspected it is given a grade correlating to the condition it is in.

The most prevalent grading authority in the video game world is the Video Game Authority, or VGA, a subsidiary or the Collectible Gaming Authority.

Until recently only sealed games were graded but recently cartridge only or complete but opened games have been added to the list of eligible items.

Should you get your games graded? Below are pros and cons to consider when deciding whether video game grading is right for you.

Pros to Game Grading

Graded video games sell for more: Recently, a VGA graded copy of EarthBound went up on eBay and ended at $4,700. The average price of a complete Earthbound is 10% of that price at an average of $493. This is just one example but graded versions of games do sell for more than non-graded versions of the same game, even if they are in same condition.

Graded video games get sealed by the authority: After the VGA grades a game they seal it in an acrylic case. For a slight fee, you can even have it sealed in a special Lucite case that blocks up to 99% of UV radition. This sealing will prevent damage from moisture, insulate, prevent pest damage, protect from falls, and prevent fading from UV.

This may sound great but grading video games does have drawbacks:

Cons of Video Game Grading

Grading can take time: Depending on how much you are willing to pay, the turnaround on grading a game can be up to 45 days so if you are looking to make some fast cash, grading is not the way to go.

Grading costs money: The VGA can charge you up to $295 to grade your game. The minimum is $25. There are also additional fees and charges that can add up.

Sealing a game does not preserve it: Sealing a game does help protect it but it does not preserve it. Batteries and chemical components in some video games will degrade over time, destroying the game and box, even if it has been sealed. Since the sealing process uses just air, instead of an inert gas such as argon, the oxygen in the air can continue to catalyze and break down things inside the acrylic case.

Can we trust the VGA: They are incredibly secretive and are themselves not verified by a third-party. They set their own standards and there is no quality control by another party.

You can’t unseal it: If you want to remove the game from the acrylic case, you void the grade. You can never take it out and play with it, the grade is no longer valid. You have to resubmit it after you’ve opened it.

Grading is not a new phenomenon. There exist several grading authorities for comic books and collectible sports cards and it is only natural that more and more authorities pop up as newer markets emerge such as video games. However, there is an important lesson to learn from these previous emergences of grading in other markets. Comic Buyers Guide wrote an article about the biggest events related to comics in the 1900's, the last event is the most telling for video games. It explains how grading can lead to a speculative market where the prices of graded games increase dramatically and then crash after the market gets over saturated.

This will happen in video games, it is only a matter of time as more and more high-profile sales of graded games push profiteers to start buying up games just to get them graded only to resell them and flood the markets. The bubble will burst.

For the time being, you can make good money by buying, grading, and selling games but there is another important argument that needs to be made. When you grade a game, you lock it in an acrylic prison. It defeats the very nature of a game; a game is something that is meant to be played.

This article was made in Stevesesy (from thoseguys.tv)


Unknown said...

Great article!
I myself would not grade my games because for one, I mostly own cartridges only and also, I like to play them!

I would think about it if I found a sealed game but I'm not that kind of collector. Not yet...

mndrix said...

Good article. I hadn't considered the decay of backup batteries. It'll be interesting to see what effect that has on collectible games over time.

Port said...

For additional persepective (although not as professionally written), here's another link:


The real thing is their expertise and authority. Unproven, clandestine and arbitrary. That's the reason to stay away.

Travis Hendricks said...

Would it be possible to remove the oxygen from a cartridge and fill it with argon or something? That would be a neat way to keep collected, and boxed, games in the best condition. Though I doubt you could play it anymore.

Anonymous said...

just who decides what condition the game is in? why not me? seems like a scam to sell hundred dollar acrylic cases.. and if they still degrade inside, the GRADE IS NOT ACCURATE. in 30 years you will have a toxic mess sealed in a case labeled "mint" too many kids taking over the market and holding the previous generations love for games ransom for ridiculous prices. Greed destroys everything.

Bobbyclobber2 said...

I have a nes Jordan vs Bird, h-seam, no dings, almost perfect. I was offered $1300.00 for it, but I have no idea what it’s worth.

Bobbyclobber2 said...

I have a nes Jordan vs Bird, h-seam, no dings, almost perfect. I was offered $1300.00 for it, but I have no idea what it’s worth.

purge07 said...

I wonder about grading too, but I have a lot of very old video games that still work to this day from atari, colecovision and above. Recently, I picked up some atari games brand new factory sealed, and thinking about grading them as I have other copies of them as well. Maybe something to remember my childhood with.

Unknown said...

Great article. Im considering having a couple high value games graded.

Oldgamer76 said...

I have an unopened 25th anniversary super Mario Brothers wasnt sure if it would be worth getting graded.

JJ said...

It can be worth quite a bit if graded highly. Almost $500.

Unknown said...

I have just recently come into ownership of several vintage games from the early 2000's. They are all on the "most vauluable" list, and all but one are in their original sealed cellophane. I'd like to maximize my profit, but don't want to let them out of my posession for grading purposes. Grading seems pointless when they are already sealed. If anyone here has a suggestion as to where to advertise them other than eBay I'd love to hear it.

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