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The Devil in the Details: Corners

September 8, 2021, 1:38 PM ET [0 Comments]
Shawn Gates
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Here we are, back again for another drive-by tutorial on the nuances of valuing our collections! When it comes to this hobby, the devil is truly in the details, and these are what we will be hitting upon as we move through these topics: What are the factors that can make or break the value of my card X compared to the same card belonging to Joe Blow next to me?

Coming off our last topic, card centering (have a peek here if you didn’t see it), we’re going to continue today with some of the more visible, and impactful, presentation factors one can pull from a card: the corners.

Card Corners:

Coles/Cliffs Notes: You optimally want to see four sharp corners on the card. This will be necessary for top grading, and anything but universal sharp corners will see the grade drop. Remember also that while the corners may appear top notch to the naked eye, graders are looking at this under at least 10x magnification, so the idea of what perfectly sharp means can be coming from different start points!

So what are these hard-asses looking for then? This can range from more minor imperfections to quite major ones. On the minor side, one would be looking for things such as frayed card stock or minor dings to the corner not visible by simply looking at it. Further up would be more serious fraying, minor beds, and the beginning signs of rounding. The big boo-boos? They’d include major rounded corners, creases/bends, splits in the card stock, or the obvious missing corners.

I’ll be the first to admit, the following pictures aren’t the clearest, as we can lose quality as we zoom in, but hopefully they’re in the “good enough” range for making a few small points! So without further delay, let’s take a peek at a few examples.

Why start with anyone less than a legend, right? Here we have the Wayner, in all the glory of his first cup winning season. Love the card as much now as when I was mumbles years old. This specimen is nothing short of a nice looking card in generally good condition. At first glance, there is nothing obscenely bad about the corners, but with further attention we can tell this will not be a gem mint/10 rated card. Lets take a boo at why, again with apologies for what are at best serviceable zooms!

Here we’ve got the best corner on the card if you had to choose. At the 20x zoom there may be flaws that would speak otherwise, but if we suffice with this we see what one is generally looking for: a nice sharp corner. Then we have this:

Now to be fair there is a bit of a bend in the card (it’s not lying flat on the table but bowing up slightly) which can distort the view a bit here. At the same time, even taking that into consideration one can see that the beginnings of the corner are inset from the sides, with the side edge even seemingly angled toward the inner portion of the card versus parallel to the other side. The potential that someone has trimmed this corner to sharpen it up or bring it more in line with the rest of the side cannot be ignored. It’s created a dog-eared look to it, and this, and a potential alteration, will impact value. How about this?:

This one is subtle, in large part due to the pixilation, but you can see how the corner is dinged a bit. This has resulted in that sharp corner we’re looking for being bent down a bit, which will leave a small, albeit present, alteration in the card stock.

So this is what we’re talking about in terms of detail with respect to corners. You can have a really nice card but still have it not in pristine condition due to corner issues that only jump out on very close inspection. For the record, perhaps more than other factor in the grading process, corner issues can hold a lot of weight in their impact on the price, so small, subtle issues can become big influences on the price. At the same time, there are also the issues that are far from subtle! For this I give you Wayne Wreckedsky:

Oof. Where are there not corner issues here? This is a prime example of the “My give a damn is busted” card care of youth! What we see here are examples of rounded vs sharp corners (all four), creases (all), and separated card stock (definitely bottom left, perhaps top left as well). This speaks to card eras also, in that the likelihood of encountering these issues can fluctuate, particularly when comparing the pre- and post-1990 years. Why is this? Well, pre-1990 a number of factors increased corner damage vulnerabilities, including card stock (a little flimsier), card cutting (see OPC use of progressively dulling wires), lack of appropriate protective supplies (e.g., penny sleeves and top loaders) seeing cards thrown in shoeboxes, and the years of alternate uses (e.g., playing “Closest to the Wall” and/or sticking them in bike spokes) to name but a few. While not stating that the post-90’s cards will never have these issues, the chances were reduced to a great extent, while the increasing understanding of the value of these little pieces of cardboard as the junk wax era blew open saw a lot more care being taken. As such, at least proportionally, the issues as per corners and numerous other value-based factors can be far more common in cards of the 1980’s and older.

Well wishes and positive energy to you all. Look out for you and yours and the randoms you cross paths with in the run of your day. The positivity you share with them may be more impactful than you could ever begin to appreciate. All the best!


Do you have a piece of treasured memorabilia that has a great story behind it? Let me know and you can be featured in an article. Doesn't matter how big or small the piece is, how valuable it may be, or whether it's a common item or more oddball. If you think it has a story, contact me via the information below and we'll chat. In the meantime, check out some previous "Display Case" articles via the links below to see what others have submitted in the past...

Shawn Gates

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Previous “Devil In The Details?” Articles

Previous ”The Display Case” Posts
#1: The “Frankenstick!”
#2: Your desk has the right to remain collectable!
#3: Have Pads, Will Travel
#4: Pick a Pekka (Rinne) Autographed Mask
#5: Ted Lindsay Gets Kronwalled?
#6: The Only Thing We Have To Fehr Is Fehr Himself
#7: “Hungary” For Team Canada Swag
#8: The Soldiers Kid and “The Kid”
#9: Fan Appreciation & Player Humility Via The '72 Series
#10: Bobby Orr and....Birth Control?!?!?!
#11: Johnny Bower The “Portrait” Of Health At 88!!!
#12: Scotty Bowman – Stick Detective!!!
#13: Touch 'Em All Joe!!!
#14: Joey and Sergei's European (Lockout) Adventure!!!
#15: I’d Give The Jersey Off My Back For You…
#16: The Case Of The 1940’s Era Leafs
#17: Scrapping The History Of The Isles...
#18: Gretzky “Re-Signs” in Edmonton
#19: Gilmour Is Such A Caricature!!!
#20: Toys In The Attic
#21: The Right King Place At The Right King Time
#22: Momma Bear Takes On A “Killer”!!!
#23: Leafs Lunch Stool
#24: The 50 Goal Stub
#25: Scoring From The Rafters
#26: Junior Jersey Mail Order Mayhem!

Previous “Who Am I?” Articles
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21 , #22 , #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30, #31, #32, #33, #34, #35, #36, #37, #38, #39, #40, #41, #42, #43, #44, #45, #46, #47, #48, #49, #50, #51, #52, #53, #54, #55, #56, #57

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