Universal Grading Services – Review

For our new review segment of (Card) Grading Services, we took a closer look at the diamond-level service of Carat Grading recently. We were impressed by the company’s enthusiasm for grading collectible cards. We found the slab very original and sturdy, the label was very clear, and the database worked as it should with the subgrades and everything easily visible. Now, we take a look at Universal Grading Services, a new grading company that is based in The Netherlands. Even though we were under the impression things would go rather smoothly at first, we found ourselves disappointed as to how our beloved trading cards were handled, as well as with the overall quality and consistency of the grading, and the slabs our cards were put into.

Note: to learn more about terminology for card grading, and card grading service reviews, be sure to check our announcement article that will be updated frequently. You can do so by clicking here.

Ordering process

Unlike the lengthy submission forms we had to fill in for our cards on Carat Grading’s website, we were underwhelmed with the lack of attention to detail on UGS’s site. We simply had to select an item, the quantity, the shipping method and we were basically good to go. We could leave a remark, but that’s just basically it. While simplicity may be pleasant for some, it does show a certain ‘premium quality’ if a site has a proper submission form, and it also helps to prevent mistakes. When you are able to provide information on each card, the grading company can immediately see if something is wrong when the order arrives or it’s easier to see in what order the client wants to have their cards graded. We do understand that for bulk submissions (which are often a lot cheaper) that people do not want to fill in a full list of cards with every tiny detail mentioned on the form. Nonetheless, this is a small hiccup in the entire process, and there are many companies that do not work with complicated forms.

UGS offers two main services (not counting promotions): Standard card grading for 20 Euros per card, and authentification for 10 Euros per card. They also offer an express grading option that sets you back 40 Euros per card, and this will only guarantee a faster processing time. Due to the limited clientele of the company, the latter feels a bit redundant.

Slabs

We have sent two small packages to UGS, our initial grading shipment, and one to fix a grave oversight (we’ll dig into that below). Our first shipment arrived back at our office in a clean box with enough protection, and we were greeted by fairly standard-looking clear slabs. What immediately caught our attention was the very nicely designed label, which was clearly done by a professional. We loved the ‘holo’ logo, and the information on the label was also very clear. Thanks to the holo design, the label also isn’t that easy to make counterfeits of.

Sadly, several other negative things caught our attention immediately after that. We noticed that the cards are very loose inside the slabs. We could hear the Pokémon cards move and if we shook the slab, we could almost get a beat out of it. The Pokémon cards of our submission were encased unsleeved (which is perfectly fine), while the Yu-Gi-Oh! cards were inexplicably sleeved. We reckon this has to do with the smaller card size, and thus a sleeve will keep them better in place in the slabs that were already oversized for the Pokémon cards. Upon further inspection, we found a fairly big chunk of dirt encompassed in the slab of one of our cards. This is a huge oversight, as it wasn’t just a little speck of dust. Luckily, we were offered to send the cards back (without offering to pay the shipping to their company).

Our second shipment was sent back quite quickly, and after opening the box we were quite appalled. Our cards were wrapped in something we can only describe as a dirty used pair of underpants. We have no clue why this dirty rag was used as protection of our cards. Nonetheless, after disposing of the filth the slabs were wrapped in, we noticed the slabs had suddenly changed. The new slabs with frosted sides were an improvement, as the Pokémon cards did fit better. Sadly, once again we were disappointed to find an error on the label of one of the two extra cards we shipped.

Even though we don’t argue with the scores cards receive, we did notice some inconsistencies. For certain cards, the typical rule of only half a point above the lowest subgrade was applied, while other cards suddenly received a full point and a half above their lowest subgrade. We reckon certain subgrades weigh in heavier than others (corners, centering, surface, edges).

Database

As stated above, we sent two small packages to UGS, and even though the company had already graded several hundred cards, their database was not up and running yet. We found this bizarre, as every card came with a QR code on the back of the slab’s label. We also noticed that the QR code was identically the same for each card. This mystery was solved quickly, as the database went live soon after receiving our second package. The QR code only leads to the main page of the database, and thus there is no dedicated QR per card that immediately takes you to that graded card’s page. Instead, you’ll have to fill in the card’s certificate number, to then be taken to a very underwhelming page that simply shows the label of the graded card, and not even in a professional way. The different fonts overlap, and it just looks messy. True, you still have a way to check that this is an authentic graded card, so having a database live is still better than having none. We do hope the company cleans up the current messy visuals and opts for unique QR codes per card, making it more convenient for the user(s). Also worth noting is that the database is a separate site, and we could not find a link on the main site to simply take us to the database.

Preservation or worthy investment?

At this point in time, we could only advise UGS for the preservation of some (cheaper) cards. The company doesn’t really handle your property all that well, and the overall shabby database, the inconsistencies in the slabs, and the fact that the company isn’t all that known yet do not add any extra value to having your cards graded by UGS. We do hope the company does work on its database, keeps the snug-fit slabs, prevents dirt in the slabs, and also watches out for mistakes on the label.

Conclusion

Sadly, as a whole, we currently cannot recommend using UGS for your valuable trading cards. We are under the impression the scores of the cards are fairly correct, but when sending over your prized possessions, one would expect the items to be handled with care. Receiving cards in dirty slabs, with incorrect labels, in filthy packaging, is not our idea of looking forward to the surprise of getting back graded cards. We see that the company does have a certain foundation in place, but there is a lot that needs to be improved upon, such as the aforementioned inconsistencies, clear communication on the site, and the database. We did very much like the label, and the new snug-fit slabs are already a step in the right direction.

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Rating: 4.6/10 (9 votes cast)
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Rating: +5 (from 7 votes)
Universal Grading Services - Review, 4.6 out of 10 based on 9 ratings
Ibuki


Aspiring ninja.

1 Comment

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