This is a question that has no doubt crossed many collectors’ minds – will those fingerprints or that small glob of wax affect my grade and if so will the grading company remove it?
As at February 20 2012 BGS have not responded however PSA were quick to clearly define their policy and practices for me.
In short – yes fingerprints, wax and any other marking (removable or not) will affect the surface of your card and thus the overall grade will drop. PSA will not clean your card in any way; it is graded in the condition in which it is received.
The spokesperson from PSA confirmed that you should clean your card without altering it in any way before sending it in for grading. A soft cloth and very careful wiping should remove any removable marking which would have otherwise reduced the grade. However be very careful as too much wiping or using an abrasive cloth can scratch the surface which will also reduce the grade.
I think it is safe to assume (until I can receive confirmation) that the same applies to BGS as this overall policy should be no surprise. Card grading companies must grade the cards as received otherwise they risk damaging items and introducing a further variable: cleaning quality. It should also be no surprise that a fingerprint will reduce the grade, after-all, who wants a slabbed card with a dirty surface even if it is removable?
So be sure to check for surface markings before sending any cards of for grading; you don’t want to risk dropping your card’s grade down for the only condition variable that you can fix!