Boldness - the strength of the signature's ink; opaqueness of the autograph, and amount of fading. Any yellowing or other discoloring would also deduct from this category.
Ink Flow - Extent to which the writing utensil skipped in spots, or inkflow exhibits inconsistencies. Stray ink marks will mark off from the overall grade. Any retracing would also fall into this category. Items deemed to have been retraced by the original signer will be marked down depending on the quality and appearance. Items believed to have been retraced by another party to enhance the autograph will not be authenticated.
Surface Adherence - Refers to a signature that has bubbled or bled through the item, either in full or in part. Aesthetically, did the writing utensil used on the item provide the best adherence without bleeding or over-absorbing?
Contrast/Location - Rates the choice of ink as compared to the location of the signature. A dark signature on a dark surface will be very difficult to clearly see, whereas a dark autograph against a light surface will typically provide the most aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Smudging - Smudges may have occurred either by the signer rubbing part of the autograph, or possibly been smeared at a later date by another party. Can include fingerprints.
Conformation to Expected Norm - Given the typical signature characteristics for a particular signer, how well does the example in question conform to those expected characteristics? Instances that may lower the grade include rushed signatures or an otherwise nontraditional appearance.
Overall Eye Appeal – Includes any other characteristics not listed above, and takes the entire aesthetic appearance of the signature into account.
10 Gem-Pristine - A perfect, bold signature, devoid of any noticeable flaws. Signed in a location with excellent contrast, and according to the typical expected appearance of that signature. Overall an exceptionally appealing autograph.
9 Mint - Appearing nearly perfect, a very minor flaw may be exhibited here under very close examination, such as placement or contrast that is excellent, though not quite as strong as would be preferred. A small spot of very minor ink flow inconsistency or an inconspicuous light variance in boldness.
8 Near Mint-Mint - Nice, appealing signature with a minor flaw such as a trace amount of fading or bleeding on 1-2 letters, ink skips of a fairly inconsequential nature, or a very small spot of bubbling on a letter or two. Location of the signature or contrast level may be very slightly less than preferable, but not unattractive.
7 Near Mint - Consistent light amount of fading or very light bleeding throughout much of the signature, yet still aesthetically acceptable. Location exhibits lack of contrast in portions of the autograph. Extremely light original retracing may be allowable. Ink skips or bubbling, although still minor, may affect 2-4 letters slightly.
6 Excellent-Mint - Ink flow or skips affecting several letters of the signature, but not to the point of creating an aesthetically unpleasant autograph. A more noticeable degree of fading or bleeding throughout, although still evenly distributed. Light original retracing allowed on a couple of letters.
5 Excellent - Fading, bleeding, bubbling, multiple ink flow issues, or skipping are evident, but all letters are still fully decipherable. Portions of signature nearly indistinguishable from the background due to lack of contrast. A minor smudge or blemish may be visible. Original retracing on up to one-quarter of the autograph surface area.
4 Very Good-Excellent - Original retracing on up to one-third of the autograph surface area. Fading, bleeding, bubbling, or ink skips to the point of a letter or two being nearly indistinguishable. At this grade, autograph location and contrast issues begin to contribute to a lack of eye appeal.
3 Very Good - An aesthetically unpleasing signature, with a minimum of half of the signature distinguishable. Poor autograph location, yellowing throughout, or original retracing allowed on up to three-quarters of the signature.
2 Good - Difficult to see, but the signature is identifiable. Portions may be completely invisible, but a minimum of one-quarter of the signature can be distinguished. Considerable lack of eye appeal.
1 Poor - An autograph so poor that it can barely be identified under close scrutiny and with much difficulty. Extremely unappealing.
Thanks for the info. To me, that's stretching it a bit...I mean really, "inkflow exhibits inconsistencies"?? I wonder if it costs more to have the auto graded? To me, if it looks nice then who cares if it is a 9 or a 10?