I'm a Pokémon card collector just like you, and I have a passion for mint cards.
But, what do I mean by mint?
To me, mint means the card has a fresh clean appearance under normal viewing conditions. This is indoor lighting, and a distance of about one to two feet from the viewer. The card should have almost no visible defects, front and back.
And then: Upon closer inspection, under reflected light, I want the card to have a clean smooth finish, with very few scratches, front and back. A small amount of scratches are permissible as long as they are hard to see.
This is close to the Wikipedia definition: new but opened.
Dents, dings, dirt, ink, alterations and an abraded finish will disqualify a card and to me, render it valueless.
However, you don't have to accept my definition. If I sell you a card, and you are dissastisfied with it for any reason, I will gladly take it back for a full refund. No worries. All cards have damage. They are processed by machines and in bright light and with magnification, you can see roller lines across the face of any foiled card. If you are looking for Gem Mint, or graded cards, there is a seperate section of the website just for those cards. Graded cards are also examined for centering of the image on the card, and I generally consider centering to be a non-issue.
All cards are shipped in soft sleeves to protect the cards. Hard cases actually scratch unprotected cards, so when when I ship a card in a hard case it will still be in a soft sleeve.
Small orders of 1-3 cards may be shipped in greeting cards. The heavy paper keeps the envelope stiff and protects the cards well.
Larger orders are shipped in padded envelopes. Also tightly wrapped in the packing slip to provide protection.
By keeping shipping costs to the minimum and still protecting the cards adequately, we can continue to offer free shipping in the U.S.
That's my promise.
How I grade cards: (mint vs. perfect vs. near mint)
It is often not difficult to tell when a card has seen abuse. Tears, creases, and easily seen scratches are cause for automatic rejection.
Here is how I weed out those cards others would consider "near mint"
Edges: Edges are allowed minor edge wear that does not affect the print on either side of the card. Typically this edge wear is not visible when the card is examined individually and is only visible when the card is placed in a stack of cards. If the edge wear results in noticable marks (typcially on the backs) the card is rejected.
Corners: Many rounded corners on cards will exhibit nicks in the back of the card that appear as a small abrasion in the center of the curve. This is normal. Abrasions on either side of the center of the curve are cause for rejection. A small amount of upturning at the corners of the card is also normal, so long as each corner exhibits the same defect. If one corner is turned up more than the others that is a sign of damage and the card is rejected.
Gloss: The front and back surfaces are examined for gloss. A mint card will have a smooth uniform gloss finish, free of scratches, dirt and oil.
Foiling: Foiled surfaces are examined under reflected light for scratches at multiple angles. This reveals the light scratches cards received from sliding against each other with dust in between.