Discussing the Grading BUSINESS Again


I think its time to revisit the grading discussion, because this Strasburg card is about to get a lot of publicity for BGS, and I have a feeling they knew what the card’s grade was before it was even submitted. I have always been a person who has rallied against the grading of cards by organizations like Beckett and PSA, because so many people don’t see the obvious conflict of interests that are inherantly present in running things the way they are run. Grading is a business, and from what I have been told, it is the most profitable part of each of the companies that do it. The problem is, so many people refuse to question anything that is set in slab, and that is the main reason why I feel it is necessary for me to comment on this for the hundredth time.

Grading was started back in the 1990s to help combat fraud for people who were just starting to buy and sell on the dark ages of the internet and eBay, but has turned into something completely different. Because the service offers ABOVE mint grades for some reason, people have started to use it as a way to bolster value on a card that would normally sell for lower prices. Its rarely used for modern cards in a way that echoes the original intent of the service, but that can be expected from the end user. Its kind of odd that BGS has actually started to cater to that crowd in recent years, and that is the reason why things are getting so out of hand. It has everything to do with the fact that BGS is a subsidiary of a magazine that has no relevancy in the hobby anymore, and the grading BUSINESS is the one thing that can do for circulation numbers what a slab would do to a raw card.

Based on this fact, I want you to start to think about the conflicts of interest that creates. You need to create repeat customers, and how do you do that under most normal business circumstances? Without a doubt, you do everything in your power make the customer happy. How do you make the customer happy in this sense? Well if you have a customer that repeatedly sends in huge orders, why not give him a little bump, right? He has a bunch of cards bordering that elusive 9.5? Well, get him that 9.5 so that he keeps coming back. I remember a while ago someone actually did an experiment with PSA and found that larger orders averaged better grades on the same cards than a smaller or individual order. Its common sense that this would happen, so why doesn’t anyone consider it to be a problem?

The reason is because when you think of the perceived legitimacy of the slab itself, there is no reason to question a result, unless it is unfavorable. If you are lucky enough to get a 10 on any scale for your card, no person in their right mind would ever resubmit it just to check and see if it could be duplicated, right? So, if a company wanted to bump a few orders for a VIP, no one would ever come back to them and say what they think is actually going on. Where is the need?

I still havent gotten to the meat of the conflict of interest though, and here it is. Because there is no governing regulatory industry that offers inspections on the different services, companies have no responsibility to their customers to provide accurate services. Because the service is run and performed by humans in the first place, bias is unavoidable, and therefore puts doubt into the whole process. Ill give you an example. Look at the BGS 10 Montana that was the talk of the town last time the National Card Show rolled around. It sold for $19,900 more than a raw one and tens of thousands more than a 9.5. Its funny how that type of occurrance hits the news during the biggest card show of the year. Not only that, but who is to say that it wasn’t manufactured publicity? Its pretty easy to make a Montana 9.5 a 10, mainly because Beckett has singlehandedly created an above mint culture in the hobby. Can any normal casual buyer make a case why a 9.5 is a 9.5 and a 10 is a 10? No. In fact, there probably isnt a person that can make a case like that in most instances.

Then when you see the publicity it got for a company that desperately needed it, the conflict of interest that grading presents becomes much more clear. There is no agency that will come and knock down Beckett’s door if they grade the card “incorrectly,” so why not give yourself some free advertising?

I also think its worth mentioning that both services do offer crossover grading, which is basically a way for collectors to beef up their grade gotten from another service. Funny how that is. There has also been a surge in slab crackers, or people that take poor results and resubmit multiple times for better grades, in recent years. Because there is so much subjectivity and arbitrary situations that are part of the service, people like this can get the result they want if they try enough times. If grading was the service it advertised, that type of problem wouldn’t happen.

Although there is a standard of grading, or so Beckett and PSA say, there is no doubt in my mind that this Strasburg 1/1 will be graded at least a 9.5 for the exact reasons I just mentioned. No magazine without customer responsibility would invite that kind of negativity about a card that is so important to their success. However, due to the off centered print of the card, they may be asking for a lot of people to start shouting my concerns from the rooftops.

Is there a place for grading in this hobby? Sure. Beckett has created that on their own. People value graded cards. But those cards have holes, and its important that some people realize that before dropping thousands on a “pristine” copy of a card they love, because that pristine card may be pristine for a reason other than its condition.

How Not To Handle One Of the Most Valuable Cards Ever Made

This card was posted on Blowout’s Twitter feed earlier today. I am in total shock as to the content of the card, but more importantly what someone (possibly the seller) did to this card. Take a look at the auction first, as the seller sure did a major hype job in the description -rightfully so.

Now, I have a few questions for you to ponder.
1. Why the fuck would you grade this card? Seriously. This card has no reason to be graded, not a single one. By letting someone arbitrarily work on this card, you can only diminish its value rather than helping it. Even if it grades a 10 by some ridiculous standard, who cares? Its not worth any more than it actually is. Some people idiotically believe that every card can gain value by having it graded. Some can, as the prospecting genre of collecting is pretty much based on that stupid but true fact. As for the others, ESPECIALLY the super high end cards that are not known for being in pristine condition, or even necessarily desired in pristine condition, have more of a chance of LOSING value than gaining it.
The funny part of this whole grading question is that this is a fold out card. The fact that it is a fold out card makes me even more confused as to why someone would desecrate a card like this with a Beckett holder. Guess he got what he deserved, either way, as the holder looks ridiculous. The person who did the grading will probably argue that this gives more protection, but honestly, that argument is demeaned by the general aesthetics of the results.
2. Why would you even entrust this card to a third party for an extended period of time? Im guessing you have to either leave it with those idiots at a show or (god forbid) send it through the mail. Considering this card is pretty much priceless, Im not sure why you would risk the grading knowing that there is always that slim chance that you may not get it back. Even with the insurance money, you probably wouldnt be able to even replace something like this if you tried.
3. Why would you by a card that is encased like this? The reason I ask is because the seller has made it infinitely harder to display, and infinitely uglier in the ridiculous case that Beckett used. You cant really crack it, mainly due to the value of what is inside and how you would have to get it out, so why not just buy the cuts yourself and make a similar card for that much cheaper.
Im not going to get into my feelings on the grading service business, or its scam potential, but I just couldnt help but scoff at the person who ran this through Beckett. Some people. Ill file this under epic fail.
EDIT: After some discussion on the boards, this card was possibly a result of one of the biggest cut signature fuck ups in industry history. Documented on HBO, a collector who had gotten a quad cut of four players including Ruth found out that two of the cuts used by Upper Deck weren’t real. He was given a few cards to make up for it, this being the crown jewel I would expect. Notably, the others (known so far to be a Jordan/Lebron and a Tiger) were sold ungraded.

I Heart Ebay Idiots and Idiots In General

Oh my god, Wheeler, thank you for sending this to me.

So, lets get you the run down on this auction:

Graded 1/1 – Check
Graded NFL Shield Card – Check
Non-gem grade – Check
Complete and Utter Idiot – Check
Population report published in the auction – WTF?

Not only do you have a guy who has ridiculously graded his NFL shield Felix Jones card from NT, but he has also published a population report in his auction. Why? If the card is a 1/1 is there really a need to show where all the cards have fallen? No, as there is only one. Duh. See, the practice of grading cards like this is fucking stupid to begin with, but to show the bidders where it stands among its non-existant counterparts is borderline mentally disabled.

Again, what will grading this card serve? Nothing. Also, what will adding the pop report to the auction serve? Nothing, but it will show that you are a clueless douche. Congrats my nizzle, you are one with the brain.

A Comment On Grading and Idiots

I just want to write a comment on grading, again. See, Im not sure people really get the concept of when to grade cards, especially cards that would have no reason to be compared in terms of condition. Besides the fact that grading is completely subjective and arbitrary, sometimes problematic ethically, and generally a crook’s business, there are still a few reasons why you should and shouldn’t grade a card.

When you look back at grading, it was created FOR eBay. Despite what the official tag line is, grading was created for people who were buying in a marketplace where direct examination of the item they were buying was usually impossible. What that similarly created was a marketplace of cards that competed for the highest grade, and on top of all that, sold for hundreds if not thousands more than a raw version of the card would go. Add in the fact that Beckett single handedly created a new genre of condition with “gem mint” and number grades, instead of going with the condition guides of mint, near mint, blah blah blah, and you can see where the conflict of interest starts.

Rather than going into that long discussion of Beckett and their ethics, or lack there of, I want to discuss which cards should be graded in this day and age. There is quite a short list of cards that are worth your time, actually, and here it is:

1. generally mass produced rookie cards with or without autos (note the mass produced lingo)
2. vintage cards
3. bowman chrome cards or other prospecting ventures
4. certain numbered cards that would normally not be in good condition

That is it. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but there are also cards that should never, ever, EEEEEVVVVER, be graded.

1. 1/1 cards
2. cards with extremely low print runs (excluding prospectors)
3. logo patch cards
4. printing plates
5. cards that would gain nothing from a high grade (junk)
6. cards that could never be replicated
7. condition sensitive cards that will SURELY get a horrible grade (IE sweet spot cards or absolute cards)

You may ask why this list is what it is, and well here is the basic explanation. If a card has a print run of 1, 10 or even 25, there is no reason to expect that grading would do anything for the card. Even if the card would get a good grade, the subjectivity of the process should discourage anyone. Usually if your card has a low print run, its worth a considerable amount of money. Also, cards with low print runs are not usually made with condition in mind for the sole reason that a gem mint grade would not do anything for them. This means that when you grade your card, you can only hurt it, not help it.

Ill give you an example:

You have a Tiger Woods patch auto from exquisite of this year. You inspect it, you look it over, and you decide to give it a shot with BGS. As far as we know, there are only 5 tigers, and this is one of those number two’s from the list above. Most likely, the Tiger would get a 9 or below, and you would be stuck with a card in a ridiculous holder, a bad grade, and no ability to take the risk in cracking it for fear of damaging the card. You have damaged the value of your card for sale, and there is no way around that. Granted, Beckett would probably be selling the card for you anyways, because if you were stupid enough to grade it, you are definitely stupid enough to give it to Beckett to sell.

On the flip side, lets say you get a 9.5 out of it. Was it really worth the risk of shipping it to the facility, having the card in someone else’s hands, sending the card back to you, and getting a bad grade, all for a few extra bucks? Probably not. Would it getting a good grade be that much of boost in price? Someone who wants this card, probably wouldn’t care about the grade, but may care about that awful holder. Since there are only 5 other tigers, is condition even that much of a factor? No, especially when Exqusites are more about the auto and the jersey than the condition of the card. In fact, the card stock is so thick, there are that many more places for dings to happen without being seen by the naked eye.

Here are a few eBay examples:

This card is a Tiger Woods buyback auto jersey /8. This card is worth a fuckload of money, and I am only using it to show what I mean from the above example. The person, unbeknownst to me, decided this card was worth grading. Im not sure why. That card is not worth the risk, for the sole reason that it came back the way it did. I know I would much rather have this card in a nice magnetic holder than in the holder it is in right now, most people would probably agree. Add in the fact that it came back a 9, and there is that much more reason to dislike this version of the card. If it had come back 9.5 would it have made that much of a difference? Probably not. Why take the risk, idiot?

The second card is a similar card in that it is a 1/1 that came back a 9. Why in the world would you expect a leaf limited card to come back with a good grade, let alone a grade that would help your sale? Total crap.

I encourage you to go on eBay and take a look around. Search for BGS 1/1 and see all the different idiots who graded their printing plates or other cards that are now ruined. You wont get any of the idiots who graded their sweet spot autos, or graded extremely rare cards, but you will get the point.