More Craziness Over Subjectivity

Mario posted recently about the Jordan rookie BGS 10 that has popped up on ebay with a feeding frenzy in tow. Wow, already over $50,000, right?

The question I have is whether or not we should actually trust that these cards are not just publicity stunts that have benefitted one fortunate collector. Since one cannot challenge the subjectivity of the grading process without destroying an obviously valuable piece, it falls on the shoulders of the buyers to avoid those cards .

As soon as Beckett created a higher-than-mint grade, we should have already questioned whether this was the point of the grading process in general. If you look at the cards that get the 9.5s and 10s over the 9s, even with a magnifying glass, show me the difference in grade between each of those levels. Each of you would have different answers. Considering the grading process was created as a service to help with internet buying, why should we believe that the graders have the means, as well as the expertise, to tell us when some piece of cardboard has exceeded the worldwide standard of mint? On the post, one of the commenters suggested this is a “we go to 11″ type of standard to differentiate their process from others, and I wholeheartedly agree. As a result of this, when a card like the Jordan and the Montana receive those types of grades, things go nuts. If not only because it is publicized by the company that is responsible for the service. With that understanding, we should not have faith in the people known for having more conflicts of interest than any other hobby company in history. By giving a card that grade, especially one like this Jordan, having a system that prevents people from questioning the result, and the fact that Beckett receives almost national attention, its easy to see why its beneficial to manufacture an event like this. Obviously, the Jordan was graded a while ago, but it hasnt come up for sale since that time. Now that the Montana has sold for crazy go nuts prices, this card was sure to follow.

One of the things we have to realize is that there is not a specific standard that applies to each card without subjectivity. In the end, its always a human with emotions who makes the decision. Obviously when you price, sell and advertise these cards as well as providing the service itself, things are going to get suspicious with every public result. So, if a 10 to one person is a 9.5 to another, why do we allow these stunts to continue to grab our attention? As buyers, in an age when digital cameras and scanners are in the 10 megapixel range, this type of service isnt needed any more. Add in that most of the valuable modern cards are worth what they are regardless of condition, mainly due to contrived scarcity, the grading process then becomes even less of a necessity. As of now, the only reason to have this service is to allow people to exploit the grades they get for more money, make more money for a failing magazine, and to give another way for people to wrongly invest money in a medium that has a subjective element.

Until grading becomes more than a guy in texas examining your card, it will never be a worthy expense. Save yourself $80,000 and go buy a regular card. It will look just as nice, I promise.

A Comment On The Montana BGS 10 Sale

I just want to leverage the Montana BGS 10 against some very interesting information that was briefly discussed by Mario in his write up of the recent auction. First off, we know that the Montana was graded at the national convention by an “anonymous” person who didn’t want the publicity of having the only 10 ever graded. As Mario mentioned, this person was long thought to be associated with Beckett, and used that relationship to his advantage in the grading of the card. Sean Storms, the current seller of the card is opening an eBay business that specializes in the inventory that will provide BGS with some very important cards and clients. Add this all together, in addition to the history of one of the douchebaggiest companies known for providing favorable grading treatment to their large customers and friends, and you have a large scale scam that may have cost a buyer $65,000.

First off, lets discuss a little bit about BGS and PSA grading, and the incredibly subjective grading that they put cards through. Mario mentioned that it is so subjective, that collectors have made a practice of cracking holders and resubmitting cards for better grades. Now, I discussed a while ago about PSA offering better average grades for larger orders than it does for customers who use the service once in a blue moon. BGS has been largely accused of the same practice, mainly because they supposedly spend less time on individual pieces from larger orders, and that large volume customers can often be driven away by the lack of good grades. This leads to higher grades on the cards, and only exacerbates the scam.

BGS is a business just like every other part of this hobby, and provides no responsibility to offer expert services to collectors. The only responsibility they have is to making money, which at this point is a major focus for the failing magazine. Basically, if they screw up, they don’t answer to any regulatory body, and many collectors enjoy the extra preferential treatment they get due to the inflated values of the cards. However, most lay people are unaware of the subjectivity and often take BGS and PSA as gospel with their grades. Really, if you examine a BGS 10 with a BGS 9.5 through magnifying glass, there is usually no difference in the card itself. It could be that one grader had a good day, and one had a bad day. Then, factor in the size of the original order, and you have your result.

I am not saying that 10s don’t exist outside of big orders and valuable customers, but most of the time, that’s the way it turns out.

Lets go back to the Montana for a second. Lets say that they get a great looking Montana in at the national, and have a quick conference. The person submitting the grade is a “friend,” and the publicity generated in the hobby from finding the ONLY Montana 10 out there is pretty huge. Plus, if anyone were ever to examine the card, there are no legit ways to prove the difference between a 10 and a much less valuable 9.5. We know that the anonymous grade getter made 25K off his card, the price of a mid ranged car, and as many of us know, money drives this hobby. At this point I am casting every bit of suspicion I have at the evil empire, because they have every reason to use this as a great advertisement for BGS.

It comes down to the fact that all is never what it seems with Beckett, and this will ultimately lead to suspicion of douchebaggery. For those of you out there who still have faith in the magazine that seems to gaff on a daily basis, your day will come. Trust me on that, it always does.

Funny BGS Auction

One of the readers, Chris, sent in this funny auction that I think exemplifies my love for BGS. Thanks for the Email!

In this auction, the seller, an expert in pricing, is selling his Alexander Ovechkin 05-06 Beehive Beige Parallel BGS 9.5. The thing you may notice is that BGS has graded the auto as a 10. Chris informed me that if there ever were a 10 grade, this is it, as the card is a facimilie auto. Yes, ladies and gents, Beckett cannot tell the difference between a real, or purposefully reprinted auto. Wonderful. Hmm, maybe we should all go search the eBay listings for one that is actually auto’ed? Nope, dont see any. They usually dont sell for more than $70 bucks, glad this seller is taking advantage of this ridiculous mistake.
Also glad to see the “experts” over at BGS were on their game for this one!

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.