Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Graded Card Conspiracy

First let me say to some of the detractors of the recent post by Gellman at Sportscards Uncensored, that part of the idea of a blog is to be able to brainstorm, craft ideas, and start dialogue. We aren't writing a college thesis and while many collectors respect the work being done by Gellman and others, I think it is unfair to, over-critique particulars when the idea as whole is what is trying to be conveyed.

That said, even the likes of Beckett must have known they had created a conflict of interest when they decided to discontinue graded card pricing from their monthly publication and instead switched to a 6x per year publication called Beckett Graded Card Investor and Price Guide. I wonder why? Could it be that even their most die-hard and brain washed readers had begun to suspect something was fishy? Or was it just another revenue stream? Probably a little of both.

The collecting world has long realized that the best company for the grading of vintage cards (and for the purpose of this post, are all cards pre-1981) is PSA/DNA. SGC and GAI are also highly regarded grading companies utilized for both modern and vintage cards and I would be remiss in not mentioning them as well. A quick look at one of the last issues of Beckett to contain graded card pricing, shows some glaring inaccuracies, misnomers and down right deception. Could that be why that all cards prior to the referenced time period simply provide the grade and not the company? I'd bet on it. Their "research" had obviously found that PSA, SGC and GAI cards of vintage stock were "worth more" than their graded cards, so why then would they possibly list those, as the cards being priced. Nothing like free press to your competition, right?

I will give Beckett credit where credit is due though, as many of the cards listed by both companies as Gem, consistently show PSA cards with a higher value.
However, let's look at some examples of key cards from the '80's and THE RC of the last 10 years.

Cal Ripken '82 Topps Traded Mint
BGS 9 $300
PSA 9 $250

Barry Bonds '86 Topps Traded
BGS Gem $200
GAI Gem $120

Barry Bonds '86 Fleer Update
BGS Gem $250
PSA Gem $250
Other (GAI, SGC) $30

Ken Griffey Jr. '89 Upper Deck
BGS Pristine (10) $1,200 (their 10 is called Pristine while PSA's is called Gem)
PSA Gem (10) $300

Albert Pujols '01 Bowman Chrome
BGS 9 $5,000
PSA 9 $4,200

Are you beginning to see my point? When they couldn't compete (vintage) they just list the condition, when they couldn't hide it, they tell the truth, and when in doubt, they choose to tell the collector that, any card, graded by any company, has the same value, or in the worst case, they just plain just lie. (See '89 UD Griffey and '01 Bowman Pujols)

Come on!! They make money grading cards. A LOT OF MONEY!! What else are they going to say?

So during the early winter of 07-08 they switch formats. However, much of the same equation still exists, simply in a different layout. Again, giving credit where it is due, they do include real historical data from eBay sales. Great! Good start, but there's a problem. A random sampling finds this "real-world" data only convolutes and confuses the situation even further. Case in point, according to one issue of the Graded Card Investor & Price Guide, a 1987 Donruss RC of Greg Maddux in a 10 (Gem/Pristine) condition is worth $80. The listing for that year goes on to show historical sales of that same card on eBay 17 times, from 2003-2007, ALL graded by BGS with a range of $215 to $920.

Ok wait, are we supposed to believe that not one '87 Donruss RC of Greg Maddux, graded by anyone other than BGS was sold in FOUR YEARS!! Also, if they list the price at $80, don't the eBay examples they site seem to be in congruent with that value? Going back to our original examples from the old format, apparently there were no sales of non-BGS graded cards for '86 Topps Traded or Fleer Update Bonds either. Oh and the '01 Bowman Chrome . . . don't get me started, this post is long enough, I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

We'll have to save the BCCG scam for another day as well.


Anonymous said...

PSA does not have Pristine.

Good God, do your homework.

Rob- AKA "VOTC" said...

Het chicken sh*^ anonymous, I said that BGS's 10 is called Pristine and PSA's 10 is called Gem Mint
Good God learn to read!

And if thats the only thing you extrapolated from that post, don't bother reading my blog.

Gellman said...

Glad to see someone who contributes so much to the conversation. Good god!

Motherscratcher said...

Great post guido. I feel like I get smarter every time I read one of your posts. You and Gellman both continue to open my eyes.

Maybe what anonymous was trying to say was "BECKETT, Huh, Good God y'all. What is it good for? Absolutely nothin'"

Say it again.

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Chemgod said...

I'd rather buy ungraded anyways

Pablo said...

PSA is a huge ripoff for card grading! I don't mind getting a autographed item autheticated since they have only charge me $8 at public signings but, graded cards? Hell no! Too expensive! Prices for graded cards will just chase more collectors out of our slowly dying hobby. People should just be happy to sell their ungraded cards for a small percentage of what they are worth in some price guide.

Coimbre21 said...

VOTC, If you are the anti-Beckett I am working on becoming the anti-PSA and I intend to call them out as well as every dealer who has ever sold me an altered card, or worse yet an altered card graded by PSA. I didn't realize I had a problem until BVG/Beckett returned a dozen cards to me that had been trimmed, 90% of those coming from a dealer on eBay known as TriplePlayVintage. His advice to me afterward, "Try PSA" and coincidentally he suddenly started selling dozens and hundreds by now of PSA 9 graded cards around that time. I have since scoured my collection finding many more altered cards from this dealer, and even found several PSAs that had been trimmed and purchased from other dealers. In due time TPV will get his but I have a batch of trimmed cards ready for PSA to prove the point and I will let you know how that experiment turns out. You can bet high volume dealers and PSA customers like TPV and 4 Sharp Corners bring in a lot of revenue to PSA, which no doubt looks the other way or simply doesn't have time to look at every edge when grading thousands of cards per day. As for SGC, the holder display is great, but it can also cause damage to the card which I've seen under a 10x loupe on a few vintage cards. One of those cards, a high grade Clemente, shows signs of being trimmed as well. I grade only with BVG knowing they will catch any altered card that I don't already catch with a 10x loupe. I can't help but think that PSA is tainted making their SMR bullshit, especially on the high end. Every grading company can't be 100% accurate but I had even less confidence in PSA when I saw a 1952 Topps Andy Pafko graded PSA Gem Mint 10 that sold for $250k. Centering top to bottom was 60/40 and L-R was 55/45. That's not Gem Mint. If you met the graders at Beckett you would know they are more on your side than sly-smiling Joe Orlando at PSA.

Unknown said...

bought & sold 8's that looked like 6's and 6's that look like 8's - end of story

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