Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Grading - Which grading company should I use?

*Updated numerous times since the original post, most recently on 06 July 2023 (to add more third-tier graders)*

Which grading company should I use?

Let's assume you are going for resale value. As it stands right now, collectors and buyers strongly prefer:

  • PSA
  • BGS

It has been this way for a while. Historically speaking, there were some exceptions--for a long time, vintage non-sports people liked SGC. However, the tides have changed and it's more PSA and BGS. There were also times when the rule of thumb for hockey was "PSA for vintage, BGS for modern." But the sheer volume of modern PSA slabs in hockey says that has also changed. It's also worth pointing out that PSA is widely known to give out 10s a little more liberally than BGS (let's not get into the trimmed/fake slabs for the sake of this post). Off-centered? Doesn't matter, it could be a 10. A little white showing through? Doesn't matter, it could be a 10. Perhaps that simple fact is why PSA is so popular... Is BGS perfect? No. In an effort to money grab, they have two different versions of 10s. Why not?

So anyway, stick with PSA or BGS. Those two are in a group at the top. You don't have to like that PSA may take a year to send your card back. You don't have to like the costs associated with it. You don't even have to like the look of the slabs. If you are looking for the most return for your money, PSA or BGS.

There is a secondary group with some of the more well-known companies:

  • KSA
  • MNT - pretty big for hockey in Canada, so definitely regional; however PSA opened up some operations in Canada which means MNT will probably drop even lower.
  • SGC - more well-known in vintage sports, particularly baseball, but the market has tilted toward PSA.
  • CGC - used to grade only gaming cards, but added in Marvel cards in mid-2022 as well
  • CSG (Certified Sports Guaranty) - they are related to CGC above, and do the sports cards.
  • HGA (Hybrid Grading) - they don't really belong in this second tier if we are looking at volume; some collectors like the look of their slabs because they offer custom labels (which of course they charge for). Everyone needs a gimmick, I guess.

It is also worth noting that in early 2023, COMC came to an agreement with CGC/CSG such that card owners could submit to grade directly through COMC directly. There are tons of people who are testing the waters, and we are seeing a lot of CGC/CSG slabs flooding the market because of this agreement with COMC. Time will tell how the market does for those two. UPDATE: toward the end of June of 2023, it was announced that CSG and CGC were 'merging' their lines. Also, something about their 9.5s now being uplifted to 10s or something. Grading, huh? Sheesh. They also changed the color scheme or their labels, and people hated that. Man, collectors are finnicky!

In an effort not to be overshadowed, though, PSA also came to an agreement with COMC as well shortly after CGC/CSG, basically removing any advantage that CGC/CSG may have held from an ease-of-grading standpoint.

Anyway, then there are the rest of the grading companies. Some of these I've never heard of, and you probably haven't either. If you are going for resale, stay away from these. I'm pretty sure a couple of these are just labels printed in someone's basement:

  • ACA Certification
  • AEG (Aurum Elite Grading
  • All-Star Grading
  • AP Grading
  • ASTG (they grade up to an 11 for Pristine, so must be big Spinal Tap Fans!)
  • Brothers Flawless Grading
  • Certified Express
  • CG (Collector's Grade)
  • CGA (Card Grading Australia)
  • CS (Cardscore; this one is a crowdsourced grader--yeah, you read that right! They don't slab cards, but appear to put cards in magnetic one-touches with a sticker on it. But then I also saw a Cardscore label on a PSA-graded holder, so who knows...)
  • DGA
  • ECA (East Coast Authenticated)
  • Electric Grading (sometimes uses custom labels with images of the character, so, you know, probably violating trademarks)
  • Elite Card Grading
  • EMC Grading (Encapsulated Memories Company)
  • FCG (Forensic Card Grading)
  • Final Authority
  • Flawless Grading
  • GCG (Great Canadian Grading)
  • GEM Grading
  • Gem Mint Grading (not sure if it is the same as GEM Grading and maybe they just changed the label?)
  • GetGraded
  • GMA
  • GS.C (GradedSports.Cards; notice the weird period placement--I guess you have to stand out when your name is so unoriginal...)
  • HC Grading
  • ISA
  • Legion Grading Services
  • MGC (Majesty Grading Company--their logo is a lion with a crown on it's head. Cool. Right?...)
  • MGS
  • NSA (National Sportscard Authenticator)
  • Overtime Grading
  • Peak Grading
  • Pure Graded X
  • RCG
  • SFTB Grading (Start From the Bottom)
  • TAG (Technical Authentication and Grading)
  • UCZ

Wow, so many three-letter acronyms out there! For giggles I half-considered putting in my initials just to see if anyone ever noticed. The point is there are a ton of new companies that popped up, and you can buy blank slabs on Amazon. So literally anyone can become a grader. Of course, making a business out of it is a different story, and even more so if we are talking about building up any credibility to try and move yourself up the tiered list.

Though not on the list above, it is also worth mentioning BCCG (Beckett Collector Club Grading). I don't know if you can still submit to Beckett for BCCG, but they were known more for high-volume/low-value cards. Basically you paid to have a card slabbed. BCCG is, more or less, an inside joke when it comes to grading. It's as if their label printer only knew how to print 9s and 10s. If you are buying graded cards for any investment types of purchases, stay away from BCCG slabs. They are generally agreed to be over-graded.

As a last note, also stay away from raw grading. Beckett may be the only company that does raw grading, but it is typically done at card shows. If you're serious about grading, don't bother with these. The card is given some glances, a grade and a serial number. It is then put into a card saver (one of the worst ways to protect a card) and a shiny sticker with the grade and serial number. Save your money. Buyers will not take these grades seriously. And there is no guarantee that the card would receive that particular grade if sent in for slabbing. Honestly, I don't know why it exists. (Well, it's for money, so maybe the statment should be "I don't know why anyone would do this.")

Anyway, back to the discussion. As mentioned above if you are going for resale values, stick with PSA and BGS. Now, if you don't care about return on your money, go with whomever is closer, cheaper, or whose slabs you like the most.

Better yet, if money is not a factor, why grade at all? The reason I see the most is because someone wants a card slabbed for protection.

I'll throw out my usual pitch for unnecessary grading. I have literally every mid- to high-dollar card I own (Marvel, Star Wars, hockey, etc) in one-touches and team bags. They have survived two moves, being dropped, stepped on, sat on, and everything in-between. If by some miracle one gets cracked (which has yet to happen) I replace it for $3. Meanwhile, I dropped a PSA slab and it shattered the corner rendering it unsellable unless I send it back for reslabbing. Spoiler alert, I cracked it open and moved it to a one-touch and team bag.

Just something to think about.

Grading - Is it worth grading this card?

I am a member of numerous card-related Facebook groups. People pose variations of these two questions pretty much every day:

So let's tackle each of these in simplistic terms.

Is it worth grading this card?

It all comes down to math at the end of the day, right?

If the value of the graded card is more than the total of the cost of the raw card + the cost of grading + the effort involved in shipping the card off + time it takes to get the card back + potential of final grade disappointment + potential of card getting lost or damaged along the way, then go for it.

If your question is really "What does this card graded X sale for?", then go do your homework. No one likes a lazy collector.

If your question is really "What does it cost to grade this card?", then go do your homework. No one likes a lazy collector.

Grading - Will this card grade well?

I am a member of numerous card-related Facebook groups. People pose variations of these two questions pretty much every day:

So let's tackle each of these in simplistic terms.

Will this card grade well?

I'll be frank, we cannot tell you based on some Facebook photos, no matter how many you want to add.

The best thing you can do is spend $20 on Amazon and buy yourself a cheap jeweler's loupe. Use it to carefully look at every edge and every corner. Turn the card carefully under a light looking at both front and back of the card.

Any imperfection you can see, the graders will see.

Assuming you want a high-grade card, base your decision on what you see. This usually dovetails into the "Is it worth grading this card?" question.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Streaming paralysis

Sorry, this has nothing whatsoever to do with cards or hobbies!

There are so many options!

We have had Netflix for, sheesh, close to 15-years now. In fact, we may just be some of the only subscribers who also have the dvd plan. The kids watch Netflix more than me and my wife combined, so it is, I suppose, a wise monthly subscription. It's not important that my oldest son watches the same three or four shows from start to finish, over and over again; what is important is that Netflix gets used.

I had resisted branching out beyond Netflix. My watchlist kept growing and I wasn't watching much of it. Things dropped off and I had no idea until I decided to catch up. Then it was on some other streaming service.

So we got Disney+ a little over a year ago. It was a 3-month free promo (I think) through Verizon. It has Star Wars content, it has Marvel content. Easy choice there. I added tons of items to my list. I even watched a few things (didn't care much for Mandalorian, sorry!). Promo time came and went and we started getting charged via Verizon. Meh, fine, it gets watched enough by the rest of the household, I guess.

Then came Apple+. It was another 3-month promo, but directly through Apple. My wife wanted to watch the Jennifer Aniston morning news show. I wanted to watch Ted Lasso. My wife got through hers in a week or so. By the time I finished Ted Lasso, season two was in full swing. As timing works out, the 3-month promo ended in the early part of season two, so I just went month-to-month. I did, at least, cancel that service when Lasso ended. Apple really doesn't have much content. But they have a ton of money, so it's probably only a matter of time.

Next up was HBO Max, which we have had for a few months now. I paid for a full year upfront since it was pretty cheap (some discounted rate, though I couldn't tell you what it cost). I went through and added several movies and shows and have barely watched any of them so far.

So today my wife changes up our Verizon plan and got a new phone. We now have Disney+ for "free" (double quotes because, let's face it, you're still paying for it!). So no change there. But we also have Hulu now. What do I do? Go through their hubs and add a ton of shows to my watchlist. How much will I actually watch? Time will tell.

In addition to all of this, we have Dish Network. We have been a Dish customer for probably 20-years. We can watch live local channels without waiting 24- or 48-hours, or for the network to make an agreement with one service and months later, yet another. We have a DVR that is <checks real quick...> 43% full. Most of that is made up if movies recorded over the years when we had free preview weekends or something like that. In addition, we have a ton of timers to record shows. I prefer to wait for a full season now to binge (which I blame on Netflix) whereas my wife watches her shows whever she can.

Remember when I mentioned we still have the dvd plan on Netflix? It is due, in no small part, to a handful of shows I like from Showtime. I just can't bring myself to get yet another subscription when I can just rip them from dvd and binge them on my own schedule. For example, I get Billions from the dvd plan because I just don't want to have Showtime+ or whatever their service is called.

Where am I going with all this?

With the DVR, all the on-demand content, all the various watchlists, it is probably mathematically impossible for me to watch all the content I am even vaguely interested in. Yet I still add new things all the time. And yet, as I type this up, I sit here watching a Halloween episode of Modern Family on syndication that I am sure I have seen no less than five times over the years.

There are too many options. You subscribe and just pay without noticing. I have never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones. It's full run was one of the things that tipped the scale toward getting HBO Max. In the last few months since we have had it have I even watched the first episode yet? Nope! Have I gotten past the third episode of the odd Jeff Goldblum show on Disney+? Nope. It is quirky and right up my alley. I enjoy what I have seen so far, but it's just there, so no rush, right?

But when I decide to binge something now do I go with the rest of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on Netflix, start Terriers on Hulu since I heard great things, or do I finally take the plunge into the dense world on Thrones?

No idea, there is just so much to watch!

Edit: Crap! I completely forgot that we have Amazon Prime, too!

Monday, March 28, 2022

Biggest card selling regret?

This topic comes up from time to time in any number of Facebook groups or on forums, such as Hobby Insider or Blowout Forums.

For me, the answer is easy. It's this one:

So what is this card?

Back in 2010 time frame, Rittenhouse Archives held the Marvel license for trading cards. They produced a full set of cards for the first "big" MCU movie, Iron Man. Maybe you've heard of it...

Anyway, I was building a master set for the movie. It had some costume cards (including short-printed Obadiah Stane tie cards and some Pepper Potts bustier cards). It also had a handful of autographs, notably one of Robert Downey, Jr. While I was building the set, I picked up the the RDJ auto for $180 or so. A few months later I got bored with the set and split it up.

I posted the cards on Hobby Insider to sale. Someone offered me $250 for the RDJ auto. I thought sure, $70 profit for a few months of sitting in a box, why not?!?

Fast forward to today. That same card is selling for $12,000 or more.

So yeah, the moral of the story is NEVER SELL ANYTHING!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Buyer frustrations

I collect sketchcards from Mark Bloodworth (along with some artwork directly from him--see it all here).

Mark doesn't really do a lot of sketchcard sets, and even when he does, he generally only does a handful. You won't see a set with him doing 50 or more cards. It's usually 4-6, something like that.

That said, his cards don't pop up too often. Those that are up on eBay have been up for a while, only because the asking prices are a little... hopeful. I say that as someone who owns several cards myself. I kinda know his market.

So there was a 2-card puzzle that had been up on eBay for months. Most recently it had an opening bid of $150 (with a much higher BIN). I felt kinda interested, but just had other things going on, so didn't get a bid in.

While it was still up, I get an email from the seller. They were moving away from an eBay store and to their own website. They had taken images and shared them out in a GoggleDocs folder. Was I interested in any?

You bet, the Bloodworth and a couple of others. I asked for what they were looking for on the cards. Generally speaking, off-eBay prices are a little less since there are no fees taken out as well. Usually the sellers are willing to lower a little.

So that $150 card puzzle on eBay? They wanted $400.

Pfft, no thanks. I explained that there were no bids at $150, so I was out. I also gave some suggestions on the other two cards I was interested.

The reasoning was that the seller's partner got mad it was priced so low on eBay.

Hmm, if it didn't sell at $150 on a global marketplace, how in the world is it going to sell for nearly three times that on a personal website?

They did take my advice on the other two cards and offered them to me at that amount.

No thanks, I'll pass on all of them now. Thanks, though!

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Two things that have ruined the hobby

I'll keep this one short:

  • Speculators
  • Grading