Tuesday, March 24, 2009

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.


  1. Excellent post. This really speaks to me. I see all kinds of morons putting graded low-numbered cards on eBay. And it's almost always BGS, hardly ever PSA. For instance, last week I saw a BGS 9 2007 Exquisite Peterson rookie going for $5,000!!! As if the BGS grade makes it worth that much more! LOLZ!!!

    I only grade vintage cards that I'm 95% sure will get a 7 or better. It's pointless to grade cards from two or three years ago.

  2. I hate grading. I think the idea was to have something similar to stamps and coins, whatever.

    I've only had a couple graded items in my possession, and they do not stay that way for long. I don't care if it's a gem mint 10 cy young rookie card. Get it out of that biased, arbitrary case.

    Guck Frading.

  3. I agree with everything but one thing. I do not think a 9 is in anyway a bad grade.

  4. Rob, I have to disagree. See, with cards that are not old and vintage, a 9 pretty much means that it is the same value as a raw one when you get up this high. There is no super premium, it may be slightly higher.

  5. I really appreciate your perspective on this. Sometimes it's hard to separate your views from your hatred of Beckett, but it seems like this is honestly how you feel about grading in general. When I left the hobby many years ago, grading wasn't really an issue, so upon returning, my views on what/when to grade weren't so clear. Your opinions make a lot of sense to me and are helping me form my own opinion on this. Between this topic and "book value vs. sell value", you've cleared up some of the issues that are different since I've returned to collecting. Thanks.

  6. So true. Love the blog man. Keep up the good work.

  7. I agree with the comments above. Why grade them in the first place? I don't think it's even needed considering all the other fools who post on eBay their low cards. Keep the cards, especially vintage and rare ones. Who needs someone dictating the value? Back then, we knew already its value.