Archive for PSA

CSG is the top grading company for my needs; PSA or other services may be best for you, others

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , on February 3, 2022 by Cardboard Icons

More than 20 years ago I decided to dip my toe into the waters that make up the world of third party grading. At the time PSA was the top dog, but I decided to bypass them and give Beckett Grading Services a shot, mostly because I enjoyed the idea of not having to pay an annual membership fee to use the service.

There were other grading companies, but for me BGS was the choice. My first submissions were met with mixed reviews. In fact, my first experience involved BGS’s encapsulation process damaging a handful of my cards, including a 1992 Topps Traded Nomar Garciaparra, which was still a big deal at the time. But I stuck with BGS. I loved the cases, I loved the four-category sub grades and I loved the idea that it seemed BGS was relatively seen as the toughest grader among the most popular companies.

Over the course of 15 or so years I sent several submissions. I was not a big user per se. I did, however, send the majority of my vintage baseball hall of fame/tobacco-era cards there for encapsulation. And over time I amassed a good size collection of BGS slabbed cards, old and new. I still enjoy those cards, and those cases, but for multiple reasons – mostly the increase in costs and the reputation that BGS had gotten softer on grading — I’ve not been a submitter of cards directly to BGS.

I’m not your prototypical user of grading services. I don’t bust a ton of sealed product and most of the stuff I submit for grading is for my personal collection. The last thing I want is soft grading standards.

Fastforward to the spring of 2021. The hobby, as you know, has experienced a bit of a renaissance since COVID-19. Waves of newcomers or returning hobbyists have taken to cardboard for pleasure, profit and pain. This renewed interest has also caused an uptick in grading services. One new service to hit the market was CSG, or Certified Sports Guaranty. I usually laugh and start looking the other way when I see new grading companies hit the market, but this one immediately caught my attention because former BGS lead grader Andy Broome was involved. Broome, in my mind, is someone I associate with excellence in this hobby. And his departure from BGS was sort of in line with when I felt that the grading at BGS became softer. So this felt like a natural progression for me. So I looked further into CSG and loved that the sports card grading service is an arm of a parent company widely respected in other hobbies, specifically currency and comic books. To me, this lent credibility and immediately shut down the notion that this was just a “fly-by-night” operation, the same types I’d been laughing at for more than two decades.

To date I have sent four submissions to CSG. I tested the graders with a small submission that included a 2001 Bowman Chrome Ichiro rookie, a 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout and a 2011 Bowman Draft Blue parallel rookie, and then followed it up with two bulk submissions of 60 cards and 50 cards. I then submitted one more two-card batch earlier this summer that included a 2018 Topps Chrome Update Refractor Shohei Ohtani. In all I have submitted roughly 120 total cards and to this point I am very pleased with the return. The grades have been fair, and there is some uniformity among the items in my collection.

I understand that we all grade cards for different purposes, and to be honest, CSG may not be a good fit for you depending on your reason. However, there are three areas in which persons seem to be hung up when it comes to CSG. Folks complain that CSG grades too tough; that the cases are ugly, and the secondary market return does not make the service worth using.

I’ll address these concerns based on my experience. Again, this is MY experience and opinion.

Complaint: Grading is tougher

Based on my submissions, I’d concur that grading is tougher than I experienced in the last decade with BGS, as well as the perception of those services rendered by other grading companies. I received a fair amount of Mint 9 and NM/MINT+ 8.5, and did receive an occasional Gem Mint 9.5. Only one card in all of my submissions received the Pristine 10 grade. * It’s worth noting there is a Perfect 10 but that grade is reserved for cards submitted with the sub grades option and the example having received 10s in all four categories.

While the grading is tougher, I find this to be a good thing. No one wins when the standard by which we grade cards softens, or a card gets a grade that is not deserved. It’s worth noting that BGS also had a reputation for being tough during the early days and now BGS has been around for more than 20 years.

Complaint: The labels are ugly

One of the main complaints early on about CSG was the look of their label. There was a sentiment that when the card is graded without subgrades there is too much empty space. I understand the argument, however I enjoy the look of the label the way it is. I’ve submitted cards for grading with and without sub grade options (there is an upcharge unfortunately) and enjoy the look both ways. For me, the label is distinct and in a good way. It’s easily readable, it’s clean and it’s photographable. I’ll say that the cases CSG uses are THE BEST in the industry in terms of clarity. I’ve not put one to the test for durability, but they seem to be light years ahead of PSA and more sleek than BGS. I know everyone loves “Tuxedo Time” from SGC, but I’ll take these over any iteration of holders SGC has used over it’s decades of service.

Complaint: Poor Returns on Secondary Market

This is really the big one. And to be honest, I think it’s time we all understand something: PSA IS king when it comes to secondary market prices. However, this does not mean that PSA is better than CSG. Yeah, you read that right.

The fact that PSA cards sell for more than CSG is not indicative that they offer a better service. It’s more so a statement about market share and consumer trust due to familiarity. Longtime hobbyists and new comers know that PSA has been associated with some of the most expensive cards in recent memory. Additionally, there are PSA loyalists who collect nothing but cards in PSA slabs. There also are folks who participate in the PSA registry system to show off their collection. So those individuals are more likely to put their money directly into a PSA slab than buy a card graded elsewhere. And this is where I was, only my money was going into BGS slabs.

The loyalty aspect of things is something we often forget in this hobby. I’m struggling with this aspect as I write this because I have hundreds of BGS slabs and now roughly 150 CSG slabs to go with them; so the uniformity is now split mostly between two grading companies.

Choose The Service That Suits Your Needs

As I wrap this up, I keep coming back to a question that folks ask me on Twitter: Which grading service should I use?

The answer really does depends on your needs.

If you’re grading for flipping, it’s probably PSA.

If you’re looking for the best evaluation of your card’s condition, it’s probably CSG.

If you’re new to the hobby and are looking at things aesthetically, SGC may be your choice. And yes, I know I said I like CSG, but I cannot hate anyone for loving those black inserts in the SGC cases.

Why I choose BGS/BVG instead of PSA

Posted in Misc. with tags , , , , , , on May 22, 2016 by Cardboard Icons

 photo FC045908-2FD4-4B88-836B-DEBEEDC688B4_zpsmtwxgi5c.jpg
It’s been asked of me many times: Why do you choose BGS/BVG instead of PSA?

The reason might be simpler than you think.

Sunday morning I posted the attached picture to my Twitter account. I had been trying for a long time to take a decent picture of my “Card Wall” display case which contains many of the jewels of my rookie/vintage collection. 

The case contains 55 cards, all of which are graded by Beckett (Vintage) Grading. And the question about my grading preferences was asked again. And then it dawned on me that I never really explained here on my blog why I choose BGS/BVG instead of PSA.

One look at my bio may lead you to believe that my former affiliation with Beckett Media may have something to do with it, but in reality my loyalty to Beckett Grading began more than a decade before I penned anything for Beckett.

It started in 1999 during the grading card craze. PSA at the time was the big boy in the grading industry and many other small “grading” companies came along, most of which offered nothing more than slabbing your card for some fee. The quality of work really didn’t matter. They all had some fancy three-letter abbreviation and offered some plastic encapsulation, but the reputation of grading companies is built on one main thing: trustworthiness. In other words, does the grade you issue a card carry any value among collectors?

As you can guess, many of those fly-by-night operations didn’t last long as their services really offered nothing to collectors but a special plastic holder. Beckett started the Beckett Grading Services branch of the company right about that same time and to me, their product caught my eye for two reasons: First, the holders seemed superior to the PSA ones. Second, I didn’t have to join a club to get my cards graded.

The belief in my mind at the time was that I had to pay money to join the PSA club in order to even have the opportunity to get my cards graded. I also didn’t like the fact that the cost of services varied depending on the value of the card.

With BGS it was simple. You want cards graded? Package them up, fill out a form, pay a flat fee per card regardless of value and wait. There were no clubs. No hoops to jump through. It seemed simple. And it was.

Oddly enough my first order was a bag of mixed results. I got solid grades on my key submissions (1997-98 Topps Chrome Refractor RC Tim Duncan (9); 1998-99 Topps Chrome Refractors RC Vince Carter (9) and 1998 SP Authentic RC Randy Moss (9)) but there were some quality control issues. I had two cards in that first batch that came back damaged. Not the cases, but the actual cards! At some point during the encapsulation process, the edge of the card got caught in the area of the inner plastic sleeve where the plastic is heat sealed closed.

I complained and basically got the cold shoulder. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but I sent another submission a year later and had no problems. And truthfully, I have now sent dozens of orders in over the last 17 years and have not had any issues.

When it comes to grading, PSA and BGS are the two authorities. And everyone has their own opinion as to which is better for certain cards and why. Each also has a loyal following. Most modern stuff gets slabbed by BGS, likely because of the superior (in my opinion) cases and the existence of sub grades, whereas PSA continues to have a large market share of the vintage slabs.

On the resale market PSA still draws better for vintage cards which of course leaves me in an interesting predicament as it pertains to my collection. While I have a fair amount of modern stuff graded by Beckett Grading, I also choose BVG for all of my vintage cards. And I do this knowing that the cards might be “worth more” if they were in PSA holders, if for no other reason collectors of vintage seem to prefer PSA’s services.

What it all really comes down to is what you like. If you are a collector – and not a reseller, flipper, investor, etc. – you buy what you like, not what the next guy likes. Because really the only person you need to impress with your collection is the person you look at in the mirror.

Rookie Card Upgrade 7: 1961 Topps Billy Williams

Posted in Rookie Card Upgrade with tags , , , , , , on August 24, 2015 by Cardboard Icons

About 18 months ago I acquired a few PSA grades HOF rookie cards for what was a good deal at the time.  Among the cards was this 1961 Topps Billy Williams PSA 3.

 
It’s a good looking card with decent centering.  The funny thing is I wasn’t really looking to upgrade this card.  But last week when I visited one of my local shop they had this in the showcase.  

 
I’m more of a BVG guy than PSA. It’s my personal preference. This card on this grade at that price was a real and a heck of a way to upgrade this rookie card.  Besides, this is an old slab with sub grades.  I love these.

 

Obama & Jackie Robinson 1/1 auto on eBay raises questions

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2009 by Cardboard Icons

So I peeked at the Beckett Blog today — I do this a few times a week — and noticed that Chris posted a LINK to the 2008 Topps American Heritage Barack Obama and Jackie Robinson 1/1 cut auto that is on eBay. The card is at $3,000 with 15 bids as of Monday morning. But as I looked at the auction, something really pissed me off about this card. If you’ve yet to do so, go read the auction description. The seller notes that the card was yanked off eBay in January so that Topps could switch out the Obama autograph with one CERTIFIED BY PSA. Compare the first auction with the second, the Obama autos are different, although both could be — and likely are — real. Does this strike anyone else as despicable. I mean I guess we should be thrilled that Topps wanted to make sure that the future owner of the card got a real Obama autograph. But I find this act troubling because if there was any question as to the authenticity of the first Obama autograph, then that 1/1 should have never even been placed into the packs. Kudos to Topps for the secondary move, but truthfully it should have never gotten to that point.

Oldest Card Update

Posted in Newspaperman with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2009 by Cardboard Icons

Well, I’m still not sure if the story about the oldest baseball card being unearthed in Fresno, Calif. made it to the CBS Nightly News with Katie Couric, (my wife was in labor that night) but the story did make it to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno Show last week. In case you missed the Jay Leno episode, you can see it (HERE). It’s toward the middle of the episode, just skip through the crap and wait for the commercials to play. It’s worth watching if you’re a card collector.

Also, big shout to my boy Mike Osegueda, the reporter at the Fresno Bee who broke the news to the world. He made it into the new Beckett Baseball. Chris Olds, editor of Beckett Baseball, contacted Mike about two weeks ago — after Chris finished working on the Rookie Card Rolodex, and after this story went national — to get permission to run a photo of the card in the magazine. There is a short snippet on Page 44 of the new magazine, which hit shelves on Tuesday. Whether you like or hate Beckett, you have to admit it’s a cool thing seeing your name — or that of a person you know — in print. Mike and I are both newspaper reporters so the whole name in print thing is common, but this is pretty neat considering we both have collected cards and have held Beckett in high regard. The closest I ever got was having one of my eBay sales (2001 UD HOFers Walter Johnson cut signature /5 ) mentioned in a special blurb. Ha.