Archive for SGC

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.