To grade or not to grade, that is the question …

   I don’t know about you, but one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about the hobby was grading cards. There’s a certain puzzle aspect to it, the idea that you’re solving some kind of mini-mystery when you determine an unofficial ranking for the cardboard.
   I suppose it’s like anything else; it’s fun to do a little dab of it in an non-pressurized situation, and probably not as much fun if you have to do it five days a week for an extended period, and likely even less so if you’re under significant time constraints.
   I always figured it would be great fun (and various versions of this idea have been done) to have a couple of dozen cards of widely varying conditions be part of a test at a National Convention to show just how tricky it can be to find consensus when you’re dealing with something as subjective as assessing the condition of a baseball card.
   In the past at Nationals when something like that has been undertaken, it’s usually involved the various third-party grading companies, adding a big-business and big-dollar component to it that wouldn’t be part of what I envision. I just think it would be fun to see what level of uniformity – and divergence – there would be if a dozen hobby old-timers of any stripe graded that hypothetical two dozen cards.
   And, of course, I am talking about assigning the old-time grades of Fair, Good, Very Good, Excellent and Near-Mint, not bothering to plant a number alongside, which immediately conjures up visions of dollar signs rather than baseball cards.
   What got me to thinking about this was grading some of the cards that are slated to be in our company’s upcoming Auction. For those of you keeping score at home, I have no doubt that the relative scale that I employed for this process more closely resembles what old hobby guys used to do 20 years ago than what takes place in the mega-dollar market today.
   At the risk of inflaming English teachers everywhere, I tried my best to do Good, even Very Good. In any event, I enjoyed the heck out of the process.

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16 thoughts on “To grade or not to grade, that is the question …

  1. T.S. on said:

    I sure hope this blog entry doesn’t turn into a bickering match like my Friday blog. For those of you wondering, my book should be in all stores by now. If you can’t find it at your local stopping ground, call or email me and let me know so I can get to the bottom of why it’s not stocked there.

  2. Former Subscriber on said:

    You’re worried about another "bickering match?" That’s your response to one of the better discussions we’ve seen around here? Shocking. Do you really think we show up here each day to see what you have to say about card grading and neato sports paintings? aj39asdkfajasdf!!!…oops, I was laughing so hard I must’ve pounded the keyboard. Anyway, not so my irrelevant friend. We’re just wondering when you’ll get tired of getting the crap kicked out of you on daily basis and start (really) addressing some of our questions. And, no, shutting down the comments doesn’t count.

  3. Mike on said:

    T.S. – You are being self centered. "Former subscriber is right", with all do respect, we are not here wondering where your book is. We don’t log on to read about former baseball funny-men. We are collectors and we are passionate about the collection hobby. Please, address coaches corner and what’s going on. I miss the old journalism and coverage that used to be part of SCD. It seems your priorities are out of order.

    Your pal,

    Mike (formally the ring guy)

  4. Justin Jarmus on said:

    it really makes me wonder and shake my head to some of the things that worry or bother you mr. oconell

  5. Expired Sub 2007 on said:

    So, any Coach’s Corner or STAT items in the collect auction?

  6. Mike on said:

    first scd screws their real advertisers by making them compete with coach’s corner, now scd screws the advertisers some more by competing with the auction houses.

  7. Tom Tresh on said:

    Mr. O’Connell, I would not call all of these exchanges "bickering." I do believe that collectors are looking for answers and are looking for our hobby magazine editors and managers to give their thoughts on the topics discussed here. Collectors want to know why their collections are being devalued due to the enormous quantity of forgeries being sold within the hobby. Personally, I am puzzled by your lack of curiosity on the subject of forgeries. And please do not write "that this is not the place for this subject." This is exactly the place on the subject of forgeries. I do understand that you’re caught between a rock (SCD) and a hard place (Coach’s Corner). If nothing else, Mr. O’Connell, maybe you could give us your opinion on that Mike "King" Kelly autographed baseball on the Coach’s Corner auction. When it comes to extraodinary discoveries Coach’s Corner seems to have them. That is all we are asking you for now. Is that too much to ask of a editor of a hobby magazine?5S

  8. Jason H. on said:

    Mike / Tom / Luvette,

    I’d like to get your feedback on a PSA article I saw awhile back. In that article, PSA said that they authenticated 55,000 autographs in one particular fiscal quarter. To me, that seems mindboggling.

    Assuming that they worked every day in the quarter (91) days, and worked around the clock (24 hours), that equates to just over 25 autographs per hour.

    If it’s broken down to a five day work week (65 working days per quarter) averaging ten hours per day, that equals about 87 autographs per hour.

    Luvette — with your experience in autographs and the authentication process, how could a company push that many autographs through the system? In addition, the variety of autographs must vary widely, not primarily one person as your familiarity with Jordan. With that vast amount of autographs, how many people do they have authenticating? And where did they get their expertise? (Not trying to provoke you or slam you, but you’ve got Jordan expertise, do you feel comfortable authenticating other stuff? If not, which would be totally understandable, how do these people gain their areas of expertise?) I find it hard to comprehend that a handful of people could authenticate items as current as a A-Rod item, then change sports to Gayle Sayers, then back to Jim Craig from the US Hockey team, followed by Jack Nicklaus, Ralph Sampson, etc. How many guys are well versed in numerous autographs, and can they all work for PSA?

    I’m not intending to distract from the spirit of the topic intended for T.S., but have always wondered about the 55,000 number and wanted to ask.


  9. Luvette on said:

    Jason, I didn’t read the article but your math seems to be spot on. The only explanation I can gather that they Auth. that many signatures is they must have a big staff. I have no clue how many people PSA has on staff looking at all those. Although I am a Jordan expert, I do have some knowledge about some other signatures as well. A lot of it is common sense. Look at all Ruth and Gehrig signatures on CC site right now. I do own both in my personal collection that was obtained in Chicago in 1932. I do know how to point out certain things in both signatures that the forgers rarely get right. Yes, there are certain big names I’ve had problems with and gotten wrong before. Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Joe D. to name a few. Some of the forgeries out there for those 3 are so good, it’s scary. But the fact is PSA does have people that can notice the real from the fakes of them.

  10. MEE on said:

    I went to Coachs corners website. The stuff is disgusting! Lot 73, A Babe Ruth auto jersey for $200 even! Lot 74, A Ty Cobb auto jersey for 50 bucks! Last year they auctioned off the baseball Carl Hubbell used when he struck out 3 or 4 guys in a row in the All star game. The only one in the world!! It of course was signed by Mr.Hubbell with an inscription. I believe the winning bidder got that rare piece of baseball history for under $75. Then I go to the Hall of Fame in January and there it is. The baseball Hubbell used without a signature behind glass. I asked a gentleman who worked there when they got the ball and about the auction I saw. He said it has been in their possession since the 1930’s and anything else is a fake!

  11. Justin Jarmus on said:

    thats almost as funny as the ball they sold several yrs back that included cap anson, walter johnson, tris speaker, cy young and joe jackson. the ball just happened to be bright white with beautiful bold autograhs perfectly placed while not touching each other. CC prob got 80 bucks for it! hahahaha

  12. Mike on said:

    It’s been documented elsewhere that when PSA or JSA visits an auction house for an upcoming large auction, they spend something like less than one minute authenticating each item. Because they bill the auction house so much money to authenticate items and the auction houses are such large clients for these companies, there is pressure on the authenticators to authenticate as many marginal pieces as possible. This is a conflict and it becomes difficult for the authenticators to be totally objective and once again the losers are the collectors. Many of us have also heard this is true of the card-grading system. A major auction house will get better grades than if you or I submit the same card. I have also noticed that the auction houses with the best reputations get the most money for their items. Ever noitce what Robert Edwards’ prices realized are compared to say an auction house like American Memorabilia?

  13. T.S. on said:

    Good morning! What a surprise-I haven’t even got my coffee brewed yet and see this blog is just like the last one. I guess nobody read my comment yesterday afternoon. I do have a busy morning with some errands to run, but will try to get my new blog up by lunchtime!

  14. Mike on said:

    Speaking of not reading your comments…..

    why do you ignore our comments?

    many have repeatedly asked you to comment on the rarity of items found in coach’s corner.

    you have also been asked to comment or do a story on why items go for so much less in a cc auction.

    Stop being so self-centered; it’s not always about you and what you want. Can’t the conversation be allowed to flow as the readership discusses matters of importance to them?

    TS – You are an editor – you must realize, it can’t always be about you. If you don’t cover what is of interest to your subscribers your publication will lose interest and readership – kind of what we see happening over the last year or two. You can’t always blame the economy, there’s more going on here than just the economy.

    And, finally, this blog is not exactly like the last one: There is much less bickering.

    Please do try not to over indulge us with how you drink your coffee or where your book can be found and what you are working on next.

    thank you!

  15. Former Subscriber on said:

    Good morning T.S.! Let me help you with this since forthright discussions seem to frighten and confuse you …

    You’re the editor and one of the senior writers for the hobby’s oldest and largest publication. Over the years, this publication has lost its credibility, advertisers, subscribers and, consequently, about 150 pages of content.

    The print version of this magazine is now largely supported by an auction company that, each year, traffics thousands of the most laughable forgeries we’ve ever seen into the hobby. Those of us not employed at 700 E. State Street have a problem with this. You don’t. We ask why. You and your publisher ignore us. We ask why again. You delete our comments and then insult us by posting a lame response on your blog. We take issue with this response and ask again. You disable commenting on your blog and proceed onward as if everything’s fine. Online readership suddenly plummets.

    Mysteriously, commenting is restored. Excellent and mostly civil discussions take place among us. You whine because no one’s interested in your thoughts on card slabbing. We think there are more important issues to discuss. You’re thinking your next pot of coffee.

  16. MEE on said:

    I love the description on Lot# 7. A horrendously bad Ruth ball that get this, comes DOUBLE Certified by both stat and Morales. That make me feel so much better! Maybe now I’ll put in a bid.

    How about Lot# 16. A John McGraw ball that looks like it was signed in yesterdays ink. Unreal! A real McGraw ball would go for over 10G’s. But you can have this one for 100 bucks!!

    How about Lot# 289. A Thurman munson ball signed on the SS. Why would an Authentic Munson ball be all the way down lot 289? the last munson I saw went for over 17’s. The best part of the description is when cc say’s the Munson auto can be seen from over 15 feet away. Of course it can…It was just signed last month!!

    Go to the website yourself and read it if you don’t believe me!

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